Largest Stupa Found In Rajgir

Rajgir, June 8:

Archaeologists claim to have discovered the largest stupa in the world. The stone structure, built by King Ajatasatru, is mentioned in ancient Buddhist texts and in the accounts of foreign travellers but was buried in the sands of time for thousands of years.

Stupas were built over the relics of Lord Buddha after his death in 483 BC in Kushinagar. The relics were divided into eight categories and as many stupas were built by the Licchavi kings and by Ajatasatru — who belonged to the Haryanka dynasty of Magadh and had his capital in Rajgir.

Ajatasatru, who died circa 462 BC, is believed to have met Buddha and had patronised Buddhism. He is said to have begged forgiveness for killing his father Bimbisara and ascending the throne of Magadh. Ajatasatru, who, according to some historians, was a follower of Jainism initially, became influenced by Buddha and his teachings.

According to sources in the archaeological survey, the stupa built in Rajgir by Ajatasatru had remained untraced. The Mahaparinirvansutta, a book on the life of Lord Buddha, mentions the stupa, built of brick, and says that its location is somewhere in Rajgir. The stupa is mentioned even in the accounts of foreign travellers like Fa Hien, who has talked of the structure in detail. But till recently, archaeologists believed that the stupa might have been located somewhere in the northern side of the city.

But they abandoned hope after extensive excavations yielded a stone structure. There was no doubt about the stupa being built of brick since Atma Katha , another authentic source of Buddhist stupas, says the structure was brick-made. A search began on the southern side only after this. On the southeastern side of Rajgir town, which had been covered with thick forest, the history-diggers saw a flat land flanked by mounds.

Survey experts, who were working on the possible location of the stupa, decided to excavate this area in 1997. Soon a structure emerged, raising hopes among the excavators.

The structure that has now been unearthed is made of bricks and has two terraces measuring 29 metres by 25 metres. On the top terrace, a structure has been found that matches the description given in Jivakamravana, an ancient Buddhist text. “Although some of the relics were in a broken state, they seem to be authentic. The fact that it was made of brick lends credence to its authenticity,” said K.K. Muhammad, superintendent of the Archaeological survey in Patna.

The area where the relic is located was to have been taken over by the Indian Railways for track expansion. The mounds that surround the stupa were supposed to have been levelled for the purpose. “It was a matter of time. We are lucky that we acted swiftly and asked the railways to leave aside that part of the land,” said an archaeologist.

Along with the stupa, archaeologists have also discovered tools which, they said, could date back to the palaeolithic age. If so, the history of Rajgir will have to be pushed back by several centuries and the town could be established as one of the ancient cradles of human civilisation. Some historians believe that Rajgir was earlier called Vasumati. Vasu, the fourth son of Brahma, is said to have lived in Rajgir and hence the name.

Buddhist vestige found near Rajghatta


A team of archaeologists from the University of Mysore have unearthed foundation of a Buddha prayer hall and over 200 small votive stupas at Rajghatta, near Doddaballapur in Bangalore rural district.

The excavations, conducted between April-May, have divulged many unmatched Buddhist relics.

Chief Investigator of Rajghatta excavations, Prof M S Krishnamurthy said a Buddhist site burrowed at Rajghatta was the first time in south Karnataka. The Buddhist prayer hall or a "chaitya" hall is a unique relic found in the entire range of Buddhist architecture of South India.

The prayer hall, built from mud bricks, has a ground plan having an apsidal contour inside and a rectangular one on the outer side, which is said to be unnoticed in South India.

The prayer hall, which dates back to 4th or 5th century, is a pointer to the existence of flourishing settlement of Buddhists at Rajghatta, Prof Murthy said.

The excavations have also disclosed hundreds of small earthern votive stupas. The stupas, made of red earth, contains a small coin like "clay tablet", with the impression of Buddha on it. A prayer has been written in 4th or 5th centrury Brahmi Sanskrit characters on the coin.

Prof Murthy said the first archaeological excavation had been conducted in 1704 at Rajghatta, which revealed existence of a early-historic pots. In 1771, a similar excavation was conducted at Banavasi in Uttara Kannada district, where two temples were found, indicating the presence of Buddhists.

In a recent excavation at Sanmathi in Gulbarga disictict, Buddhist relics, votive stupas and idols had been unearthed.

By this excavation, Prof Murthy said, Rajghatta has proved to be a potential Buddhist site in Karnataka, particularly in South Karnataka. The Rajghatta excavation was funded by the University of Mysore, the directorate of Archaeological and Museums in Karnataka and the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi.

Buddhist relics found near Bangalore

The Times of India News Service

MYSORE: The historians of Mysore University are elated. They have excavated the Buddhist relics and a prayer centre at Rajghatta village near Doddaballapur, Bangalore district.

``The feeling is heart-stirring'' as they have unearthed such a settlement in the South when the country is yet to recover from the shock of Taliban destroying Buddhist statues in Afghanistan.

Researchers say the Chaitya (prayer hall), the votive stupas and other relics are unique in their presence and style. Some of the decorative stuccoes stand testimony to the aesthetic sense and dexterity of artists in those days.

The Chaitya is built out of burnt bricks and has a ground plan with an apsidal contour inside and a rectangular one outside. This, according to historians, is generally not found in south Karnataka.

The Chaitya, which lies buried in the debris up to the ground level, was once decorated with beautiful lime stuccoes having figural and faunal motifs.

``The votive stupas, also made out of fine red mud, are in different sizes which look like paperweights and contain coin-sized clay tablets with the impression of a Buddhist prayer... Ye damma ye pabhava, yavam vadi maha shramanovo (I pray the god, to help me rid of all worries and ills of life).

These are written in Sanskrit and Prakrit languages, historians claimed.

They have also found relics of meditating Buddhas finely carved on a medallion with stupas by the side.

The AVRC, Mysore, has prepared an eight-minute documentary on the excavation, AVRC director Usha Rani said.

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Published on: June 11, 2001
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