After the Find

 

On the 26th February 1898 Dr Führer turned up to see my grandfather and the Piprahwa finds. Dr Fuhrer wanted the sandstone coffer for the Lucknow Museum, but my grandfather had promised the find to the Indian Government.

Another visitor to Piprahwa at this time was a Buddhist monk who was the grandson of King Rama III and cousin of king Rama V of Siam.  Educated in England, he was known as the “Prince-Priest.” He came to see the relics as he wished to take some back to Siam and Ceylon.

There was a special religious relationship between Siam and Ceylon, and the Prince-Priest was the chief abott of the Dipaduttamarama temple in Colombo. 

In years to come, the temple was to become known as the Thai temple, and ever since has been visisted by many members of the Thai Royal Family.  

The Prince-Priest

Eventually it was decided by the Government of India that most of the relics, bones and ashes would be given to the King of Siam, since the King of Siam was the only Buddhist monarch. The King of Siam also agreed that he would then share them out with other Buddhist countries.

The official hand over of the relics to the King of Siam was carried out by Dr. Hoey and Vincent Smith on Tuesday 14th of February 1899. The Royal Commissioner of Ligor Circle, Phya Sukhum, arrived with his Secretary at Gorakhpur in India and proceeded to Piprahwa.

The relics were then brought from the Royal Treasury and handed over with great ceremony to the King of Siam. The remaining relics were then placed in gold plated pagodas which were taken to Calcutta.

For his efforts and involvement in finding the ashes of Buddha, my grandfather received a bespoke silver and gilt salver as a present from the King of Siam (Rama v), and two stamp albums from the Prince Priest.

(Above) The King of Siam (Rama V)

The "Prince-Priest" had been the Post-Master of Siam before he was exiled. The stamp albums contained every stamp issued in Siam, including some that had never been issued. Unfortunately nobody in the family knows what happened to them!

The Silver-gilt salver

The King of Siam placed some of the relics in the very top of the “Golden Mount” temple in Bangkok, and in Ratna Chetiya (otherwise known as the Jewel Stupa at Dipaduttamarama, Colombo, Ceylon), and at Anuradhapura, Kandy. The remaining relics were distributed to Burma to be displayed at Rangoon and Mandalay.

Interest in the Piprahwa relics also came from other parts of the world, including America.

The King of Siam also gave part of the Buddha's relics to Japanese Buddhists in 1900. Subsequently in 1935, the Royal Court of Thailand gave these Buddha's relics to the Buddhist Church of America in New York. In October 2006 they were dedicated to the Jodo Shinsu Buddhist Center, Berkeley, California by the Buddhist Council of North America and the Buddhist Churches of America,

(Above) Anuradhapura

(Below) In 1908 a stupa-pagoda was built to house the relics within the grounds of the Dipaduttamarama Temple

 

 

(Below) A Letter from the New York Press expressing interest in the Piprahwa find

The Stone Coffer, the urns and nearly all of the remaining relics were then taken by train to Calcutta accompanied by my grand-father and handed over to Dr. Bloch, the Superintendent of the Indian Museum.

(Below) The urns found in the Stone Coffer handed to the Museum of Calcutta

As a gesture of goodwill my grand-father was granted permission by Lord Curzon to retain about one-sixth of the jewels and ornamental objects from the urns. 

This small collection my grand-father then mounted and sealed into glass double-sided cases which can be seen on the page of photographs on this website.

He was only given those jewels and ornamental objects which were similar to those held by the Indian authorities, and was not given jewels or ornaments which were unique to the find.

(Above) Detail of a letter stating that my grandfather was allowed to keep some of the find.

(Below) a letter from Vincent Smith stating how my grandfather had retained a few duplicates of the jewels from the Piprahwa find, while the Lucknow Museum and the British Museum received some too. Most of the find, as documented by Dr Theodor Bloch, was kept in the Indian Museum, Calcultta.

 

In 1898 my grandfather published a detailed account of the Piprahwa find in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Click here for the complete article

In 1946 my father brought most of his collection back to Britain.

Some of the jewels he gave to the Royal Asiatic Society, while a few he left behind to gift to a museum or temple, but I do not know which ones.

(Above) A letter from the Royal Asiatic Society thanking my grandfather*

In 1960 the Dalai Lama came to stay at Birdpur House.

(Below) The dinner menu from the visit of the Dalai Lama

(Below) The signatures of all those present at the dinner (The top signature is the Dalai Lama's).

 

On the death of my father, the remaining families’ share of the jewels (four boxes), and the bespoke salver from the King of Siam came into my possession.

Piprahwajewels 2013

 

* Original documents and letters from the period of excavation are kept by the Royal Asiatic Society, London, and at the Document Repository, Sri Lanka.

www.piprahwajewels.co.uk