The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has decided to put the rather sleepy coastal town of Nalasopara once again on the global map. Nalasopara would soon become the centre of Maharashtra Tourisms Buddhist circuit, after the corporation decided to commence the circuit from this town.
"We chose the stupa in Nalasopara because it's from here that Emperor Asoka's son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra are believed to have left for Sri Lanka to spread the faith," said Jagdish Patil, MD, Maharashtra Tourism Department Corporation (MTDC). Patil believes the initiative will help in promoting Buddhist spiritual tourism in the state.
The journey will continue to Chaityabhoomi in Dadar, Pagoda in Gorai and other Buddhist destinations before ending at Dikshabhumi in Nagpur.
Historical Perspective to Nalasoparas Importance
Nalasopara was a major port town whose trade had linked ancient India to Mesopotamia, Arabia, Greece, Rome, Africa among others. The towns rich historical, cultural and traditional heritage dates back to 2600 years when Purna Maitrayaniputra, a rich merchant and trader from Sunaparanta in ancient Western India now known as Nalasopara, on his visit to Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh embraced Buddhism. Purna who attended a preaching of Lord Gautam Buddha, renounced his wealth to become a Buddhist monk.
When he decided to spread Lord Buddhas teachings, he came back to Sopara and built with the help of his disciples a Buddh Vihar which had eight gates out of sandalwood. History states that Purna had called Lord Buddha to inaugurate the Buddh Vihar, and Lord Buddha had visited the place along with 500 of his disciples and stayed at Nalasopara for a week. To keep Lord Buddhas memories alive and eternal, Purna had asked Lord Buddha for his begging bowl. On April 9, 1882, Pandit Bhagwanlal Indrajit discovered the begging bowl.
Much later when Emperor Asoka embraced Buddhism, he built a stupa at Nalasopara. It is believed that Asoka sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to spread the tenets of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Asoka had also written 14 inscriptions. 8 of the 14 inscriptions which Asoka had created was found by Pandit Bhagwanlal Indrajit near Bhatela lake. While the 9th inscription was found by NA Gore, a librarian of Asiatic Society in Mumbai, in the year 1956 from Bhuigaon. Gore also discovered the stupa with the help of Thane collector in the same year.