07 May, 2021

Bodhi's Tamil Afterglow

The discovery of a wealth of statues spurs debate on Buddhism's Tamil links

S Anvar
Bodhi's Tamil Afterglow
Peace of mind seems an impossible attainment in the searing noon sun at Paravai, in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district. Yet, the majestic calm on the expression of the Enlightened One seated in the town’s bus stop belies an immunity to mere extremes of climate.

A bus stop in a small south Indian town seems an odd place to find an image of a Buddha. But, in recent years, archaeologists and historians have been discovering these statues all over Tamil Nadu. Just 40 km away in Jayamkondam, a granite Buddha sits on a porous laterite pedestal. An Archaeological Survey of India sign warns would-be desecrators that it is a protected monument, but says nothing about the age of the statue.

In any case, local concerns with the image seem to be more prosaic. A woman dries vendekkai (okra) on the pedestal, "Because the goats can’t reach there." Behind the Buddha hangs a clothesline.

The Buddha in Ogalur village is worshipped as the ‘Dubai God’. More than 200 people from there...

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