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Indian History

Monasteries at Moghalmari

  • 14 Jan 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, a study of inscriptions on clay tablets excavated from Moghalmari have confirmed the presence of two monasteries.

  • Moghalmari is a Buddhist monastic site of the early medieval period in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district.
  • Chinese traveller Xuanzang (more widely identified as Huen Tsang), who visited India in the 7th century CE, referred to the existence of ‘ten monasteries’ within the limits of Tamralipta (modern day Tamluk in adjoining Purba Medinipur district). However, he did not refer to any specific name or location.

Key Findings

  • Presence of two monasteries- Mugalayikaviharika and Yajñapindikamahavihara at Moghalmari.
    • Six tiny fragments of inscribed seals found contain a set of letters accompanied by the deer-dharmachakra symbols.
    • The inscriptions are in Sanskrit and the script is a transitional phase between later north Indian Brahmi and early Siddhamatrika.
    • The first name on the seals - Yajñapindikamahavihara, implies etymologically ‘a place of sacrificial offering’.
    • The second name on the seals, Mugalayikaviharika, bears a phonetic resemblance to the modern name of the site, Moghalmari.
  • The monasteries at Moghalmari date from the 6th century CE and were functional until the 12th century CE. The presence of two monasteries dating to the same period within a single compound is unique in eastern India.
  • Inscriptions supports the point that Buddhist monasteries have a definite hierarchy — Mahavihara, Vihara and Viharika.

Brahmi and Siddhamatrika

  • The oldest deciphered inscriptions belong to the late 4th century BCE and are in Brahmi and Kharoshthi.
  • These include those of Maurya emperor Ashoka, which are in a number of different languages and scripts, but mostly in the Prakrit language and Brahmi script.
  • The different stages of Brahmi script are often labelled on the basis if dynasties, e.g. Ashokan Brahmi, Kushana Brahmi and Gupta Brahmi.
  • In the late 6th century, Gupta Brahmi evolved into a script known as Siddhamatrika or Kutlia.
  • The modern north Indian scripts such as Devanagari gradually emerged out of Siddhamatrika.

Source: TH

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