T. KARNAKAR REDDY
Relic casket is believed to be that of the Buddha or his disciple
In a rare archaeological development, Department of Archaeology and Museums officials found the relic casket of Buddha or his disciple during the excavation of the Phanigiri Monastic Buddhist site in Nalgonda district on Tuesday.
Speaking to The Hindu , Deputy Director J. Vijay Kumar said that they had been excavating the site since last February under the guidance of Director B. Srinivas. During the excavation they found a Maha Stupa inside which was the relic casket.
The officials opened the casket to find a meditation mala generally used by Buddhist monks with beads and also disintegrated lotus flower made up of gold and silver.
The relics were found in a small silver box that was kept in a small earthen pot which was put in another bigger earthen pot and buried in the stupa.
He said the Maha Stupas are called Sariraka Stupa (buried bodily remains of the Buddha), Phari Bogika Stupa (buried belongings of Lord Buddha and Uddeshika Stupa, but they identified it as Phari Bogika Stupa since they found belongings of the Buddha.
Mr. Vijay Kumar said after the death of Lord Buddha his remains were kept at eight places in stupas in the world by his disciples, but the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, who embraced Buddhism after the great Kalinga war in 3rd century BC, had removed the relics and believed to have kept the remains at 84,000 places in the world to spread Buddhism across the globe.
Highlighting the importance of finding the relic casket, Mr. Vijay Kumar said in undivided Andhra Pradesh, archaeologists had found the relic caskets only at two places one at Nagarjunasagar and another at Bojjannakonda, another Buddhist site about 45 km from Vishakhapatnam.
According to their observation, the Deputy Director has said the Stupa, in which the relic casket was found, was renovated thrice — during the Mauryan, the Satavahana and the Ikshvaku periods.
The fall of Buddhism in Phanigiri had started during the Vishnukundins period, but surprisingly the relic casket remained intact.
Special Officer of the Archaeology Department, J.H. Ranga Chary, who accompanied Mr.Vijay Kumar, said that they would take the relic casket to Hyderabad to study it detail in the presence of Director Srinivas and other experts.
Assistant Director, B. Ramulu Naik, technical assistant, P. Nagaraju and others executed execution works here.