Moghalmari excavations unveil West Bengal's Buddhist past

by Shiv Sahay Singh, The Hindu, April 5, 2012

13 in situ figurines, 4 terracotta tables showing Buddha flanked by Bodhisattvas found

West Bengal, India -- Recent excavations at Moghalmari, a Buddhist monastery complex in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district, reveal a historically strong presence of Buddhism in the State which dates as far back as the sixth century AD. This has so far remained largely unnoticed by historians.

“During the excavations carried at the site in March we found 13 different figurines in situ [at the place of their original occurrence] and four votive terracotta tables with Buddha as the central character flanked by Bodhisattvas and bearing Buddhist inscriptions.

These clearly illustrate the presence of a prosperous monastery at the site,” Asok Datta, excavation director of the project, told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

The team led by him excavated the temple complex of the monastery. “There are clear evidences that the monastery was built between sixth century and seventh century AD and continued till the 12th century AD,” Dr. Datta said.

The western wall of the central temple complex has revealed in situ stucco figures of Buddhist deities and gana images. The monastery complex measures 60 metres by 60 metres, the largest so far discovered in West Bengal, he said.

The plan of monastery on excavation has revealed a central temple complex surrounded by a square courtyard with rows of cells all round. Beyond the cells lies a massive outer wall of which the southern segment has been exposed this year. On this wall panels in decorative bricks and stucco animal figures (lime mixed with marble dust and sand) have been exposed.