Excavations prove spread of Buddhism in TN: ASI

Tiruchirappalli (TN), Sep 7: Dispelling the belief that Buddhism did not have a firm footing in Tamil Nadu barring a few pockets, excavations of Buddhist Vihara and a temple at Kaveripumpattinam and hundreds of stone sculptures and bronzes by ASI from over 125 sites have proved the spread of the religion in the state.

The recent finding of Buddhist vestiges in the form of stone sculptures and bronzes from these sites divulged the once flourishing condition of Buddhist religion in the state, a senior official of Archaeological Survey of India said.

These findings, especially of the Buddhist edificies at Nagapattinam, built with foreign help, also proved that India had strong trade ties with other nations in ancient days, ASI Director D Dayalan said.

Interestingly, plotting of the sites in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry revealed not only the distribution pattern, mostly in the coastal region, but also their trade links, both maritime and overland, he said.

There had been a strong link between Buddhism and trade centres. All those main business and commercial centres, including Napatapattinam, Puducherry, Chennai and Tiruvarur also had Buddhist sites.

Trade centres had flourished in all Buddhist sites all over the country. These trade routes were primary means by which Buddhist thought and imagery were conveyed from India, birthplace of Buddhism, to other Asian countries and also within, he said.

That there was a strong link between India and China had been revealed by a noteworthy feature - many sites in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry also yielded Chinese and South-East Asian pottery and relics, the ASI director said.

Not only that, pottery was brought from Italy and other western countries. Aficionados from Sri Lanka and South East Asia frequented Buddhist sites, not only in Tamil Nadu, but even in Andhra Pradesh.

Dayalan said their team noticed a 1.03m Buddha statue in 'padmasana' pose in remote Tirunattiyattankudi village in Tiruvarur district when digging a tank in a field.

The 'Ushnisa', the cranial protuberance symbolising buddhahood in the form of a flame, found in almost all Buddha sculptures in Tamil Nadu, was partly broken.

The head was separated from the body and both are now fixed together. Interestingly a large number of potsherds and bricks of medieval period were noticed in the trench from which the statue was dug out, he said, adding it perhaps indicated a temple of that period of these Buddha statues existed in the area.


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