Two stone idols believed to be about 1,200 years old was found from a waterbody close to the ancient Nalanda University during desilting of a pond, an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) official said.
The idols were found earlier this week from Tarsinh pond at Sarlichak village near the ancient Nalanda Mahavihara, a world heritage site about 88 km from here, during desilting under Bihar government's 'Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali' project launched to protect and conserve water and the environment.
Details of the two idols were, however, not divulged either by the ASI or the administration.
Goutami Bhattacharya, Superintending Archaeologist (ASI, Patna circle), said there were reports that when villagers living in the area came to know about the discovery of the idols, they started making plans to build a temple to house these.
"Our officials posted there came to know about it and immediately informed the local police. According to feedback that we have received, both the idols, which are probably 1,200 year old, are now in the custody of the local police," she told PTI.
"We want to display them at the Nalanda Museum. I have requested the State government to immediately hand over these idols as per the provisions of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878,” Ms. Bhattacharya said.
The official said it was seen that any antiquities or treasure when found beneath the surface were usually brought to a nearby temple or other religious places by locals. But whenever any antiquities or artefacts exceeding the value of ₹10 were found they should be deposited at the nearest government treasury by the finder, according to the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878. The collector of the concerned district has the power to acquire the treasure on behalf of the government.
"I have already written to the State government and requested the authority concerned to apprise all District Magistrates about the provisions of the Act so that the treasures may be deposited in safe custody of the district administration,” Ms. Bhattacharya said.
Asked about the discovery, Nalanda District Magistrate Shashank Shubhankar told PTI “I have come to know about it and the matter is being looked into”.
A year ago a 1,300-year-old idol of Nag Devi of the Pala period was found in the same pond. It has been put on display at the ASI museum in Nalanda.
The Nalanda Mahavihara site comprises the archaeological remains of the monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important artworks in stucco, stone, and metal.
Nalanda Mahavira is the most ancient university in the Indian subcontinent. It is engaged in the organised transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years.