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Buddhist sutra found in Bamiyan

A part of a Buddhism sutra was found inside one of the two giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, providing a hint for unveiling the mystery surrounding the creation of the statues, a Japanese news agency reported Sunday.

The fragment of the scripture was believed to be the original Sanskrit document, written with the letters often used in the 6th and 7th century, according to a Kyodo news dispatch from Kabul.

Although various scripts have been found inside Buddha statues in Japan, it was the first time a sutra was found inside an Afghan Buddha statue, Kyodo said. The script was written in “Gilgit/Bamiyan type one characters,” which were used in a region that spread over what is now northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Kyodo said.

The document was the beginning section of a sutra that spelled out the basic belief of Buddhism and said all things were mortal, Kyodo said. It was written on pieces of birch bark and wrapped in a piece of cloth with mud balls, which could have been symbols of Buddha bones, according to the researching team, Kyodo reported. [Secret sutra found in rubble of Bamiyan Buddha]

Last year a Buddhist residence was discovered by a Japanese team in Bamiyan and at that time I wrote

Archaeology has returned to Afghanistan in a big way. First there was the announcement regarding the Bactrian Gold.. Then there was constant news about the search for a third reclining Buddha in Bamiyan by Zemaryali Tarzi based on a note written by Huen Tsang. Now a Japanese archaeologist team has found some new structures in Bamiyan.

Besides this, the Japanese team also discovered Buddhist caves dating back to the eighth century about 120 KM west of Bamiyan, but when it comes discovering documents, this is not the first discovery in that region. Last year ancient documents, which for some reason is called Buddhism’s Dead Sea Scrolls were found in Bamiyan. Actually there were found in 1996 and was smuggled out to Pakistan. Some of these manuscripts, the earliest of which were dated to 1st century AD were some of the oldest Buddhist manuscripts ever written. While the recently discovered sutra was written in Sanskrit, more earlier ones were written in a language called Gāndhārī.

“Before the discovery of these manuscripts, Gandhari was primarily known through coin legends and inscriptions which are highly formulaic and have a limited vocabulary,” he said. “These manuscripts therefore substantially increase the corpus of documents in this language.”

The Gandhari manuscripts are constructed of birch bark which becomes brittle with age, or palm leaf. A large number are damaged or fragmentary, and they are exceptionally difficult to read: there are no spaces between words and the spelling was never standardized. For example, the Sanskrit word dharma, meaning ‘law’ or ‘teaching’ may appear in Gandhari as dharma, darma, dhama, dhrama, or dhrarma. [Master of Gandhari sheds light on Buddhism]

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