ISLAMABAD: The only Buddhist monastery in the Taxila valley was a thriving centre of learning at the end of the third century AD.
The monastery attracted so many students and monks from around greater India that its administration built an annex to house the seekers of enlightenment coming to meditate there, archaeologists at Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) have discovered.
Another notable finding was that the main compound of the monastery, located in present-day Badal Pur, is at least 300 years older than archaeologists previously estimated. The main compound, which consists of 55 “monk cells”, was excavated between 2005 and 2012. Read more.
(CNN) — Please bear with me as I ask you to briefly use your imagination. Close your eyes. Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain.
Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments.
Now imagine the menacing sound of bulldozers closing in and men at work. Their heavy machinery rattles the ground. You hear workers rigging dynamite to these massive stone structures. There is a brief lull and then the deafening blow of multiple explosions as Machu Picchu is razed to the ground.
Be at ease, Machu Piccu is a UNESCO protected site. But a very similar 2,600-year-old Buddhist site in Logar province, Afghanistan isn’t so lucky. Read more.
The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (ISAW) presents a major exhibition that explores the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan (shahng-tahng-shahn), the crowning cultural achievement of the sixth-century Northern Qi dynasty (550–77 CE). Carved into the mountains of northern China, the temples were once home to a magnificent array of sculptures—monumental Buddhas, divine attendant figures, and crouching monsters framed by floral motifs. These statues are among the finest embodiments of Chinese Buddhist sculpture and are seminal to our understanding of the history of Chinese Buddhist style and iconography.
The artistic excellence of individual sculptures from Xiangtangshan has long been recognized, but their original context in the caves was lost when the objects were removed in the early twentieth century. Recent research and technologies have made it possible to digitally envision some of the caves as they appeared before they were despoiled. Read more.
Keriya (Xinjiang, China) May 7 (Xinhua-ANI) — The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China’s largest desert, offering valuable research material for historians studying Buddhism’s spread from India to China.
The temple’s main hall, with a rare structure based around three square-shaped corridors and a huge Buddha statue, has been uncovered after two months of hard work in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Dr. Wu Xinhua, the leading archaeologist of the excavation project, said Monday.
“The hall is the largest of its kind found in the Taklimakan Desert since the first archaeologist came to work in the area in the 20th century,” said Wu, also head of the Xinjiang archeological team of the Chinese Academy of Social Science.
The ruins are located in the south of the Taklimakan Desert, in the Tarim Basin, known as the Damago Oasis in the ancient kingdom of Khotan, a Buddhist civilization believed to date back to the 3rd century BC. Read more.
Looking at these caves, visitors were struck with awe at the beauty of the artwork that adorned them. Some may have asked, “Who even knew these were here?” The location was generally off the map in the minds of most tourists and traveling adventurers. But these same visitors would have noticed that something was missing. Rough, blank areas on great sculptures existed where once there were faces. Details were missing here and there. Massive damage was done by looters who chiseled away key portions of the limestone cave masterpieces during the first half of the 20th century and then offered them for sale on the international art market. They were not the creation that they once were.
This was the legacy of the cave temples of Xiangtangshan (響堂山, pronounced “shahng-tahng-shahn”, meaning “Mountain of Echoing Halls”), a group of Buddhist shrines carved directly out of limestone cliffs with sculptural images. Read more.
CHANDRAPUR: The 2,000 year-old Buddhist caves, located in the premises of Mana opencast mines, were demolished by authorities of Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) here on Tuesday evening. They carried out the demolition to excavate huge deposits of coal underneath it and plan to pull down the entire hillock to erase the remains of the caves.
Hindustan Lalpeth Open Cast (HLOC), sub-area of WCL had taken up the excavation of the 300 sq metre block bearing the ancient caves two years ago. Excavation of 1.5 lakh metric tonnes coal deposits was withheld due to these caves.
They had withheld the demolition in 2009, after the collector intervened in the matter, after the religious organizations and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage raised a hue and cry against it. However, their continued excavation around the caves had made it inaccessible. Read more.
PESHAWAR, April 24: As a group of foreign diplomats and their families left the Buddhist remains of Takht Bhai or Takht Bai, as some call it, a number of school girls and other domestic tourists eagerly started climbing the stairs to the monastery situated on a hilltop despite the fact that it was noon and sun was shinning with full vigour.
The school girls, who had come from Guli Bagh Charsadda along with their teacher, waited for more than an hour just to see how the mysterious structures on the top of the hill look like and what meaning they have for the tourists.
The fact that the playful girls enjoyed going up the huge stone-stairs more than looking at the ruins was not something unusual as many people, even educated and familiar with this region, don`t know much about these remains of Gandhara Civilisation.
Majority of the young and old in the `Heritage Caravan` also felt it but they listened attentively as the tourist guide started telling them about the history of the site.
“The purpose of starting Heritage Caravan to historic places like archaeological site of Takht Bhai is to show to the youth what these places mean for us and why we should preserve them for the posterity,” said the assistant curator of Peshawar Museum, Mehr Tabaan, while guiding tourists at the site. Read more.
A rescue operation is underway to save as much as possible from ancient Buddhist monasteries in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, before the mountains become an open-cast mine and the site is destroyed. In what is now the world’s largest archaeological dig, around 1,000 workers are trying to excavate artefacts from the country’s second most important Buddhist site (along with Hadda), after Bamiyan.
The site, a former training camp of Osama bin Laden, has been leased to a Chinese mining company for copper production. Only what can be excavated and removed to safety will be saved.
Despite the impending archaeological loss, Mes Aynak has received scant attention internationally. Moreover, Afghanistan’s heritage has suffered much in recent years from civil war, looting and the vandalism of the Taliban.
Mes Aynak (Little Copper Well) lies 25 miles south-east of Kabul, in a barren region. The Buddhist monasteries date from the third to the seventh centuries, and are located near the remains of ancient copper mines. It is unclear whether the monastery was originally established to serve the miners or if the monks set up there to work the mines themselves. Read more.