2nd century “future Buddha” sculpture discovered at ancient site near Taxila

APP, June 20, 2008

WAH CANTT, Pakistan -- The archaeologists team of the Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums found a statue of Bodhisattva Maitreya made of black shiest stone belongs to second century AD at the Buddhist monastery locally called Badal Pur situated about 13 km north-east of Taxila Museum.

While talking to newsmen here Friday, Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Khan, Director Exploration of Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums who is conducting the excavation and preservation of this ancient site unveiled that during excavations recently a sculpture of Bodhisattva Maitreya, future Buddha discovered.

He said that the sculpture belongs to second century AD of Kenshka-I dysteny is made of black shiest stone and size is measuring two feet high and 16 inches wide.

He said that other important antiquities were also discovered recently including a relic casket made of soap stone, three grinding mills with Kharashoti inscription in which name of the owner is engraved, ten coins, four iron and copper monastery bells and more than ten beads are also discovered. He said that assembly hall is also found in the monastery in good shape and being excavated and preserved accordingly.

He said that this is important discovery in Taxila valley as it would not only open new chapters of the history for the archaeologists and researchers of Gandhara as well as Buddhism but also attract more tourists from abroad especially Buddhist countries.

He said that in the current excavation at the site during last couple of months other major and significant discoveries were made from this ancient site including sores of articles, including five chhattra (umbrellas) of votive stupas, a big iron pan with one meter dia, 188 copper coins, 128 sealing, a ritual copper pot, a surgical instrument, copper plates, copper pendants, a copper bell, copper strainers, iron objects like nails, clamps, hinges, a saw,

door bosses, stands, strips and a number of potteries like storage jars, pots, bowls, terra-cotta oil lamps and a heart shape schist stone lamp. Besides, the remains of eight monks’ cells (rooms) have been discovered. The walls of the cells still retain mud plasters both on interior and exterior surfaces, which are in a good state of preservation.

While giving the significance of the site, he said that this stupa and monastery belongs to early Kushan period (first century AD). He said that monastery comprises 2.9 acres of land.

Dr Asharf, who posses doctorial degree from Sorbonne University France in Buddhist art and culture and having over 27 years experience in archeology with credit of preservation and restoration of many Buddhist sites especially Junna Wali Dehri where he discovered the first and only Mural painting of Buddha and golden coins.

He said that the Stupa of the site would be preserved in future. He said that the stupa of this site has its own significance and importance. He said that this is one of the biggest stupa of the Taxila valley. He said that this stupa has significance, as it is unique in Buddhist architecture as it is only site in Taxila where huge boulders of local limestone used with conjure molding.

He said that in year 1925, Natisa Aiyar has partially executed the stupa. He said that if the stupa along with two chapels is excavated, one could discover important antiquities besides attracting more tourists and researchers.

Responding a question, he said that the renowned British Archeologist Sir John Marshall, who first time conducted excavations at Taxila valley in 1916-17, his early report mentioned this site as non-potential site for lack of antiquities.

But the Department of Archaeology and Museums also recovered other rare antiquities from here including one gold coin, two copper coins of Kushan dynasty, two ring stones and three copper bells. He said that these new discoveries would open new chapters of archeological history of Taxila valley civilization for the researchers and students of Buddhism.