Category Archives: Archaeology

1st Century Buddhist panels found

The Buddhist panels discovered on the bed of the River Gundlikamma in Prakasam district on Saturday

The Buddhist panels discovered on the bed of the River Gundlikamma in Prakasam district on Saturday

THE HANS INDIA | Nov 27,2016 , 01:37 AM IST

Vijayawada: Two Buddhist panels measuring 1.40X 0.55×0.13 metres depicting the worship of the Dharma Chakra were discovered on the river bed of the Gundlakamma River on Thursday at the village of Vennampalli at Tripurantakam Mandal, Prakasam District.

The panels made of Palnadu limestone represent the mature phase of Amaravati art and dates back to the 1st century AD when the area was ruled by the Satavahanas, said Dr Muniratnam Reddy of Archaeological Survey of India and Dr E Sivanagi Reddy, Buddhist Expert and CEO, The Cultural Centre of Vijayawada & Amaravati.

They said that the panels belonged to the Buddhist stupa located on Singarakonda hill at Chandavaram village and were used to encase the brick built stupa.They appealed the state Department of Archaeology & Museums to shift them to the site Museum at Chandavaram for safe custody and proper display.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Buddha and Dr. Führer

prod_main209Short Review by Jonathan Ciliberto

The Buddha and Dr. Führer: An Archaeological Scandal
by Charles Allen

Buddhist art began with relics: bits of hair and bone purportedly from the Buddha or other figures that gave practitioners something on which to focus, or acted as talismans or objects of veneration. There are myriad things to say about the European explorers, military men, colonial administrators, and scholars who unearthed the antiquities of Egypt, Palestine, India, et al… certainly they were industrious! As much as they uncovered the past, they wrote it. This book is about one particular excavation, in 1898, of a reliquary that was trumpeted as holding the ashes of the historical Buddha himself. The discovery soon became the source of controversy and confusion when a German archaeologist (Dr. Führer), who became associated with the find, was involved a separate archaeological scandal, tainting the 1898 discovery. “Führer wanted,” writes Allen, “to believe that the sacred landscape explored […] in the fifth and seventh centuries still existed in that same idealized form in the last decade of the 19th century. So strongly did he believe this that he sought to make it so.” Allen has written a very detailed book, with quite a bit of background history.

BUDUGALA: TRANQUIL MONASTERY AT THE HEART OF WALAWE VALLEY

z_p36-budugala1Sunday Observer

6 November, 2016
Story and pictures by Mahil Wijesinghe

The meandering Walawe River begins as a spring in the Horton Plains and flows down across several provinces until it meets the sea at Godawaya in the Southern city of Ambalantota. An extensive land area in Sabaragamuwa is known as the valley of Walawe and hidden in this heartland are some very impressive prehistoric ancient stone beauties from the classical Anuradhapura period. In 2002, the Department of Archaeology carried out an extensive exploration at the archaeological site, Budugala at Kaltota in close proximity to the Walawe River where a complex of ancient Buddhist monasteries have been found and restored.

A long arduous journey through the harsh terrain of the otherwise lush Sabaragamuwa Province, brought us to the Balangoda-Kaltota road. From Balangoda, the road was ever winding as we kept descending steadily from Balangoda toward Kaltota for around 30 kilometres. The scenery was refreshing with the edge of the mountain affording a distant view of the plains of the entire Southern province before melting into misty greens.

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The road then runs on flat terrain and we met a gushing canal carrying Walawe waters, running parallel with the road. The canal gives water to the paddy-fields on the opposite side of the road. We saw shallow bathing spots along the canal where locals were washing and relaxing after a bath. The huge, tall trees along the canal give ample shade to the road. The rugged steep road to Kaltota took a right turn, leading us to the Weli-Oya – Kaltota narrow carpeted road and we reached a place steeped in history.

Boundary
The scenic, rustic village of Budugala, (meaning ‘the rock of Buddha’) nestles in the boundary of the Udawalawe National Park, at the edge of the Sabaragamuwa Province, and the Walawe River flows across this village. Paddy cultivation is the main source of livelihood of the villagers of this area.

We stopped at an Archaeological Department signboard and parked on the side of the narrow road. There was hardly any traffic, and hardly any room for two vehicles to pass. We crossed the canal by a narrow bridge and reached the small watch hut built by the Department of Archaeology at the entrance to the site.

Although the site meeting our eyes seemed interesting, there was hardly any information available. Since we visited the Budugala ruins in Kaltota on a drought ridden day, the area was surrounded by clumps of yellow sunburnt grass and brownish shrub jungle. There were hardly any visitors. It was quiet, save for the sudden wind that took a fancy to howl through the huge trees. But, in a bygone era, this was a main spiritual hub and part of the ancient site in Ruhuna and may be in Anuradhapura – far enough for seclusion, and yet, near enough to maintain some kind of contact. Both were essential requirements for a forest monastery. Continue reading

Iconic Buddha in Swat valley restored after nine years when Taliban defaced it

Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.

Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.

Dawn
FAZAL KHALIQ — PUBLISHED a day ago
The iconic seventh-century defaced Buddha at Jahan Abad, Swat, at last, got its face back after a nine-year-long wait following a scientific restoration process conducted by Italian archaeologists.

The 7th century Buddha seated in a meditative posture which is considered one of the largest rock sculptures in South Asia was attacked in September 2007 by the Taliban, who blew up half the statue’s face by drilling holes into the face and shoulders and inserting explosives.

The explosives in the face, when detonated, destroyed half its face, but the explosives in the statue’s shoulders failed to detonate.

The defacement of the Buddha sparked worldwide anger and concern among the Buddhist community, historians and archaeologists.

The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan were able to restore the statue to its original form after six scientific missions.

“It was our professional and moral obligation toward the people and heritage of Swat and Pakistan which forced us to restore the Buddha. It took about five missions of about a month each from 2012-2016 in its complete conservation program,” said head of the Italian Archaeological Mission, Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, adding that international experts worked on the restoration process.

“Two restorers/trainers, two 3D scan experts/trainers, one chief restorer, five local restorers, 20 field workers, two carpenters, and three watch-keepers were involved in the restoration process, while the 3D equipment was provided all-inclusive by the University of Padua, Italy,” he said

“It was restored under the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) Field School project funded by Italian government, a joint project of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Italian Archaeological Mission,” Olivieri added.

Fabio Colombo, a restorer and member of the Italian Archaeological Mission who has vast experience in the field of conservation and who worked on-site in Bamyan, Afghanistan, said that he enjoyed the work at Jahan Abad as it was a very important historical site where the locals also gave him love and respect. Continue reading

Salvaging Rajagala from being lost forever

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Daily News (Sri Lanka)
Friday, October 7, 2016 – 01:00
Zahrah Imtiaz

Within the dense forests of Rajagala in Ampara, a team of Archaeologists from the University of Sri Jayawardenapura are uncovering an 800 year old Buddhist monastery, bringing it back to life- one dig at a time.

The site spanning over 1,025 acres of forest, rocky hills, Stupas, Refectory, Uposathagra (Building devoted to religious observances), a hot water bath house and cave dwellings is said to have been built during the 1st Century BC. The team has been successful in discovering over 50 cave dwellings, leading them to believe that around 500 monks would have resided in them.

“It is interesting that some of these caves have the inscription “Seethalena” which depicts the name of cool cave,” said Director of Conservation and Maintenance, Prof Prashantha B. Mandawala.

According to Prof Mandawala’s research, the monastic complex was vacated due to the South Indian invasions in 1215 AD and it has since then gradually deteriorated due to natural causes and also due to vandalism by treasure hunters in the recent past.

Among other unusual inscriptions found at the site, Prof Mandawala also highlighted that they had found inscriptions on one of the Stupas which read that, the ‘ashes’ or ‘relics’ of Arahat Mahinda was enshrined within the stupa. Continue reading

Archaeology dept to search for Buddhist relic near Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2016.

ISLAMABAD: Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) is successfully continuing the survey work of archaeological sites at Zone-IV of federal capital to find potential sites for documentation, excavation and preservation.

DOAM Director Archaeology Abdul Azeem said the team of archaeologists has so far identified eight sites in Zone-IV of the capital and the survey continues in different areas.

These include historical monuments, worship places of Sikh community before partition, mosques of Mughal period, remains of Buddhist period and a memorial of British-Sikh War.

Azeem, who heads the project, said the first-ever archaeological survey in federal capital was initiated to find the potential sites for excavation, documentation and preservation, protecting the precious heritage.

The team which is conducting archaeological survey comprises archaeological experts, photographers, draftsmen and other necessary staff who are recording the details of the sites for documentation and finding potential sites for excavation.

He said Assistant Directors, Mehmood Shah and Asadullah were also part of the team which is conducting the survey. Students of Hazara University and Quaid-e-Azam University are also accompanying the team of experts during the survey work on sites.

About the cost of the project, Azeem said, PC-I of the project worth Rs400,000 was already submitted to the authorities concerned for approval.

However they have been given an amount of Rs150,000 by the National History and Literary Heritage Division to start the survey work.

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Salihundam Buddhist heritage site, museum need attention

Times of India
Sulogna Mehta | Oct 17, 2016, 19:06 IST

VISAKHAPATNAM: Salihundam has all the ingredients of becoming one of the most sprawling, beautiful Buddhist heritage sites in the state with at least a dozen excavated stupas and chaitya-grihas of various geometric patterns and shape, a museum with rock-cut statues ranging from about third to seventh century AD, a lovely landscape with well-kept lawns and greenery situated on an elevation, which offers a scenic view of the serene surroundings with the Vamshadhara River flowing down by its one side and lush paddy fields on other. Yet, just like most heritage spots of our country, this Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) site too is pushed into oblivion and shabbily maintained with no funds forthcoming for its upliftment.

Situated nearly 140 kilometres from Vizag city, in Gara mandal of Srikakulam district, a mandal already known for its famous Arasavalli (Sun God) and Srikurmam (tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu) temples, the Buddhist heritage site of Salihundam has some unique features. It has a beautiful star atop a stupa, rock cut massive stupas inside chaitya grihas, brick stupas with wheel pattern plan, votive stupas, inscriptions on the steps leading to the stupas and a museum housing around two dozen sculpted statues and figurines of Buddha, Jain Teerthankaras and other deities, which had been excavated from Sailihundam and a few brought from nearby areas including Ramateertham and Srimukhalingam.

But sadly, apart from the fact that it is a protected ASI site, there are no information centre, signages or boards to explain visitors about the significance of the museum structures or even their names, from where and when they were excavated. Neither is there information about the variously patterned stupas and chaityas scattered at the site. Instead, flock of sheep and herds of goats and cattle are grazing on the overgrown grass on the site. The monument attendant or multi-transport service (MTS) staff say that the site was excavated in the 1950s and that Salihundam was ruled by the Chakravarthy dynasty. However, with no authentic brochure or booklets available about this site, the veracity of the claims of the ASI staff are questionable. “We are four staff members here. The site is hardly frequented by people, except some picnickers who come for a site for picnic without interest in the archaeological aspects of the place. Rarely foreigners or tourists come here in buses,” said P Mritunjaya, an ASI staff. Continue reading