Tuesday, 3rd March 2015

Gallery: Tracing Buddha

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Thai monks inside the Maya Devi Temple meditate over the remains of the oldest Buddhist shrine in the world at Lumbini, Nepal.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
Archaeologist Robin Coningham of England’s Durham University emerges from the dig at the Lumbini Village Mound in Nepal, where a secular settlement contemporary with the earliest temple was discovered.

Monks chant within the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini in Nepal. The modern temple enshrines the birthplace of the Buddha.
Archaeologist Robin Coningham works in the trench in the remains of an ancient monastery, with the Maya Devi Temple in the background.
Archaeologists Robin Coningham (left) and Kosh Prasad Acharya direct excavations within the Maya Devi Temple, uncovering a series of ancient temples contemporary with the Buddha. Thai monks meditate.
Pilgrims meditate by a stone pillar erected by the ancient king Asoka in the third century B.C., with the Maya Devi Temple in the background.
A pilgrim meditates at a sacred ‘Bodhi tree’ within the Sacred Garden of Lumbini, Nepal.
Pilgrims meditate at the wall below the nativity scene within the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, Nepal. The remains of the earliest temples at the site are in the background.



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