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Oldest (550 B.C.) Buddhist shrine unearthed in Lumbini, Nepal

By Gaurav Manandhar at

The recent discovery made by the archaeologists have unearthed the remains of “earliest ever Buddhist shrine”.

The 6th century timber structure was excavated beneath the Maya devi temple in Lumbini, Nepal – the long identified birthplace of the Buddha. This discovery may help settle dispute over when and where the revered religious leader was born as a prince, before he left his royal life. The shrine appears to have housed a tree, which links to the Buddha nativity story - his mother gave birth to him while holding on to the branch of a tree in the Lumbini garden, midway between the kingdoms of her husband and parents.

The timber shrine represents the first archaeological evidence linking the Birth of Buddha and the religion he founded in the specific century.

The historical evidence regarding Buddha and Buddhism suggest was believed to have stretched back to the time of Emperor Asoka who openly embraced the religion following the bloodshed left by his war on various city states back then in the third century BC. But the latest development after the discovery suggests that Buddha was born two centuries earlier than that period.

Radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence techniques were used to date fragments of charcoal and grains of sand found at the site.

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"No previous scholars have actually managed to expose and date pre-Asokan structures," says Robin Coningham, an archaeologist at Durham University, UK. "Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the 6th century BC," he added. "This is one of those rare occasions when belief, traditions, archaeology and science come together."

Coningham co-directed an international team of archeologists at Lumbini that was funded in part by the Washington-based National Geographic Society, which plans to telecast a documentary, "Buried Secrets of the Buddha," worldwide in February.

It is believed that the discovery could help the conservation efforts of the temple with historical and religious importance as it is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites for Buddhists all over the world. Despite the temple being listed as UNESCO World heritage sites, the conservational efforts have been neglected by the local authorities in the past.

"These discoveries are very important to better understand the birthplace of the Buddha," said Ram Kumar Shrestha, Nepal's minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation.

"The government of Nepal will spare no effort to preserve this significant site." He further added.

Source: Various News Agencies

Image Source: National Geographic News