Ancient Buddhist ruins found near Bangalore

Bangalore, India - Archaeologists digging at a village near India's technology capital Bangalore have discovered nearly 2 000-year-old Buddhist ruins rich in relics, a senior official involved in the project said on Tuesday.

Professor MV Krishnappa, director of archaeology in the government of Karnataka state, said the discovery, dated to the second century AD, showed the reach of the religion for the first time in the southern part of the sprawling state.

The ruins were found last month by University of Mysore archaeologists working with government support near the village of Rajghatta near Doddaballapur, about 40km north of Bangalore, which is the capital of the southern province.

"During the excavations, we have come across many discoveries including a Buddhist chaitya (prayer) hall and many small miniature shrines," Krishnappa said. He said there were some 200 small "stupas" or dome-shaped shrines in a large area.

"We have found bangle pieces, beads of different types and many small Buddhist relics," he said.

He added that over the years there had been a steady pilferage of valuable coins and artefacts from the excavated area, which had also been dug up at random by local villagers looking for mud used in agriculture.

Archaeologists found the precious ruins while digging a huge mound which had survived centuries, and were looking forward to restoring the structures, he said.

India is the birthplace of Buddhism, which took roots about five centuries before Christ in what is now the eastern state of Bihar, adjacent to the region of Nepal, where Buddha was born.

But Buddhists form just about 0,76 percent percent of the one billion people who make up the predominantly Hindu country.

Championed by Emperor Ashoka, who turned from being a violent king to a peace-loving Buddhist preacher after a bloody battle in 261 BC, the religion spread across India and the rest of Asia.

Krishnappa said Buddhist relics had been found earlier in Raichur, some 350km north of Bangalore but the latest discovery showed it had further inroads in ancient India.

He said he would reveal more details at a news conference he would address with experts from the University of Mysore. No date has yet been set for that.

"Probably we will start excavations once again after three or four months," Krishnappa said. - Reuters

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