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EducationHistoryBandhavgarh Tiger Reserve throws up largest Varaha sculpture, Buddhist stupas, Brahmi inscriptions

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve throws up largest Varaha sculpture, Buddhist stupas, Brahmi inscriptions

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has informed the press about the discoveries the department made earlier this year at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. They discovered Buddhist caves, stupas and Brahmi inscriptions that date back to the 2nd century and Hindu temples from the 9th-11th centuries. The ASI has also found the largest Varaha sculpture in the world, dating to the same period at the excavation site.

The Varaha sculpture at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is among the many monolithic sculptures of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu that the ASI discovered at the national park in early 2022. The exploration took place 84 years after the last of the type in 1938. “A total of 46 new sculptures have come to light and have been reported,” the superintending archaeologist, Jabalpur Circle, Madhya Pradesh, Shivakant Bajpai, who led the exploration team, said on 28 September. The ASI had found 10 sculptures already, which it reported in the previous survey of 1938, he said.

Bajpai said the ASI was exploring the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in three phases, the first of which was completed in the Tala range in May-June this year. In the next two phases, it will explore the Khitouli and Magadhi ranges of the tiger reserve.

The ASI team discovered 26 mostly Buddhist caves dating back to the 2nd and 5th centuries. The caves dug out from the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and some of their remains had chaitya (rounded) doors and stone beds typical of Mahayana Buddhism sites. This discovery brings the total number of caves found in Bandhavgarh to 76, as 50 have been in the records since the last survey.

Furthermore, the ASI found 24 inscriptions in Brahmi text, all dating back to the 2nd-5th centuries from the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. The inscriptions mention sites such as Mathura and Kaushambi, and Pavata, Vejabharada and Sapatanaairikaa. The kings they name include Bhimasena, Pothasiri and Bhattadeva.

The remains of 26 temples date to the Kalachuri period — 9th-11th centuries. In addition, two Shaiva mutts have been documented. The Kalachuri dynasty, which spread over parts of Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, is also associated with the earliest Ellora and Elephanta cave monuments.

Some remains of the Gupta period, such as door jambs and carvings in caves, have been found too.

ASI and spokesperson Vasant Swarnkar observed that the discovery of the archaeological remains at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve has added a new chapter to the history of the region also known as Baghelkhand. “We certainly need to conserve this, but the first step has to be documentation.

“Though we want to explore faster, the problem is with permissions as it is a reserved forest area,” the added.

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