Category Archives: Archaeology

Man stumbles upon rare idol of female Buddha

Archaeology enthusiast R Rathnkar Reddy at the Buddhist idols at Ippagudem village in Station Ghanpur mandal of Jangaon district Open

Telangana Today, Friday, April 14, 2017

By P. Laxma Reddy | Published: 25th Mar 2017 11:00 pm

Jangaon: Much to the delight of archaeologists and historians, a rare idol of Tara – the female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism – was found at Ippagudem in Station Ghanpur mandal recently.

Archaeology and history enthusiast R Rathnakar Reddy found the black granite idol abandoned near the bund of a tank. He first mistook it for Yakshini of Jain mythology. But later, noted archaeologist and historian Emani Shivanagi Reddy confirmed it as Tara.

“It was Shivanagi Reddy who identified the idol as Tara. There is an engraved image of Buddha on the hair bun. The deity’s upper body is naked with large breasts, which is the most common description of Tara in Buddhist literature,” Rathnakar said.

Rathnakar also found a broken idol of Buddha near the black granite structure, which helped them confirm that it was Tara. Both the idols – three-ft-tall Tara and four-ft-tall Buddha – take historians and archeologists closer to the Buddhist era. It is believed that idol of Tara, which was damaged, belonged to 8th or 9th century AD.

Considering the value of the idol, Rathankar Reddy urged the State Archaeology and Museums to shift it to a museum at the earliest. He said Telangana had some followers of Buddha during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Telangana Jagruthi State secretary Sri Ramoju Haragopal visited the site at Ippaguem on Friday and urged the government to preserve the idols. Though Tara is said to be a tantric meditation deity mainly worshiped by the followers of Vajrayana Buddhism, there are several other stories about her. And some of them indicate that she belonged to Hindusim and seen as a form of Shakti.

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Famous Thotlakonda Buddhist site cries for attention

Weeds grown around the cisterns (troughs) at Buddhist site near Mangamaripeta in Visakhapatnam | RVK Rao

By Express News Service | Published: 22nd February 2017 02:02 AM

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Thotlakonda Buddhist site at Mangamaripeta in the city is in sad state of affairs with negligence of officials concerned. Tourists visiting the historical site seek minimum facilities.

Said to be a sacred place of Buddhists during 300 BC to 300 AD, the place was discovered by the Indian Navy in 1976 during an aerial survey. The excavations conducted by the department of Archaeology and Museums from 1988 to 1992 revealed the ruins of a well-established Theravada (Hinayanana Buddhism) monastery. The tourists visiting the site express their displeasure over the maintenance and lack of amenities.

The tourist spot neither has any drinking water facility nor even toilets for visitors. A number of stupas and other excavations are ill-maintained. Unwanted plants are grown almost all over the area. The site which is famous for its cisterns (troughs), which were said to be used by the Buddhists for drinking water purpose are also neglected. Weeds and waste water can be seen.

“At least a small shop should have been set up. We do not even have water facility. If we need to spend some time, minimum facilities are required,” said Adarsh Babu, a tourist from Tenali, who came along with his family.

The premises is littered with liquor bottles. It was learnt that some unidentified persons had a booze party by breaking liquor bottles. Some persons expressed displeasure over the entry of couples, who disturb with their activities. Some places, which were said to be holy for the Buddhists are defaced with names of people written. The Maha stupas, cisterns, votive platforms, kitchen complex and dining hall are major attractions at the spot. The officials have recently put up sign boards describing the places and dustbins.

However, with thick growth of waste plants grown here and there, tourists are not able to view them.

“During winter season, there are around 100 tourist footfalls per day. Tourists also visit the place during summer vacation,” said Raju, the only guide at the site.

On the issue, a tourism official said that they had set up sign boards and dustbins. He said that a good footpath was also laid and direction boards were set up showing the path. “A hall is being constructed to house a museum. Pictures of stupas and other Buddhist monuments would be displayed in the museum,” he said. The official also said that a children’s park would also be developed.

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Base for giant pagoda could be first proof of mystery temple

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
February 10, 2017 at 17:50 JST

Trench digs at the Higashi-Yuge site in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, revealed the possible foundation of a pagoda where Yugeji temple is said to have stood in the eighth century. The foundation, marked by the white lines, is 20 meters by 20 meters. (Provided by the Yao education board)
Photo/Illustraion

YAO, Osaka Prefecture–Archaeologists have found a square foundation believed to have supported a towering pagoda that was part of a mysterious temple built by a powerful Buddhist monk in the eighth century.

The discovery at the Higashi-Yuge archaeological site was announced on Feb. 9 by a cultural property research group originally founded by the Yao city government.

It could be the first archaeological evidence proving the existence of Yugeji temple, which is said to have been built here in the Nara Period (710-784) by Dokyo, a Buddhist monk.

Dokyo rose in power after winning the favor of Empress Shotoku, one of the few female rulers in Japan’s history.

Her reign started in 764 and ended with her death in 770. Dokyo fell from power after she died, and he was relegated to what is now Tochigi Prefecture. The year of his birth is not known, but records show he died in 772.

Only a few historical documents mention Yugeji temple.

The research group and the Yao education board consider the square foundation, about 20 meters by 20 meters, as invaluable evidence in the search for Yugeji temple. They are now working to preserve the site.


The foundation was found in stratum dating back to the latter half of the eighth century.

According to Kazuhisa Hakozaki, a researcher of ancient Buddhist architecture at the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the sheer size of the foundation indicates that a relatively large pagoda stood on top. Continue reading

The Case for Rebuilding the Bamiyan Buddhas to Their Original Glory

A girl watches over her sheep and goats as they graze before one of the destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas. From wsj.com

A girl watches over her sheep and goats as they graze before one of the destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas. From wsj.com

By Buddhistdoor Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-01-27 |

After a long and difficult journey across the precipices and through the blizzards of the Tian Shan mountain ranges, Xuanzang (fl. c. 602–64) finally reached the town of Bamiyan in modern-day Afghanistan. His celebrated pilgrimage to India was one of astonishing tenacity, aided by the protection of bodhisattvas from the forces of nature, and on this leg of his journey Xuanzang arrived in a valley separating the Hindu Kush from its western extension, the Koh-i-baba. The residents of Bamiyan, according to the Chinese monk, wore furs and rough woolen clothes, and made a living growing spring wheat, flowers, and fruit, and herding cows, horses, and sheep. The people had coarse, uncultivated manners, but Xuanzang admired their simple and sincere religious faith, which they expressed by carving two colossal Buddha images into the rocky northeastern hill overlooking their settlements (a third reclining Buddha recorded in Xuanzang’s journal has yet to be found).

It is not known when the affectionately bestowed nicknames for the larger Buddha, Salsal (“light shines throughout the universe”), and Shamama (“Queen Mother”) for the smaller image, came into use. Historian Mahmud ibn Wali of Balkh (b. c. 1004 or 1095) wrote in his hagiography Bahr al-Asrar: “One cannot believe that there were made by human hands.” Frédéric Bobin of Le Monde put it quite well: “For 15 centuries the two mystic colossi gazed down as the trading caravans and warring armies streamed past. Monks came from China to worship here. Others meditated in nearby caves.” (The Guardian) Until they were desecrated and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, the Bamiyan Buddhas inspired Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim observers alike, with one mullah (who no doubt represented the tolerant Islamic community in Bamiyan) lamenting, “The statues symbolised Bamiyan.” (The Guardian)

The Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH)* supports full restoration of the Bamiyan Buddhas and has carried out a rigorous study of eight options for rebuilding them. This is a proposal that makes many conservators at UNESCO blanch. It was UNESCO that declared in 2011 that the statues would be best remembered by their absence. “The two niches should be left empty, like two pages in Afghan history, so that subsequent generations can see how ignorance once prevailed in our country,” said Zamaryalai Tarzi, a Franco-Afghan archaeologist. (The Guardian) This is the dominant school of conservation at Bamiyan, which has been the victim of continuous political wrangling from different organizations and experts. Official UNESCO policy is based on the 1964 Venice Charter, which demands that “original material” be used for the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites, and if this rule is disregarded, there is the threat of UNESCO striking the site off its World Heritage List. Continue reading

Early Buddhist monastery awaits govt attention

The 1,800-year-old Vihara is situated 25 kilometres from Mingora. PHOTO: SHEHZAD KHAN/ EXPRESS

The 1,800-year-old Vihara is situated 25 kilometres from Mingora. PHOTO: SHEHZAD KHAN/ EXPRESS

The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2017.

By Shehzad Khan /
SWAT: An ancient double-domed structure still stands tall near Mingora after having survived the cruel ravages of time, vandalism and official neglect.

The 1,800-year-old Vihara or early Buddhist monastery, was discovered by British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein. It had been constructed in the second century as a place of worship by Buddhists, when Buddhism was the dominant religion of Swat.

The main building has two domes, one right above the other which led to it being called the double-dome-structure.

Archaeologists have called the structure one of the ‘finest and most unique ancient buildings’ across Asia.

Though the structure remained unscathed during the period of militancy in Swat, its surrounding areas faced a lot of damage.

The double-dome-structure did not lose its importance even during the Hindu-Shahi period, marking an end to Buddhism in Swat. The structure then became the centre for Hindus where they would offer their rituals.

The locals in Swat called the structure ‘Vihara’ — a term the Buddhists pioneered and used for their monastery. Continue reading

Unique plaque depicting a Universal Monarch

The Island

"Unique plaque depicting a Universal Monarch from Tissamaharama"

“Unique plaque depicting a Universal Monarch from Tissamaharama”

January 10, 2017, 9:10 pm

By Osmund Bopearachchi

(UC Berkeley-CNRS Paris)

The present article is based on a unique plaque depicting a Universal Monarch – Cakravartin in Sanskrit, cakravartin in Pali and Sakvithi in Sinhalese – found accidently in Tissamaharama, now conserved in the head office of the Department of Archaeology, Colombo (see plate 1). I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Prof. Senarath Disanayaka, Director General of Archaeology, for authorising me to publish it. Before discussing the importance of this relief in understanding the early forms of Sri Lankan art, let me narrate briefly the story of its discovery. Mr. K. Lahiru Sampath, from Tissamaharama found this sculpture in early 2016, in the irrigation canal carrying water from the Tissa Reservoir to the paddy-fields in the vicinity of the Tissamaharama Rajamahavihara. The canal runs along the Tissa-Akurugoda Road between the two ancient sites of Tissamaharama stupa and Sandagiri Dagoba. The precise place of its discovery, according to Ms. Rathubambarandage Nirosha kanthi, Curator of the Yatala Archaeological Museum, is about 100m from the junction of Rubberwatta Road and Tissa-Akurugoda Road, towards Tissamaharama Rajamahavihara. The villager who found it at the depth of the dried-out canal, seeing its unusual iconography and understanding its archaeological importance, donated it to the chief monk of the Yatala Rajamahaviharya. Through the intervention of Ms. Wasanthi Alahakoon, Regional Office, Department of Archaeology in Galle, the plaque was given to the head Office of the Department of Archaeology in Colombo on the 5th of February 2016. On the 7th of July 2016, on the day of the annual celebrations of archaeology (Puravidya Dinaya), the Department of Archaeology officially honoured Mr. K. Lahiru Sampath for his contribution.

Iconography:

The plaque depicts a Universal Monarch, considered an ideal universal king, who reigns ethically and compassionately over the entire world. In a Buddhist context, Cakra-vartin means the one who turns the Dharmacakra, or Wheel of the Dharma. The central figure with the raised right arm is no doubt a universal monarch, since he is shown with all the seven treasures that a Cakravartin should posses. The concept of Cakravartin, the universal monarch with Seven Jewels, as correctly argued by Monika Zin, is a frequent topic in Buddhist literature: Mahasudassanasutta (Dighanikaya XVII); Brahmayusutta (Majjhimanikaya 9 l); Mahapadanasutta (Dighanikaya XIV); Lakkhanasutta (Dighanikaya XXX); Cakkavattisihanadasutta (Dighanikaya XXVI); and Cakkavatisutta (Samyuttanikaya XLYL.5.2), to name only canonical Pali texts. In the Cakkavattisihanadasutta (The Lion’s Roar on the Turning of the Wheel), in the Dighanikaya, the Buddha defines the seven treasures possessed by a wheel-turning monarch as: the Wheel Treasure, the Elephant Treasure, the Horse treasure, the Jewel Treasure, the Woman Treasure, the Householder Treasure, and the Counsellor Treasure. In Buddhist literature, the notion of a ‘Wheel-Turner,’ or Cakravartin, applies to the Buddha himself. For example, in the Lalitavistara Sutra,

when the sage Asita came to see the newly born prince Siddhartha in the royal palace of Kapilavastu, he looked at the Bodhisattva, and saw that his body was wonderfully adorned with the thirty-two marks and eighty signs of a great being predicted to either subdue and conquer the entire world and its oceans without using force or weapons or to leave his home and go forth as a homeless monk and a Tathāgata, a completely perfect Buddha. He further says that if the Bodhisattva remains at home, he will be a Dharma king, possessing the seven jewels: the wheel, the elephant, the horse, the mani stone, the queen, the chancellor and the counselor. Likewise, the present plaque depicts the universal monarch with all the seven treasures. The Cakravartin stands in the middle, wearing an upper garment (uttarīya) over an under garment (paridhāna) belted with a cord around the waist, imitating most probably a fine silk fabric, wrapped around the left shoulder and arm leaving most of the torso exposed. His majesty is emphasized by the highly elaborated jatamukuta (headdress) with a crest in the middle and rich jewellery: long earrings, bracelets and a flat collar necklace. He raises his right hand executing the gesture of making the coins (wealth) to drop from the sky. Although the coins are not depicted clearly, the famous relief of the Cakravartin from Jaggayyapeta stupa in Andhra Pradesh, shows very clearly square coins resembling closely punch-marked coins. Once the identity of the principal figure is established, it is easy to interpret the other characters and symbols depicted on this hitherto unpublished plaque. To our right, at the upper extremity, is a forepart of elephant and to its right, and close to the head of the universal king, is a head of a horse. The unusual symbol between the head and raised right arm of the monarch is the wheel treasure. The symbol at the upper extremity to our left, taking the form of a conch (shankha), is the gem. Among the three standing human figures, the one to our right holding a water pot and wearing a lavish jatamukuta and rich jewellery is the householder treasure or the son of the monarch and heir to the throne.
Dressed in sumptuous garments, wearing long earrings and a sophisticated headdress, and holding most probably a lotus (symbol of purity), the queen (or the woman treasure) is shown standing between the heir to the throne and the Cakravartin. The figure standing to our left, richly dressed with fine jewellery and garments, with arms crossed over the chest, is the Counsellor. This plaque thus depicts the universal monarch with all the seven treasures. Though there are sculptures attempting to depict the Cakravartin in early Sri Lankan art, to my knowledge, this the only ancient sculpture so far attested to in the island showing this ideal universal king with all the seven symbols. We shall come back to this point a little later. Continue reading

Archaeologists flee survey site after mob attack in Lakhisarai

Hindustan Times

Remains of the stupa found at Ghosikund mound of Lakhisarai district of Bihar. (HT photo)

Remains of the stupa found at Ghosikund mound of Lakhisarai district of Bihar. (HT photo)

Archaeologists trying to survey a recently discovered Buddhist site in Ghosikund village of Chanan area in Lakhisarai, ran into a wall of protestors who took to violence to block the site, where they want an engineering college to come up instead.

Ghosikund hillock, which has been partly excavated, has thrown up a rich historical sequence of artefacts, right from pre-Buddhist times to the age of Guptas and Palas and promises to add to the rich historical legacy of the state. The uncovered site is believed to have thrown up a casket containing Buddha’s remains, as is mentioned in Cunningham’s travelogues of British times.

“Call it ignorance, or contempt for history, the region continues to witness conflict between heritage and modernity,” said an archaeologist.

Last week when a team of experts and research scholars from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal visited the site for inspection, they were opposed and manhandled by the locals and forced to leave. The team was formed by the state government to survey the site in Lakhisarai and chalk out a conservation strategy.

“It’s shocking. Though efforts to get the site conserved have been going on for the last many years, Lakhisarai district administration cleared nearly seven-acre of land for an engineering college at the site in May 2016. Land measurement works had also begun and it stopped only when the culture secretary intervened,” Vinod Kumar, coordinator of Dharohar Bachaao Samiti, Lakhisarai, told HT.

He said, locals had very little awareness about history and heritage. The worst came on February 13 when the team reached the hilltop. “Suddenly a large number of locals appeared and began opposing the team. They demanded a stop to the archaeological survey and became very aggressive. Team members had to be leave and take shelter in car. But they assaulted me and damaged my mobile phone and camera,” Kumar said. “We informed the Lakhisarai superintendent of police (SP) about the incident. Continue reading