TAMIL NADU

Another rare Buddha statue found in Pudukottai

PUDUKOTTAI NOV. 22. A rare Buddha statue in standing posture has been discovered at a Siva temple at Sundarapandianpattinam, a coastal hamlet on the border of Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram districts.

This is the second 10th century Buddha statue to be discovered in the region this year. The first one was found at Kottaipattinam in Pudukottai in May. Both the finds were reported by the Pudukottai District Government Museum curator, J. Raja Mohammed, during field studies on maritime trade history of the coastal region.

The latest find has been kept at the Ekambareswarar-Kamatchiamman Temple at Sundarapandianpattinam, believed to have been a flourishing port during the medieval period. It was also active in maritime trade with Sri Lanka till the end of the 19th century. Pandya inscriptions indicate that the temple was built in the 12th or 13th century. It is believed that the statue was brought from a ruined, nearby mandapam a structure, which bears a resemblance to a Buddhist monastery, according to Dr. Mohammed.

The stone idol is similar to the ones found at Nalanda in Bihar, the great Buddhist centre. The Buddha, about 40-inch tall, wears a close fitting robe extending from the neck to the legs, in addition to a `Sangati' (long robe) covering the back, whose end has elegant folds.

The face is oval with the nose, lips, chin and eyes exquisitely chiselled. The earlobe is long, the forehead has a tilak and on the right palm is a diamond-shaped mark— features considered `Mahapurushalakshna' in Buddhist mythology. The hair on the head is a studded knot surmounted with a tapering flame, called `usnisa' indicating supreme knowledge.

Though a number of Buddha statues in sitting posture were found in the erstwhile Chola and Pandya regions, the ones in standing posture are rare. This is only the third statue in standing posture discovered in the region, according to P. Jambulingam, a Buddhist research scholar at the Thanjavur Tamil University, who examined it. The other two statues were found at Cholanmaligai and Thiruvalamchuli, both in Thanjavur district, and are on display in the Thanjavur Archaeological Museum and the Chennai Government Museum.

Dr. Mohammed says the find clearly established that Buddhism was widely spread in the coastal belt, which was a silk route for Chinese traders regularly visiting port towns. It is a well-established fact that the spread of Buddhism was closely linked to silk trade routes, he said.

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