TAXILA, Nov 21: A preservation and restoration team of the department of archaeology has discovered as many as eight antiquities, including fragments of the sculptures of Buddha and his body guard , and god Indra, belonging to the first century AD, from Dharmarajika stupa and monastery, Dawn has learnt.

The discovery was made during the preservation work at the ancient and world famous archaeological site about 3.5 kilometres north east of Taxila Museum. The officials of the department of archaeology's sub- regional office, Taxila, have confirmed that these antiquities include a rare statue depicting "the re-appearance of Buddha".

According to Buddhist mythology, Buddha would reappear before the end of universe. Maitreya, the future Buddha, would leave Tushita heaven at a specific time in distant future and come to earth to establish the lost truths in their purity.

As the legend goes, a monk artist residing in Swat valley visited Tushita heaven and met Maitreya. He then came back to earth and carved the image. Another precious discovery is the statue of Indra - the god of "nature". According to Buddhist mythology and Vedic Pantheon, the thunder god Indra held a prominent position.

At the time of the birth of Sidhartha (Buddha), Indra was present. He visited Indrasala cave and put up some philosophical questions, which Buddha answered very easily. Thus, Indra and Brahma entreated Buddha to start preaching Buddhism.

Another remarkable discovery is the statue depicting the bodyguard of Buddha called 'Vajrapani'. The architectural fragment of "Corinthian capital" was also discovered. Corinthian order was used in Magna, Garcia and Sicily from early third century.

Its bell-shaped capital is enveloped with acanthus leaves. It is said that a Greek sculptor got the inspiration after he saw a basket filled with acanthus leaves over the grave of a beautiful Corinthian girl.

Two female headless figures, one of which depicts dancing, and three segments of 'relief' of Buddha are also included in the new discoveries. The archaeologists, after the preliminary examination of the newly-discovered antiquities here at sub-regional office, said the fragments were made of grape black schist and green phylite.

The were of the opinion that these antiquities belonged to early first century AD or second century AD. The site where these new discoveries have been made also boosts a significant status in Ghandara civilization.

The Dharmarajika stupa and monastery were established by the "Dharma Raja" or the righteous king, Ashok, of Mauryan dynasty, in the 3rd century BC. The stupa remained a source of inspiration since the advent of Buddhist religion. It was re-constructed during the period of King Kanisha in the 5th century AD.

The site was first excavated by Sir John Marshall in 1920s and a large number of precious antiquities were discovered. Confirming the discovery, archaeology department deputy director and in charge of Taxila to Swat preservation project Dr Mohammad Ashraf Khan said their team had incidentally recovered all these antiquities. He said preservation and restoration work was being carried out by the department under under "Taxila to Swat project".

The objective of the project is to protect such sites from climatic agents so that these can be preserved for future generations, he added. Dr Khan said the federal department of archaeology and museums planned to spend Rs10.5 million for preservation and restoration of 18 ancient sites of Taxila valley civilization. When asked about presence of more antiquities at the site, he said they were optimistic that more discoveries would be made.

Talking to this reporter, in charge of the preservation team Tahira Tanweer said during the facelift of a wall of chapel number five, one of the team members saw the edge of a bracket buried under the wall which led to the discovery of eight antiquities. She said after proper preservation, these fragments would be put on display in the newly-established gallery of archaeological museum, Taxila, in near future.

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