The Journey of the Buddha’s Relic from 5th Century BCE to 20th Century CE
The Second Production of Heritage Infodrama Series Directed by Sunita Bharti
“… the play is really worth watching for everyone…. It teaches what we learn in research papers and books… I too have learnt today a few things unknown to me…..Such a programme is the necessity of the day. ”
Shri Anjani Kumar Singh (IAS)
Advisor to CM Bihar.
Interview of Shri A. K. Singh
“….a well-woven story… combining archaeology with history and literature is not easy ..... an amazing and certainly a seminal work. Presenting archaeology and history through drama will start a new chapter in theatrical presentations…. I’m really impressed by the acting and costume …”
Dr. Sanjay Kumar Manjul Joint Director General, ASI, New Delhi
Interview of Dr. S. K. Manjul
“… Asthi Kalash enlivens the Historical and Cultural Heritages…. watching the play was as if I were really witnessing the Last Journey of Buddha… I’m very much impressed by the presentation. ”
Dr. Baidyanath Labh Eminent Indologist & Vice Chancellor, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda.
“I have been watching plays from our childhood but this play is really an innovation…. it is said that history and archaeology is visualizing the dead ….but the play Asthi Kalash has animated the dead.”
Dr. Ratneshwar Mishra Historian &Former Head of the Department of History, LNMU, Darbhanga, Bihar
“……On World Heritage Day and other like occasions instead of lectures and seminars such a play is far more useful and relevant…..”
Dr. Goutami Bhattacharya SA, ASI, Patna Circle.
“….. the play Asthi Kalash proved today that even Archaeology can be given a literary savour… a great medium of propagation of culture and heritage….”
Dr. D. N. Sinha SA (rtd.), ASI, Patna Circle.
“This play is wonderful – indeed the most effective method to popularize the cultural heritages ….”
Dr. C. P. Sinha Eminent Art Historian of India, Former Director, K. P. Jayaswal, Research Institute, Patna.
“This infodrama is a seminal work for popularizing cultural heritages and making people aware of it. I congratulate the team ….”
“This play has brought Asthi Kalash of Vaishali to the knowledge of the people, which is perhaps the most important heritage of Bihar but still unknown to many. The play has enriched the Indian Theatre……”
Dr. Kameshwar Prasad Historian, Former Head of the Dept. of History, Patna University, Patna, Bihar.
“Asthi Kalash, and infodrama Yakshini also, is no doubt, a seminal work in Indian Theatre..... a marvelous technique for propagating culture and heritage of India ….new generation will know theatre as a tool of learning with entertainment.”
Dr. U. C. Dwivedi Museologist & Historian, Director Museums (Rtd.), Bihar.
Concept of Infodrama
The concept of Infodrama introduced by the cultural activist and theatre director-actor Sunita Bharti has a twofold objective:
Popularizing information about tangible and intangible cultural heritages among new generation who are drifting away from their aboriginal cultural traditions because of ignorance and lack of schematic cultural education.
Rejuvenating Indian theatre as a popular medium of education and also as a marketable profession.
Heritage Infodrama is a research based stage play written and designed to educate audience about tangible/intangible cultural heritages and traditions through an entertaining story fabricated around the facts. FACES is producing a series of infodramas in which Asthi Kalash is the second in the series, the first being Yakshini based on Didarganj Chauri Bearer, the famous Mauryan sculpture. Many more dramas on various aspects of Indian culture, heritage and knowledge-traditions are under preparation.
About Asthi Kalash
The second production of the heritage infodrama series, ASTHI KALASH is the first play in India in the subject of public archaeology, based on the 1958 excavation of the Relic Stupa at Vaishali under the leadership of Dr. A. S. Altekar. This stupa was built in the fifth century BC over a share of Buddha’s corporeal relic by the Lichchhavis of ancient Vaishali. The story of the play has been woven from the threads of archaeology, history and literature in a beautiful pattern that appeals to the audience, and informs about many unknown events and facts extending over a time span of two and a half millennia on the time-line of ancient Indian history related to the Buddha and his corporeal relic. The drama showcases the historical events pertaining to the four historical periods of ancient India, the 5th century BCE, the 3rd century BCE, the 7th century CE and the 20th century CE; through which the corporeal remains of the Buddha journeyed after his death in 483 BCE from Kushinagar to the Patna Museum’s Buddha Relic Gallery in 1958.
Divided in to fifteen small scenes, the drama informs the audience about the followings:
The process of identifying a historical site, laying of trenches, tools used in archaeological excavations, the techniques of excavation and method of dating different cultural layers exposed in the excavation (on the basis of the pot-shreds and other time-specific antiquities which are found in the layers), etc.; in context of the 1958 excavation of Relic Stupa at Vaishali.
The story of the Last Journey of Buddha one year prier to his death in the 5th century BC, which includes:
His visit to Vaishali where he accepts the meal and the donation of mango orchard offered by Ambapali, the most romantic character of ancient Indian history.
His visit to Pava where he took his Last Meal in the house of Chunda, the smith; and,
His Mahaparinirvana in 483 BC at Kushinagar in the Upavattan Sal Grove.
The historical episode of the distribution of the Buddha’s corporeal remains among eight kings and clans of India (one of which was the Lichchhavis of Vaishali) by a brahmin named Drona after the death of the Buddha. This event is so popular in Buddhist tradition that a number of ancient artistic depiction of the same is found world-over, the most famous being the ‘War for Relic’, the relief carved on the rear bottom architrave of the south gate of Stupa No. 1, Sanchi, India.
Building of stupa over their share of relic by the Lichchhavis of Vaishali soon after the death of the Buddha.
Collection of the relic from all but one sharira-stupa by the Emperor Ashoka and redistribution of the same into 84000 stupas by him, in the 3rd century BC.
Hiuen Tsang’s visit of Vaishali in 7th century BC and the description of the location of Relic Stupa as per his travelogue Su-Yu-Ki.
The discovery of the lost Relic Stupa at Vaishali in 1958 by Dr. Anant Sadashiv Altekar and retrieval of a Relic Casket presently exhibited and preserved in Patna Museum, Patna.
The advent of Gautama the Buddha was a turning point in the religious history of the world. In the 5th century BCE, his newly propounded concept of Eight Fold Path, which was derived from the Sanatana (Hindu) doctrines, took the shape of a world religion within 200 years of his death in 483 BCE.
As a preacher, Buddha was perhaps the most popular saint in history who, in his life time, gained far and wide popularity and enjoyed incomparable love and affection of the people. He was so loved and revered by the kings and tribe-heads of the time that after his death, there arose a war-like situation among different clans and kings of India for the share of his corporeal relics. Finally, the Corporeal Relics of Buddha was divided in eight parts and distributed among the contenders who built eight stupas called Sharira Stupas, over their shares in their respective homelands. The story of this dispute and the distribution of the relic of Buddha has been carried down through ages by tradition, and became so popular that a scene depicting the ‘war for relic of Buddha outside Kushinagar fort' has been carved on the rear bottom architrave of the South Gate of Stupa No. 1, at Sanchi.
Rear Bottom Architrave, South Gate, Stupa No. 1, Sanchi
Among the contenders of the relic, one was the Licchavi Clan of Vaishali, who built a stupa over their share in the city of Vaishali soon after the death of Buddha. This stupa existed and was known by the people up to the 7th century CE, when Hiuen Tsang traveled India during 629 to 645 AD. Taking clue from the Hiuen Tsang’s account, in 1958, the then Director of Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna, Dr. Anant Sadashiv Altekar identified the location of the sharia stupa of Vaishali; and, after excavation a relic casket was retrieved, which is presently preserved and exhibited at Patna Museum, Patna.
Excavated Vaishali Stupa
Relic Casket an Its Contents
The following references have been used in the writing of the play:
Schumann, Hans Wolfgang (2003), The Historical Buddha……” (Also ‘Buddhism’ by the same author).
Piya Tan, Mahaparinibbana Sutta, (based on the work of Andre Bareau); 3rd rev. ed. 2008.
Cunningham, A., ASI Report of Tours in North and South Bihar in 1880-81, Vol. XVI.
Gordon Wasson, R., “The last meal of the Buddha”, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1982 (4), Oct-Dec.
John Marshall, A Guide to Sanchi, 1918.
Sharma, J. P. (1968), Republics in Ancient India, Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Giles, Herbert A., The Travels of Fa-hsien (399–414 A.D.), in Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms, Cambridge University Press, 1923.
Beal, Samuel; Su-Yu-Ki, Buddhist Records of the Western World, Vol. I&II, Trubner & Co., London, Popular Edition, 1884.
Altekar. A. S., The Corporeal Relics of Buddha, JOBRS Vol. II, Buddha Jayanti Special Issue, 1956 (printed later).
Karam Tej Sarao, Date of the Buddha, Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi.
Sinha, B. P., Directory of Bihar Archaeology, Bihar Puravid Parishad, 2000.
Srivastava, K. M., Excavations at Piprahwa & Ganwaria, ASI, 1996.
Beal Samuel, Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King (The Life of Buddha by Ashwaghosh) (Trans.), Sacred Book of East, Vi. XIX, Ed. By Max Muller, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1883.
Smith Vincent A. (compilation), The Itinerary of Yuan-Chwang, Yuwan Chwang’s Travel in India by Waters, R A S London, 1904.
Waters, Thomas, On Yuwan Chwang’s Travel in India, R A S London, 1904.
Raman, K. V., Principles & Methods of Archaeology, Parthajan Publication, Madras, 1986.
Strong John S., The Legend of King Ashoka (A study and translation of Ashokavadana), Princeton University Press 1983.
Previous Shows of the Infodrama
First Show: FACES Heritage Festival 2021, at Bihar Museum Patna on 23 October 2021 Second Show: Hiuen Tsang Memorial Celebration, Nav Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University, under Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India) on 12 February 20222. Third Show: Under aegis of ICCR (Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India) on 11 March 2022.
Characters lived by her in the play are Devi Ambapali, the courtesan of Vaishali & Shanti, wife of an excavation laborer.
Shubham Singh Team Co-ordinator
Arvind Kumar Writer
Dr. Shankar Suman Research
The Artists (Latest Show)
Mithilesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. A. S. Altekar
Vinay, an Archaeology student, the story narrator.
Rajendra, an Archaeology student.
Nand Lal Singh
Dr. Sita Ram Roy, the Excavation Officer in 1958 Excavtion & Chunda.
Ram Lakhan Singh
MahaBhikshu at Vaishali Vihar, RadhGupta, Ananda & Brahmin Drona.
Huen Tsang & Vethdeepak
Sony, an Archaeology student
Ghosh Babu & Malla Raj
Shubham Singh 'Rajput'
Samrat Ashok & Malla Dandadhar
Jayant, an Archaeology student & Son of Chunda
Vinita, an Archaeology student.
Jhagadu, Raja & Licchavi Kumar
Lichchhavi Kumar & Subhadda, Malla Attavi Rakkhak
Disciple of Vishali Monk & Bauddh Bikshu
Co-traveler of Huien Tsang & Raja
Co-traveler of Huien Tsang, desciple of Buddha and Raja
Madlekha, Maid of Ambpali
Shayama, Maid of Ambapali
Excavator, Maurya Dandadhar & Raja
Bauddh Bhikshu of Vaishali, Disciple of Buddha, Raja