Set against the background of the British Raj, this is the true story of the scandal that surrounded the discovery in 1898 of an inscribed casket said to contain the ashes of the Buddha.
A British landowner, William Claxton Pepp, had excavated a large brick stupa on his estate close to India s border with Nepal. Twenty-four feet under the earth he found a stone coffer containing a number of reliquary vases together with jewels and gold offerings. This discovery was followed by the opening of the Piprahwa stupa near the birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini, and the legendary city of Kapilavastu where he had grown into manhood as Prince Siddhartha. But more importantly, an inscription had been discovered on top of one of the caskets, declaring it to contain the ashes of the Buddha left there by members of his own Sakya clan. This news aroused worldwide interest. Almost immediately, however, a British magistrate, who himself had a stake in the excavation, exposed the discovery in court, stating that a German archaeologist, Dr Anton F hrer, who had been associated with the dig, had made bogus claims and faked his results.
Renowned Indian expert Charles Allen tells this fascinating story, weaving in the results of a conference held at Harewood House in June 2006 on the Piprahwa dig with those of recent carbon dating.