News / Science & Technology

'Earliest' Buddhist Shrine Discovered

Archaeologists Robin Coningham (left) and Kosh Prasad Acharya direct excavations within the Maya Devi Temple, uncovering a series of ancient temples contemporary with the Buddha. Thai monks meditate. (Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic)
Archaeologists Robin Coningham (left) and Kosh Prasad Acharya direct excavations within the Maya Devi Temple, uncovering a series of ancient temples contemporary with the Buddha. Thai monks meditate. (Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic)

Related Articles

Volcano Discovered Under Antarctic Ice

Scientists say the volcano will likely erupt at some point, but probably not with enough force to break through the ice.

Video 24,000 Year-old Skeleton Reveals Clues about Native American Origins

The discovery raises new questions about the timing of human entry in Alaska and ultimately North America

Video Regional Security Boosts Archeology in Northern Iraq

Relative security in Iraqi Kurdistan draws unprecedented numbers of foreign antiquity scholars, produces spike in excavations
VOA News
Archeologists have found what they’re calling the “earliest” Buddhist shrine yet discovered.

The shrine, which they say dates back to the sixth century B.C., also pushes the date of the Buddha’s birth back 300 years, as it was widely thought he was born in the third century B.C.

Working at the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, Nepal, a UNESCO World Heritage site and long considered the birthplace of Buddha, a team of archeologists uncovered the timber shrine under a series of brick temples.

“Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition,” said lead researcher, Robin Coningham from the U.K.’s Durham University’s Archaeology Department.

“We wanted to go back to archaeology to try to answer some of the questions about his birth,” he added. “Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century B.C.”

Laid out on the same design as the brick shrines above it, the timber structure contained an open space in the center that links to the nativity story of the Buddha himself.

Buddhist tradition records that Queen Maya Devi, the mother of the Buddha, gave birth to him while holding on to the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden. The researchers suggest the open space in the center of the most ancient shrine may have accommodated a tree.

Lumbini is one of the key sites associated with the life of the Buddha; others are Bodh Gaya, where he became a Buddha or enlightened one; Sarnath, where he first preached; and Kusinagara, where he passed away.

Lumbini was rediscovered in 1896 and identified as the birthplace of the Buddha due to the presence of a third-century B.C. sandstone pillar. The pillar, which still stands, bears an inscription documenting a visit by Emperor Asoka, a key figure in the spread of Buddhism, to the site of the Buddha’s birth as well as the site’s name — Lumbini.

When the Buddha died at the age of 80, he is said to have recommended that Buddhists visit Lumbini. The shrine was still popular in the middle of the first millennium A.D. and was described by Chinese pilgrims as having a shrine beside a tree.

It is estimated that half a billion people around the world are Buddhists, and by 2020, some 22 million Buddhist pilgrims are expected in South Asia; many hundreds of thousands make a pilgrimage to Lumbini each year.

The research is published in the international journal Antiquity.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid