Published on July 7, 2021

AHMEDABAD: Vadnagar, now famous as the home town of PM Narendra Modi, has again revealed its ancient treasures to experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) – an elliptical (capsule-shaped) structure similar to those at other ancient sites associated with Buddhism, a sealing with the same first words as on a casket found at the Devni Mori site have connected the ancient town firmly with the Buddhist heritage of India.

The results were shared by the Excavation Branch V of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on the first day of a two-day workshop on Tuesday. The workshop, which had experts from diverse fields associated with archaeology – from archaeo-botany to ground-penetrating radar – has been organized to assess progress made at Vadnagar in the past seven years. Top officials including Raghvendra Singh, secretary (culture), and V Vidhavathi, DG of ASI, participated in the event.

The ancient town entered the limelight in the 2000s with the find of a monastery right in the middle of the town. In the past few years, the ASI team has unearthed multiple structures in and around the town, firmly putting the 2,500-plus years old town on the Buddhist map.

Dr Abhijit Ambekar, in-charge superintending archaeologist of Excavation Branch V working at Vadnagar said in his presentation that only four archaeological sites — Rajgir, Besnagar, Sravasti and Nagarjunakonda, three of them associated with Buddhism and Besnagar with Vaishnavism — have reported structures of such designs earlier.

“Identified as mandalamala in Pali literature, such structures were probably used for congregation or to house a shrine,” he said, adding that the structure in Vadnagar has a pradakshinapath (circumambulatory path) around it. “From the evidence so far, it is probably the contemporary of other structures. While the four other structures date from the 5th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, the structure at Vadnagar is dated to between 1st and the 6th-7th centuries CE.”

The three sealings are found from another site – believed to be a stupa due to its circular design – near the boundary wall of the town near Sharmishtha lake.

“The sealing has the same letters ‘namassarvagyaya’ (salutations to Lord Buddha) as the first letters found on the casket found from Devni Mori. We can infer that the sealings were contemporary to the site,” said Dr Ambekar in his presentation. The ancient casket was found at a stupa in Devni Mori during an earlier excavation.

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