Rare Gupta Period Sculptures Discovered in Sarnath Excavations

Sarnath in Varanasi (UP) is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon and thus it is also called the place of origin of Buddhism.

Archaeological Survey of India has once again started excavations at the Protected Site of Sarnath from 19th February, 2014 after a gap of over 80 years with the main objective of collecting samples for dating in the labs through C14 method from the earliest levels of the site to find out if there are remains of pre-Mauryan era available at the site as the site in the past has yielded remains of the time of King Asoka but Buddha had come to the site more than 200 years before Asoka and stayed there for some time and a well established monastic system existed afterwards which is also mentioned in the pillar edict of Asoka from the site.

Dr B.R. Mani, Additional Director General, Archaeological Survey of India who is directing the excavation informed that during the British period in excavations not much emphasis was given on stratigraphy and succession of cultural deposits and as such in spite of so many years of early excavations no section drawing is available.

The second objective of present excavation is also to define different strata from the earliest times to the 12th century A.D. when the site was abandoned after medieval period attacks. In one of the trenches near the circular shrine some rare pieces of Gupta art of Sarnath school depicting Lord Buddha in various postures have been found which are considered to be very significant find. The work is supervised by Shri Ajay Srivastava, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, Sarnath.

Both seated and standing Buddha images have been recovered from Gupta levels in one of the trenches. One important sculpture of Buddha is depicting the scene of his descent from Tusita heaven where he is believed to have given sermon to his mother Mayadevi and the place where he descended from heaven is famous as Sankassa in Pali literature and identified with the fortified city of Sankisa in Farukhabad district, incidently which was also excavated by Dr Mani from 1995 to 1997.

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