By UTPAL PARASHAR, KATHMANDU:
In April this year a television presenter in Nepal set a new world record by hosting a talk-show for more than 62 hours at a stretch. It was based on the theme ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’.
The show hoped to end recurring false claims about birthplace of the founder of Buddhism. But as it became evident last week it seemed to have failed in its mission.
On Sunday the inaugural episode of Zee TV’s magnum opus ‘Buddha’ was blocked by cable operators across Nepal for fears of hurting sentiments of millions of viewers in the Himalayan nation.
Though it is an acknowledged fact that Buddha was born at Lumbini in Nepal, the channel mentioned on its website that “he is counted amongst the most important personalities to have been born in the recorded history of India”.
To make matters worse noted actor Kabir Bedi who plays the role of a sage in the 52-episode serial came up with this gem. “Buddha was born in India. Buddhism is India’s biggest export”.
The website’s claim and Bedi remarks were enough to start a storm on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter where Nepalis blamed both for the irresponsible claim.
Soon online petitions were being signed on sites like ipetitions.com and change.org to put an end to the false assertion.
The efforts had the desired outcome. Zee TV replaced the word India with Nepal on its website promoting the mega serial and Bedi too realized his mistake and apologized.
“Yes, my friends, I mis-spoke. Forgive me. Lord Buddha was certainly born in Lumbini, Nepal. My apologies to all whose feelings were hurt,” the actor tweeted on Saturday.
This is not the first time such false claims have been made about Buddha’s birthplace. Three years ago noted Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria raised a storm by mentioning in his book ‘The Post American World’ that Buddha was born in India.
The Indian government doesn’t make any claim on Buddha’s birth in India. But few history textbooks in India making such assertion on several occasions has led many in Nepal to believe that there could be an Indian design to usurp Buddha’s legacy from its smaller neighbor.
India’s denials don’t seem to have much effect when eminent and educated personalities make such false claims. On Monday Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit became the latest entrant to the list.
“India has been fortunate that he (Buddha) was born here,” Press Trust of India quoted her as stating while addressing the First Founding Members Conclave of International Buddhist Confederation in New Delhi.
Such falsehoods keep getting perpetrated despite UNESCO clearly stating “Lord Buddha was born in 623 BC in the sacred area of Lumbini located in the Terai plains of southern Nepal.”
Now in a fresh bid to end such fabrications Nepal’s central bank has brought a new 100 rupee note with a picture of the Ashoka Pillar in Lumbini and a message that Buddha was born there.
That should help clear most doubts. For others like Zee TV, Bedi, Zakaria, Dikshit and all those who still believe Buddha was born in India this quote by Buddha should suffice. “The greatest impurity is ignorance. Free yourself from it. Be pure.”
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