Bihar stupa could contain Buddha relics

The Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) is set to begin excavation of a newly-found ancient stupa that was badly damaged and has been lying neglected for centuries in Bihar’s Begusarai district, an official said Saturday.

The Patna circle of the ASI has identified the location of the stupa at Harsai near Garhpura village. Archeaologists here believe that it could be one of the eight original stupas built to house the relics of Lord Buddha.

“Going by the physical appearance of the stupa and the use of mud lumps denotes that it could be one of the eight original stupas housing the Buddha’s corporeal relics. But that can be determined only after excavation,” the superintending archaeologist of ASI (Patna circle) SK Manjul said.

According to ancient scriptures, after the Buddha was cremated, there was a disagreement over the division of his remains. They were then divided into eight parts and distributed among the eight powerful kingdoms and republics, which laid claim over them. All of them buried their share of relics in stupas specially built to serve as markers of the physical presence of the Buddha and his teachings.

Till date archaeologists have identified six of them. “If this stupa turned to be seventh, it can be the ASI’s biggest discovery,” he said.

Manjul said the ASI plans to start the excavation in the next few months this year. “The ASI’s central advisory board of archaeology has already granted an excavation license to an archeaologist of ASI’s Patna circle to undertake the work,” Manjul said.

According to ASI officials here, the stupa may also turn out to be the only one, which emperor Ashoka could not open to take out the relics for distribution over the Indian sub-continent.

This stupa is made of sun-dried clay lumps and fixed with mud mortars and later strengthened with layers of gravel and burnt bricks. It is currently in a bad shape. The stupa is threatened by local resident, who are minning it for clay.

“Some local people have damaged a part of it to extend the agriculture fields.The stupa is lying neglected as it is unprotected till date,” he said.

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