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Buddha statue at Borobudur.

Large, Rare Statue Portraying the Death of Buddha Unearthed at Ancient Bahmala Stupa Site

Two rare and ancient Buddha statues have been unearthed at the Bhamala Stupa site in Pakistan. The largest ever statue found at the site depicts the death of ancient sage Buddha. A second statue unearthed is a Buddha with a double halo, the first of this type to be found at Bhamala Stupa.

The team of archaeologists with the Department of Archaeology and Museums in Pakistan found these artifacts and 510 others at the Bhamala Stupa archaeological complex, a UNESCO Heritage site.

Dr. Abdul Samad, director of the Department of Archaeology, Hazara University says of the artifacts, “This is one of the few sites in the world to have the cruciform Stupa which was reserved for Buddha himself.”

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The stupa monument at Bhamala. Stupas are mounded spiritual sites, usually containing Buddhist relics.

The stupa monument at Bhamala. Stupas are mounded spiritual sites, usually containing Buddhist relics.  Muhammad Zahir/Wikimedia Commons

The 14-meter (46 feet) long statue of the dying Buddha is the largest known from the Gandhara civilization. It rests on a 15-meter (49 feet) platform, and portrays a scene known as Mahaparinirvana, said to be the moment Buddha’s consciousness left his body and he died.

Sanskrit palm leaf manuscript illustrating the Buddha's entry into Parinirvana. Artwork created circa 700-1100 CE.

Sanskrit palm leaf manuscript illustrating the Buddha’s entry into Parinirvana. Artwork created circa 700-1100 CE. Public Domain

The death scene of the Buddha is a significant moment in the Buddhist religion, represented in art and literature.

News site The Asahi Shimbun reports that a scroll depicting Buddha's death is being exhibited in Kyoto during this year's memorial service to commemorate Buddha’s passing. The large and elaborate vertical scroll dates to the 15 th century and is 12 meters by 6 meters (39 feet by 19 feet) in size.

The Asahi Shimbun writes, “It was created by painter and monk Mincho (1352-1431) in the early Muromachi Period (1338-1573), and is one of the largest ‘nehanzu’ (paintings of Buddha's death) in Japan.

The painting depicts the dying Buddha with his head facing west as he is surrounded by mourning disciples and animals. A cat is depicted at the bottom of the picture grieving Buddha’s death, a rare feature in a nehanzu painting.”

The Death of the Buddha, a hanging scroll painting at the British Museum.

The Death of the Buddha, a hanging scroll painting at the British Museum. Credit: © Trustees of the British Museum

“Gautama the Buddha is the founder of Buddhism, a religion with around 300 million adherents, and is seen as a master and teacher even today,” writes Digital Journal .

The Bhamala Stupa site in Pakistan has revealed a wealth of history and treasure dating back thousands of years. Other excavations have uncovered hundreds of “terracotta artifacts, stucco sculptures, architectural elements, copper coins, iron nails, door sittings, pottery and 14 coins from the Kushan era,” reports The Express Tribune .

The site is believed to date back 2,000 years , and pending laboratory tests on recent finds, it may be even older.  Clay Buddha heads unearthed at the site this year might date back to the 3 rd century A.D.

Unfortunately, some of the discoveries have suffered damage due to illegal excavations and looting over the years.

Samad notes, “The statue of Buddha's head is however missing, and may have been looted. “Other parts of the statue such as the left leg and arms were also found in a damaged condition.”

Excavations continue at the Bhamala Stupa – ancient site filled with long-hidden historical and spiritual treasures.

Hazara University Archaeologist - Dr. Muhammad Zahir - excavating at Bhamala Site in February 2013.

Hazara University Archaeologist - Dr. Muhammad Zahir - excavating at Bhamala Site in February 2013. Muhammad Zahir /Wikimedia Commons

Damaged stucco sculptures of Buddha at Bhamala.

Damaged stucco sculptures of Buddha at Bhamala. Credit: K-P Directorate of Archaeology & Museums

Featured Image: Buddha statue at Borobudur. Source: BigStockPhoto

By Liz Leafloor

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