Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sir Alexander Cunningham and the Mahabodhi Temple

If, by chance, you visit Bodhgaya, you will no doubt be impressed by the Mahabodhi Temple. That you see it at all is largely because of an Englishman who saved it from ruin -- Sir Alexander Cunningham (1814 - 1893), who on January 31, 1862 was appointed Archaeological Surveyor of India, arguably founding the Archaeological Survey of India as it is known today. This appointment led Cunningham to commence restoration of the Mahabodhi Temple, which was actually rather a pivotal event in the history of Buddhism. I say this because Cunningham's restoration work inspired the young Sri Lankan, Anagarika Dharmapala, to wrest control of the grounds from Hindu hands, leading to the 1949 Bodhgaya Act.

So, this month marks the 148th anniversary of Cunningham's fortuitous appointment, and we may well stop and give thanks for such men of vision, conscience, and devotion to cause.

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