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LAHORE, Aug 10: Remains of a fourth century AD Buddhist stupa and monastery have been found on the foothills of Chiniot, Punjab archeology department officials told Dawn.

They said the area where these archeological ruins are found was also known as “Punj Peer”.

Some graves, walls of rooms, meditation cells built with stones, terracotta bricks, animal bones, and pottery has been found at the surface of site.

These remains, scattered over about nine acres, were discovered by a Chiniot-based NGO, Lok Baithak, the officials said. The NGO has also handed over a gold coin, said to be of late Kushana King 2nd’s period, to the archaeology department to put it on display in the museum. It was found from a mound in the recently discovered area. The officials are of the view that the site may be the ruins of the lost OJAN or OJAIAN, a Buddhist university which was contemporary with Julian University, Texila, as mentioned by different historians.

Chiniot is a historically significant area with rich archaeological evidence dating back to Greek-Mauryan period. It has remained an important city during the reigns of Mughal emperors Jehangir and Shah Jahan.

The ancient history of Chiniot has been explored and reported by different historians. According to these historians, the pre-historic rock carvings of Chenab area near Chiniot give a clue to the ancient history of this place. To the west of Chenab River are the 700-foot high hills of Chenab Nagar in front of Rabwah. These hills are part of Kirana hills which are 10 million years old. Below these hills are the settlements of Kushan-Hindu Shahi period.

Lok Baithak is dedicated to the cause of archeology and has been making sincere efforts to keep the department informed about the condition of various archeological assets found in the area. The NGO had put best of its efforts to save archaeological site of Venoti Wala from being vandalised in the name of ‘development and beautification’.

Umar Daraz Danish Mukaram, Mushtaq Ahmad, Qasim Ali and Haroon Ahmad were some of the leading members of the NGO who contributed a lot towards saving the archeological sites in the area, the officials added.

Punjab Archeology Department Deputy Director Afzal Khan, commenting on this discovery said: “We appreciate Lok Baithak for their sincere and dedicated efforts. These newly-reported ruins, especially the stupa, are a significant discovery in this area.”

Mr Khan said to appreciate its efforts, the department might announce a cash award for the NGO.