Bhamala Stupa – World Heritage Site

Bhamala Stupa – World Heritage Site

Most Important Buddhist Site Near Khanpur Dam

Bhamala is one of the most important Buddhist sites, located on the right bank of Haro River, which was declared as a World Heritage site in 1980 along with other monuments in Taxila Valley.

Site Discovery

The site was excavated in 1930-31 by Sir John Marshall. Excavations at Bhamala were resumed in 2012-13, after almost 80 years by the Department of Archaeology, Hazara University Mansehra in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Madison (USA) and MS University Baroda (India).

Potential Of The Site

Keeping in view the archaeological potential of the site, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums carried out -extensive field investigations at Bhamala from 2014 to 2016.

These excavations were aimed to reconfirm the dates assigned to the site by John Marshall with more scientific approach (i.e. application of latest archaeological techniques).

The excavations have brought to light a large number of important archaeological artefacts (terracotta and stucco sculptures, coins, iron, copper objects) as well as structural remains including the second main stupa surrounded by a subsidiary stupa and chapels adorned with stucco sculptures.

Discovery of 14-meter-long relining Buddha

The most remarkable discovery made during these excavations was a 14-meter-long relining Buddha made of dressed block of Kanjur stone.

This colossal Buddha image is placed on a stone platform inside a long chamber. Like other Monumental images of reclining Buddha reported from Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the Bhamala Buddha is also facing towards the main stupa. A large number of terracotta images reported from inside the Parinirvana chamber show that the Parinirvana Buddha was once flanked by worshipers and mourners who were arranged in groups along the walls of the chamber and facing the image of the relining Buddha.

Radiocarbon dates of the charred wood and charcoals taken from inside the terracotta sculptures placed around the Monumental Parinirvana image have confirmed that the Parinirvana image was made during the 3rd century CE.

Thus, the Monumental Buddha image from Bhamala is the earliest representation of Parinirvana Buddha predating all the known colossal Parinirvana images reported from the surrounding regions including Narita (India) Tappa Sardar and Bamiyan (Afghanistan) AdzihnaTepe (Tajikistan), Daunghaung (China) and Chui Valley (Kirghizstm).

It is also the sole example of Parinirvana Buddha in Kanjur stone yet discovered.