Ancient Buddha plaque excavated in Vadnagar

by Ankur Jain,TNN, Aug 18, 2008

AHMEDABAD, India -- This one could well put Gujarat under the purview of scholars and researchers studying Buddhism.

In an interesting development, archaeologists of Gujarat state archaeological department have unearthed a plaque depicting scenes from Buddha's life dating to as far as 1,900 years ago. The plaque was found recently at Ghaskol Darwaja archaeological excavation site in Vadnagar.

"The grey, half-cut plaque in slate stone depicts a popular scene from Buddha's life, in which a monkey offers him honey during his stay in the jungle," says the department's director YS Rawat.

Archaeologists believe that the plaque is from first or second century AD as the trend of depicting Buddha in sculpture began in Mahayana period after the first century.

Archaeologists from the state have earlier also found Buddha idol and artifacts that were used by Buddhist monks, underpinning the presence of Buddhist monks in Vadnagar. "In the 1990s we found a Buddhist statue and a clay artifact, similar to one used by Buddhist monks and was also found in places like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan where these monks had travelled," adds Rawat .

The presence of Buddhist monks in Vadnagar has also been mentioned by Chinese traveller Hieun Tsanghad in his travelogue. Tsanghad visited Vadnagar between 640 and 644 AD and has documented presence of 1,000 Buddhist monks and 10 Buddhist monasteries in and around Vadnagar town known as Anandpur in that era.

Talking about the on-going excavation, Rawat says, "From the three different sites in Vadnagar, we have excavated around 2,000 pieces of archaeological importance, including a 2,000-year-old housing structure, numerous clay utensils, silver coins, beads, ornaments, Roman style head sculpture, turbaned face clay plaque."