BSQ Tracts on Buddhism No. 45
1 . Introduction
2. Chronology and Geography
3. Brief Account of Indian Archaeology
4. The Pre-Buddhist Archaeology
5. Sanchi as a Prime Archaeological Site
6. The Four Principal Places of Pilgrimage
(ii) Buddha Gaya
7. Other Buddhist Archeological Sites
This tract is complementary to Pilgrimage to Jambudipa 2001 which was published as BSQ Tracts on Buddhism No. 44. Both deal with the same places of Buddhist significance in Northern India. But whereas the former concentrated on the significance of these sites for Buddhism the present work deals with archaeological aspects which were neglected in the previous publication. The present work incorporates some material which appeared in the previous work.
The sections entitled "Archaeological Explorations" under each site considered incorporates material from Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology Vol. 2 (Ed. A. A. Ghosh) given in the Bibliography.
A previous version of this Tract was issued with some photographs of the places mentioned. In this edition the photos have been left out and the text somewhat shortened.
This account of selected archaeological sites in India which relate to Buddhism is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject. It is limited both in terms of place and time. It will deal (with one exception) with archaeological remains in the area where the Buddha exercised his ministry. This area comprises the present day States of Bihar and Uttara Pradesh in the Union of India, as well as the southern region of modern Nepal. Thus it leaves out the extensive Buddhist remains in the North-West of India (including Afghanistan), in the West of India (such as Ujjain, and the Ajant and Ellor complexes) and in the South of India (such as Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati). Even in the area concerned some important sites such as Bharhut will be left out. The present writer visited all these sites described here in early 2001.
In terms of time we will deal with the earliest period of Buddhism in India. However many sites important for this period have seen a continuous development over the centuries, and it is often difficult to tell the old from the later developments. Where a stupa or a monastery has been rebuilt the old has been totally replaced by the later construction. Very often what we see is not what was there originally.
Buddhism flourished in India for some 15 centuries, but disappeared almost completely after the 12th century CE. The physical remains of Indian Buddhism fell into decay, and there was no interest in their preservation by the Muslim rulers who came to dominate India after the Buddhist period of Indian history. Nor was any interest shown by Hindu rulers where they exercised local political power. The Hindus, like the Muslims, were active in seeking the end of Buddhism in India. The extensive Buddhist literature of India too disappeared with the closure of the monasteries and the Universities. But by this time the important texts of the major schools of Buddhism had been taken out of India to places like Sri Lanka, China and Tibet where they were preserved. The same could not be said of the buildings, the temples, monasteries, libraries, etc. which slowly perished and in many cases were overrun by the jungle. But the texts contain copious references to these places. These references together with the accounts left by Chinese pilgrims who visited India when Buddhism was still alive, were used by archaeologists who led the search for India's lost Buddhist heritage.
The plan we shall follow in this is to first consider some general matters relating to Buddhist archaeology including a brief consideration of the pre-Buddhist phase in Indian archaeology. We will then consider twelve ancient Buddhist sites on which most of the archaeological work has been done. We shall conclude with a few general observations.
The specific sites we will consider could be grouped as follows:
Firstly we shall consider Sanchi, a site in the present Madya Pradesh, which is considered a prime Buddhist archaeological site. This is the only place considered not visited by the Buddha.
Then we will consider the four places which the Buddha nominated on his deathbed that earnest followers should try to visit. They have therefore being the places of pilgrimage from the earliest times. They are the place of birth (Lumbini in modem Nepal), the place of enlightenment (Buddha Gaya in Bihar), the place of the first proclamation of the teaching (Sarnath, near Varanasi in UP), and the place of his death (Kusinra in Bihar). These places contain monuments dating from the earliest days of Buddhism in India.
Next there are the cities of historic importance to Buddhism. Northern India in the Buddha's time was divided into 12 regions called janapadas, each with its own form of Government. Two of these comprised of the large Kingdoms of Magadha and Kosala. where the Buddha spent the major part of his life. Their capitals Rajagaha (Rajagriha) for Magadha ruled in the Buddha's time by Bimbisra, and sâvatti (Sravasti) for Kosala ruled by Pasanedi contain extensive Buddhist remains. Of the other janapadas two are important - these were the Vajian. confederacy with the capital at Vesali (Vaisali), and of Vasa at Kosambi (Kausambi). In addition we shall consider three other places: Kapilavattu the capital of the Sakya republic which was the home of the Siddharta, Sankissa (Sankasya) an important centre of Buddhism, and Nland, the famous University.
The dates in Indian history that are relevant to Buddhist Archeology are given in the following table.
BCE (Before Common Era)
CE (Common Era)
| 2500 – 1700 Indus Valley Civilization
1500 Arrival of the Indo Aryans
1200 Start of Vedic Period
800 Indo Aryans occupy modem Bihar
564-484 Life of the Buddha
368-232 Reign of Asoka
185-73 Rule of the Sungas
| 320-520 Rule of the Guptas
750-1090 Rule of the Pala Dynasty
1090-1250 Rule of the Sena Dynasty
1206 Muslims annex Bihar and Bengal
1210 End of Buddhism in India
The rediscovery of Buddhist remains started in the nineteenth century during British rule. The British were curious to find the history of the country over which they ruled, and many British archaeologists and antiquarians were interested in this task.
The early antiquarians were attracted by the wealth of Ancient Indian literature, by enigmatic inscriptions and coin hoards and were filled with a romantic appreciation of the grandeur of ancient monuments. Little attention was however paid to actual measurements and documentation. Yet these ‘closet archaeologists', as Sir Alexander Cunningham. later called them, set the stage for future studies.
From the beginning of the 19th century onwards, meticulous descriptions of sites and antiquities began to be made. J. Babington, Colonel Colin Mackenzie, James Todd, Francis Buchanan and William Erskine were among others in this quest for documenting India's past. More dramatically, Ventura, an Italian-French general of the ruler Ranjit Singh, inspired by Belzoni's ‘tomb-robbing'of Egyptian pyramids, broke into the stupa to ‘excavate' Manikyala, in northwest India.
The first step towards a systematic study of the past was taken with the establishment of the Asiatik Society in Calcutta on 15th June 1784, by William Jones. The first serious student was James Prinsep, an Assay Master in the Calcutta mint. In the 1830s when he was the President of the Asiatik Society. It was he who deciphered the mysterious Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts and thereby laid the foundations for the study of Ancient Indian history and chronology.
Prinsep's work deeply influenced a military engineer, Alexander Cunningham. (1814-1893). Cunningham's plea to the Government in 1861 to preserve the monuments of India from falling into ruin, led to the creation of a State sponsored Archaeological Survey which he headed.
In his search for ancient cities mentioned by the 7th century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hieun Tsang and by later scholars, he undertook arduous journeys over vast areas of Northern India. His voluminous reports laid the foundation for historical archaeology in India. It is difficult to think of research which can compare with Cunningham's monumental effort in collecting coins and other antiquities, measuring, drawing and even photographing sites, and recording the environment, culture, traditions and economy of the lands he passed through.
In 1902, the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon planned the rebuilding of the Archaeological Survey which had fallen into disrepute following Cunningham's retirement in 1885. This task was entrusted to John Marshall. His aim: to bring to life Indian culture in the past by uncovering all possible details of her cities, tools, ornaments, laws and customs. And so he began a systematic program of excavations.
He was the first to recognise the significance of R.D.Banerjee's and Dayaram Sahni's work at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Excavating Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro he brought to light the Indus Valley Civilization which he firmly believed was comparable in every way with the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. He excavated Taxila, Vaisali, Nalanda, Rajagriha and Sarnath; enacted the Ancient Monuments Act (1904), built up a library, reorganised publications and recruited Indians to high positions in the Survey.
Following Marshall, Indian Archaeology once again lapsed into a state of disorder, which prompted a critical appraisal by Sir Leonard Wooley. On his advise, Brigadier and later Sir Mortimer Wheeler was appointed to bring about some order and discipline, which he proceeded to do with military thoroughness. It was he who said: "In India it is possible to dig almost anywhere below a living level and to discover the vestiges of civilization, layer upon layer."
With this in mind and within a short span of four years (1944- 1948), this dynamic man set about the task of uncovering lost civilizations and placing them in a proper chronological perspective. Wheeler introduced ideas and methods inspired by British archaeologists and historians and which he had developed while excavating sites in England.
The training-school begun by him at Taxila set the norms for field archaeology. He was the first to build up a chronology for South Indian sites at Arikamedu and Brahmagiri and the first to study Harappan fortifications and planning in detail. He left India with a legacy of the importance of systematic excavations, of regular publications, of the value of interdisciplinary studies, of the introduction of scientific methods and of a trained body of young Indian scholars who could carry on his work.
From this point onwards, rapid advances were made in all aspects of archaeology. The 1950's and 1960's saw the use of largely traditional methods of surveying vast regions, building up sequences of archaeological cultures, explaining culture-change by invoking ideas of diffusion and migration of people and correlating cultures with climatic phases. Although much of this work tends to be criticised as lacking a clear conceptual approach, it led to the accumulation of vast bodies of data in all parts of India. Some scholars called for a geographical approach to the study of past cultures and for the more vigorous use of theory. One of the most significant scholars was H. D. Sankalia from the Deccan College, Pune who can be called the ‘Father of Modern Indian Archaeology'. Along with other scholars from universities at Calcutta, Allahabad, Benaras and elsewhere he excavated numerous sites, introduced new ideas and laid the foundation for all further studies. The introduction of ideas inspired by the ‘New Archaeology' of the 1960's and 1970's further transformed the way in which many Indian Archaeologists examined material culture.
The two periods which preceded the Buddhist period are the Indus Valley Civilization and the Vedic period. The former is rich in archaeological finds, while the latter is almost completely devoid of it.
The Indus Valley civilization was discovered in the 1920s. Harappa on the Rapti a tributary of the Indus, was the first site to be excavated followed by the even grander Mohenjo-daro on the Indus river itself. Subsequently many more sites have been discovered even one as far south as Gujerat. These reveal a well ordered urban civilization with one of most developed forms of urbanisation in the ancient world. The layout of streets, waterways and drainage are remarkable. The present writer visited Harappa in the 1960s.
The "great bath" in Mohenjo-daro is without doubt the earliest public water tank in the ancient world. The tank itself measures approximately 12 meters north-south and 7 meters wide, with a maximum depth of 2.4 meters. Two wide staircases lead down into the tank from the north and south and small sockets at the edges of the stairs are thought to have held wooden planks or treads. At the foot of the stairs is a small ledge with a brick edging that extends the entire width of the pool. People coming down the stairs could move along this ledge without actually stepping into the pool itself.
The floor of the tank is water tight due to finely fitted bricks laid on edge with gypsum plaster and the side walls were constructed in a similar manner. To make the tank even more water tight, a thick layer of bitumen (natural tar) was laid along the sides of the tank and presumably also beneath the floor. Brick colonnades were discovered on the eastern, northern and southern edges. The preserved columns have stepped edges that may have held wooden screens or window frames. Two large doors lead into the complex from the south and other access was from the north and east. A series of rooms are located along the eastern edge of the building and in one room is a well that may have supplied some of the water needed to fill the tank. Rainwater also may have been collected for this purposes, but no inlet drains have been found.
In Harappa also many large buildings have been uncovered including the granary which stored the harvest. Streets, wells, etc. have been uncovered. Many artifacts have been found in both sites. Radio carbon dating on these artefacts have established the dates 2500 to 1700 BCE as the prime time for this civilization.
Little is known of the end of this civilization. The script has remained undeciphered, and as such speculation has been rife. There is an intriguing question of the relationship of the Indus Valley civilization to the succeeding Indo-aryan occupation of India. Some have presumed that the indo-aryans defeated the Indus valley people but this is not authenticated.
Our knowledge of the Indo-Aryans come from exclusively from literary sources especially the Vedas. There are very little of the physical remains. Unlike the Indus Valley the early Indo-aryans were rural dwellers and did not construct large cities.
The ancient Buddhist remains are on a plateau about 50 metres above the surrounding plain. They were discovered in 1818 by two British officers. The name Snchi was taken from the nearby village. Its historical name is Kkanda but this was not known at the time of its discovery.
The monuments at Snchi consist of several Stupas (which were called "topes" by the early archeologists) of varying size, and the ruins of monasteries and temples. Three of the stupas retain all or a large part of their superstructures while only the bases of the others remain. The early archeologists assigned numbers to the stupas on a basis which is not clear. Here they are referred to according to their state of preservation. Stupas 1 and 2 are on the top level, and 3 on a side somewhat lower.
Stupa 1 is the best preserved and the largest. It is considered the oldest stone monument in India. Its origin may have been in Asokan times, but it reached its present form during Sunga times. At its base it has a diameter or 36 metres. At the cardinal points are four gateways (thoranas) unique features not found in their entirely in any other Stupa. Around the Stupa, linking the thoranas, is a stone balustrade (vedik) about 2.5 m high. It has inscriptions in the Brahmi script . Between the balustrade and the stupa is a paved walkway or berm for circumambulating the stupa. This is located about two metres above the ground level, and access to it is obtained by steps on the south side
of the stupa. The stone harmika (square enclosure) at the top of the stupa is intact. The Stupa is crowned by a stone pinnacle (yasti) with three discs representing umbrellas (chattras) placed one top of the other, spaced apart.
Each thorana is held up by two square stone columns with three horizontal members (architraves) with ends like rolled up scrolls. The thoranas are intricately carved with Buddhist themes and portray quite accurately scenes of the birth, enlightenment renunciation, and death of the Buddha. There are also several Jtaka stories illustrated. Interspersed amongst the carvings are animals, and celestial beings.
In the carvings on the thoranas the Buddha is always represented by a symbol (Stupa, bodhi-tree, footprint seat, etc). This testifies to the early date of these carvings as the representation of the Buddha in human form is a later development in Buddhist iconography. But as Snchi has seen a succession of additions there are traditional Buddha rpas as well coming from the Mahayana period. The most important of these are the four rupas placed at the entranceways behind the throranas on the stupa itself Some of these have been vandalised by the later Muslim invaders. The ruins of an Asokan pillar originally planted near the south thorana has been found. It has an inscription similar to that at Sarnath. It is now in pieces, lying on the ground.
Stupa No. 2 is also in a good state of preservation but the stone facing seems to have vanished and only the brick core remains. It has a single thorana left, but the architraves are missing. This stupa has most of superstructure intact including part of the pinnnacle. This Stupa contained the relics of Sriputta and Moggallna, which were removed to Britain and deposited in the Victoria museum. However they were returned in the 1950s and are now interred in the new Cetiyagiri Vihra.
Stupa No. 3 has its top part completely missing. It is said to have contained the relics of Moggaliputta Tissa Thera who presided over the Third Council. Many of the stupas have only the brick plinths. They may have contained the remains of Bhikkhus who lived in the various monasteries which grew up around the Stupas.
The ruins of the monasteries and temples are also quite extensive. Their dates vary as the Snchi site was occupied, with some gaps, for several centuries. The earliest monastery (listed as No. 51) seems to date from the 2nd century BCE and unearthed only in 1936. Another temple (No. 17) has a superstructure going up to first floor, and another monastery has a single room on the second floor.
Snchi has also the ruins of a Greek temple perhaps erected by soldiers left by Alexander. This is in the classic Greek style, similar to the Parthenon in Athens ad is the only such monument in India. Some of the statues and carvings at Snchi are classic examples of the Greco-Buddhist art which originated in Gandhra (the modern Khandahar in Afghanistan).
Snchi has impressive Buddhist remains ranging in date from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE, situated on a low hill-top, anciently known as Vedisa-giri (due to its proximity to Vidisa), Cetiya- giri, Kkanda-bota and Bota-sri-parvata. The stupa, Stupa 1, the outstanding monument on the hill, is believed to have been built by Asoka in the 3rd century BCE, and one of his queens is said to have built a monastery here. Asoka set up one of his pillars near his Stupa, surmounted it by a four-lioned capital and had his anti-schism edict inscribed on it. Evidently the Stupa enshrined the relics of Buddha which have however not been recovered. In the next century the brick Stupa was encased in stone, doubling the size of the original Stupa, the remains of which now lie hidden under the stonework. Balustrades, of a series of uprights with lenticular cross-bars and capped by large copings, were added on the ground level at a short distance from cylindrical medhi (tall base) and around the terrace of the anda (near-hemispherical dome) approached by a double flight of steps on the south, and the flattened top of the anda was crowned by a triple umbrella set up at the centre of a heavy stone box with square railing. The members of the balustrades are inscribed with donative records in Brhmi of the 2nd Century BCE. Another century later imposing gateways, elaborately carved variously with scenes of the life of Buddha and of his previous births (Jtakas), events of the subsequent history of Buddhism, scenes relating to the Mnusi-Buddhas and miscellaneous scenes and decorations, were set up at the cardinal directions. The carvings, lacking the sophistication of the later ages, nobly illustrate the early stages of Indian sculptural art.
On a lower terrace to the north-west of Stupa 1 stands Stupa 2, a simpler structure without gateways but with the components of the ground balustrade bearing inscriptions in comparable script and of comparable contents.
The third notable stupa, Stupa 3, stands to the north of Stupa 1 and is similar in size to Stupa 2. With Stupa 1 as the nucleus the hill-top witnessed a brisk building activity of votive Stupas, temples and monasteries, all enclosed in a compound wall-which continued up to the 12th century.
Attention to the ruins was first drawn in 1818, and for a long time since then they suffered depradation at the hands of amateur archaeologists and treasure-hunters. In 1851 A. Cunningham and F. C. Maisey excavated Stupas 2 and 3 and recovered relics therefrom, but a shaft in the centre of Stupa 1 failed to reveal any (perhaps they had disappeared in one of the previous operations). Preservation of the Stupas was done in 1881 and the following years by H. H. Cole. But to expose the other structures, preserve them meticulously and build up a proper history of the monuments was left to John Marshall of the ASI between 1912 and 1919.
It has been stated above the Stupa 1 did not yield any relics. But Stupa 2 enshrined a relic-box with an inscription proclaiming that it contained the relics of many teachers. Inside the box were found small relic caskets inscribed with the names of ten saints whose charred bones were enshrined within. Stupa 3 had a relic chamber with two small boxes with the relics respectively of Sriputra and Mahmaudgalyna, two of the principal disciples of Buddha himself.
Considering that Sanchi during its lifetime had all along been a secluded monastic establishment, objects of material interest found here, perhaps mostly in Marshall's operations and now preserved in the local Museum, are not inconsiderable in number and variety, though the context of their find is not always recorded.
Thus there are: iron spearheads(?), arrowheads including barbed ones, daggers, bells, cooking vessels, bowls, knife blades, razors, vegetable cutter, a needle, an antimony rod, a ferrule, a stirrup, ploughshares, sickles, pincers, an anvil, a hammer, wedges, chisels including a socketed one, awls, a trowel, locks and keys, nails and other door accessories and other objects of uncertain use; bronze bowls, bangles, bracelets, finger rings, pendants and a bell; and copper cooking vessels, bells, a bangle, finger rings, an ear-cleaner and an antimony rod. The terracotta objects are mostly of Buddhist affiliation.
A vessel contained 41 base silver coins all of the W. Ksatrapas- Rudrasena I, Rudrasena II, Bhatrdman, RudrasirithaII, Rudrasena III and other unidentified ones bespeaking an early 4th-century burial of the pot.
Of pottery no specific information in present-day terminology is available, but an on-the-spot examination may reveal some recognizable wares. Mention is made of ‘early glazed pottery', about the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE., but while the early glazed Kushan pottery is invariably green-blue in colour, all the specimens here are red. Perhaps they are pieces of what would not be called the Red Polished Ware of the early centuries CE – a guess supported by the mention of surahs, spouts, etc., all characteristics of that Ware. There are potter's dabers and spindle whorls. Said to be of Gupta and medieval periods are the hnd, waterjar, jug, mica-dusted saucer, lid, some with a boss at the centre to serve as a handle, cup, lamp, inkpot, etc. A comparatively recent count of the distribution of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)includes Snchi.
At Lumbini the principal monuments are enclosed in an archeological park. The main interest here is the Asokan Pillar which is the centre-point of the Lumbini complex. When discovered it was lying down, but it has now been erected at the place where it probably was originally erected. It is a typical Asokan pillar but without its lion capital. Its inscription is clearly visible. The pillar is surrounded by a railing. Many pilgrims perform devotions here, several of them circumambulating the pillar.
In front of the pillar a Hindu temple dedicated to Maydevi had been construcrted. However at the time of our visit this temple had been dismantled and the area under it excavated. It was here that another inscription, said to be even earlier than the Asokan inscription, confirming that this is the birthplace of Siddhartha had been found. The dismantled Hindu temple has been reconstructed near the entrance to the Park. This temple has an ancient stone frieze depicting the birth of Siddhartha which is called the Nativity Panel. This panel is 2m high and 1m wide. It contains four figures identified as Queen Mah My herself holding on to the branch of the tree while she is assisted by her sister Prajpati Gotami. The other two figures are taken to be the Vedic devas Brahma and Indra. The panel has been damaged by natural weathering and being split in two by Muslim invaders.
A short distance away ftom the pillar is the pond in which May Devi is said to have bathed. This had now been entirely lined with brick sides so that it resembles a pool set into the ground. At the time of our visit streamers of flags were strung across it. There were also preparations for lamps to be lit around it.
All round are ruins of monasteries and small stupa bases, all in brick, as in other ancient Buddhist sites.
The central complex at Buddha Gay which contains the most important religious places is a rectangular area which may be termed the Buddha Gay Sacred Area. Within this area there is an inner area containing the Sri Mah Bodhi and the Mahabodhi Temple. This inner area is enclosed by a tall balustrade in the Snchi style while the ground is paved with polished marble. The Bodhi tree itself is located towards the Western side of this area. It is said to be the fifth lineal descendent of the original tree. On the eastern side of the tree is a sandstone slab which marks the place where the original kusa grass would have been spread. This is known as the Vajrsana. [The Vajrsana (Diamond Seat) is where the Buddha sat when he reached enlightenment. There are two places now called the external and the internal vajrsanas. The genuine one is the external vajrsana as this is the one which corresponds to the "root of a tree" (rukkhamula) recommended for meditation. The "internal vajrsana" is the place where the image is located inside the Mahabodhi temple. This would correspond to the shade of the tree rather than its root. This site was chosen by General Cunningham when he installed the present statue (which came from elsewhere) as the original one had been destroyed. It is now treated as a place for offerings. The tree and the Vajrasana, are enclosed by another balustrade and a Gold Fence (ranvaeta) donated by President Ranasinghe of Sri Lanka inside it. This area abuts onto the Mahabodhi Temple itself. The Temple is a tall (52 m) pyramidal structure with smaller towers at the four corners. The sides of the Temple are richly carved with Buddha and Bodhisattva. figures and other Buddhist motifs. The Buddha statue within the temple itself is not the one reported by early visitors (which may have been destroyed by the Muslim invaders) but a statue found nearby which was installed during the early archeological work in this area.
There are many places within the Buddha Gay Sacred Area and its environments which we visited. The most important are the locations in which the Buddha spent in the seven weeks after his enlightenment. The first week was spent under the tree of enlightenment (the Bodhiruma) itself. The places where the other six weeks were spent are:
Animisalocana Chaitya. This is the place where the Buddha spent the second week looking unblinkingly at the Bodhi tree. There are two contending sites for this, one to the North-East of the Mahabodhi Temple and the other to the North.
The Ratnachankama. This is the walking meditation track of the Buddha in the third week. It is located to the north of the main temple and is marked by a row of carved lotus pediments.
Ratnaghara Chaitya. This is where the Buddha spent the fourth week in contemplation of the higher dhamma. It is to the North of the main temple outside the immediate area. A temple erected by the Pl kings exists there now.
The Ajapala Bunyan tree. Here the Buddha spent the fifth week. The location indicated at the south-east of the outer wall is based on descriptions by Huen Tsang, but it may not be the correct location.
The Rajyaw\tna Tree. Here the Buddha is said to have spent the sixth week. He was served here bythe merchants Tapussa and Bhalluka. The location given is to the south-east of the main temple.
The Muchalinda pond. Here the serpent protected the Buddha from a storm. The location now indicated is based on Huen Tsang's claim that it was on a lake to the south of the great temple. There is now a body of water at the place indicated. A statue of the Buddha under the Cobra's hood is erected in the middle of the pond somewhat in the Thai style.
Throughout the main Sacred area there are richly caved votive stupas and various other ruins of structures which would have got accumulated here during the long centuries during which Buddhism flourished in India.
In addition to the locations where the Buddha spent the weeks after his Enlightenment the following places are worth mentioning. Some of them are some distance away from the Sacred Area:
Buddha-Gaya has been called Sribodhi in an inscription of Asoka and later on known as Maha-bodhi, as Buddha attained his bodhihood here under a pipal tree off the bank of the Lilajana (ancient Nairnjana). Asoka erected a vajrsana - a polished sandstone throne - to represent Buddh's seat. With the tree and the throne as the nucleus a temple sprang up here and by the time of Hiuen Tsang (7th century) the temple had assumed its present proportions. Thereafter there were many restorations and an extensive overhauling was done in 1880-1. Clearance of the area by Cunningham and others have revealed numerous monuments, mostly votive stupas and to a lesser extent sanctuaries and monasteries, the last mostly hidden below the high ground on which stand modem constructions. The architectural features of the temple and other monuments need not detain us here.
The NBPW has been found here. In the 50s a Japanese team led by G.M. Nagao of Kyoto Univ. made a small-scale excavation here; while the results are not available, nothing of outstanding value was found.
An archeological park, which is well maintained by the Government archeological survey, contains many of the important ruins from the past. There are two dominant stupas in the park – the Dharmarajika Stupa to the west and the Dhamekh stupa to the east. The first of these is said to mark the spot where the Buddha delivered the Dhammacakkapavattana sutta to the ascetics. The stupa would have been built there later, and is said to have enshrined relics of the Buddha. This stupa was damaged by the Muslim invaders and what was left was broken down in the 18th century by an officer of the Maharaja of Benares to provide building material for a bazaar. The relics discovered during this operation were thrown into the Ganges. In the original discourse to the ascetics only one of them reached the stage of sotapatti. The Buddha then delivered the Anattalakkhana sutta after which all five were enlightened. The Dharmekh stupa is said to mark the spot where the second discourse was given.
While only the base of the Dharmarijika stupa remains a considerable amount of the superstructure of the Dharmekh stupa remains. This shows intricate floral and geometric patterns as well as delicately carved Buddha statues at the cardinal points. This stupa is now an object of devotion by visiting pilgrims.
All around the park are scattered ruins of monasteries and smaller stupas. The most important of these is the Mulagandhakuti just to the North of the Dharmarjika Stupa. This is where the Buddha resided during his visits to Sarnath. The term Gandhakuti (chamber of fragrance) is applied to any place where the Buddha habitually resided, but this is the first one. Also close to the Dharmarjika is the Pancyatana shrine which is now below the general ground level and has a sunken appearance. It is a box shaped constuction with a flat roof which may have housed images at its five 1imbs.
Visitors to Sarnath testify to the continued occupancy of these monasteries by bhikkhus down the ages. They were all destroyed in the Muslim invasion of Qutbuddin Ailak in 1194. After this Sarnath fell into oblivion until its re-discovery by British archeologists in 1834.
The archeological park also contains remnants of the Asokan. pillar. Its capital has been removed to the Museum and the remains are in several segments. To the west of it is the Aspidal temple. A large Jain temple is also located in ftont of the Park. Next to it is the Maitreya Buddha Temple. Behind the archeological area is a modem deer sanctuary.
The only major archeological site outside the park is the Chaukhandi stupa which at the time of Huen Tsiang's visit was 300 feet high. This is said to mark the spot where the Buddha met the five ascetics. Today it is a large mound with only the brick base uncovered. On top of this ruined structure an octagonal tower has been constructed to commemorate the visit of the Moghul emperor Akbar in 1588.
Sarnath lies 5 km to the north of Varanasi city. Here the Buddha preached his First Sermon (in Buddhist terminology turned the Wheel of the Law) after his enlightenment at Buddha Gay and which thus became one of the four holiest places to the Buddhist world. The centre, known in late historical times as Saddharma-cakra-maha-vihra, is one of the richest in Buddhist antiquities ranging in date from the times to Asoka down to the 12th century. Asoka built here one of his Dharmarjika Stupas and near it erected a pillar surmounted by a magnificent capital of four addorsed lions and inscribed on it an edict threatening dissenting monks and nuns with excommunication. For centuries thereafter the place continued to be a focus of structural and sculptural activity.
Asoka's Dharmarjik, with its subsequent accretions, was, ruthlessly despoiled in 1794 by a local person for its bricks. In the course of the operation was found a green marble relic casket within a sandstone box. Later on many a person, lured by rich finds of sculptures, tried their spade amongst the ruins and collected an immense number of images. In 1835-6 A. Cunningham excavated at the Chaukhandi and Dhamekh Stupas and a temple and monastery and recovered the stone box but not the relic casket found in 1794. His left-over proceeds, 50 or 60 cartloads of them, were thrown into the river Vartina to serve as a breakwater to the piers of a bridge to be constructed across the river. Cunningham. revisited Sarnath many times thereafter. In 1851-2 M. Kittoe exposed numerous stupas and a monastery. Somewhat more systematic work was done in 1904-5 by F. C. Gertel who exposed the main shrine and the pillar of Asoka with its capital and collected sculptures and inscriptions.
From 1907 and sporadically thereafter J. Marshall and other officers of the ASI continued excavations at Sarnath. The Dharmarjik Stupa was found to have a circular base made of wedge-shaped bricks and to have undergone enlargements several times afterwards, the last integument being of the 12th century. Among other structures was a brick temple, the Main Shrine, probably representing the ruins of the 60 m high Mlagandha-kuti, raised on the spot where Buddha had resided and which had been seen by Huen Tsang. It dated from Gupta times and had rectangular chapels on three sides of the square base, the fourth having steps leading to the shrine. The long passage leading to the shrine from the gate has rows of votive stupas. The monasteries, ranging in date from the 4th-5th to the 12th centuries, conform to the general plan of this class of buildings, but unlike Nalanda they are not arranged in a row.
A remarkable structure of Sarnath is the Dhamekh Stupa, a solid cylindrical structure 28 m in diameter at the base and 43.6 m in height built partly of stone and partly of brick. The stone facing the lower part is adorned with delicate floral carvings. It is probably of Gupta origin. About 800 m to the south of the main group of ruins and quite detached from it stands the Chaukhandi Stupa, a brick structure with an extant height of about 25 m. There is no evidence for dating the structure but it is evident that it was a terraced monument, the terraces built over foundation cells.
Sarnath has yielded an extremely rich crop of sculptures. Apart from the capital of Asoka, which is now the State Emblem of India, and a colossal Bodhisattva image of the reign of Kaniska from Mathura, an immense number of sculptures of Buddha and Buddhist deities, many of them of Gupta date, form a notable series. In fact the Gupta sculptures from Samath have been primarily responsible for raising Gupta art to the place of honour that it now occupies in the art history of India.
In addition to stone sculptures the excavations brought to light sealings with the legend Sri-Dharmacakra-bhiksu-sanghasya, tablets with the Buddhist creed ye dharma etc., personal seals and miniature clay stupas with the above tablets inside, Buddhist plaques of the usual type and miniature lingas. Among architectural fragments are carved bricks, no doubt pertaining to temples, and tiles.
Perhaps not much attention was paid in the excavations to domestic objects. However large pottery jars, evidently for storing grains, lotas, sometimes spouted, cooking pots, bowls, crucibles, censors, lamps, and dabbers are on record; so are stone dough-plates, saddle querns with pestles and both upper and lower parts of rotary querns.
The main archeological remains at Kusinra are now in an archeological park. The two principal monuments at Kusinra are the Adhana, Cetiya (also called the Rambhar Stupa) which is erected on the spot where the Buddha was cremated. Some distance away is the the Parinirvina Temple and behind it a stupa referred to as the Parinirvna stupa.
The Temple and the Stupa behind it are modem structures which were put up by the Indian Government to commemorate Buddha Jayanthi in 1956. The site of the stupa contained the original stupa. The modem Temple contains an old statue of the the dying Buddha which was discovered at the site in fragments) when excavations were first conducted.
The Cremation Cetiya is an old construction which, like other monuments, seems to have been constantly improved and enlarged with the passage of time. It would originally have been built over the Mallas' share of the Buddha's relics. It now consists of parts of the brick core of the stupa. It is not symmetrical and at the highest point would be about 30m high. Around it is a paved walkway for the circurnambulation of the stupa by pilgrim
The Parinirvna Temple is a simple but impressive construction consisting of a single large vaulted hall in which the six-metre Buddha statue is placed. This statue had been found broken into pieces by the Muslim invaders, and was reconstructed by a British archeologist Mr Carlyle. The statue is made of black sandstone but this is not now visible as almost the whole of it is gilded by pilgrims. It is a Thai custom to attach gold leaf to statues and monuments and evidence of this is to be seen everywhere in the Buddhist sites in India. But the statue at KusinAra seems to be completely gilded. A feature of this statue is that it seems to resemble th human form rather than the stylised figure of the Mahpurisa which occurs in most statues of the Buddha. The sculptor has skillfully combined symptoms of old age and disease together with a serenity in the facial expressions.
The Parinirvna Stupa is now enclosed in a modem construction to complement the Parinirvna temple. Both the temple and the stupa had been built by the Indian Government at the initiative of Pandit Nehru.
As with other sites the main structures are surrounded with ruins of other monsteries and stupas, some built at later times. The Adhana Stupa (Rambhar stupa) was built over a portion of the Buddha's ashes. It is to the east of the Parinirvana stupa and said to have been outside the city gates. The Mathakuar shrine (which lies to the south of the complex) is said to mark the spot where the Parinibbna sutta was delivered (or at least those parts which were spoken by the Buddha at the time of his death). This is not authenticated.
Another find at the site was a 3m high statue of the Buddha in a samdi posture. This has been housed in a Burmese temple some distance away from the archeological area.
Kuisnagara was the capital of the Malla tribe, in the suburb (upavartana) of which the Buddha passed away and his corporeal remains were cremated. Though the town site has not been identified, the site of Buddha's death was one of the four principal centres of Buddhist pilgrimage. The Buddhist establishment, known as Mahaparinirvana- vihara, was clustered around the main Nirvana Stupa, the nucleus of which could go back to Asoka, fronted by a temple with a large figure of reclining (dying) Buddha, the figure of a devotee bearing an inscription in Gupta characters. The stupa and the temple were cleared by A.C.L. Carlleyle in the eighties of the nineteenth. Excavation was resumed in 1904-5 by the ASI, when a shaft was driven through the centre of the stupa which brought to light a copper-plate placed on the mouth of a relic casket in the form of a copper vessel with charcoal, cowries, precious stones and a gold coin of Kumragupta 1. The copper-plate was engraved with the Pratitya-samutpda-stra and ended by saying that it had been placed by a devotee in the nirvana-caitya.
The area is studded with remains, of which eight monasteries with the usual plans have been excavated, but nothing earlier than Kushan coins has been found. The establishment continued to be in occupation till the 10th – 11th century. A chapel not far away, forming part of a monastery, has an image of Buddha with the inscription of a local Kalacuri chief. Over 1 km to the east is a huge stupa, believed to have been erected over the site of Buddha's cremation.
The main religious and archaeological locations in and around Rajagaha are:
We approached Rjagaha from the North. We had first to pass through the "new" Rjagaha. To the West of the new Rjagaha, is the Asoka's Stupa which we did not examine. A little further down the road, on the left, is the Ajatasattu stupa where the
Magadhan share of the Buddha's relics was interred. There is very little left of this stupa, only the plinth survives even though it seems to have been originally made of stone. None of the relics which it would originally have contained have be recovered. A little distance down the road, on the right, is the Veluvana. This is not in as a good a condition at Jetavana in Savattht The place still has the bamboo groves which gave it its name. Part of the area had been turned into a cemetery by the Muslims. The rest has been excavated partially and stupas and monasteries similar to those in other ancient Buddhist sites have been found. The place at Veluvana known as the squirrels' feeding ground (kalandaka-nipatha) has been identified, and still has the Karanda Pond which Huien Tsang reported seeing when he visited this site in the seventh century.
Some distance opposite the Veluvana is the TapocffirAma. In the Buddha's time this was a lake fed by seven hot water springs. It was a favourite resort of the Buddha and his disciples and many discourses have been given here. Today the area has been converted into a Hindu temple (the Lakshmi Narain temple). The hot water springs are still there and they have been built up to provide bathing areas at successive levels, the upper levels being used by high caste people and the lower levels by low caste people.
Further south we come to old RAjagaha through a pass between the Vaibara and the Vipula hills. The old wall of Wjagaha would have run across this pass. Old Riijagaha has a number of excavated ruins the most imposing of which is the BimbisAra jail.
To the cast of the BimbisAra jail, just outside the eastern wall of old R5jagalia is the Avaka mango grove. A further distance along the same road is the commencement of the ascent to Gijakta. We did not take this path, instead took the chair lift to Shanti Stupa on Ratana Hill and viewed the ruins on Gijjhakta from above.
The other ruins we saw in Rajagaha included parts of the old walls of the city, the so-called "chariot track" coming down from ancient times, and places like Klasila which have Buddhist events associated with them.
Rajagaha lies in a valley completely enclosed by hills which form the n. limits of the Gaya range flanking the south of the Ganga plains, with two natural passes serving as gates between hills on the n. and s. Its physical position makes it a naturally fortified area and it was understandably the capital of Magadha, south Bihar, from traditional days to about the 5th century BCE, when the capital was shifted to Ptaliputra. Its ancient names were Vasumati, probably after Vasu the mythical son of Brahm.
Brhadrathapura, after Bhadratha, the progenitor of a traditional dynasty, Girivraja, meaning the hill-girt valley, Kusgrapura, after Kusgra the successor of Brhadratha (though according to Huen Tsang it means the city of superior grass) and Rajagriha, the royal abode par excellence. It was the favourite resort of Buddha and Mahvira and many are the spots in the valley associated with the life of the former. The names of the hills that surrounded it are given differently in ancient texts and their identifications withtheir modem counterparts-Vaibhra, Vipula, Ratna, Chath, Saila, Udaya and Son – are not in all cases established beyond doubt. On the top of each hill are late medieval Jaina temples. Two groups of hot springs have added to the attraction of the place.
A continuous and bastioned dry-stone fortification wall with a circuit of about 40 kms runs over the top of each hill and there are subsidiary partition walls, perhaps also defensive in character, cutting across the valley. Till the early 20s the fortification wall was regarded as the only extant structural remains of the pre-Mauryan period. In the widest part of the valley starting with the north gate, there is an inner fortification, 8 km in perimeter, of heaped-up earth and rubble, at places in ruins, but sometimes reaching a height of about 10 m. Three well marked gaps in the wall may represent ancient gates.
Outside the north gate is New Rjagha believed to have been built by either Bimbisra, or Ajtasatru, both contemporaries of Buddha. Here too there is a massive earthen wall, now largely missing, With a circuit of about 5 km, the s.-w. part of which is cut off to form a well defined quadrilateral citadel enclosed by a stone-faced wall, 4.5 to 5.5 m thick and at places 3 m high.
From the early days of archaeological investigations in India numerous were the explorations at Rajgir, but primarily to identify the ruins of places associated with the Buddha. These explorations led to the spotting of the remains of many a Buddhist religious edifice and place connected with him, chiefly based on the accounts left by the Chinese pilgrims. The work started with A. Cunningham and his, followed later by J. Marshall and VA. Jackson. It cannot be said that all the identifications proposed by them have been altogether convincing and fresh identifications have now and then been proposed by others.
Of the stupas and associated structures that have been or are believed to have
been identified mention may be made of. the stupa of Asoka to the west of New Rjagaha; the Veuvana (Veluvana) complex between New Rajagrha and hills comprising the Karada tank and the stupas and vihra of Venuvana proper; and a Stupa ascribed to Ajtasatru. Excavation at these has not produced any outstanding features; in fact there is hardly anything earlier than post-Gupta times. On the Vaibhra, the hill to the w. of the n. gate of Old Rjagha, there is an excavated Jaina brick temple – the only early Jaina temple at Rajgir with a central chamber facing e., surrounded by a court which is again flanked on all sides by rows of cells, all originally enshrining images of thirthankars, now mostly missing.
Further s., about 1 kin away, there is a stone enclosure 60 m square, which is supposed to be the jail where Bimbisra was kept imprisoned by his son Ajtasatru and from where Bimbisra could have a view of Buddha when the latter resided on the Grdhrakuta hill (below). Proceeding e. wards one comes to a site identified with the mango-grove donated by the physician Jivaka to the Buddha. During 1953-5 D. R. Patil of the ASI excavated here and unearthed two large elliptical halls with subsidiary rooms within a compound wall, believed to represent Jivaka's monastery.
Not far from it a stone-paved road leads up the Chathigiri where the Grdhrakta cave, a favourite resort of the Buddha, is located, though the identification h;s been doubted by some. The area is studded with Buddhist remains of the post-Gupta period. Descending the hill and proceeding towards the s. gate of the valley one finds a large sheet of bed rock on which they are deep ruts made of cart-wheels (guage 1.4 m) and large number of shell inscriptions, some of them very-long.
In new Rjagrha, the fort outside in n. gate of the valley, excavation in 1905-6 yielded remains of secular buildings in three levels. In one of the houses was ‘granary made of earthen rings' (ring-wells?) and a well of wedge-shaped brick. Also recovered ware: two clay tablets with legends in, characters of the 2nd or Ist century B.c., a square copper punch-marked coin and six copper cast coins as also medieval coins; some fragments of Buddhist sculptures; and a few terracotta seals bearing the Buddhist creed or symbols.
The ruins of Nalanda extend for some 11 kms, but only 1 km has been so far excavated and are located in an archeological park. In the excavated area we can see 8 monasteries of identical size arranged in a North-South direction. Each monastery has rooms for monks or students. Around the monasteries are temples all connected by paved walkways. There are a large number of votive stupas scattered around.
By far the most impressive of the remaining structures is the Sriputta Stupa. This contains the relics of Sdriputta, who is regarded as the chief disciple of the Buddha and foremost in his command of the Dhamma. He was born in the village of Upatissa near Nalanda, and was held in high regard by Buddhists living here. The Siriputa Stupa as it now stands is a brick faced structure rising well above the level of the other remaining ruins. A feature of this structure is that the Northern side contains detailed and delicate carvings of the Buddha and Bodhisattava. These are done in stone and plaster and still retain their original artistry.
Numerous buildings which served as storehouses, kitchens, refectories, libraries, etc. could be
identified in the ruins. The buildings show signs of renovation and additions in different times.
Some reinforcing has been done during the recent excavations in order to maintain the
integrity of the ruins.
Nland, near village Bargaon, with extensive ruins of a great Buddhist establishment, 85 km s.-e. of Patna was first reported on by F. Buchanan in the early years of the last century, (Martin, 1838) and identified as such by A. Cunninghain on the basis of the bearings given by Chinese pilgrims. Apart from minor explorations, Broadley probably carried out some unsystematic excavation at what is now known as Caltya Site 12 and published a monograph on the ruins (Broadley, 1872). From 1915-16 to 1935-6 the ASI, under H. Sastri and later on under LA. Page and others, carried out extensive excavations here laying bare monasteries, temples and minor.
The traditional history of Nilanda goes back to the times of Buddha and Mahvira and it is said to be the birth-place of Sriputra, a chief disciple of Buddha. Later Buddhist saints are also associated with it. But excavations have not revealed anything earlier than the Gupta period, the main focus of activity being during the time of the Plas (8th- 12th centuries). Fa Hien, early 5th. century, does not mention any monastic establishment here except a stupa (Legge, 1886, p. 3 1). But by the 7th century Nalanda had established its reputation as a centre of learning as Huen Tsang spent here a few years studying Mahyna Buddhism and mentions a few monasteries supposedly built by later Gupta rulers. During his time Nlanda was humming with literary and religious activities presided over by distinguished priests (Beal, 1884, 2; p. 118), though attempts to identify the monasteries seen by him with their later counterparts as excavated have met with scanty success. So great was the celebrity of Nalanda during those days that within 30 years of Huen Tsang's departure no less than 11 Chinese and Korean travellers, including I-Tsing, are known to have visited the centre. The P1a rulers of e. India (8th to 12th century) continued their benevolence towards Nalanda though the establishment of other monasteries by them, including Vikramashila have affected the importance of Nalanda.
The structural remains of Nalanda as excavated generally belong to the Pla period, though in some cases those of the lowest levels may belong to earlier times. The portable antiquities also mostly belong to that period, the earlier ones having been found generally in dumps or hidden hoards. Of these early antiquities may be mentioned seals of Gupta and Matikhari rulers, Harsavardhana, rulers of Assam and others of unknown lineage, administrative seals and coins of Gupta rulers and clay coin moulds. The temples and monasteries are in two parallel rows, the temple facing e. and the monasteries w., the wide space in between sometimes occupied by stray shrines. Temple 3, the tallest of the monuments of Nalanda represents the result of seven accumulations, the earliest three of modest dimensions being buried deep under the later ones. The temple of the fifth stage, with four corner towers, had its facade ornamented with stucco figures of Buddha and the BodhisatIvas in Gupta tradition, which were encased within the extension of the sixth stage. The level of the shrine at the top rose with each reconstruction with a resultant higher flight of steps at each stage. The ruins of the shrine of the last stage with a pedestal for the installed Buddha image are seen at the top. Each stage had its own votive stupas all round, often engulfed in the later extensions. One of such stupas, of the fifth stage, contained in its core a clay tablet inscribed with the sacred text Pratitya-samutpda-stra and dated CE 516-7. Another manifestation of devotion is the enshrinement within votive stupas of clay lumps or miniature clay stupas, each having in its core two clay tablets impressed with the Buddhist creed. The temple of the seventh stage externally measures 130 x 80 ft. In previous accounts the edifice. is described as a Stupa but the existence of a Buddha shrine at the top of each of at least the fifth, sixth and seventh stages indicates it to be a temple.
Temples 12, 13 and 14, square on plan, are almost similar and measure about 50 m sq each. Each has two periods, with stucco Buddha images installed in shrines M a high podium Temples 12 and 13 have the usual votive stupas around but Temple 14 has none. Its central shrine has mural paintings. Temple 2, outside the row of main temples, has a dado of 2 11 sculptured panels of about the 7th century.
Monasteries IA, IB, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 have two levels each, while Monasteries 1, 4 and 7 have nine, six and three respectively. They are usually squarish and are separated from each other by a passage. They were double-storeyed with staircase perhaps originally of wood, burnt sleepers having been found in excavation, but later on of concrete or stone. They follow the usual monastic plan [ 14.121 of a central court surrounded by a veranda on each side, beyond which are the monastic cells; the shrine, larger than the ordinary cells and projecting outside, is situated in the centre of the back row, usually fronted by a portico. The courtyards are paved with bricks, stone or concrete Gars with dried-up mortar and a cell used as a cistern in Monastery 11 are indicative of the preparation of concrete), though it appears that brick was the material for the earlier ones. The cells in Monastery 1 have corbelled doorways and vaulted roofs, while the entrances to cells in Monastery 10 have semicircular arches. Most of the cells have a single bed each (a brick platform along one of the walls) but some cells in Monastery 1 have two each. Some monasteries are thickly plastered and bear traces of painting.
The walls of the temples and votive stupas are not always plain. Sometimes they show carved bricks, kinnaras, amalakas, bead-and-reel decorations, triangles, squares, rope designs, vases-with-foliage, inverted flasks, etc. Neatly jointed bricks present lentils, pots-with-foliage, arches, kithi-mukhas and geometric designs. Bricks have straw and rice husk in the core.
The clay for the manufacture of myriads of bricks required for the buildings svas dug up from the local alluvial soil, which left a large number of water reservoirs, many of them now dried up. Some of them are referred to by Huen Tsang.
Seals are common. The official monastic seals bear as usual the wheel- and-deer insignia and the legend SriNaland-maha-vihr-yrya-bhiksu- sanghasya. Secular seals belong to rulers, offices, officers, territorial units, etc.
Stone sculptures, large and small, are not lacking, though Nalanda does not seem to have had a lapidary atelier. But it was certainly an important centre of bronzecasting. Over.600 bronzes of Buddha and Buddhist divinities of Tantrayana-Vajrayana, of which Nalanda became the focus in Pla times, have been recovered. They form a distinctive school, the influence of which spread, along with Buddhism itself, to s.-e. Asia (Bamet Kempers, 1933). A brick-built smelting furnace has been found near Temple 13; it is made of four chambers in one square divided by short walls, each of the chambers provided with two flues for fire to bum and air to pass. The find of burnt metal pieces, slag of metal and similar objects within it shows that it was used for casting metal.
At an ecclesiastical site like Nalanda it is futile to expect manifold objects of material interest. Nevertheless the following deserve mention, though their stratigraphical position is uncertain: iron flat bars, knives, axes, sickles, tongs, hoes, spades and nails (also of copper); iron svastikas; metal and clay lamps; censers; plain or gilded conches; pottery bowls; bronze cups and jugs; stone pestles, querns and ladles; metal scissors; stone- cutter's and artisan's tools, such as iron chisels and honing stones; potter's dabbers; claymoulds of seals, sffipas and plaques; inkpots of clay and metal; cowries for exchange; ornamental gold leaves and beads; bone and ivory game pieces; bangles and rings; rubies for inlaying in bronzes; glass beads and rings; crucibles; cattle balls of metal; iron elephant goads; and cattle-branding iron stamps. Chain armours, quivers, spearheads, daggers, sword-hilts, etc., as well as glazed pottery, were probably left behind by foreign invaders.
Little is known about the pottery, except that shortspouted earthen jars with mica dust adhering to the surface and with animal and floral designs were in common use.
There are three distinct areas where excavations have been conducted - the Ancient City (in Sahet), the Jetavana (in Mahet) and the stupa of the twin miracles (also in Mahet).
The Ancient City of Svatthi was protected by a city wall only parts of which have been excavated. Within the city area the two most important structures uncovered are the mansion of Anthapinaka and a cetiya called the Angulimla cetiya. These are known locally as Kachchi Kuti and Pakki Kuti. The foundations of the Anthapinaka mansion are quite imposing. The walls are very thick indicating that they supported several stones, and the existing excavations go to height of about 5 meters. The Angulimala cetiya is said to mark the spot where the arahat Angulimala preached the sutta that bears his name to ease the pains of a woman at child delivery. The authenticity of the ascription of the ruins of the Stupa to Angulimala seems to have been confirmed by an inscription found there. This stupa to is quite impressive, and the existing ruins go up at least 20 metres. Several other areas in the old city are also being excavated.
Of more importance and better preserved are the ruins of the Jetavana. These are enclosed in a neat well landscaped archeological park. The main entrance to the park is from the South side. A short distance to the right on the main path leading from the gate is the Bodhi tree called the Ananda Bodhi. This is said to be the very tree planted by Anithapin.daka from a sapling from the tree at Buddha Gay. If so it would be the oldest authenticated tree, surpassing in age even the tree in Anuradhapura. Today this tree is the object of veneration and Bodhi puja especially by Sri Lankan pilgrims.
Further down the track and to the left of it is the ruins of the Kosambakuti (Treasure Chamber). The Buddha is known to have stayed in this viliara also. In front of the Kosambakuli is a brick walkway which the Buddha is said to have used for walking meditation.
Some distance to the north of the Kosambakuti is the Gandhakuti (Fragrant Chamber) the principal residence of the Buddha when he was in Jetavana. Its appears to be smaller than the Kosambhakti, but the Bharhut panel which shows the Jetavana shows it as the larger structure. To the East of the Gandhakuti, and some distance away, is the audience hall at which many of the discourses were delivered. It was here that several significant events took place such as the unmasking of the deception of Cinc Mnavik. To the South-West corner of the audience hall is a well which may have been used by the Buddha for bathing.
In the Northern most limit of the present archeological park is a large monastery simply described as Monastery No. 1. Its history is not known, and is most certainly a construction of the Gupta or Sunga times.
On the Western border of the archeological park there are more monasteries and stupas. To the south-west is a large monastery (No 19) which was initially built by King Pasanedi for the use of the Jains but at the insistence of the Buddha it was given over to the Bhikkinis. An alternative version has it that the King himself got disgusted at the behaviour of the Jain monks and decided to transfer it to the Bhikkhus. It was here that the inscription of the Kanonj king Govindachandra dated 1130 CE was found. There is also a temple on the approach to Monastery No. 19. To the north of this is a group of small stfipas which probably contained relics of arahants who lived in Jetavana.
There are ruins also outside the present limits of the archeological park. These have as yet not been fully excavated.
The another site at Mahet is the ruins of the cetiya built at the site where the Buddha performed the twin miracles (yamaka-ptihra). This miracle involves the radiation of fire and water from the body, and multiple projections of the form of the Buddha. At the moment this is a large mound with only the brick base uncovered.
Srvasti, the capital of Kosala, is a city intimately associated with the lives of Buddha and Mahvira when Prasenajit was the ruler. The ruins consist of two distinct units Saheth, the Buddhist establishment, and Maheth to its n.-e., a fortified city - separated from each other by a low-lying land probably an ancient bed of the Rapti, ancient Acirvati, on the bank of which Srvast was situated. During the life-time of Buddha his disciple Sudatta Anthapindika raised here a monastery, the Jetavanavihra, for the residence of Buddha and that became the nucleus of the Buddhist establishment of the place. Asoka is said to have put up two capitalled pillars near the e. gate of the Jetavanavihra.
The site has attracted the attention of archaeologists right from the days of A. Cunningham. Early this century excavations were conducted here by J. Ph. Vogel, J. Marshall and D.R. Sahni between 1907-8 and 1910-1, as a result of which numerous stupas, monasteries and temples, consistent with its sacredness to the Buddhists, have been exposed at Saheth within an irregular compound-wall. The earliest of them go back to Kushan times; the latest datable object is a copperplate of the Gihadavila ruler Govindacandra (12th century) granting land to the Jetavana monastery, which unassailably established once for all the identity of Saheth-Maheth with Srvas.
Maheth, the city-site, its rampart crescentic in shape, with a circuit of about 5 km and a height of 18 m, lies about 1 km to the s. of the Rapti. The prominent landmarks here are the Sobhaniitha temple on a high mound believed to be the birthplace of the thirthankara Sambhavanhitha, Pakki Kuti and Kacchi Kuti, the latter two perhaps originally Buddhist stupas but at least the second one converted into a Brhmanical temple in Gupta times, as is evident from the discovery of a large number of Rmyana panels from its debris.
Resumed excavation at Maheth in 1959 by the ASI under K. K. Sinha has yielded significant evidence on the antiquity of the city. Two trenches, one across the n. defences and the other well within the habitation area were laid, revealing three Pds. The defences did not exist in Pd 1, which is marked by the NBM, Black-slipped Ware and a limited quantity of the PM, the overlap between the NBPW and PM having been noticed at other sites as well in the Ganga valley, except Hastinapura. Here are also a few sherds with design in black set off against surrounding red, which, the excavator feels, recalls the process noticed in the paintings of Athenian vases of the 6th century BCE. Red ware associated with the PGW levels of Hastinapura is plentiful. Other finds of Pd 1 are beads of glass and semiprecious stones including ‘eye-beads' of stratified glass and agate, a cylinder bead of lapis lazuli, leech-shaped beads of agate, axe-amulet of carnelian and other beads of glass, a few terracotta animal figurines, terracotta discs, plain but some with incised sun symbol and svastika, decorated terracotta tiles and an extremely limited number of ivory styli or arrowheads. Copper is employed for bangles, including one with an interlaced knot and an ear ring. Iron is limitedly represented.
Pd 11 which witnessed the construction of the defences seems to have followed shortly after the end of Pd 1 and is divisible into three phases: early, with the first construction of the defences in the form of a mud rampart afterwards topped by fortification walls of burnt brick at regular intervals. Subsequently but still within the Pd the height of the rampart wall was raised and the brick fortification was rebuilt. Houses of the Pd, in the habitation area were built of reused burnt brick and ring-wells were provided as part of civic amenities. Uninscribed copper, and punch- marked and Ayodhya coins, an inscribed sealing from the mid-levels, iron weapons and implements and bone arrowheads are among the finds of the Pd. The red ware with stamps consists of the miniature bowl, pear-shaped vase and jar with neck, the body of a few covered with simple reed impressions. In the grey ware in the dish with the impressed design of the wheel and concentric circles. Handmade and moulded human figures including mithunas, the latter from the middle and upper levels of the Pd, and stamped animal figures are comparable with corresponding terracotta figurines of other n. Indian early historical sites. Spiral beads of glass and beads of amethyst and crystal are common.
The deposits of Pd Ill have been noticed only in a limited excavated area. The fortification fell into disuse but the town must have remained inhabited as the structures found in the previous excavations would indicate. The pottery is utilitarian and plain but for some incised decorations. Terracotta human figurines, hollow and cylindrical, with foreign ethnic features compare well with those from the corresponding levels of Ahiccatr.
The Pds have been dated as follows mainly on the basis of coins and other finds: Pd 1, 6th century to 300 BcE; Pd II, early phase 275 to 200 BCE, middle phase, 200 to 125 BCE, and late phase, 125 to 50 BCE, and Pd III, early centuries of the Christian era.
There are at least three important archeological sites at Vesli. When you approach from the North (as we did) the first to see is the Asokan pillar and the stupa in front of it. The 11 metre pillar is virtually intact together with the Lion capital. The lion faces Kusinara, perhaps a reference to the last journey made by the Buddha when he passed through Vesli on his final journey to Kusinara.
In front of the pillar is the Kutagarshala Chaitya said to have enshrined Ananda's relics. The site also contains the ruins of several monasteries and also of a pond.
The principal monument in the second area is the Licchavi Relic Stupa. This is contained in a nicely landscaped archeological park. The stupa is covered by a protective metal dome. This is to protect the stupa which has been excavated in such a way so as to show the various stages of rebuilding that has taken place. The oldest structure is made of mud and lime and would have been the original Liccavi construction to house their share of the relics. In fact the casket containing these relics had been found and is now housed in the Patna museum (which we did not visit). Over this original core later coverings had been made in more durable material, usually brick.
The third area, locally called Raja Visala ka Garh (Palace of King Visala), is not excavated fully, and now consists of a large mound through which ruins poke out. This is taken to be the city area of old Vesli, in fact the old assembly hall from the time that Vajji was a republic. It later became a monarchy and this could have been used as the palace. There does not appear to be anything specifically Buddhist in these ruins. The coronation pond of the later Vaishali kings, now a large rectangular pond called Kharauna Pokhar, is located some distance to the south of the Licchavi stupa. There is no evidence where exactly the second Buddhist Council was held in Vesli a century after the Pariniravana. The site of Ambapli's mango grove has been located to the West of the ruins on the banks of the Gandak. It has been claimed that this is the place of donation of honey by the monkeys.
Vesli, was supposedly founded by Vivla of the Iksvku lineage. It was the capital of the Republic of the Licchavis, a branch of the Vajji clan at the time of Buddha who visited the place more than once. It was annexed by Ajtasatru of Magadha after the death of the Buddha. Pre-Mahvira Jainism is said to have penetrated here and Mahvira was born near the place. Many spots here were connected with Buddha and Asoka raised one of his (uninscribed) pillars near a lake associated with the Buddha. The main ruins are represented by a prominent fort over 500 x 240 m known as Raja-Bisal-ka-Garh, identified by A. Cunningham as Vesli, though ruins are scattered well outside the fort as well.
The fort was excavated by T. Bloch in 1903-4 and D.B. Spooner in 1913- 4. While the lower levels were not reached, a vast number of Gupta seals and terracotta, and some pre-Gupta ones too, including two Hellenistic heads, and punch-marked coins were found. The buildings were however poor.
Controlled excavation was undertaken here in 1950 by the Vaisali Sangha under the direction of Krishna Deva assisted by Misra and between 1958 and 1962 by A. S. Altekar on behalf of the K.P. Jayaswal Res. Inst. The excavations included the areas of Kharauna Pokhar, Raja-Bisal-kaGarh, Chakranidas, Laipura, Kolhua and Virpur. Kharauna Pokhar has been identified with the ancient Abhiseka-puskarni, with whose waters all the Rajas of the republic were consecrated. It had a surrounding wall with concrete platforms, with as many as six occupational levels. It has been suggested that in Period III (150 BCE – 100CE) there were rooms for guards with places for quivers in specially made holes.
Another important discovery was a stupa, originally of mud but later on encased in brick, which has been, taken to be the one built over the corporeal relies of the Buddha by the Licchavis. The stupa had been opened up at an early date and renovated and enlarged more than once, being buttressed with brick and brickbats in the 1st Century CE. A soapstone casket containing ashy earth, a small conch-shell, two small glass beads, a bit of gold leaf and a copper punch-marked coin are the other finds.
The Garh area shows that it was under occupation from at least 500 BCE, as in the lowest layers black-and-red ware is found with the NBPW. The discovery of a few sherds of degenerate grey ware with painting associated with the mud rampart has no chronological significance. The earliest traces of structural remains belong to 350-150 BCE, corresponding roughly to the Maurya period, when the mud rampart was erected; in the Sunga period it was strengthened with courses of mud brick. Afterwards a massive rampart about 21 m in width at the base and 6.4 m in width at the extant top and about 4 m in extant height was made of rammed earth. Later in the pre-Gupta period a brick rampart, 2.4 m wide, was constructed with, military barracks made of brick 37.2x 23.3x 5 cm in dimensions.
The portable objects found at Vaisli are rich and varied and consist of.. coins ranging from unch-marked and cast to those of Muslim rulers; terracotta human and animal figures including ngas, toy carts, beads, pendants, balls, dabbers, moulds, skin-rubbers, seals and sealings; beads of semi-precious stones; and pottery represented by the NBPW of various hues, black ware resembling the N13PW, medium to coarse grey ware and red ware of shapes consistent with the period of the occupation of the site.
Most of the excavations at Piprahwa, identified with Kapilavatthu, had been done in the 1970s when further epigraphical evidence was uncovered. There are two sets of ruins at Kapilavattu separated by about a km, one said to be the site of the royal palace of Suddhodhana the other being more monastic. However in later times stupas and monasteries were built in both places so that there is now little difference between them. Thus religious ruins are juxtaposed in close proximity to what would have been the ruins of residential buildings.
The central structure in the main site is the Stupa. The stupa as it stands today consists of several enlargements from the original stupa which contained the Skyan's share of the Buddha's relics. The original stupa was excavated in 1971 and it yeilded
the original casket containing the remains of the Buddha. This casket has been removed to an Indian museum. Subsequent reconstructions to the stupa raised its height. The present stupa, which is the latest construction rises to a height of about 15 metres. A feature of this stupa is the paved path around it for purposes of circumambulation of the stupa.
To the East, West and South of the stupa are monasteries, that to the east being the largest. To the north of the stupa is the ruins of a public hall, perhaps used for sermons. Scattered around these buildings are votive stupas and shrines.
The second archeological site at Piprahwa is at Ganwaria. It is identified with the town of Kapilavattu. This site has not received the attention received by the other site, and large parts are still not excavated. There are the ruins of at least two monasteries.
Piprahwa, near the border of Nepal, is well-known for having yielded one of the earliest relic caskets with Brami inscription in the excavation by Peppe, an English zamindar of the area, who bored a shaft in the stupa in 1897-8. At a depth of 5.6 m he came across a massive sandstone box which contained a large quantity of valuables and five caskets, four of steatite and one of crystal. One of the steatite caskets carried an inscription, which according to one interpretation (by Bühler) contained the relics of Buddha himself and according to another (by Fleet) those of the kinsmen of Buddha. P. C. Mukheijee conducted limited excavation here in 1899. On the basis of the inscription on the casket he felt that Kapilavistu, the capital of the Skyas to which clan the Buddha belonged, should be sought not very far from it. Mitra (1972) also declared that Piprahwa had a reasonable claim for being a part or suburb of Kapilavastu and its surrounding villages like Ganwaria being the site of Kapilavstu itself. Apart from the views of previous explorers, the inscription on the casket found by Peppe implied that the relic-yielding stupa was the same as the one that the Skyas constructed at Kapilavstu over their share of the corporeal relics of Buddha received by them. Secondly, the distance of 9 miles (14.48 km) from Kapilavstu to Lumbini as recorded
by the Chinese traveller Fa Hien corresponds well to the distance from Piprahwa to Lumbini, the birth-place of Buddha.
To settle the long-standing controversy an excavation was done at the site in 1971 on behalf of the ASI. In 1972 it yeilded fresh relic caskets contained in two burnt-brick chambers at a depth of 6 m, i.e. further below the massive box found by Peppe. The two soapstone-caskets contained charred bones. The caskets were contemporaneous with the NBPW.
In 1973 the cells and the veranda on the north side of the eastern monastery yielded terracotta sealings with the legend Kapilavastu. The sealings have not been found in a hoard but occurring at different levels and spots ranging between 1.05 and 1.75 m in depth. The legend on the sealings in Brhmi characters of the Ist-2nd centuries CE can be classified into three groups. One of them reads Devaputra-vihare Kapilavastubhikkhusanghasa and the second Mah-Kapilavastu- bhiksusahghasa, while the third carries name of monks one being Sarandasa. In 1974 the lid of a pot carrying the inscription. of the first group was also found. The inscription on the sealings and the lid was the deciding evidence in the identification of Kapilavastu.
Three structural phases, with caskets at three different levels, have been distinguished in the stupa. The caskets of the first phase have been found in brick chambers at a depth of 6 m, the second, mentioned above, at a depth of 5.6 m in the massive sandstone box by Peppe and the third (only one) at a depth of 3.05 m also by Peppe. In the last phase the base of the stupa was converted into a square providing niches for sculptures.
The eastern monastery was built in four phases. There are other monasteries on the n., s. and w. ne n. and s. ones have only two structural phases whereas the w. one has three. All of them face the stupa. The cells of the monastery are generally planned around an open central courtyard and a covered veranda. On the n.-w. fringe of the mound a huge meeting hall paved with brick has been exposed. The hall also faces the stupa with the entrance towards s. All around the hall small rooms have been observed.
Piprahwa remained under occupation approximately from the 5th century BCE to the 3rd century CE, when the site was engulfed in a fire and abandoned. The limited antiquities from the site include copper bowls and thli, stone weight, iron pan, hook, nail and sockets, copper Kushan and Ayodhy coins, punch-marked coins both in copper and silver, copper antimony rod and a borer, stone head, terracotta and carnelian beads, a terracotta mask and fragments of the NBW.
The historic place now is an elevated hill with its sides built in brick rising out the surrounding fields. Steps go up to the top of the plateau like area. This would have been the the place where the stupa reported by Fa Hien would have stood. There is no sign of the water tank. The only structure that exists now is a small Hindu kovil where Mydevi is worshipped as a fertility goddess. There are a few bodhi trees, and surrounding the site is a small brick wall with some Buddhist figures, many of the Mahayana period. The whole area is demarcated as a historical site by the Indian Govermnent.
Some other ancient structures have been uncovered in the neighbouring fields, no doubt the remains of the old monasteries. Excavation of these have not proceeded far. Some opposition has been encountered from the local people who would have resented intrusion into land farmed by them. As a result there was a police presence at the site when we visited it. We were not able to view the new excavations as archeological work is in progress.
Parts of an Asokan pillar have been found, and is exhibited close to the hill which marks the place of the Buddha's arrival. The capital of the pillar has been found, and this has an elephant instead of the usual lion. This is taken as a reference to the white elephant which My Devi is said to have dreamt at the time of the conception of Prince Siddhartha. It is the only Asokan pillar to have this motif. However the part of the pillar containing the inscription has not been found.
The only other structure is a small temple under a Bodhi tree containing part of an old stone carving depicting a Buddhist scene. Some interpret it as depicting the descent of the Buddha accompanied by the gods, others as representing a scene from the birth of the Buddha-to-be. However this too is treated as a Hindu shrine and the figures have been daubed with holy ash in the Hindu style.
Sankisa, on the Kalinadi, lying midway between Atranajikera and Kanauj, 40 km from either, called Sanksya in the Rmyana and other Sanskrit texts, Sankisa in Pali texts and Song-kia-she or Kia-pi-tha by the Chinese travellers, is where Buddha accompanied with Brahm and Indra is said to have descended from the Trayastrinis heaven by a ladder of gold or gems, thus making the place a centre of Buddhist pilgrimage. Hiuen Tsang records the construction of ladders by the local princes at the site of the original ladder. He also saw at the site a monastery, a pillar of Asoka, several stupas and a naga tank.
The present village is located on a mound measuring 400 m x 300 m x 12 m known as Qilab. Nearly 288 m due n. there is another mound of solid brickwork topped by a temple. Further 122 m from the temple-mound lies the elephant capital of the pillar of Asoka, bell-shaped, corded or receded perpendicularly with an abacus of honeysuckle and with Mauryan polish.
About 183 m to the e. of the temple mound is another mound, known as Nivika-kot, measuring 183 x 52 m believed by Cunningham to be a monastery. In the n.-e. and s.-e. of this mound there are several small mounds thought to be stupas.
The entire city comprising these mounds is enclosed by an earthen rampart, measuring 349 m in circuit, which, as Cunningham says, is a tolerably regular duodecagon having three openings, respectively on the e., n. -e. and s.-e.
The site has yielded the PGW and NWW and its associated red wares. The other finds include punch-marked coins with small symbols, cast copper coins and coins of the Satraps of Mathura, Indo-Scythian rulers and Indo- Sassanians. An inscription engraved with sculpture representing a ladder with the figure of bhiksuni-Upali at the base and a plaque of soapstone, terracotta figures, a black-stone carving representing the nirvana of the Buddha, moulds of figures and stone dishes have also been found.
The Buddha visited Kosambi several tinies and spent the ninth vassana season there and the tenth at the nearby Pirileyyaka forest. Ifis best known disciples therewere three citizens Kukkuta, Ghosita and Pvrika, each of whom donated a monastery to the Bhikkhus, all named after the donors. It was while at Ghositrma that a dispute arose between those who thought that the vinaya was more important and those who thought that it was the dhamma. The Buddha failed to resolve this dispute and left for the nearby Prileyyaka forest, which forced the disputants to resolve their differences. Several discourses were given at Kosambi and several vinaya rules promulgated there. According to the Mahavamsa a delegation of monks from Kosambi arrived for the dedication of the Ruwanvelisaya.
Not much progress has been made here by way of archeological excavations. Only two areas have been excavated. The mounds which mark the walls of the ancient city are visible, these walls being constructed partly to mitigate the occasional flooding of the Yamuna.
One area excavated which is closest to the main entrance to the archeological area seems to contain mainly the ruins of the city of Kosambi . The most important monument here is the Asokan pillar. This appears fairly intact, but without the capital. There is also no inscription the surface has been used by vandals to write graffiti. The ruins uncovered resemble those in the other ancient centres. which. Some have the classic pattern of monasteries, so the ruins here may not all be secular.
The second area of excavations relates specifically to monasteries. The Ghositarama, the monastery donated by Goshita and in which the Buddha stayed when he was at Kosambi is said to be well excavated. However the access to this excavation site has not been prepared and now requires trudging though the bush. We did not visit this site.
Kausmbi 51.5 km s.-w. of Allahabad, on the bank of the Yamuna, its enormous ruins spread over several villages, two of them, Kosam-Inam and Kosam-Khiraj, still reminders of the ancient name of the city the remains of which they bear. According to the epics Kausmbi was founded by king Kusimba, and according to the Purinas king Nicaksu, a decendant of the Pndavas, came to live here when Hastinapura was washed away by the Ganga. At the time of Buddha it was the capital of the janapada of the Vatsas and was ruled over by Udayana, whose romantic episodes and marriage with Vsavadatta the daughter of Pradyota of Avanti form the theme of many Sanskrit works. According to Buddhist literature including the accounts of Hieun Tsang it was visited by the Buddha. The inscription of Asoka on the Allahabad pillar, which according to some had originally been set up at Kausmbi itself, shows that Kausmbi was the headquarters of one of his mahpmtras. Situated on the Yanuma and distantly overlooked by the Vindhyas to its s., Kausmbi lay on many highways, including some leading to the Deccan.
The sprawling ruins with a chain of rolling mounds and with a pillar believed to be one of those of Asoka in their midst were first recognized by A. Cunningham to represent ancient Kausmbi. Even on the surface thousands of coins, terracotta figurines and other antiquities including stone sculptures had been collected from time to time and have enriched by many museums. Its ruins are enclosed by an impressive rampart with an average height of 10.6 m above the surrounding field-level, its bastions rising much greater heights, 21.3 to 22.9 m and with the shape of a quadrilateral of about 6.4 km perimeter, the measurements of the four sides being as follows: n. 1584m; s. 1822tn; e, 1795m; and w. 1249m. The latest habitational debris rises to the top of the ruined rampart.
In 1937-8 N.G. Majunidar of the ASI excavated a small area near the pillar, but the results were not published. Extensive excavations were undertaken by the Univ. of Allahabad under G.R. Sharina and his assistants from 1949-50 to 1966-7, the excavations being conducted in four main areas: (1) the pillar area adjacent to the ASI excavation, (2) the defence complex, (3) the Ghositrma area, and (4) the palace complex. In the pillar area, the first to be excavated, three Pds were distinguished. Pd I pre-dated the advent of the NBPW and Pds II and III respectively saw its appearance and disappearance, Pd II being separated from Pd I, marked by the presence of only a few sherds of the PGW, by a thick sterile layer. There were no brick structures in the early levels of Pd. II, the NBPW appearing from its very start. Uninscribed cast coins made their appearance with the earliest brick structures and a road, assigned to c. 300 BCE, and shortly after that were coins of the "lanky bull", typical of Kausmbi In Pd. III, c. 175 BCE to 325CE, were coins of the Mitra rulers such as Brhaspatimitra, Sramitra, Prajpatimitra and Rajanimitra, followed by those of the Kushans and the Maghas, the latter continuing to C. 250 CE. In c. 350 appeared coins of Ganendra, indentified with Ganapatinga, who was ousted by Samudragupta. The road which had its origin in Pd 11 continued up to c. 300. Habitation in this area ceased in c. 400.
Subsequent excavation, particularly in the defence area, has materially altered the picture, and the excavator has identified four Pds, respectively dated 1165 to 885BCE, 885 to 605 BCE, 605 to 45 BCE, and 45 BCE to CE 580. In other words his former Pds I to III have to be regarded as Pds II to IV: Pd 1 pre-dated the PGW
In the pillar area evidence for the existence of structures in Pds 1 and II was lacking. In the PGW levels structural activities were attested by post- holes and some vestiges of earthen floors. The lower of the NBM levels was devoid of burnt-brick structures but there were vestiges of mud or mud-block earthen floors and ring-wells. Burnt-brick structures appeared in the upper part of the Pd. Thenceforth there was a spurt in building activities. Brick walls, terracotta drains, ring-wells, floors of brick, tanks of brickbats. The size of bricks ranged from 35 to 48 cm in length, 30.4 cm in width and 5.6 to 7.6 cm in height. In general the houses were either along the cardinal directions, but there were deviations in later times. The main doors were 1. 14 to 1.44 m wide and the subsidiary ones 76 cm. The houses consisted of several rooms on all sides of a central courtyard. Some houses were also provided with separate apartments for womenfolk. Sanitary and waste-disposal arrangements consisted of brick drains or pottery pipes, ring-wells and soakage jars, single or multiple, placed in a cylindrical pit, their bottoms perforated. Mention has been made of above of a road: it was built with the earliest baked-brick structures and continued till the end of habitation in the area with successive rises in its level.
The encompassing rampart referred to above, with salients and bastions at regular intervals, had five main gateways, two each on the n. and e. and one on the w. and six subsidiary ones. The one on the w. was located at the apex of a triangle formed by two salients, the s. one measuring 472.4 m and the n. 594.3 in, the base of the triangle being 777.2 m. A bund measuring 106.6 in length and 27.4 m in width in front of the c. gateway was perhaps a curtain. The space between this and the rampart, 7.6 m in width, was a passage. A tower 83.8 m away from the tail of the bund and on the other side of the moat (see below) together with two others on top of the rampart commanding the outer tower provided extra strategic cover to the e. gateway. The command towers of the n. gateway were simpler on plan. Entry through the gateways was further restricted by a complex of guard rooms and re-entrants. A moat of varying width encircled the rampart. In addition there was a reservoir with a 3.96 m high bank on the s. and the c. of the watchtower and the road leading to the e. gateway. A 21.3 m wide channel between the e. gateway and the watchtower separated the road into two. This channel was crossed by a sort of drawbridge or overbridge as evidenced by two conical pits, possibly indicators of the once-implanted heavy anchoring posts of the bridge at the ends of the roads. The channel was connected with the reservoir to the c. of the tower and also at the foot of the rampart on the n. side. During emergency water from the reservoir would inundate the area between the roads and the watch-towers, converting the whole area into a broad sheet of water, thereby extending the width of the moat to its maximum of 146 m. The sides of the moat were strengthened by brick-built battered revetments, of which two phases could be seen.
A section of the rampart itself was excavated. Constructed of compact well-rammed clay cut out of the natural soil, it was, according to the excavator, erected in the last decades of the 2nd millennium BCE. From the very beginning it was provided with a burnt-brick revetment with a prominent inward batter, 15' up wthe first 30 courses and 40' thereafter. It was 2.75 m thick at the base and had an extant height of 12.13 m with 151 courses, coated with a thick plaster of lime and mud. Some time between 955 and 885 BCE, due to seepage of water causing bulge, seven weep- holes at regular intervals at an approximate height of 91 cm from the base were provided and seepage water was drained into circular pits cut into the natural soil. In the third phase, 675 to 605 BCE, major repairs were carried out: the height of the rampart was raised to a further height of 2.43 m with mud blocks topped by sandy earth mixed with kankar nodules. Between 605-535 B.C. the rampart and the brick revetment were further heightened by another 91 cm. The next phase, 535-465 BCE., saw another heightening and the erection of a secondary rampart. A renewed heightening and the erection of guard rooms took place between 325 and 255 BCE, this phase coming to an end with a conflagration. The next phase, 185-125 BCE, saw a further heightening and construction of a complex of guard rooms, flank walls and towers. Heightenings went on till the last phase, when the Hunas destroyed the whole complex. Five successive road levels leading to the rampart were identified.
Outside the excavated section of the rampart was an enclosed space formed by the revetment and a return wall meeting at a point closely in alignment with the spine of an altar of the shape of a flying bird with its face to the s-e. The head, body, wings and tail of the ‘bird' were laid in bricks on a specially prepared ground. The shoulders were slightly raised and the head and tail tapered a little. The half-spread right wing had a natural curve. Only the vestiges of the left wing, head and body were available. According to the excavator the altar was utilized for the performance of a human sacrifice (purusa-medha) as elaborated in the Brahmana literature. The sacrifice is believed to have been performed by the founder of the Mitra dynasty whose coins were recovered in abundance from the corresponding levels.
Within the walled city was a monastic complex rectangular on plan, entered through a gate. It has been identified on inscriptional evidence with the Ghositrma monastery, the nucleus of which was laid by the Buddha's disciple Ghosita. Immediately on entering it one would find cells for monks. Beyond this was a cloistered veranda. The main stupa, was a massive structure, square on plan with doubly recessed corners. There were also two subsidiary stupas, a shrine of Hariti and an apsidal structure flanked by two stupas at the entrance, not to speak of several smaller ones which were probably memorials to the monks who once lived in the vihra. The complex showed 16 phases of structural activity, the earliest one probably dating back to the 5th century BCE. In the third phase important additions seem to have been made by Asoka. The cells and the inner veranda came up in the eighth phase. The maximum building activity took place during the times of the Maghas, particularly Bhadrainagha. The boundary wall was erected in the 13th phase. The monastery met its end with the Hunas.
In the s. -w. corner of the fortified area a palace complex was identified on the bank of the Yamuna. The complex occupied an area measuring 315 x 150 m and was indicated on the surface by a widespread scatter of large and small stones, stone fragments and lumps of lime plaster. Two prominent elevations within the complex represented strongly built towers. The walls enclosing the complex were of stone set in lime mortar, the n. one measuring 130 m in length and 6 m in width. The palace was built on a podium 2.5 m high made of mud and mud bricks.
The structural development of the complex could be divided into three phasps on the evidence of building materials and finish. In the first phase the palace was a random-rubble construction, perhaps with a plastered face. In the middle phase dressed stones measuring 66 x 53 x 23 cm were used for the wall face but the core remained the same. In the last phase, following a conflagration, the walls had a brick core veneered with dressed stones. Me corner towers were enlarged and rebuilt. Many were the buildings within the complex. Opposite the central tower was a hall with a room on either side. The flooring was of lime and the walls were plastered with the same material. A flight of steps led up the tower from the shaft A drain of dressed stones, 86 cm deep and 45 cm wide, pertained to. the second phase. The final phase saw a vigorous building activity. The complex now comprised three blocks with two galleries running n.-s. The doors of each block were identical in alignment with each other. The audience hall, 11.50 x 3.42 m was in the central block and was interconnected with rooms. In the last subphase of this phase a network of underground chambers came into being. The superstructures were arched.
The complex is believed to have originated in the 8th Century BCE and the third phase culminated towards the end of the 3rd century CE. But occupation in the area continued for three more centuries.
Alexander Cunningham, the father ofIndian Archaeology divided the historyof India from an antiquarian point of view into three periods: the Vedic Period, the Buddhist Period and the Muslim Period. In his time the Indus Valley Civilization was not known to constitute a distinct phase in the history of the sub-continent.
From Cunningharn's perspective the Vedic period had left no material evidence of its existence. Thus the Buddhist period was the first of the Indian civilizations which left a material trace on the soil of India. The discovery of the Indus Valley civilization has somewhat altered this. But this civilization is still something of a mystery and its connections with the Indo-Aryan civilisation which came after is not known with any certainty. Thus we can still consider the Buddhist civilization as the leaving traces of Aryan material civilization in India.
The remarkable aspect of the Buddhist period is how completely it dominated India in its heyday and how completely it disappeared from the Indian scene. In the period of Buddhist dominance the other religion to have competed with it to some extent was Jainism. Jain archeological remains are almost as old as the Buddhist ones, but they were never as extensive as the Buddhist remains.
Hindu archeological remains begin to appear when Buddhism weakened after the Gupta period in the East and the Kushan period in the North- West. Many Hindu sites are actually Buddhist sites which were converted to Hinduism as this religion began to absorb Buddhism.
The Muslims were responsible for the ~ physical destruction of Buddhism in India, thus completing a work which Hindu revivalism had started.
Much of Indian art and architecture were created during the Buddhist phase of Indian history. Asoka emerges as the leading figure in Indian Buddhism.
The Mauryan empire which climaxed with Asoka was the first pan-Indian empire to emerge in Indian history. While it disintegrated soon after the death of Asoka India had to await the Mughals for the creation of the next pan Indian empire under Akbar. Even so Akbar's empire might have been smaller than that of Asoka. Finally it was left to the British to create the largest empire ever seen in India.
Since the archaeological remains of the Indus Valley Civilization is usually regarded as belonging to the proto-historic archaeology of India the major part of the historical archeology of India is Buddhist in inspiration. Hindu and Muslim archeological remains date from the post- Buddhist phase. This is why the Buddhist archaeology of India retains a pre-eminent place in the story of the historical archaeology of India.
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