3rd Century Buddhist sculpture unearthed in Old Guntur

It was the serpent that protected the Buddha

December 20, 2018 08:43 am | Updated 08:43 am IST - GUNTUR

The sculpture cements Old Guntur’s status as a Buddhist site of importance, according to  E. Sivanagi Reddy .

The sculpture cements Old Guntur’s status as a Buddhist site of importance, according to E. Sivanagi Reddy .

Archaelogist and Buddhist scholar Emani Sivanagi Reddy unearthed an ancient Buddhist sculpture of ‘Naga Muchalinda’ in Old Guntur on Wednesday.

The sculpture is believed to date back to the 3rd Century and is carved out of a limestone rock. Mr. Reddy unearthed the sculpture from the southwest corner of the Agesthyeswara Temple in Old Guntur.

“The sculpture throws light on the Naga dynasty and the hoary Buddhist tradition that once prevailed in this region,” said Mr. Reddy who is also the CEO of Cultural Centre of Vijayawada.

“Based on the discovery of this sculpture, we can firmly believe that Old Guntur served as a Buddhist site contemporary to Nagarjunakonda 1,800 years ago,’’ said Dr. Reddy.

The archaeologist who visited the temple as part of the scheme ‘Preserve Heritage for Posterity’ along with Subhakar Medasani, secretary, Amaravati Buddha Vihara, said the sculpture depicts the serpent king Naga Muchalinda protecting the Gautama Buddha while he meditated under the Bodhi tree.

Slice of history

The sculpture also reveals other fascinating aspects of the Buddhist influence during the Naga dynasty, as it claims to have ‘Buddha Pada’ (Buddha’s footprints) sunken into the sculpture’s pedestal. The Agesthyeswara Temple is also famous for inscriptions dating back to the 11th Century AD, listing details of donation of lands made to the temple.

Dr. Reddy says similar sculptures of Naga Muchalinda belonging to the Theravada and Mahayana phases of Buddhism (1st Century BC to 3rd Century AD) were reported from Amaravati, Chandavaram, Ghantasala, Nagarjunakonda, Pedakallepalli and Goli, earlier.

Dr. Reddy appealed to officials of the temple and the Department of Archaeology and Museums to protect the shrine as it represents the last phase of the Amaravati School of Art of the Ikshwaku period.

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