The Buddha and Dr. Führer

Charles Allen

‘In this dense and quirky volume, Charles Allen unravels the saga of the discovery, a twisted tale of truth and lies that has divided Buddhist scholars for a century.’ 
Sunday Telegraph 

‘This is a fascinating tale’ 


Set against the background of the British Raj, this is the true story of the scandal that surrounded the discovery of an inscribed casket said to contain the ashes of the Buddha.

In 1898, a British landowner, William Claxton Peppé, opened up 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 filled with jewels and gold offerings. Peppé’s excavation of the Piprahwa stupa took place just after the discovery nearby of the birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini, and was itself followed by the discovery of the legendary city of Kapilavastu where he had grown into manhood as Prince Siddhartha. What was overlooked in the initial excitement was an inscription on one of the Piprahwa caskets, declaring it to contain the ashes of the Buddha left there by members of his own Sakya clan. This news aroused worldwide interest. Very soon, however, a scandal began to develop when a local British magistrate involved in the excavation accused a German archaeologist, Dr Anton Führer, who himself had a state in the dig, of faking his results and selling bogus relics.

Renowned historian Charles Allen tells the fascinating story in this blend of gripping narrative and deep scholarship, weaving in the results of a conference held at Harewood House in June 2006 on the Piprahwa dig with those of recent carbon dating.

CHARLES ALLEN was born in Kanpur in the last years of the British Raj. His family’s association with India dates back to the battle of Seringapatam in 1799. His great-grandfather brought the young Rudyard Kipling out to work on his newspaper, the Civil and Military Gazette. Mr Allen is a traveller, writer and broadcaster, specialising in India and the Far East. He is author of Plain Tales of the RajKipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling 1865-1900, and The Prisoner of Kathmandu.

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