Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I am a traveler. And I have long been engaged in  a quest. Sankisa was one of the places on that quest. And now that part of the quest is at least partially redeemed. And I have to thank many people for having made it possible.
But before this happened, I like many other people, googled wide and hard about Sankisa. Unfortunately there is little info available.
Sankisa or Sankasya or samkasya or sankissa or Kapitha is one of the immutable places of Buddhism in that every Buddha is supposed to descend to this place after preaching to their mother's in Tushita heaven.
Therefore it is very important.
I was able to go to this place as a friend took me along to Dudhwa national Park. We were based at Sitapur.
I started out at 7 am from Sitapur in a taxi. It took me two hours to Shahjahanpur. From there it was another couple of hours to Farrukhabad. I actually reached Fatehgarh which is an important military cantonment. Here I was received by some people who were to take me to Sankisa. The road from Sitapur to Fatehgarh was generally good. Single lane mostly. Traffic is bad at places as there are a lot of trucks.
The road from Fatehgarh to Sankissa is good in parts. Some of it is getting metalled. Mohammedabad is approximately halfway. From thereon there is a road to the right which is prominently signed as Buddhist paryatan sthal or Buddhist Tourist Place. Hardly that I would think.
From there it is another 20 kms or so. In all, it took me about an hour to Sankisa.
I was somewhat surprised that Sankisa is not all that isolated as is made out to be. There are now many monasteries. The Sri Lankan, Burmese, and Cambodian ones are pretty big and accommodation is available. My host in Sankisa was Mr Dinesh Shukla of the Royal Regency Hotel which is walking distance from the main monument. The hotel is pretty good. It is mainly geared towards the foreign package tours it but can be availed by others as well. It also has a very nice Japanese temple on its grounds. The food is pretty decent too.
The Town of Sankisa now extends all the way from the Sri Lankan monastery to beyond the Kali Nadi to the south.
There is a lot of construction going on with all denominations represented. There is a huge replica of the Ashokan pillar with an elephant capital coming up as well across the river.
The main monument is on a small mound. It is surrounded by a boundary wall. There is a small temple with an idol of Buddha, Indra and Brahma descending on the ladders. I have not been able to find where it has come from or if it is recent . a short distance to the south is the elephant capital under a sandstone canopy. The pillar has not been found. The elephant is mutilated but still recognisable as one. The problem is that both Xuan sang and fa xian mention a lion capital. The elephant capital also somehow lacks the verve of the typical Ashokan capitals of Sarnath or Vaishali.
Maybe the lion capital got lost and the elephant capital is more recent.
Further to the south is a mound that has been identified with the point where the three ladders landed. It is a mound of ruined brick called bahari kot and is topped by a temple of Bisari Devi. There is also a small hanuman temple which is more recent. I also saw a lot of locals coming to pay respects at this temple. I was also told that on Buddha purni!a there is a lot of tension and extra security has to be deployed as the budhhists are heckled when they circumambulate the stupa. Interestingly, even xuanzang talks about the fact that there was a lot of tension between the Buddhists and the heretics even then. Seeming ly, it continues to this day.
There is also a permanent police post next to the stupa mound as it is deemed a security risk.
Somehow, even after 150 years or so of the rediscovery of Sankisa by Alexander Cunningham, little archaeological progress has been made. Maybe this will change in the future.
My advice to anyone who wants to go to Sankisa is to not shy away. It is very approachable.
I can think of the following routes. One is via Shahjahanpur which is on most major train routes. This is the route I took.
Secondly, one can also drive down from Lucknow and Hardoi. Or from Lucknow via Kannauj. It should take about give to six hours. The other routes are via Agra or Shikohabad.

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