archaeology

Bamiyan Buddhas: Should they be rebuilt?

Stephanie Hegarty, BBC: The destruction of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 led to global condemnation of the Taliban regime. But the decision by Unesco not to rebuild them has not put an end to the debate about their future.

When the Taliban were at the height of their power in Afghanistan, leader Mullah Omar waged a war against idolatry.

His biggest victims, in size as well as symbolism, were two standing stone Buddhist statues. Once the largest in the world – one measured 55 metres in height – they were carved into the sandstone cliff face of the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan during the 6th Century …

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Ancient Buddha attacked by Taliban in Pakistan gets facelift thanks to Italian archaeologist

When the Taliban blew the face off a towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving of Buddha in northwest Pakistan almost five years ago, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue.

Thanks to the efforts of Luca Olivieri and his partners, the 6-meter (nearly 20-foot)-tall image near the town of Jahanabad is getting a facelift, and many other archaeological treasures in the scenic Swat Valley are being excavated and preserved.

Hard-line Muslims have a history of targeting Buddhist, Hindu and other religious sites they consider heretical to Islam. Six months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Taliban shocked the world by …

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‘Buddha’ goes to the hospital: A convergence of science, history and art

Emi Kolawole, Washington Post: The hospital admissions sheet simply read: “Name: Buddha; DOB: 1662.”

The 350-year-old patient’s visit started with a routine x-ray in the summer of 2008. But doctors discovered there were signs of an unknown mass inside his head and yet another inside his stomach – objects that his new caretakers were intent on identifying and extracting if at all possible. The x-ray wasn’t detailed enough to make a proper diagnosis, so doctors at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville cleared the schedule and ordered a CAT scan.

After a trip through the scanner, receiving a radiation dose higher than …

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Ancient Buddhist temple found in China’s Taklimakan desert

Xinhua: The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China’s largest desert, offering valuable research material for historians studying Buddhism’s spread from India to China.

The temple’s main hall, with a rare structure based around three square-shaped corridors and a huge Buddha statue, has been uncovered after two months of hard work in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Dr. Wu Xinhua, the leading archaeologist of the excavation project, said Monday.

“The hall is the largest of its kind found in the Taklimakan Desert since the first archaeologist came to work in the area in the 20th century,” said Wu, also head of the Xinjiang archeological team of the Chinese Academy of Social Science.

The ruins are located in the south of the Taklimakan Desert, in the Tarim Basin, known as the Damago Oasis in the ancient kingdom of Khotan, a Buddhist civilization believed to date back to the 3rd century BC.

Temple halls with square-shaped corridors stemmed from early Buddhist architecture in India, and gradually disappeared after the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420AD-589AD), when Buddhist architecture in China began to pick up its own characteristics, according to Xiao Huaiyan, a member of the excavation team and a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Judging from the layout of the ruins, and the artifacts uncovered at the site, Wu and his colleagues believe the temple dates back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties.

It is so far the best Buddhist site for scholars to study how the religion arrived in China from India, and its early development in the country, said Wu.

Judging from the size of the pedestal on which it would have rested, the missing Buddha statue should be at least three meters tall, reaching the size limits of the hall when its roof was intact, he estimates.

The innermost corridor extends six meters from both south to north and from east to west, the second corridor is 10 meters long and 10 meters wide, while the hall’s wall surrounds an area of 256 square meters.

Still visible on corridor walls are mural paintings of items including the Buddha’s feet, Buddhists and auspicious animals. They are painted in a Greco-Buddhist artistic style, which was seldom seen after the 6th century.

Ruins of several residential structures were found to the southwest of the main hall, along with some pottery kilns and ancient coins.

There is still a scripture hall, a stupa and residential houses for Buddhists to be uncovered, Wu added.

The southern end of the ancient Silk Road, a major historical trade route, went across the 337,000-square-km Taklimakan Desert, and a wide variety of cultural heritage items have been buried in what is now known as the “sea of death.”

In 1901, British explorer Marc Aurel Stein trekked far out in the desert and into the ruins of Niya, an ancient Pompeii-like city with homes, Buddhist stupas, temples, pottery kilns, orchards, tombs, waterways and dams.

Since then, more than 10 Buddhist sites have been discovered by archaeologists from China and abroad in the Damago Oasis.

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Buddha relics unearthed in Jammu-Kashmir

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently unearthed a Buddha Stupa in Jammu and Kashmir’s Amvaran village.

It is reported to be the seventh site in the world where relics of the Buddha have been found.

The stupa is said to have been erected by the Kushana Empire in the first century BC.

“This site was established around first century BC in Kushana period, and the relic, tooth relic of Lord Buddha was deposited at the time, which we have found in the reliquary,” said ASI archaeologist A K Khanna.

“The reliquary found in the stupa contain part of a tooth, some ashes, then there are coins, along with 38 foils of gold and there are beads,” he added.

The digging revealed many idols, gemstones, bronze and copper artifacts, and silver and gold foils.

[via OneIndia]
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Buddhist shrine included in World Heritage list

MSNBC: Monks, scholars celebrate at Buddha’s enlightenment site in India

Monks chanted mantras as 400 worshippers from 25 countries gathered Thursday at Buddhism’s most sacred shrine to celebrate its inclusion in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Buddhists believe that Gautama Siddhartha, a prince from a Himalayan kingdom, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha 2,500 years ago while meditating under a bodhi tree where the Mahabodhi Temple stands at the Bodh Gaya religious center.

Buddhists believe that Gautama Siddhartha, a prince from a Himalayan kingdom, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha 2,500 years ago while meditating under a bodhi tree where the Mahabodhi Temple stands at the Bodh Gaya religious center.

The 164-foot temple, which dates from the 5th or 6th centuries, is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, according to UNESCO.

The temple was declared a UNESCO heritage site in June 2002, but it took several months to prepare before the formal dedication could be held Thursday with the lighting of lamps, beating of drums and reciting of Buddhist scriptures by monks in red and saffron robes.

“We the people of India … would like peace and harmony to prevail in the world in the true spirit of Buddhism. We, therefore dedicate this temple to the world,” said Indian Tourism Minister Jagmohan, who uses one name.

Discord over seating arrangements
There was some discord at the ceremony in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, however, when five monks walked out in protest over the seating arrangements.

Bhadant Dhammaviriyo, president of the Monks Association at Bodh Gaya, objected to the chanting monks being seated on the floor, while other visitors — like a Cambodian princess and Singapore’s Trade Minister George Yeo — sat in luxurious chairs.

“This arrangement is in total violation of the established Buddhist tradition, where the monks are accorded a high pedestal,” said Dhammaviriyo. The temple’s chief priest, known as Bodhipal, refused to respond to the monks’ complaint, and some left.

Touching on another controversy, Tourist Minister Jagmohan said “shops and residential establishments will have to be relocated” and he urged the state government to remove beggars and vendors from the temple area.

For months leading up to the dedication, shopkeepers, residents and vendors have protested eviction plans and officials say many have erected makeshift constructions recently in hopes that they’ll be declared as part of the existing site and allowed to remain.

Bodh Gaya is about 80 miles southeast of Patna, capital of Bihar, considered India’s most lawless state.

UNESCO is responsible for implementing the 1972 U.N. Convention on the protection of cultural and natural sites around the world, with 754 sites listed in more than 120 countries.

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