Sixth century Buddhist statue discovered

ANI, May 24, 2005

Sirpur, India -- Indian archaeologists have discovered a rare statue of a Buddhist female monk dating back to the sixth century. The discovery was made during recent excavations in Sirpur, situated 84 kms. from Raipur, capital of central Chhattisgarh state.

The excavators unearthed the statue of Haritika, who as per legend abducted infants and later on killed them.

Arun Kumar Sharma, chief of the excavation project, said that it was for the first time they have discovered the image of Haritika, which proves that female deities were as popular as their male counterparts in that era.

"This is for the first time the image of Haritiki has been found in Sirpur. So far Jambal image was discovered but this Haritiki is first, which too inscribed in 6th century. It shows that female deities were as important as the male deities," Sharma said.

The archaeologists have also excavated a unique nine-room area with eight ladders leading to the rooms.

Rare emblems of Hindu lord Shiva have also been discovered for which the excavators are trying to trace the roots.

"So far I have excavated nearly seven mounds and this (includes) Shiva temples. This Buddha Vihar (residence) is unique. You have to climb eight steps to enter the Buddha Vihar and there are nine rooms and 12 pillared Mandapa (a columned hall) in the centre and in the south there is a sanctum sanctorum where Buddha statue must have been there, which is stolen," Sharma said.

Buddhism in India began with the life of Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.), also known as the "Buddha", a prince from a small kingdom located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal who sacrificed luxury and wandered as a beggar in search of meaningful life.

At the age of eighty, the Buddha achieved his final passing away and died, leaving a thriving monastic order and a community to carry forth his work.

Legend says that when Buddha came to know about it, he kidnapped the two-year-old child of Haritika which made her realise the sufferings of the mothers. Haritika then turned into a monk to remorse her past conduct.

Till 13th century, the monastery in eastern Nalanda in Bihar was a world centre for Buddhist philosophy and religion. Though Buddhism has its roots in India, the religion has all but vanished from the country but is widely followed in East and South East Asia.