Abstract: Archaeology in Nepal, the Land of the Buddha

Lecturer: Nancy Wilkie

To this day, most archaeology in Nepal has been limited to the preservation and conservation of the standing monuments of the Kathmandu Valley, where the rulers of Nepal had their capital during the Medieval period.  These monuments generally are wooden and stone temples, both Hindu and Buddhist, that belong to the 16thcentury A.D. and later. 

Along the southern border of Nepal, however, in the area called the Nepal Terai, which forms part of the Gangetic plain, there has been a long tradition of archaeological research.  From the late 19thcentury to this day, archaeological investigations in this region have focused on sites connected with the Buddha, who was born at Lumbini and whose ancestral home was at Kapilavastu.  Excavations in the Sacred Garden at Lumbini have revealed structures dating as early as the 3rdcentury B.C., when the Emperor Ashoka visited the area in the course of his pilgrimage to sites associated with the Lord Buddha.  He erected a monolithic sandstone pillar commemorating his visit and identifying the site as the place of Buddha's birth.  Recent work in the Sacred Garden at Lumbini by the Japan Buddhist Federation has revealed the earliest phases of the Maya Devi temple there. 

In the mountainous western regions of Nepal, where the Malla kings established their capital in the 13thcentury A.D. only surface exploration has been conducted.  The remains indicate, however, that this kingdom controlled a large area in the foothills of the Himalayas, and that its influence extended to the Tibetan plateau. 

The most recent challenge to Nepal's archaeological remains is the widespread looting of temples and archaeological sites, especially those in the Kathmandu Valley.

Featured Lecturer

Michael C. Nelson is Assistant Professor of Art History at Queens College, City University of New York.  He holds his degrees from the University of Toronto (Ph.D. and MA), and the University of... Read More

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