Bones of The Buddha follows renowned historian on ancient India, Charles Allen, as he retraces the steps of this incredible find. When British colonial estate manager William Peppe, sets workers digging at a mysterious hill on his Birdpore, India, property in 1898, he has no idea what they would find.
Over six metres down, they are shocked to find 1,600 individual precious and semi-precious jewels mixed in with fragments of bone and ash, and an inscription in an indecipherable language. Peppe immediately copies the inscription from the urn, and sends it off to the local district officer and archaeologist Dr. Anton Fuhrer. Both believe these could be the remains of the Buddha himself.
But, just a few months later, Dr Fuhrer resigns after a scandal broke that the archaeologist had sold bogus Buddha relics, falsified reports, and faked at least one ancient inscription. With doubt cast on Peppe’s find, the British Government quickly makes a diplomatic move to present the relics to Siam’s Buddhist King, Rama V.
In Bones of The Buddha, Charles Allen is on a mission to determine the truth behind the 1898 find, and has enlisted the help of Harry Falk, a leading world authority on ancient Indian languages and a professor at Germany’s oldest institute of Indology in Berlin. They travel to a Calcutta Museum, which holds the original inscribed urn. Falk confirms that the inscription is authentic and that it says the urn holds the remains of the Buddha, but creates another mystery. The text of the inscription did not exist at the time when the Buddha died around 410 BCE, but was from at least 150 years after the Buddha’s death.
After Buddha died, his body was cremated and the remains were distributed to eight different kings. But, 150 years after Buddha dies around 410 BCE, his benevolent philosophies have been abandoned by the ruthless emperor Ashoka, whose reign has thrown his ancient Indian empire into violence. However, Ashoka has an extraordinary change of heart, and suddenly converts his kingdom to Buddhism. In this process, he digs up Buddha’s remains and redistributes them to new sites. The inscription on the urn is in Brahmi, the script used at the time of Ashoka.
Could this emperor have re-buried Buddha’s remains, adding his own majestic tribute in the form of jewels? Returning to Peppe’s site to investigate this mystery, an Indian archaeology team makes an even more compelling discovery: an earlier, humbler, burial site with two chambers is unearthed beneath the tomb found in 1898. Allen evaluates the connection between these lower and upper chambers.
Could this earlier tomb be the original burial site of the Bones of The Buddha?
Mark your calendars as Bones of The Buddha premieres on 11th May 2013 (Saturday) at 10pm which will simulcast on National Geographic Channel (Astro Ch 553) and National Geographic Channel HD (Astro Ch 573).