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Kyrgyz archaeologists unearth Buddha statue

Tuesday 19 July 2011

(Kyrgyz Concept) – Archaeologists in Kyrgyzstan have unearthed a massive statue of Buddha in the hills outside the capital Bishkek.

A team of archaeologists working in an excavation site at Krasnaya Rechka, 35 km outside the capital, discovered a 1.5 m high Buddha.

Archaeologists from the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, working with colleagues from the Russian Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, were digging in a series of fields which they believe cover the remains of a Buddhist monastery complex. They believe the statue dates back to a time between the 8th to 10th centuries, though further tests are needed to pinpoint its exact age.

Finding Buddhist remains of this kind is rare in the mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan. Pre-Islamic Buddhist culture is well documented further south in Tajikistan, but very unusual in its northern neighbour, Kyrgyzstan. Locals are accustomed to the excavations, knowing very well that their farm land is in a rich archaeological area.

In earlier excavations at the same site near the village of Krasnaya Rechka, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Buddhist temple, a fortress, a Karakhanid palace complex and Buddhist as well as early Christian cemeteries.

As pointed by Encyclopædia Britannica, “The spread of Buddhism into Central Asia is still not completely understood. However murky the details may be, it is clear that the trade routes that ran from northwestern India to northern China facilitated both the introduction of Buddhism to Central Asia and the maintenance, for many centuries, of a flourishing Buddhist culture there.”

Early history of Buddhism in Central Asia

When King Kanishka came to power in 78 AD in Central Asia a new system of chronology was adopted, replacing the chronology from the era of the Seleucids. During the Kushan period, various religious systems were widespread in Central Asia. These were the local cult of Mitra and Anahit, Zoroastrian pantheon (Ormuzd, Veretzanga, etc.) the Greek pantheon (Zeus, Helios, Helen, etc.) and the cult of local heroes (Siyavush in Khorezm and Sogd). The followers of Buddhism had been banished from Iran in the 2nd - 3rd centuries and found support in Central Asia, where Buddhism became widely practiced. According to Chinese chronicles Buddhism came to China in 147 from the country of the big yue dzhi, and thanks to the Kushan missionaries Buddhism was adopted as the official religion of the court of the Chinese emperor, Huangdi (147-167).

During the archeological excavations in Khorezm (Bazaar-Kala, Gyaur-Kala, Gyaz-Kala) and Sogd (tali-barzu, Zohak-i-Maron castle, Er-Kurgan and others) it was found out that many settlements and castles dated back to the Kushan period. But the largest number of traces of Buddhist culture during the Kushan period was found in Tolharistan.

Architectural fragments dating back to the Kushan period have been found in “Old Termez”. Some Buddhist monuments date back to the period of the Great Kushans

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