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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
India uncovers ancient Buddhist marvel
Sanchi stupa
The most famous stupa in India is at Sanchi
By Manikant Thakur in Patna

Archeologists in India say they have excavated one of the world's tallest Buddhist stupas in the eastern state of Bihar.

The 32-metre (104-foot) high dome-shaped memorial shrine is slightly taller than the famous stupa in the Borobudur complex in Java, Indonesia.

Bihar map
The excavation in Bihar is said to have taken more than three years and is being viewed as one of the most significant Buddhist discoveries in recent years.

However, archeologists in Sri Lanka say that the tallest stupa in the world is in fact to be found on their island.

Discovery

The Indian archeologists discovered the stupa at Kesaria in east Champaran district, about 100 km from the Bihar state capital, Patna.

The director of the Archaeological Survey of India in Bihar, K K Mohammed, said the stupa was originally 38 metres (123 feet) high, but collapsed during an earthquake in the state in 1934.

He said the stupa dates back to the sixth century.

Borobudur stupa
The site has terraces like the Borobudur stupa
It is taller than the famous Indonesian stupa at Borobudur and the Sanchi stupa in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

The Sanchi stupa has already been declared a World Heritage monument.

Mr Mohammed said the excavated stupa has six terraces like the Borobudur stupa.

He said the diameter of the stupa could be larger as it has not yet been fully excavated.

Legend

The stupa is associated with a Buddhist legend which identifies it as the place where the Buddha stayed and handed over his begging bowl to the people of Vaishali, an ancient city near Patna, during his journey to Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh.

The Buddha is believed to have died at Kushinagar in 483 BC.

The Archeological Survey of India said it has sought permission to develop the area as a tourist attraction since it is located between the two key Buddhist pilgrimage destinations - Vaishali and Kushinagar.

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See also:

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India's 1,000 year Buddha underway
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02 Apr 01 | South Asia
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