Indore’s Oldest Buddha Temple Lies In Oblivion

Indore’s Oldest Buddha Temple Lies In Oblivion

Buddhism doesn’t have a long history in Indore and not surprisingly most people of the city are unaware of the Buddha Stupa in Chitawad.

Staff ReporterUpdated: Thursday, May 23, 2024, 07:56 AM IST
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Indore’s Oldest Buddha Temple Lies In Oblivion | FP Photo

Indore (Madhya Pradesh): Amidst all the talk about the preservation of our heritage, the oldest Buddha temple in the city seems to be in a state of unending deterioration. The Siddharth Buddha Vihar stands on the verge of losing its very existence with no signs of revival. Buddhism doesn’t have a long history in Indore and not surprisingly most people of the city are unaware of the Buddha Stupa in Chitawad.

(With inputs from Surbhi Khichi)

But many do know the Siddharth Buddha Viharin Ghotu Maharaj ki Chaal near the Malwa Mill bridge, said to have been built around 65-70 years back. Shri Sitaram Ji donated an amount of Rs. 344 for the installation of the serene white statue brought from Jaipur by Tanhaji Ghodesavar and placed on a 5X5 platform.

Other people involved prominently in the installation of the statue were Sadashiv Gheda, Chandan Ghede and Tulsiram Mukhe among others. Today, there are nearly 2 lakh – 3 lakh Buddhists living in the city. As the city flourished, people moved to different areas. Now, there is a Vihar or centre in every Buddhist locality. Thus, the Siddhartha Buddha Vihar is a forgotten place now, mostly in the distant memories of the devotees who remember it with a long pause and has seen minimal improvement.

The statue is placed within the premises of the place where Hariom Mishra and his family live. But it is unfortunate that the full responsibility of looking after it lies just upon his family. Hariom Mishra, the family head, who is ailing after a paralysis attack in his lower body, says, “I was 6 years old when the statue was brought from Jaipur. At that time, people used to offer prayers, did charity and helped in daily chores. We used to go door to door collecting funds, organising rallies and conducting other activities. But it all stopped with time.

My ancestors lived here, now we are the lone caretakers of the place.” Today the statute is just a shrine placed in a small room behind iron bars! But even as the Siddhartha Buddha Vihar, the oldest of such places in the city lies in a state of utter neglect the Pragya Buddha Vihar in Pardesipura, which had its birth at a similar time is blooming. Even the Ambedkar Buddha Vihar in Panchsheel is not too far behind.

Pushpa Mishra, wife of Hariom Mishra shared, “I am seeing the place for 45 years now. It’s only this place that is facing a financial crunch but she also affirms that they have been helped by the local councillor. He has supported in various development works like flooring and putting white marble. But she is unhappy that no one from the community has really come forward to help in the development and maintenance of the place. They don’t even light a candle.

They just sit here for a while and leave. All expenses on maintaining the place like the electricity bill, cleaning expenses etc are borne by the family and are burning a hole in our pocket. Where do we get the money from?” she asks. Even the Buddhist monks and superiors who come to Indore just visit the place as a formality and do not take any interest in its upkeep. People from the community come to celebrate birthdays and other occasions but none of them donate even a small amount for its maintenance.

This is despite the fact that the sorry state of affairs is visible to everyone. When asked whether they have appealed for help, Pushpa Mishra responded, “We used to. But we are old people and don’t have the strength now. And our children have work to do, a family to look after.” Bharti Chaudhary, wife of late Ghanshyam Chaudhary who made efforts along with the councillor, stated, “They don’t work for the welfare of the religion anymore.

Those who are educated, have moved elsewhere. B R Ambedkar did so much for our upliftment. My parents adopted Buddhism alongside him in Nagpur, 1956. Seems, we have forgotten the teachings also. And this place is just remnants left behind.” The place had even been abandoned in the past, had seen really bad days with stray animals roaming all around and junk and dirt everywhere and had become a den for drunkards but thankfully the condition is better now. It is believed that no Buddha statue is as beautiful as this one in the entire state but sadly it continues to be in a state of utter neglect and needs urgent attention from authorities. 

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