Archaeologists have found evidence of Buddhist shrines in Lumbini's pilgrimage centre dating to around 550 B.C., making them the oldest signs of Buddhist worship known so far.
An international team led by Prof. Robin Coningham of the University of Durham (UK) and archaeologist Kosh Prasad Acharya, recently detected older wooden structures under a brick shrine as they excavated in prime pilgrimage area of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
"Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition", Coningham pointed out. "Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century B.C."
This points to Buddhist activity around Lumbini long before the Emperor Asoka who built four stupas and one stone pillar in 249 B.C., making the site become an important centre of Buddhism.
The discovery has boosted willingness to further preserve and manage Lumbini. "The Government of Nepal will spare no effort to preserve this significant site," said Ram Kumar Shrestha, Nepal's Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.
The excavation project is expected to go into its second phase shortly, extending its amplitude unto the wider Lumbini area.
Lumbini is a World Heritage site since 1997.
Photo Credit: Ira Block/National Geographic