PIPRAWA, a village on the Birdpur estate in the Basti dis trict, United Provinces, India. It lies on the Uska-Nepal road at mile 19.75; and about half a mile south of the boundary pillar numbered 44 on the frontier line between British and Nepalese territory. The village is celebrated as the site of the following discovery:— In 1896 interest having been aroused by the discovery, only twelve miles away, of the Buddha's birthplace (see LuMBINI), William Peppe, then resident manager of the Birdpur estate, opened a ruined tope or burial mound situate at Piprama. After digging through 18 ft. of solid brickwork set in clay a massive stone coffer was found lying due magnetic north and south. Its dimensions were, 4 ft. 4 in. by 2 ft. 8+ in. and 2 ft. 2+ in. high; and it contained five vessels, two vases, a bowl and a casket being made of steatite, and the fifth, also a bowl, of crystal. All these vessels are beautifully worked, the crystal bowl especially, with its fish-shaped cover handle, being a work of art of high merit. The coffer is of fine hard sandstone of superior quality, and has been hollowed out, at the cost of vast labour and expense, from a solid block of rock. Peppe calculated its weight, lid included, at 1,537 lb. It is only the great solidity of this coffer which has preserved the contents. A cover of one of the vases was found dislodged and lying on the bottom of the stone coffer. As this coffer fits very well it must have required a quite violent shock to remove it. This was almost certainly the shock of an earth quake, and the same shock probably caused the split in the stone lid of the coffer itself.
The vessels contained a dark dust, apparently disintegrated ashes, small pieces of bone, and a number of small pieces of jewellery in gold, silver, white and red cornelian, amethyst, topaz, garnet, coral and crystal. Most of these are perforated for mounting on threads or wires, and had been, no doubt, originally connected together to form one or more of the elaborate girdles, necklaces and breast ornaments then worn by the women. On the bottom of the stone
box there was similar dust, pieces of bone and jewellery, and also remains of what had been vessels of wood.
An inscription ran round one of the steatite vases just below the lid. The words mean : This shrine for ashes of the Buddha, the Exalted One, is the pious work of the Sakiyas, his brethren, asso ciated with their sisters, and their children, and their wives. The thirteen words, in a local dialect of Pali, are written in very ancient characters, and are the oldest inscription as yet discovered in India.
The monument must have been of imposing appearance. The dome was of the shallow type, probably not more than about 35 ft. high exclusive of the ornament on the summit. We have in bas reliefs of the 3rd century representations of what these ornaments were like—small square erections, like a shrine or small temple, sur mounted by a canopy called from its shape a T. They were then more than a third of the height of the dome itself. The total height of this Sakiya tope will therefore have been approximately a little under 5o ft. It was probably surrounded by a carved wooden railing, but this has long since disappeared.
All such monuments hitherto discovered in India were put up in honour of some religious teacher, and this is accepted as a monument put up over a portion of the ashes from the funeral pyre of Gotama the Buddha. The account of the death and cremation of the Buddha, preserved in the Buddhist canon, states that one-eighth portion of the ashes was presented to the Sakiya clan, and that they built a thiipa, or memorial mound, over it.
Mr. Peppe presented the coffer and vases with specimens of the jewellery to the museum at Calcutta where they still are. He also gave specimens of the trinkets to the Asiatic Society in London.