The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has found a stupa in eastern Indian state of Bihar which experts think might contain relics of Buddha, an official said Monday in the state capital Patna.
The location of the stupa has been identified at Harsai near Garhpura village.
According to ASI's superintending archeologist for Patna circle, S.K. Manjul, "Going by the physical appearance of the stupa and the use of mud lumps, it could be one of the eight original stupas housing the Buddha's corporeal relics. But that can be determined only after excavation."
According to ancient scriptures, after the Buddha was cremated, there was a disagreement over the division of his remains. They were then divided into eight parts and distributed among the eight powerful kingdoms and republics, which laid claim over them. All buried their share of relics in stupas specially built to serve as markers of the physical presence of the Buddha and his teachings.
Till date archaeologists have identified six of them. "If this stupa turns out to be seventh, it can be the ASI's biggest discovery," he said.
Manjul said the ASI plans to start the excavation in the next few months this year. "The ASI's central advisory board has already granted an excavation license to an archeaologist of ASI's Patna circle to undertake the work," Manjul said.
According to ASI officials, the stupa may also turn out to be the only one which Emperor Ashoka could not open to take out the relics for distribution over the Indian sub-continent.
This stupa is made of sun-dried clay lumps and fixed with mud mortars and later strengthened with layers of gravel and burnt bricks. It is currently in a bad shape. The stupa is threatened by local residents, who are mining it for clay.
"Some local people have damaged a part of it to extend the agriculture fields. The stupa is lying neglected as it is unprotected till date," Manjul said.