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In major breakthrough, ASI traces exquisite Buddhist monastery at Jharkhand’s sleepy village

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In addition to several Buddhist deities and statues like that of Taras, Buddha, found at the site, the ASI has also come across a handful of Shaivite remains including the Shaivite goddess Maheswari.(Credit: The Indian Express)

A sleepy village called Bahoranpur which lies in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district has in the past few weeks turned quite famous as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered a huge Buddhist monastery which is estimated to be 900 years old by the Sitagraha hills, the Indian Express reported. The small village since the discovery of the monastery is now attracting hundreds of people everyday who want to behold about a millennium old Buddhist deities and other historical elements. The site has overnight also become a flourishing source of employment for a large number of people with several tea shops and juice corners finding their way into the distant village. As per the villagers account there are days when the number of visitors even go beyond 5000.

Prajapati, a skilled labourer who reached the site recently told the Indian Express that he hopes that the site excavation continues for the coming days so that he can also find some work at the site. In addition to several Buddhist deities and statues like that of Taras, Buddha, found at the site, the ASI has also come across a handful of Shaivite remains including the Shaivite goddess Maheswari.

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Assistant Archeologist, Excavator Branch III Patna Niraj Kumar Mishra told the Indian Express that the ASI team in January this year found a mound near Juljul Pahar in the Sitagarhi hills which upon excavation turned into a huge Buddhist monastery with open courtyard and rooms along the sides. Within weeks the news of site discovery spread in the media and two statues from the site were stolen only to be restored at the site by Ranchi police. The police arrested two thieves from Ranchi and recovered the statues from their possession. Antiquities are sold in the international market at an astronomical price with Buddhist antiquities being in huge demand in South East and South Asian region.

Mahesh Tigga, who is the head of Gurhet panchayat told the Indian Express that villagers have requested the government to construct a museum at their village and house all the findings inside the museum. Tigga further said that the villagers don’t want the government to take these findings out from their village.

The first archaeological discovery in this region is traced back to about three decades ago when in 1992 veteran environmentalist and tribal arts conservationist Bulu Imam discovered pottery and remains of Buddhist relics and statues in the region. Imam had then estimated the timeline of the Buddhist antiquities discovered by him to a period between 300 BC and the period of the Palas (8th to 12th centuries AD).

The monastery which has been found recently lies on the ancient trade route from Varanasi to Tamralipti. Imam who is now 79 and manages a museum told the Indian Express that he had notified ASI to excavate the site in the year 1992 and it took ASI about three decades to do so. Terming the ASI’s finding of the recent site the most significant archaeological discovery in Jharkhand in modern India, Imam said no other site in Jharkhand has been found with the Buddha statues of this quality and beauty.

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