For the background of the dispute regarding the Mahabodhi Temple which is mentioned in this letter, see the article published in the French section of this website on 24 August 2002.
Madam Mary Robinson
Her Excellency The High Commissioner
For Human Rights United Nations
Subject : Request to direct the Government of India to handover the Management of Mahabodhi Mahavihar at BuddhaGaya to Buddhists
With great respect to the office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights , may I invite your kind attention towards the continued illegal occupation of the most sacred and holiest place of the Buddhists and the Entire World, the Mahabodhi Mahavihar at Buddha Gaya in the Bihar State of India by high caste Hindu Brahmins.
This is the place where the Siddharth Gautama, the Prince, attained the Supreme Enlightenment and became the Buddha. This vihara was erected by Emperor Ashoka 250 BC as a monument in the memory of Lord Buddha. This is confirmed by Chinese Monk Fa-Hain who visited Buddha Gaya in 409 AD and Huen Thsang in 637 AD. One of the great Archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunnigham also visited Buddha Gaya. It is beyond doubts that it is the sacred and holiest place of Buddhists where Buddha attained Enlightenment. Dr.Buchanan Hamilton a very well known archaeologist visited Buddha Gaya vihar and he found that the vihara was in a hopeless condition. Buddhism vanished from India due to onslaught by Hindu Brahmins. The Vihara had been visited by thousands and thousands of Buddhists from China, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world
And several inscriptions had been found during excavation in Buddha Gaya to prove that throughout the ages, it was truly the Buddha Vihara . Sir Edwin Arnold, the world famous author of the book ” The Light of Asia”, visited 1885 and appealed to British Government to handover the Mahavihar to the Buddhists. He also appealed to the Buddhist Countries to show intrest in the matter of management of the Mahavihar.
Ven. Anagarik Dharmapala , was one of the greatest Buddhist Monk from Sri Lanka who took up the cause of handing over of Mahabodhi Mahavihar to Buddhists, visited Buddha Gaya in January 1891 along with Col. Oleot. He again came back in July 1891 along with four monks. Hindu Brahmin Priests (Mahants) assaulted all of them and the statue of Buddha was thrown away. The case went to Dist. Judge who said ” The temple was continuously and regularly been used as Buddhist place of worship by Buddhist pilgrims. No form of Hindu worship had been carried on inside the Mahabodhi temple and there is nothing to show that any such worship (Hindu worship) has been carried on for many centuries”. Justice Mc- Pherson of Calcutta High Court said ” It is mentioned that the Mahabodhi Temple which is very ancient and very sacred to the Buddhists, was a Buddhists Temple. Although it has been in the possession of Hindu Mahants, it has never been converted into a Hindu Temple in the sense that Hindu idols have been enshrined or orthodox Hindu worship carried on there and that Buddhists pilgrims have had free access and liberty to worship in it”.
The proceedings of the case were published in all newspapers and the Buddha Gaya`s question became a live topic throughout India, Burma and other countries. Thus a strong public opinion was created in favour of the Buddhists Claim.
In 1949, the Government of Bihar passed the Buddha Gaya Temple Act transferring the temple to a committee of Management consisting of four Buddhists and four Hindus with a Hindu District Magistrate of Gaya as the Chairman which ultimate means mangement of Mahavihar.
Since the enactment of Temple Act in 1949, the Management has been in the hands of majority Hindu Brahmins who have nothing to do with the teaching of Buddha. Hindu Brahmins falsely claim that Buddha is an incarnation of a Hindu God Vishnu in order to destroy the holiest site of Buddhists. Hindu Brahmin Priests have been playing tricks to show to the world that Lord Buddha was a Hindu God and nothing else. It is established and accepted fact that Buddhism is the different independent religion which has nothing to do with the philosophy of God or incarnation of God.
Some of the most important problems created by Hindu Brahmin priests are:
1) Some of the original statues of Lord Buddha have been defiled and stolen from the Mahabodhi Mahavihara.
2) Accounts of donations and gifts received have not been maintained properly.
3) Elections for the management committee were held only after raising objections and launching agitations throughout India .
4) Idols of some of the Hindu Gods have been smuggled inside the Mahavihar including Shivlinga to dilute and defame Buddhism.
5) All sorts of Hindu Rituals and Rites are being followed inside Mahabodhi Mahavihar to defame and bring impurity in Buddhism.
6) Criminal elements in the society are encouraged by the Brahmin priests who misappropriate donations and gifts offered by visitors.
Thus it is seen that sacredness of Buddha Gaya has been threatened. The entire world has been expressing their concern on happenings in Buddha Gaya from time to time.
We have started Mahabodhi Mahavihar all India Action Committee in 1992 and since then we have been protesting peacefully at Buddha Gaya and requesting both Government of India and Government of Bihar to bring amendment in the Buddha Gaya Temple Act 1949 and handover the management of the Mahavihar to the Buddhists .
Your honour, it is surprising that the holiest of the holy place of Buddhists in the entire world is in the hands of non-Buddhists. This is the uniqueness Churches are under Christians, Masjids are under Muslims and Hindu Temples under the controls of Hindu Brahmins, why is it that the holiest of the holy place of Buddhism is not under the control of Buddhists?
Government of India and Government of Bihar have been giving assurances that something will be done to handover the control of the Mahavihar to the Buddhists . In this connection we have met several Central and State Ministers and authorities but nothing concrete has been done. So far our movement has been totally peaceful and democratic and Government authorities have ignored our claim totally.
In this connection we have sent a letter dated 23rd January 2002 addressed to His Excellency The Secretary General of United Nations Mr.Kofi Annan and requested him to use his good offices and cause justice to the Buddhists around the World by handing over entire control of the Management of Mahabodhi Mahavihar to the Buddhists .
We all the Buddhist of India and All over the World are pleased at the announcement that UNESCO has declared the Buddha Gaya as World Heritage site. We therefore congratulate to the UN and express thanks to UNESCO for this historical decision, which will be having monumental effect in propagating ideals of Justice, Peace and Compassion in the entire world.
We therefore request the UN to activate the convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO) adopted on 16th November 1972 and entered into force on 17th Dec. 1974. It was ratified by 159 countries including India. The convention provides that the heritage committee shall supervise the protection of items recognised by the convention as those of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art, science and aesthetics. We also request the United Nations to direct India to obey the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) on the rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities and handover entire managemant of Mahabodhi Mahaviha ng suitable amendment to the Bodh Gaya Temple Act 1949 (Bihar Act of 17th of 1949) – (as modified up to 8th Feb.1955) and help prevent confrontation between the Buddhist and Hindu Brahmins over the issue of Mahabodhi Mahavihar.
With profound regards.
(Bhadant Arya Nagarjuna Shurei Sasai)
All India BuddhaGaya Mahabodhi Mahavihar Action Committee,
Indora Buddha Vihar Nagpur, India. 440004