Presence of the past: Buddha engravings found in Arunachal Pradesh

tawangWith the discovery of two engravings of Buddha in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, the state has rediscovered a link to its 400-century-old Buddhist tradition. An excavation led by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) discovered the historical relics in Tawang, a town that houses Asia’s second largest 331-year-old shrine, Gaden Namgyal Lhatse (Tawang monastery), which has often been claimed by China in the past.

One of the engravings is 1.95 meters long and 2.15 meters wide and the other one measures 50 cm in length and 30 cm in width. Both the engravings feature Lord Buddha seated on a lotus pedestal and a one-line inscription at the bottom. They are expected to provide significant insights into the Buddhist tradition of Arunachal Pradesh.

“The discovery of such figures is unique. The existence of various forms of Buddhist stupas, of both the Hinayana and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism shows that it is a living religion in the area. It also reflects on how prevalent the religion is among tribes. The influence of neighbouring countries like Myanmar and Tibet can clearly be seen,” ASI’s Superintendent Archaeologist, S. S. Gupta, who led the team that discovered the two engravings, told the Hindustan Times.

Buddhists form 13% of Arunachal Pradesh’s total population of 1,091,117. The north-eastern state is home to some of the most famous and oldest Buddhist monasteries in Asia including, Tawang monastery, Tatsang monastery and Urgelling monastery. Tawang came under the influence of Buddhism from the neighbouring Tibet and Myanmar. The Tawang monastery was set up by Mera Lama in the 17th century and it was the birth place of the 6th Dalai Lama.


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