After the Discovery
Inevitably there was huge interest in the discovery of the Piprahwa stupa. The New York Daily Tribune announced it as the ‘most important discovery of the century’ and word quickly spread amongst eminent Buddhists.
Within a week of the discovery a Siamese Buddhist monk called the Ven Jinavaravansa arrived at Birdpur. Often referred to as the Prince Priest, Jinavaravansa was the grandson of King Rama III of Siam and cousin of the then King. Following a political scandal in Siam, Jinavaravansa had worked for several years in British Malaya before he moved to Ceylon in self-imposed exile. Once there he was ordained as a monk at the Waskaduwe temple in Kotahena, near Colombo, serving under the renowned Pali scholar the Ven Sri Subhiti. Jinavaravansa was on a pilgrimage in Northern India at the time of the discovery. He arrived at Birdpur in an attempt to secure a share of the relics for the Buddhists of Ceylon but also to try and guarantee that the remainder of the relics went to the King of Siam, who was at the time the only existing non-colonized Buddhist sovereign in the world.
W. C. Peppé was not in a position to apportion any part of the discovery himself as he had already placed the relics at the disposal of the Government but he did pass on Jinavaravansa's request to the Commissioner of Gorakhpur who in turn informed his superiors. Heeding the advice of the Prince Priest the Viceroy of the time, Lord Elgin agreed that most of the bones and ashes would be given to the King of Siam ‘as the only existing Buddhist monarch for distribution on condition that His Majesty would not object to offer a portion of the relics to the Buddhists of Burma and Ceylon’. These relics were shared out at an elaborate ceremony that took place in Bangkok in early 1900. One portion each was assigned to Mandalay and Rangoon and three portions were assigned to temples in Anuradhapura, Kandy and Colombo. In Bangkok the relics along with some of the jewels were enshrined in the Golden Mount Pagoda. It was also decided that the treasure along with the five reliquary urns and the stone coffer would be placed in the Imperial Museum in Calcutta. W.C. Peppé was permitted to keep approximately one sixth of the original treasure consisting mainly of duplicates. the Ven. Sri Subuthi had written to Peppé lobbying to have a portion of the relics sent to Ceylon, W.C. Peppé replied that he had ‘placed them at the disposal of government’ with the request that some be sent to Subhuti and the Buddhists of Ceylon. Eventually W.C. Peppé sent '20 relics & one gold roll’ and in a letter to Subhuti noted that ‘you will see how beautifully they are made’. W.C. Peppé also gifted a small amount of the jewels to the Prince Priest, who eventually enshrined them in the Ratna Chetiya (Jewel Stupa) in Colombo of which he became abbot in 1908.