Varsity ruins near Nalanda- Archaeologists find monastery seals and sculptures

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  • Published 16.01.14
(From top) A red sandstone sculpture and a monastery seal found from Telhara excavation site

Patna, Jan. 15: Archaeologists have found remains of another ancient university at Telhara, near the ruins of Nalanda.

According to historians, Telhara University’s reference has been found in the account of Chinese travellers Hiuen Tsang and Ithsing.

Atul Kumar Verma, director, archaeology, said the directorate of archaeology had got firm evidence of the Telhara University, about 40km from Nalanda.

“We have found the same monastery seal, which was found during the excavation carried out at the Nalanda University site. While we had discovered only two-three monastery seal then, we have found seven-eight similar seals this time. The monastery seals are made of terracotta and are in round shape. There is a wheel sign, flanked by two deer, on the seal also. The monastery seals, which we have found at Telhara, date back to thousand years and it is totally similar to the seals, which were found at the ruins of Nalanda University,” he added.

He said the team, including conservator S.K. Jha, senior technical assistant Nand Gopal among others, had been carrying out excavation work at the site since 2009.

The directorate runs under the state, art, culture and youth affairs department.

“What makes us more confident about our claims is the finding of three Buddhist temples, which Hiuen Tsang briefed in his account. Besides, we have also discovered a huge platform, which has the seating capacity of nearly thousand people. This platform has also got mention in Hiuen Tsang’s account. He has written that around a thousand monks used to sit for prayer on this platform. Our another important discovery is the teacher compartments. This has also got mention in Hiuen Tsang account,” said Verma.

The directorate has also got evidence that the varsity was equally popular in the Gupta period. “We have found sculptures made of red sandstone, which proves that the university was quite popular in the Gupta period. We have found pottery of different shapes and seals from the site of the Gupta period. There is a complete influence of the Gupta period in the strokes of writing, which we have found on the earthen pots. Another important finding is the 1ft layer of as — something similar found from the Nalanda University site. It is believed that Nalanda University was set on fire by Turkish Muslim army under Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. We have got evidence that Telhara University was also burnt by Khilji on his way,” Verma said.

Verma added that the finding of directorate of archaeology is important as it acknowledges the fact that Bihar was once the centre of education. “After discovering the ruins of Nalanda and Vikramshila University, we have been able to discover the remains of another university in Bihar. It is definitely one of our big achievements and it also establishes the fact that Bihar was once the centre of excellence,” said Verma.

Verma added that it would take the directorate at least 10 years to properly conserve the university. “It would take quite some time for conservation. At present, our directorate is facing manpower shortage. Most of the important posts, including assistant director, technical assistant, surveyor among others, are lying vacant. We have asked the Bihar Public Service Commission to fill up the vacant post. So far as my knowledge goes, they have initiated the process of recruitment,” said Verma.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar, who hails from Nalanda district, had visited the site several times to keep himself abreast about the progress of the excavation. He announced that relics from the site would be housed in the proposed International Museum coming up in Patna.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen also made a trip to the site last week on request of the chief minister to have a first-hand view of the excavations.

Sources said the directorate of archaeology has recently been quite active.

It is soon going to set up a pre-historic park at Chirand in Saran district. The pre-historic park would be set up at a cost of Rs 7 crore.