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Maiden date with Mahaparinirvana

- Rare sculpture of Gupta period found

A rare sculpture of Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana posture has been found at Maher village of Tankuppa block on Rajauli-Gaya highway.

The sculpture was found around a month ago in the process of documentation of ancient Magadh comprising the Patna and Magadh divisions of present Bihar by a team of Nav Nalanda Mahavihara (NMM), a deemed university functioning at Nalanda. The documentation work is being done by the NMM team under the project, Revival of Ancient Buddhist Pilgrimage in Bihar.

Deepak Anand, a member of the documentation team, claimed that this was a rare find as no such sculpture of Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana posture has ever been reported in Bihar till date. Anand added that it probably belonged to the late Gupta period (5th to 6th CE).

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Patna circle director Madan Singh Chauhan, who is in Delhi to attend a meeting, said on Monday over phone that if the size of statue is 5-6ft long, it is a rare sculpture of the Mahaparinirvana posture for Bihar. He, however, said more about the statue could be said only after watching it, at least the photographs. A big size Mahaparinirvana posture statue is in Kushinagar (Nepal), he said.

Another Buddhist scholar, Rajiv Kumar, said the Mahaparinirvana posture statue had been found for the first time in Bihar.

Anand told The Telegraph that originally this sculpture must be around 5-6ft long and around 3-4ft high and made up of four blocks. At present, only one part of the sculpture could be spotted which is currently lying at the temple in the village, around 20km east of Gaya district headquarters. People of the village are vigilant and have applied white lime over the sculpture to avoid the eyes of smugglers.

This entire village and its immediate surroundings have lots of ancient remains probably of some ancient monastery. There are two sculptures of Amitabha Buddha from the Pala period (8th to 12th CE) lying further 300 metres away in the village.

Following the efforts of the documentation team, some local villagers have initiated steps to protect these precious statues. The documentation team has identified local villagers as heritage leaders.

Shivnandan Paswan, one such heritage leader, said the villagers have collected money through donation (chanda) and now the ancient statues are being kept on the campus of an old temple. During a visit to the village, Buddhist devotees too ask the villagers to sell off the antiquities and offer handsome amount for this. “But we do not pay heed and are committed to protect the heritage,” Paswan said.