The first hilltop Buddhist monastery of the Gangetic Valley has been found at Lal Pahari in Lakhisarai district of the state, said its excavation team director Anil Kumar.
Excavated during a joint collaboration of the Bihar Heritage Development Society, a part of the department of art, culture and youth affairs and the Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, this finding is believed to be a great centre of Mahayana Buddhism.
“Monasteries have been discovered at many locations in this area. But this is the first set up located at the top of a hill. Seems the Mahayani Buddhists set up the monastery far from the hustle and bustle of the human population to practise Mahayana rituals in isolation,” said Dr Anil Kumar from Visva Bharati University.
It was a Vihara, named as Srimaddharmaviharik aryabhiksusanghasya. This can be translated as ‘this is the sealing of the council of monks of Srimaddharma Vihara’. Two burnt clay seals carrying the name of the monastery have also been discovered at the site,” he said.
The Visva-Bharati University teacher said the discovery of the monastery has proved what the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang had written in his travel account. He had mentioned that the area had numbers of monasteries and caves and that even Lord Buddha used to stay here.
“This area was known as Krimila. This name is mentioned in Buddhist literature also,” Kumar said. During the Pala period this area turned into a great trade point and was the administrative centre of the Pala rulers, he added.
“Importantly the great archaeologist Alexander Cunningham too had discovered many monasteries and temples in the area and had discussed it in his book. But excavation was not conducted here,” he said.
The state government has made elaborate conservation plans to preserve the monastic structure.
To stop Natural decay of the excavated structures because of exposure to extreme weather conditions and weathering, the state archaeology has planned to erect a shed over the remains of the monastery. While a pathway will be created to reach to the hilltop, the area around the monastic remains will be barricaded to stop unwanted movement at the excavated site.