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World's second-largest Buddhist stupa discovered in Bihar

Compiled by Tipitaka Network newsdesk, Sunday, February 15, 2009

Archaeologists have discovered a huge Buddhist stupa in Bihar's Nalanda district, officials said Monday. A team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) located the brick stupa in the village of Ghorakatora near Giriyak on the banks of the Panchani River, about 100 km from Patna.

"The latest stupa discovered at Ghorakatora is unique as it is second in size only to the Kesaria stupa in East Champaran district. The Kesaria stupa is regarded as the largest Buddhist stupa in the world," said Sujit Nayan, an archaeologist in charge of the team that made the discovery.

The stupa is around 20 to 25 feet high, the official said.

"More excavacation is needed to make a final assessment of the stupa," he added.

According to Nayan, the stupa's structure may belong to the Mauryan period (321-185BC).

Nayan said the structure was built of random rubble dry stone masonry. Similar architectural technique has been found to be used in constructing the cyclopean wall to fortify an area of 32 sq-km near the mountain of Rajgir - the capital city of the Magadha Empire. The outstanding cyclopean wall is particularly noted for his military significance.

A team from the ASI is currently studying the stupa. The team is excavating nearly a two square-kilometre area of the site.

Earlier, the ASI had started the excavation work at Ghorakatora mound near Giriyak in 2008 to unravel the ancient mysteries concealed in the ancient hills of Nalanda.

The excavation at Ghorakatora mound - that has largely followed a grid pattern - had begun initially with a contour map and a firm belief that the exercise would throw fresh light on the existing ancient Nalanda site. It has come true now.

Nayan's archaeological endeavour also assumes special significance because fewer architectural remains of the Maurya period are currently available. Incidentally, the most widely acknowledged examples of exquisitely decorated Maurya architecture are the Pillars of Ashoka.

The three best-known Buddhist universities, Nalanda, Vikramasila and Odantpuri, were all in eastern India, in the region of present-day Bihar. In fact, Bihar derives its name from the many viharas that flourished there.

The greatest of these monastic centres was at Nalanda, which was a hub of learning for pilgrims and scholars from all corners of Asia once upon a time.

The ancient seat of learning is said to have been founded in 5th Century AD. Well-known Chinese scholar Hieun Tsang stayed in Nalanda in the 7th Century and left detailed description of the education system and monastic life practised at the university.

The excavation is also likely to throw more light on the dating of Lord Buddha, the place of Buddha's relics buried somewhere near Rajgir, and antiquities of pre-Buddha period.

source: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28822&sectionid=4&issueid=92&Itemid=1
source: http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/004200902091517.htm
source: http://www.newkerala.com/topstory-fullnews-89570.html

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