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Posted at: May 14, 2017, 12:06 AM; last updated: May 14, 2017, 12:06 AM (IST)

Buddha smiled in this Haryana village

Sugh village is where the Buddha walked. The place near Yamunanagar was once the centre of learning, trade and commerce. The ASI-protected stupa and a mound are now victims of encroachers and govt neglect

You may hardly find a Buddhist in Haryana, something as anachronistic as the namelessness of Sugh village, about 10km north-east off Yamunanagar. “Ingratitude,” whispers Sidhartha Gauri, “is the biggest blunder.” So, this Buddha Purnima (May 9), like all others in the last five years, Gauri hurriedly gathered a few village children and along with his mother walked to a ‘mound’ in the village – a place ‘graced by the presence of Buddha and illumined by his words.’ 

Antique hunters and encroachers have pillaged the place badly: the ruins of the mound at Sugh and a crumbling stupa at Chaneti nearby lie abysmal, stark. Animal dung and dry fodder lie all over. Yet, the Haryana tourism department proudly sells the village on its website as a place where the Buddha preached, where ancient scholars gathered and as a scared land chronicled by Chinese traveler Yuan Chwang.

“Invaders, and now locals, are demolishing our heritage. The Sugh mound is a tragedy,” says Gauri, president of the Buddhist Forum, an NGO, working to save the Buddhist sites in Yamunanagar. 

“Chinese travelogue Huien Tsang notes that Shrughna (the original name of modern Sugh) was the highest seat of learning in the Indian subcontinent and a centre of philosophical debates among various schools of thoughts,” says Dr Rajpal Singh, a former history professor  at Mukand Lal National College. He says this is the only place in India where Sunga period (dynasty from Magadha, controlling areas of the subcontinent from around 187 to 78 BCE) terracotta figures of Vanara (monkey) have been found.

In the 1970s, Prof Surajbhan of Kurukshetra University found a 2,100-year-old child terracotta figure. It depicted writing on a wooden tablet. “The figure lies at the National Museum, Delhi. It shows child education was widespread in the Sunga period,” says Dr Rajpal, adding several evidences, including seals, at the site point to the occupation of people. “The place was a big business centre situated on the Uttarapath on the banks of the old Yamuna, leading to Kanauj and onwards. 

“Sugh was first identified by the then Director General of Archeological Survey of India (ASI), Sir Alexander Cunningham. Professor Surajbhan excavated this site extensively,” says Dr Rajpal Singh.

Dr Dharamvir Sharma, director (retired), ASI, says after Buddha’s visit, it was Emperor Asoka who established Buddhist stupas and other monasteries at this site. After his rein, other emperors also helped it to grow as a centre of trade and commerce as well as a seat of learning. He says Chinese traveler Huien Tsang had recorded 100 Hindu temples, 10 stupas and five monasteries in the village. 

“Only one stupa exists at Chaneti village, 3 km from the mound, at Sugh village,” says Dr Sharma. Earliest references to the city are found in the Ashtadhyayi written by Sanskrit grammarian Panini. He called the place Turghna, identified by historians as modern Shrughna (Sugh). “As per the Pali cannon, Buddha himself visited this place and delivered his sermons,” says Dr Sharma.

The state government has not initiated any conservation step for the protected monument. There is no protective boundary wall and nor a sign board. The remainder portion of the Shugh mound lies near government school of Amadalpur.

Anil Kumar, a social worker, fears encroachers would eat away even minor evidence of the lost glory. Sarpanch of Amadalpur village, Ram Chandra, says he would write to the local administration to save the heritage site. Deputy Commissioner Rohtash Singh Kharb has promised help to the Amadalpur panchayat in freeing the site from encroachers.

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