Buddhist monastery from 700 AD found

by Shiv Sahay Singh, Apr 03, 2010

Kolkata, India -- The excavations at Moghalmari, a nondescript village at West Midnapore in West Bengal, recently brought to the fore a gateway complex of the Buddhist monastery, dating to 7th century AD.

The Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, carried out the excavations from February 15 to March 25.

Archeologists believe that the structural components recovered from the site are parts of a gateway complex of the monastery.

The gateway complex comprises two pilasters or columns built on a curve of gradually ascending bricks of decorative varieties. The pilasters form part of the lateral blocks of the architectural embellishments on either side of what seems like a rammed entrance leading to sets of staircases on both the exterior and interior sides of the northern segment of the complex.

Fragmentary sculptural pieces, terracotta lamps, sprinklers and designer bricks are some of the artifacts that signify the existence of a prosperous monastic establishment at the site.

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“The various designer bricks that have been excavated are unique in this part of the country,” said Rajat Sanyal, lecturer at the Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, who has been associated with the excavation since its inception.

The mound at Moghalmari is approximately 80 x 80 metres in dimension and has an average elevation of 15 metres. This, archaeologists say, is just about 25 per cent of the entire mound. Archaeologists believe that it is one of the most promising early medieval sites of eastern India.

Prior to this, Raktamrittika Mahavihara was excavated in Murshibadad in 1962 by archaeologists of the University of Calcutta, under the leadership of S R Das.

Subsequently, another monastery of the Pala period was excavated in the ‘90s by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, West Bengal, at Jagjivanpur in Malda district.

With its pre-Pala monastic, Moghalmari proves the fostering of the Buddhist tradition in southwestern Bengal, say experts.

“Possibly, Moghalmari represents the largest monastic complex so far excavated in West Bengal. We are hopeful that further excavations here will open new vistas on the development of Buddhism in Eastern India”, said Asok Datta, excavation director of Moghalmari and a Reader with the Department or Archaeology, University of Calcutta.

Enthusiastic about the findings, the village-level organisation and local administrative authorities have put up billboards describing the Buddhist monastery on NH-60 and the village roads.

“We want the Moghalmari site to be fully excavated.

It can serve as an important tourist site. From the panchayat samiti, we have offered all possible help for excavation,” said T M Rakshit, Block Development Officer, Dantan.