Mathura’s Strong Connection with Buddhism
2023.05.06 (Vrindavan Today News): Mathura has a strong connection with Gautama Buddha and his teachings. Both during and after Buddha’s lifetime, Mathura played a significant role in the development of Buddhism.
According to certain Buddhist scriptures, it is believed that Lord Buddha visited Mathura before attaining Nirvana. Historian and writer Rameshchandra Sharma also describes this event in the introduction to the Hyamathura sangrahaalay parichayajh. However, for some unknown reason, Lord Buddha was not satisfied with his journey to Mathura. He arrived a few days prior to attaining Nirvana and made several predictions about the future of the city.
On the other hand, after his Nirvana, the world-famous sculpture of Mathura had changed the direction of Buddhism. When there was a rift in the Buddhist religion regarding idol worship, Mathura was the contemporary center of sculpture, and from here, Buddhist sculptures made their way to many countries around the world.
The ruler of Mathura at the time of Lord Buddha visit was Avantiputra and honored Lord Buddha for his visit. Acharya Upagupta, who played a significant role in the history of Buddhism, and renowned for hoisting the flag of Mathura, was invited by Emperor Ashoka to Patilputra for religious discourses due to his knowledge and scholarship in the field of Buddhism. As a result of Acharya Upagupta’s contributions, Mathura became a significant center for the Buddhist sect.
Gautam Buddha always opposed idol worship. He would instruct his disciples to always worship the Dharma Chakra, Stupa, Bodhi tree, begging bowl, and the aura circle. While he was alive, his disciples followed his teachings strictly, but after his Mahaparinirvana, his followers gradually became more indulgent in their approach. The attraction towards Buddhist symbols slowly decreased among his followers, and over time, idol worship began.
During his reign, the Kushan king Kanishka organized the Fourth Buddhist Council (Sammelan) at Kundal Van in Purushpur, Kashmir. Thousands of Buddhists from India and abroad participated in this conference. The conference brought about a historic change in the Buddhist religion regarding idol worship.
Mathura is also home to several important Buddhist sculptures, including the first idol of Lord Buddha in human form, found in Katra Keshavdev. The giant Bodhisattva found at Maholi and the Buddha statue found at Anyour also belong to this period. These sculptures, along with about 500 others housed in the Mathura Museum, are rare and highly respected by Buddhists worldwide.
Buddhist sculptures from Mathura have been displayed in several Buddhist exhibitions held in the Northeastern countries, where they are held in high regard. The city’s connection with Gautama Buddha and Buddhism continues to be a source of pride for its residents and attracts visitors from all over the world.