Kathmandu, 09 July: New excavations have unearthed ruins of a thriving village with a shrine in Lumbini- the birth place of Lord Buddha, dating back more than 1,000 years before Emperor Ashoka.
The secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Sushil Ghimire, said, “We have now very robust proof that Lumbini’s history extends far before the visit of Emperor Ashoka. The government of Nepal will step-up efforts to preserve the outstanding universal value of the site.”
Until now, the earliest Buddhist temples have been attributed to Emperor Ashoka, who built a pillar and a brick temple in Lumbini in third century BC in his endeavor to spread Buddhism across the region. But, the three-year excavation project, headed jointly by UNESCO and the government of Japan, came across a “village-like settlement” 4.5 metres underneath the ground some 200 metres to the south of the Mayadevi temple stands at present.
“For the first time in South Asia, excavations have revealed a pre-Ashokan temple of brick, which itself was built over a wooden structure,” said Prof Robin Coningham of Durham University in UK, who co-directed a team of Nepali and international experts together with Kosh Prasad Acharya.
Coningham also said that even older remains of a village dating back to as early as 1300 BC were found a few hundred metres south of Lord Buddha’s birthplace, pushing the date of the settlement of the region back by a thousand years.
“These two discoveries are giant steps, which help us to better understand the origins of Lord Buddha’s life and the spiritual importance of Lumbini,” said Acharya Karma Sango Sherpa, the vice-chair the Lumbini Development Trust that looks after the preservation and management of the site.
The excavation programme, which started in July 2010, was the UNESCO project funded by Japan for the preservation of the world cultural heritage.