Ancient Buddhist-Hindu Sculptures Unearthed in India’s North East

In a remarkable discovery that unveils the rich historical heritage of India’s northeast, a team led by Dr. Ganesh Nandi, an assistant professor at Assam University’s Department of Visual Arts, has uncovered a trove of 8th-century Hindu-Buddhist sculptures near the Assam-Mizoram border. The findings shed light on a little-explored chapter in the region’s history and offer a glimpse into the fusion of cultures that once thrived in the area.

Dr. Nandi, along with researcher Dr. Binoy Paul, embarked on a challenging journey through dense forests, traversing the Assam-Mizoram state border from Hailakandi district. Their destination, Kolalian village in Mizoram’s Mamit district, revealed an archaeological site brimming with over 1500-year-old sculptures.

The sculptures, deeply influenced by both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, bear striking similarities to those discovered in Tripura’s Unakoti and Pilak, dating back to the 7th to 9th century. Dr. Nandi suggests that the artistry found in Kolalian likely shares a common historical period.

Among the findings, a full-sized idol resembling Lord Buddha, albeit with a distinctively feminine form, intrigued the researchers. Dr. Nandi expressed caution about definitively categorizing it as either a Buddhist or Hindu deity but noted parallels with Buddha idols found in Cambodia.

Referencing historical texts like The Rajmala, Dr. Nandi alluded to a connection between the sculptures and the reign of Maharaja Dhanya Manikya in Tripura. The text mentions Rai Kachak, the Maharaja’s general, who performed a Durga Puja at the discovered site while suppressing Reang rebels.

While the sculptures’ precise age remains uncertain, Dr. Nandi draws parallels with Gupta and Paul periods (750-1200 CE) based on stylistic elements, ornamentation, and attire. He suggests that a detailed investigation is required to establish a more concrete timeline.

Remarkably, the site had eluded the attention of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and previous researchers. The local Reang community, considering the sculptures sacred, had protected them for generations. The residents claim that the hill was once adorned with various artworks, but many have been lost over time.

Local testimony supports the belief that the entire region, including forts and stone works related to Reang Tribal kings, faced destruction, particularly after becoming part of Mizoram in 1989. Outsiders allegedly used weapons, including grenades, resulting in the loss of 90% of these invaluable sculptures.

As researchers continue to delve into the intricacies of this newfound archaeological site, the discovery promises to reshape our understanding of the cultural crossroads that defined the history of the Assam-Mizoram border region. The ancient sculptures stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era, awaiting further exploration and preservation.

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