Category Archives: Archaeology

Buddhist Stupa near Rawat threatened by encroachments

The 3rd century BC Buddhist Stupa in Mankiala village. – Photo by the writer

The 3rd century BC Buddhist Stupa in Mankiala village. – Photo by the writer

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2015


ISLAMABAD: It is indeed a miracle that the country’s ancient wonders are still standing, given the poor care they get.

The 3rd century BC Buddhist Stupa (a mound like structure typically containing the remains of Buddhist monks) in Mankiala village on the G.T. Road just beyond the Rawat bus stand is one such ancient ruin which has survived the test of time so far but is threatened by the chaotic urban development.

The Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) believes that the Mankiala Stupa and its monasteries are spread over an area of three miles. However, most of these remains are buried under a messy urban sprawl that has come up in the recent years.

According to Ghafoor Lone of the DOAM, this religious establishment could be one of the significant stupas built by the Indian King Ashoka who is known for not just ruling over most of the Indian subcontinent but also converting to Buddhism. The Stupa of Dharmarajika in Taxila valley, enlisted as a world heritage site with Unesco, was the first Stupa built by Ashoka to bury the ashes of Buddha. Continue reading

Buddha short-circuit: Gujarat conservation ruins cave


The facade of the ancient Buddhist cave has been hidden behind a fibreglass shield. Inside, the floor has been plastered with freshly-laid stone tiles.

Times of India
Paul John, TNN | Jun 12, 2015, 06.07AM IST

AHMEDABAD: A Buddha tourist circuit in Gujarat was among the high points of the meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in September 2014 in Ahmedabad. But recent construction around the 4th century AD Buddhist cave in Khambalida, in Jetpur taluka of Rajkot, is an eyesore for heritage conservationists.

The facade of the ancient Buddhist cave has been hidden behind a fibreglass shield. Inside, the floor has been plastered with freshly-laid stone tiles. These are the interventions of the Gujarat archaeology department which doesn’t seem to have understood the basics of conservation.

The reason given for constructing the grotesque canopy is constant seepage from cracks during monsoon, which was dissolving the facade of the limestone cave. However, conservationists say there were better ways of protecting the monument — which had braved the vagaries of nature for over 1,600 years — than covering it with artificial material. Ajanta caves had faced a similar problem and were reinforced with compatible material. Khambhalida has three caves.

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The entrance of the central cave, ‘chaitya’, is flanked by two large sculptures of Avalokiteshvara Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara Vajrapani — both forms of Buddha. This is the only depiction of the Avalokiteshvara in a Gujarat cave. The cave features prominently in a book on Buddha circuit brought out by the government in 2010.

Former director, Gujarat state archaeology department YS Rawat said, “There was no other way. This was a limestone cave which was fragile. The fiberglass on top prevents limestone from dissolving due to seepage. The complex is also sinking as a whole due to weakening and had to be supported by pillars.”


The spirits of Jinnan Wali Dheri

A view of Jinnah Wali Dheri Complex.

A view of Jinnah Wali Dheri Complex.


About 10 kilometres from Taxila Museum on the left bank of Haro River, a unique historical place is located. It is known as ‘Jinnan Wali Dheri’, which literally means ‘The Mound of Demons’.

This archaeological site is a Buddhist monastery with a stupa that existed between 2nd and 5th century AD.

The main stupa at Jinnan Wali Dheri. The upper portion of the stupa was damaged by the White Huns and other treasure hunters.

The main stupa at Jinnan Wali Dheri. The upper portion of the stupa was damaged by the White Huns and other treasure hunters.

Its name ‘Jinnan Wali Dheri’ is not very old. The locals gave the site this name after a huge number of human skeletons were found from the site, giving it a reputation of a haunted place. Continue reading

Arunachal Guv urges for preservation of archaeological sites

Press Trust of India | Itanagar June 27, 2015

Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prashad Rajkhowa today urged for preservation of archaeological sites in the state.

The governor accompanied by his wife Rita Rajkhowa, visited the Jawaharlal Nehru State Museum and Itafort during the day and reviewed the places of tourist interest in the state capital.

He advised the concerned department to create more awareness among the people about the archaeological sites and the need to preserve them, a Raj Bhawan communique informed.

He suggested proper air-conditioning and improving lighting system in the museum. He also stressed on the data being more definitive.

Lauding the museum, he said it is very informative reflecting various tribes and their cultural assets and traditions.

The governor suggested that archaeology and museum should be headed by separate persons, it said.

Earlier, Rajkhowa visited the Itanagar Buddhist Gompa and offered prayers.

There the governor suggested developing security measures by district administration and police to maintain the sanctity of the place, the communique added.


Ancient Buddhist scripture found near Beijing

6c0b840a2e3816fb442816CNTV, June 29, 2015

A sacred Buddhist scripture was found in a suburb of Beijing. The ‘Lotus Sutra’ – supposedly wrested from a realm of snake gods – is one of the religion’s most important and influential texts, and this find is the earliest known translation in Chinese.

The manuscript came to light near the Yunju Temple in Fangshan District. Centered on the themes of Peace and harmonious coexistence, it embodies the highest level of teaching in Buddhist philosophy.

This is the most complete Chinese translation found to date – a cause for celebration because other versions found in Dunhuang and other parts of China are mainly incomplete segments.

“Since its appearance in China in the third century, the Lotus Sutra has been regarded as one of the most illustrious scriptures in the Mahayana Buddhist canon. This is the first time that we’ve found a complete version. Based on this, we can trace its impact throughout China’s history,” said Luo Zhao, researcher on World Religions of Chinese Academy of Social Science.

Several strands of Buddhism are derived from this source – some regard it as the Buddha’s ultimate message, set down during his lifetime and then stored in a realm of snake gods for five hundred years.


Rare ceramic of second century BC found in Chhattisgarh mud fort

Times of India
Rashmi Drolia, TNN | Jun 30, 2015, 02.55AM IST

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DAMROO, BALODA BAZAAR (Chhattisgarh): Rare ceramic pieces of northern black polished ware (NBPW) dating back to second century BC was unearthed from a 2000-year-old mud fort site at Damroo in Baloda Bazaar-Bhatapara district of Chhattisgarh.

These artefacts are usually found in Taxila in Pakistan, Hastinapura, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Patna and Champa in Bihar, Saurashtra in Gujarat, Tilorakot in Nepal and Koraikal near Pondicherry, said state archaeology department officials. Excavation of rarest of rare ceramic has now included the 40-acre Damroo site into the elite club.

The pottery is considered unique as it’s moulded and well navigated with fine clay. That it has not been found in abundance indicates it was among precious pottery found in ancient period which was used mainly by the royals or Buddhist monks. Continue reading

An Archaeological History of Indian Buddhism

9780199948215_450An Archaeological History of Indian Buddhism
Lars Fogelin
OUP USA Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology
264 pages | 30 line and 30 halftones | 235x156mm
978-0-19-994821-5 | Hardback | 25 June 2015

An Archaeological History of Indian Buddhism is a comprehensive survey of Indian Buddhism from its origins in the 6th century BCE, through its ascendance in the 1st millennium CE, and its eventual decline in mainland South Asia by the mid-2nd millennium CE. Weaving together studies of archaeological remains, architecture, iconography, inscriptions, and Buddhist historical sources, this book uncovers the quotidian concerns and practices of Buddhist monks and nuns (the sangha), and their lay adherents—concerns and practices often obscured in studies of Buddhism premised largely, if not exclusively, on Buddhist texts. At the heart of Indian Buddhism lies a persistent social contradiction between the desire for individual asceticism versus the need to maintain a coherent community of Buddhists. Before the early 1st millennium CE, the sangha relied heavily on the patronage of kings, guilds, and ordinary Buddhists to support themselves. During this period, the sangha emphasized the communal elements of Buddhism as they sought to establish themselves as the leaders of a coherent religious order. By the mid-1st millennium CE, Buddhist monasteries had become powerful political and economic institutions with extensive landholdings and wealth. This new economic self-sufficiency allowed the sangha to limit their day-to-day interaction with the laity and begin to more fully satisfy their ascetic desires for the first time. This withdrawal from regular interaction with the laity led to the collapse of Buddhism in India in the early-to-mid 2nd millennium CE. In contrast to the ever-changing religious practices of the Buddhist sangha, the Buddhist laity were more conservative—maintaining their religious practices for almost two millennia, even as they nominally shifted their allegiances to rival religious orders. This book also serves as an exemplar for the archaeological study of long-term religious change through the perspectives of practice theory, materiality, and semiotics.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Introduction
Chapter 2 – The Material of Religion
Chapter 3 – From the Buddha to Ashoka: c. 600 – 200 BCE
Chapter 4 – The Sangha and the Laity: c. 200 BCE – 200 CE
Chapter 5 – The Beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism, Buddha Images, and Monastic Isolation: c. 100 – 600 CE
Chapter 6 – Lay Buddhism and Religious Syncretism in the First Millennium CE
Chapter 7 – The Consolidation and Collapse of Monastic Buddhism: c. 600 – 1400 CE

Lars Fogelin is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Religion, Archaeology, and the Material World as well as Archaeology of Early Buddhism.