Friday, September 7, 2012

Tracing Ancient India - Camouflaged rock edict in Delhi

Most of us know the legend of indraprastha or how it is associated with the old fort. It is said that the city of the pandava lay here; as its ancient name and archaeological excavations prove thus. However my journey lies south near Kailash colony and Kalka ji temple. There is a hypothesis that the temple is ancient and sacrifices were predominant here. Also Delhi lay on the ancient highway to the northwest. So what better place could emperor Ashoka find to inscribe his notion of peace on the rocky ranges behind the temple. I arrived there one day to have a look at the minor rock edict myself. Thanks to the insistence of the Buddhist communities, the edict is now a protected heritage site. It's tough to identify the locality as a part of the Aravalies though; the urbanization has lead to eclipsed natural landscape. So there is just one part of the range that remains here and at its peak is the sheltered ashokan edict.

Just like most of the sites in Delhi the enclosure is locked and I had to persuade the guard to unlock the railings for me. India shares another interesting aspect; where guides are missing local security guards of the heritage site take up the task of enlightening you about the site. Sometimes you don't doubt there knowledge for they have been here for such a long time assisting tourists and often have a good story to tell. According to him the place is usually visited by Bhuddhist groups from Japan, Nepal, Korea; Thailand in the summers and they light incense sticks or candles and kneel down to the edict. They recite their hymns and tie Buddhist flags to the railings (which were still there). What amused me was his description that 'they worship Ashoka next to Lord Buddha as we worship dau Balram next to Lord Krishna'. He had quite some knowledge of the inscriptions and told me of the Dharma Chakra which even though not clearly visible, could be traced by the fingers and how to take the photograph of the inscription such that they are visible in a camera.

The edict resides in an urban colony however from the peak of the ridge one can identify the pinnacle of the famous ISKON temple to the west and a few other temples here and there. And indeed my next interest there lies the massive ISKON temple and Buddha Vihar inaugurated by Shiela Dixit.

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