Today was a rainy sping day, and I spent it inside. This gave me the chance to watch this documentary. It is fortunate that I have previously read Bhante Sujato and Ajahn Brahmali’s excellent Autheniticity text, and watched the youtube workshops on the same subject, so I had some prior familiarity with the history, the territories, and the critical role of Ashoka. This documentary brings into view some of this history and the archaeology, along with a tantalizing perspective that the Buddha’s ashes were placed by his clansmen at Piprahwa, which is not far from Lumbini. Later, King Asoka constructed a massive stupa on this exact site, and replaced the relics above the original burial site.
Falk concludes that the reliquary found at Piprahwa in 1898 did contain a portion of the ashes of the Buddha, and that the inscription is authentic. According to him, the inscription translates as “these are the relics of the Buddha, the Lord”. The conclusion is that the Piprahwa Stupa was built by the Emperor Ashoka 150 years later in 245 BCE over the original and simpler interment site created by Shakya clansmen for the 1/8th of the Buddha’s ashes they had been apportioned. Falk points to the close similarity of materials used at Piprahwa and its grand size with other Ashokan stupas, and that the coffer containing the reliquary found at Piprahwa closely reflects Ashokan workmanship, design, and the type of sandstone used for monuments like the Lumbini pillar erected during his reign. (In 1971, Indian archeologist K.S. Srivastava excavated deeper into the stupa than Peppé had, uncovering two chambers each containing a soapstone casket with redware fragments. This is taken as confirmation of the existence of an earlier, deeper burial site at Piprahwa dating back to the death of the Buddha.)