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When Nehru saw it (he had seen it several times before) the idea came to him to have it placed behind the throne that the president of the Republic of India sits on during formal occasions.It was not just that Nehru had a particular affection and respect for Buddhism, he also saw the need for symbols of India that were not associated with any of the country’s various ethnic and religious groups.
Various mounds in and around the city have yielded a vast treasure trove of sculpture over the last 150 years.
Much of this ended up being displayed in the Mathura Museum.
Ancient sites around Mathura were a happy hunting ground for amateur British archaeologists and antique collectors during the second half of the 19 century.
What is clear is that their spades hit what looked like an almost life-size statue.
After consulting Rajendra Prasad, soon to become India’s first president and getting his agreement, Nehru decided that the Mathura Buddha should be placed behind the president’s throne and that is where it stands today.
It’s serene and benign face gazes out at government officials when they assemble on formal occasions, as if to remind them of how they should carry out their duties.Further digging and brushing away of dust revealed that it was a statue of the Buddha.This was a cause for some delight to the diggers but when the face was cleaned the archaeologists were dumbstruck – it was the most serene and beautiful face they had ever seen.In 1949 the India Exhibition held in Rastrapati Bhawan (the president’s palace) in Delhi brought together some of the best and most iconic examples of Indian art, ancient, medieval and modern; Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Islamic.The Mathura Buddha was positioned as the centre of the whole exhibition.In 1901 it was suggested that the cream of Indian sculpture, including the Mathura Buddha and Asoka’s Lion Capital from Sarnath, be shipped to Britain to grace the British Museum.Lord Curzon, who happened to be the Viceroy at the time, strongly objected to this plan, saying that India’s treasures must remain in India and so the statue remained in the museum.For a country, the national emblem is a symbol of authority and represents the basis of its constitutional philosophy.The national emblem of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital atop the Ashoka Pillar of Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, and is combined with the National Motto Satyameva Jayate.The statue was taken to Mathura town and housed at the back of the Engineer’s Bungalow along with other bits and pieces.But as word of the beautiful statue spread it is said that British travellers and officials on their way by train to Delhi on government business or Agra to see the Taj Mahal stopped off at Mathura just to see it.