The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed a Buddhist monastery, believed to be at least 900 years old, buried under a mound in a village situated in a hilly area of Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand. The finding comes two months after discovery of an ancient Buddhist shrine, buried under a similar mound, barely 100 metres away.
Over the past four days, an team from the Patna branch of ASI has excavated 10 stone statues of deity Tara and the Buddha in Burhani village near Juljul Pahar of Sitagarhi Hills, around 12 km from district headquarters Hazaribagh. On Thursday, they found a sculpture which appears to be that of Shaivite deity Maheswari – with a coiled crown and chakra – indicating cultural assimilation in the area, said ASI officials. Many residents in the area had found ancient idols in the area while constructing their houses, leading to the discovery of the place. The central agency has now established that the site was not only a shrine or a monastery, but a well-developed city of its time.
Archaeologists said the findings were significant since the monastery is on the old route to Varanasi, 10 km from Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first sermon. They said the presence of statues of deity Tara shows possible proliferation of Vajrayana form of Buddhism in this region. The ASI had first started excavating the site in November 2019, but had to pause it for some months due to the lockdown.