In Modi’s Vadnagar, ASI searches for Hiuen Tsang’s lost monasteries

Indian Express NATION
SUNDAY, MAR 15, 2015

Written by Sumegha Gulati | New Delhi | Published on:March 14, 2015 4:45 am

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has begun excavations in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown Vadnagar to corroborate the nearly 1,400-year-old account of a Chinese traveller who mentioned there were 10 Buddhist monasteries in that area of Gujarat at that time.

Excavations by Gujarat State Archaeology Department between 2006 and 2010 have already unearthed monumental remains that could be of one of the monasteries.

The ASI, which began excavations on January 5 this year, has made initial discoveries that indicate that one or more Buddhist monasteries could indeed have flourished at the site.

Dr B R Mani, ASI Additional Director General, said, “As of now, we have found shards of pottery, lead, coins and many other objects. The excavation is in progress.”

Madhulika Samanta, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch (Baroda), said the purpose of ASI’s excavation was to find the “lost city” of Vadnagar mentioned in historical accounts.

In Si-Yu-Ki, or ‘The Buddhist Records of the Western World’, (the first English translation of which was published in 1884 by the Orientalist scholar Samuel Beal) the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang (also transcribed as Hsuan Tsang and Xuan Zhuang) wrote a few sentences about “‘O-nan-to-pu-lo”, or Anandapura, the ancient name for the area around Vadnagar. Continue reading


World Religions News



This discovery is expected to offer a great deal of information about the early life of venerated scholar and saint of the Buddhist faith, Atish Dipankar, who was born over 1,000 years ago in Asia. The excavation, which lasted fifty days, began in 2013, with the Agrasar Vikrampur Foundation in collaboration with China’s Hunan Provincial Institute.

The old temple at Nateshwar has produced the discovery of two roads and a wall nearly three meters in width, as well as other evidence of an urban area in the southeast side of the site that was both busy and prosperous. Other relics have also been unearthed, including various pieces of pottery and ash pits. Other structures, called stupas, have also been found at the site. Stupas are spiritual sites that are typically constructed as mounds and usually contain relics of the Buddhist faith. These discoveries are said to be the first of their kind in the nation.

B-MYxsoCYAAeoC2Although fame came early in the life of Atish Dipankar, he did not journey into Tibet until the later years of his life. He gained followers and eventually became one of the most revered saints of Buddhism. However, his life and education remain largely a mystery. Archaeologists from both Bangladesh and China have expressed the hope that the new findings at Nateshwar would shed some light on the life of Atish Dipankar, as well as provide some insight into the rise and decline Buddhism has experienced in that part of the world. There is some speculation that the site could become a center for pilgrimage among devout Buddhists.


Buddhist remnants draw art historians

Archaeologists at the Bhimeswara Swamy temple at Chebrolu in Guntur district on Friday. —Photo: T. Vijaya Kumar

Archaeologists at the Bhimeswara Swamy temple at Chebrolu in Guntur district on Friday. —Photo: T. Vijaya Kumar

The Hindu

16 archaeologists visit centuries-old Bhimeswara Swamy temple at Chebrolu

Early Buddhist remnants in Andhra Pradesh are continuing to draw art historians and archaeologists around the world.

The architectural splendour of the Amaravati School of Art still found in pillars and motifs unearthed in excavations is an object of historical research in schools of art of major European and American universities.

A group of 16 men and women, among them art historians, archaeologists, conservators and research fellows from USA, UK, Thailand on Friday visited Chebrolu, one of the earliest Buddhist sites in coastal Andhra Pradesh.

The village is home to centuries-old Bhimeswara Swamy temple, which is being renovated by the Archaeology Department.

Freelance archaeologist Kadiyala Venkateswara Rao, who unearthed congregational hall pillars embellished half lotus medallions, a distinct feature of Amaravati School of Art, accompanied the visitors on a guided tour. The visitors included representatives from Thailand Tourism Bureau.

Robert Schick, Research Fellow, American Centre of Oriental Research, Jordan, who visited the village on Friday, is working on a project related to early Buddhist sites in India and South Asia. His earlier visits to the country left a lasting impression on this researcher, who has started his own project in 2011 documenting the early Buddhist sites in Andhra Pradesh. Continue reading

Security lapses at Nalanda ruins irk Buddhist council

Times of India
Pranav Chaudhary, TNN | Mar 4, 2015, 05.09AM IST

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PATNA: Buddhist Monuments Development Council (BMDC), a national body dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Buddhist heritage, has expressed its deep concern over security lapses at various Buddhist sites in the state, including the famous ancient ruins of Nalanda university.

Council chairman Arvind Alok, who is currently visiting various Buddhist sites in Bihar, said he has communicated this to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) DG and sought his immediate intervention. He said a large number of visitors visiting these sites are also causing damage to the world heritage site. “There is also an apprehension that some people may take away the scattered bricks and valuable artefacts to sell them to smugglers,” Alok said, while talking to TOI over the phone.

He demanded immediate deployment of monument attendants and security people to protect the antiquities at the ancient site in Nalanda. “Most of the attendants hired for the security of the site have already retired and private security guards do not pay much attention. Such a huge complex of ancient university must be on the top priorities,” he said, adding, “I have also requested the ASI DG to post a senior archaeologist at the Nalanda site immediately as only one junior officer is posted at all the nearby sites.”

‘Swarn Bhandar’, ‘Saptarni cave’, ‘Maniyar Math’, Venuvan monastery are important archaeological sites which are directly related to Buddha and his disciples, need immediate renovation for the preservation.

‘Venuvan Vihar’ is the place where Buddha resided during his stay at Rajgir. The ancient Vihar is presently being looked after by forest department. It should be handed over to the ASI or state archaeology. Recently a new construction has come up inside the Vihar which may affect the archaeological glory of the place, he said.

Meanwhile, the council will start Buddhist information centres at important Buddhist places of Bihar to facilitate services to the pilgrims from September this year. It will also soon start documentation of the Buddhist remains in rural parts of Bihar, Alok said.

The council will train youth of rural areas of Buddhist places in Bihar as tourist guides with the help of Indian institute of tourism and travel management to generate employment.


Smells like Nirvana: Over 500 new artefacts found at Bhamala

The Express Tribune
By Hidayat KhanPublished: March 9, 2015

Artefacts excavated at the world heritage site of Bhamala. PHOTOS COURTESY: K-P DIRECTORATE OF ARCHAEOLOGY & MUSEUMS

PESHAWAR: More than 500 potentially priceless artefacts have been unearthed at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Bhamala in Haripur as excavation has been put on hold till the beginning of next year. Some of the main discoveries were found to be damaged due to earlier illegal excavation.
The recent discoveries included terracotta artefacts, stucco sculptures, architectural elements, copper coins, iron nails, door sittings, pottery and 14 coins from the Kushan era.

Apart from natural decay, illegal excavations have resulted in widespread damage to some of the most important discoveries at the ancient Buddhist stupa. Some of the chapels on the southernmost side were found empty, while others contained stucco sculptures of varying and unique styles.
At the moment, the site’s history can be traced back to 2,000 years, but some recent discoveries sent to the US for laboratory tests could date the site even further back in history. Excavation work has been halted till next year by officials and documentation to this effect is in process.

“The most remarkable discovery from Bhamala was the Maha Puri Nirvana (death of Buddha) statue measuring 14 metres in length. It is the largest such example [depicting the death scene] found in the Gandhara civilisation,” said K-P Director Archaeology and Museums Abdul Samad.

4.Terracotta-head-from-Bhamala-2-copy Continue reading

An island’s damaged heritage

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala, Sri Lanka which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala, Sri Lanka which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The Nation
Doreen Fiedler
Deutsche PresseAgentur
Colombo, Sri Lanka March 9, 2015 1:00 am

The reclining Buddha statue in Danagirigala, Sri Lanka now only has one eye. Treasure hunters pulled out the other one. The stone pillow on which the Buddha rests his golden, curly-haired head has a hole in it.

“The perpetrators were hoping to find gold, silver, precious stones or ivory,” says Senarath Dissanayake, director general of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology. Destructive treasure hunting is a major problem in the island country off the tip of India.

“Treasure hunting is based only on folklore about great riches. It has no scientific basis,” Dissanayake says.

The culprits in Danagirigala went home empty-handed, as did the ones who damaged a stupa (Buddhist burial mound) in Danowita and in Nurwarakanda where treasure-hunters drilled into the chest, belly button and pedestal of a seated Buddha statue.

Over the past two decades, police have come across more than 4,000 cases of such vandalism. The situation was particularly bad in 2012 and 2013 with the floors of caves dug up, the houses of former chieftains torn down and monks’ dwellings destroyed.

On average there was more than one such act every day.

“The trend is a consequence of the fact that people no longer have morals and ethics,” Dissanayake says.

The remains of a brick and plaster Buddha statue at Hebessa that was destroyed by treasure hunters. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The remains of a brick and plaster Buddha statue at Hebessa that was destroyed by treasure hunters. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

Continue reading

The Benefits Of Art, Meditation And Storytelling In Health Care


I do think there is a healing possibility for public art in the hospital; not just as a kind of escape from what’s troubling you, but as a way of engaging directly with it. Julie Puttgen, Artist & Meditation Teacher

from Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s website
Photography by MARK WASHBURN

March 3rd, 2015

When Julie Puttgen was approached about the possibility of displaying her art at the Medical Center she knew immediately where she wanted the exhibit to go—the gallery space on the 4th floor hallway just outside two intensive care units. “I have very strong memories of this being a place of purgatory for a lot of people,” she says, “either someone they loved had been in some kind of traumatic accident, and it was unclear whether they were going to survive or not; or people knew they were keeping vigil for someone who was dying.” Using the long hallway as a kind of contemplative space where people could think would be using the space for good, she thought.

An artist and meditation teacher, Püttgen completed her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) through the Chaplaincy Department here at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in 2014, and the many encounters she had with those dealing with illness are incorporated in her exhibit. Marianne Barthel, art program coordinator, describes Püttgen’s work as “a cross between Buddhist tapestry and the popular photo series Humans of New York.” Her paintings are mounted on fabric scrolls sewn from bed sheets with accompanying words that tell stories that hint at the inner lives of the people they depict. “When you’re a patient in the hospital there is a tremendous longing for home and domestic space” says Püttgen, “using ordinary materials like bed sheets is part of telling the story of the sacred space of home.” The message seems to resonate with those who are dealing with difficult situations as evidenced in an email she received.

Recently I spent a weekend with my 92-year-old mom at DHMC. When she was sleeping I walked around, feeling sorry for my mom for good reason, and myself for not such a good reason. As I was walking, I read and viewed your art. It made me feel so much better. Thank you so much for sharing! It is all beautiful.
Nancy Bicknell Smith

Barthel says it’s not unusual to see people stop in the hallway to take in the exhibit. “It’s exciting to have a slightly different medium that really engages the public in a different way,” she says. “So much of our art is appreciated on the go, this exhibit really forces interaction— it almost creates a dialogue. You have to stop and read to understand it.” Püttgen hopes the exhibit can provide a lifeline to those struggling with illness. “I do think there is a healing possibility for public art in the hospital,” she says, “not just as a kind of escape from what’s troubling you, but as a way of engaging directly with it.”

Julie Püttgen’s work remains on view through March 30, 2015. It’s part of the 2015 Winter Rotating Art Exhibit at DHMC, which features the work of local and regional artists in seven different gallery-type spaces within the Medical Center.

To learn more about Julie Puttgen’s artwork click here. Information on meditation classes and workshops can be found here.