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Archaeology & History

Oldest known Buddhist shrine discovered

By T.K. Randall
November 30, 2013 · Comment icon 12 comments



A statue of Buddha in Samut Prakan, Thailand. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Heinrich Damm
Traces of an ancient wooden structure have been found within the sacred Mayadevi temple in Lumbini.
The structure dates back to around the sixth century BC and is thought to be the oldest Buddhist shrine ever discovered. The find is made even more significant by the fact that the shrine is located at the site at which Gautama Buddha himself was believed to have been born.

"Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition," said archaeologist Robin Coningham. "Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century BC."
A team of researchers has been investigating the site for the last three years. The discovery was made after they dug beneath existing brick structures at the temple and used radiocarbon and luminescence dating techniques on a number of collected samples.

"This finding further strengthens the chronology of Buddha's life and was is major news for the millions of Buddhists around the world," said Kosh Prasad Acharya who worked on the excavation.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (12)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Razer 9 years ago
That would be a perfectly valid point were it not that Buddhism,in its beginnings, was very tolerant of other religions and practices (something you cannot say anymore for certain Buddhist sects nowadays). What I mean is, the possibility that Buddhism took over after the shrine was built, people stopped believing in it, stopped leaving offerings, and like you say because they were tolerant, let the shrine stand and just built over it. The shrine could have been there for decades surrounded by non believers. Poor lonely shrine. On the other hand it could be the first Buddhist shrine, which woul... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by questionmark 9 years ago
What I mean is, the possibility that Buddhism took over after the shrine was built, people stopped believing in it, stopped leaving offerings, and like you say because they were tolerant, let the shrine stand and just built over it. The shrine could have been there for decades surrounded by non believers. Poor lonely shrine. On the other hand it could be the first Buddhist shrine, which would be very cool. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? I tend to doubt that it is a Buddhist shrine, not because of the missing offerings but because we have other historic refer... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by ealdwita 9 years ago
I've visited Lumbini a few times and it has some beautiful temple buildings there, including Burmese, Tibetan and Chinese. It's about 130 miles southeast from my place at Pokhara and sits near the border with India. Only Buddhist Monasteries have the right to own ground there, no houses, or shops etc are permitted. 'Lumbini' in Sanskrit means 'lovely'.
Comment icon #6 Posted by kannin 9 years ago
interesting
Comment icon #7 Posted by Leonardo 9 years ago
I tend to doubt that it is a Buddhist shrine, not because of the missing offerings but because we have other historic references as to the birth of the Buddha and unless the whole history of the Indian subcontinent has to be pushed back 100 years. And that is (given the 2500 years passed) pretty consistent. The beliefs involved in Buddhism no doubt predate Gautama, and so this shrine could be from this early 'proto-Buddhism'. It's quite possible that the belief only became known as Buddhism after Gautama 'popularised' it through his teachings. Indeed, Gautama may not have been the 'inventor' o... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by questionmark 9 years ago
The beliefs involved in Buddhism no doubt predate Gautama, and so this shrine could be from this early 'proto-Buddhism'. It's quite possible that the belief only became known as Buddhism after Gautama 'popularised' it through his teachings. Indeed, Gautama may not have been the 'inventor' of Buddhism - just it's earliest, most notable proponent. I have thought about that possibility too...
Comment icon #9 Posted by woopypooky 9 years ago
Gautama is Buddha . Fullstop
Comment icon #10 Posted by Frank Merton 9 years ago
I think it was a Buddhist shrine alright, and the date problems are not problems because there was such a range in the carbon dates assigned. Buddhism shares many beliefs with other religions of the subcontinent, and one therefore presumes these predated any of the existing religions. The unique aspects of Buddhism -- in particular viewing Samsara as a trap to escape and the agnosticism about all the gods that were then around (in spite of later stories that include them) make Buddhism something that first appeared around this time. I see no reason to deny this particular area its traditional ... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Frank Merton 9 years ago
Oh one other thing that I found funny: the notion that scholars had ever agreed to a date for Gautama's birth.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Kelevra 9 years ago
Be helpful if there was a Buddamas to help narrow things down.


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