October 14, 2008

Ancient Monastery Discovered in Gujarat - Updated

Vadnagar Buddhist Monastery

From the Times of India:

Gujarat State Archaeological Department has discovered a small size Buddhist monastery in Gujarat's Vadnagar, which dates back to 1,900 years.

According to a report in Desh Gujarat, the walls of the discovered monastery were built using bricks.

The 55 by 55 ft size monastery had a total of 12 cells for residual purpose of monks, with its entrance on the Northern direction.

"This Buddhist monastery probably belongs to 2nd to 4th century era. It was probably in use for 300 years," said Gujarat State Archaeology Superintendent Dr. Yadubirsingh Rawat.

"After two years of excavation, first we unearthed the monastery structure. For a brief time, it remained a mysterious structure for us as we couldn't figure out it's motive. After some research, observations and studies, we have confirmed that this was a Buddhist monastery," he added.

What tipped them off to the building's function?

The findings include a 2000 year old house, numerous clay utensils, silver coins, beads, ornaments, Roman style head sculpture, turbaned face clay plaque, votive tablet, head sculpture, plaque sculpture depicting Buddha, and parts of vessel on which Buddhism related words are written in Brahmi script.

Chinese traveler Hieun Tsanghad visited Vadnagar between 640 to 644 A.D. and documented presence of 1,000 Buddhist monks and 10 Buddhist monasteries in and around Vadnagar town known as Anandpur in that era.

Update: More on this excavation. The article begins:

In a significant breakthrough confirming the prevalence of Buddhism in ancient western India...

It is very important politically to tie to Buddhism. It helps counter the impression of Gujarat (and in a larger sense India) as a hotbed of radical Hinduism. Gujarat has seen anti-Christian violence recently, and India as a whole sees terrorism much more frequently than the U.S. and Europe. India will also benefit from tourism of Buddhist sites, which the government of course promotes, and rubs it in to China that the Buddha was Indian. Probably more people in the West think that he is the fat guy from Chinese food menus.

[Image: Vadnagar: Recent Archaeological Excavations]

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