2-year-old Buddhist elephant statue found in India

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

At livescience.com

Archaeologists last month unearthed an elephant statue in India believed to date to the 3rd century BCE. A team working for India's National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) found the elephant while working in the Daya River in eastern India's Odisha state . The statue, which stands about 1 meter (3 feet) tall, is carved out of rock in a style resembling other Buddhist elephant statues found across the state.

Researchers Anil Dhir and Deepak Nayak led the exploration in the Daya River Valley, where Buddhism once flourished. The area is located south of Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha's enlightenment, and located along the Bay of Bengal.

“The surrounding area where the elephant was found is rich in Buddhist antiquities, discovered over the past few years,” Dhir said. “In fact, the surrounding areas of Gada Balabharapur like Delanga, Kanas, Aragada, Naranagada, Tipuri, Sirai Dandapata yielded many Buddhist antiquities. » (The Hindu)

At livescience.com

According to Dhir, the elephant was carved from a single piece of rock, similar to other Buddhist elephant statues found in the area. The one found at Dhauli (also known as Dhaulagiri, about 19 kilometers (12 miles) upstream from the current find, is believed to be very similar and has previously been dated between 242 BCE and 231 BCE.

Elephants feature prominently in a number of Buddha's teachings as well as other religions across India. In the Udana, or "sincere words," we find the Buddha and an elephant finding joy in similar paths away from crowds and in isolation.

The Buddha is quoted there as saying:

giant elephant,
with tusks like tank masts,
agrees heart to heart with the spiritual giant,
since everyone finds his joy in the woods alone.

(Central Sutta)

In another ancient text, the Buddha uses the story of the blind men and the elephant – common in all religious traditions of India at the time – to teach that we tend to see things in limited ways that do not not tell us the whole story.

From thehindu.com
From thehindu.com

He and the rest of the INTACH team plan a systematic excavation of the area in hopes of finding more evidence of ancient culture and religion.

Buddhism originated in India in the sixth or fifth century BCE and developed rapidly during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (r. 268-232 BCE). Under Ashoka, the Maurya Empire spanned all of India, encompassing parts of modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Buddhism continued to flourish in India through the Pala (c.730-1130) and Sena (c.1070-1230) dynasties as Mahayana ideas and practices flourished alongside Tantric practices.

Buddhism began to decline in India for a number of factors, still disputed, between the fifth and twelfth centuries CE. Some scholars claim that Hindu ideas and practices became better suited to meet the needs of people in this period. Others point to economic changes as Buddhist institutions grew and, at times, were cut off from major sources of patronage. A final blow came with the Muslim conquest of much of northern India, although evidence shows that small pockets of Buddhist practice continued under Muslim rule.

Archaeological work continues to find clues to the development and spread of Buddhism, both in India and beyond. Today, Buddhists constitute a small minority of people in India, with only 8,4 million adherents according to a 2011 census, when the country's total population was 1,2 billion people. The census scheduled for 2021 has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to take place in 2024.

See more

India's 2-year-old Buddhist elephant statue is one of the oldest known (Live Science)
Elephant sculpture probably from 3 BC found in Odisha (The Hindu)
Sincere Sayings 4.5: A Bull Elephant (Central Sutta)

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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