Buddha-era relics unearthed in Ramgram

Experts argue that the findings are evidence to establish the area as a historically and archaeologically significant place that deserves to be included in the Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Nabin Paudel

Nabin Paudel

The Kathmandu Post


Archaeologists at the excavation site at Ramgram in Nawalparasi West announcing their findings on Sunday. PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST

November 29, 2023

KATHMANDU – Archaeologists have uncovered Buddha-era relics during excavations at the Ramgram Stupa in Nawalparasi West. A joint team of archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology and Durham University in the UK had carried out a month-long excavation work in the Ramgram Stupa area. Structures of a pond and a Vihar (monastery), believed to have been built during the Buddha era (around fifth century BC), were uncovered during the excavation of the historical site.According to Robin Coningham, professor at Durham University and advisor to Unesco, several bricks used in building the Vihar and the pond were unearthed during the excavation. Such findings carry great archaeological significance, he said at a press meeting organised on Sunday.Experts argue that the findings of the Buddha-era relics are substantial evidence to establish Ramgram area as a historically and archaeologically significant place that deserves to be included in the Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites. Nepali authorities are working to include the Ramgram Stupa on the list of the Unesco World Heritage Sites along with the Tilaurakot palace of Kapilvastu.

“Efforts are ongoing to include Ramgram on the world heritage list. The carbon testing of the recently uncovered structures and relics will help establish the Ramgram area as a historical site,” said Ram Bahadur Kunwar, a senior archaeologist and spokesman at the Department of Archeology.

Ramgram Stupa is one of the eight original relic stupas where remains of Shakyamuni Buddha are enshrined. The stupa is a brick mound situated at ward 7 of Ramgram Municipality, around seven kilometres south of Parasi, the district headquarters of Nawalparasi West. The historical site, according to the locals, is neglected as no good initiative was taken for its conservation.

In 2019, archaeologists conducted a geophysical survey of the Ramgram Stupa area. According to Coningham, the current team of archaeologists carried out the fresh excavation a month ago based on the 2019 geophysical survey, which identified a Vihar and a pond in the area.

“Very old and ancient structures have been uncovered during the excavation. The structures align precisely with historical descriptions of the Stupa,” said the British professor. He said further study of the new findings will certainly establish the area as a very important historical site.

Coningham, however, expressed his concern at the human encroachment of the Ramgram Stupa areas. He asserted that the encroachment and increasing human activities would damage the historical site.

Siddicharan Bhattarai, treasurer at the Lumbini Development Trust, admits that effective development plans could not be carried out in the Ramgram Stupa area, which lies in the Lumbini circuit. “Efforts are underway for the area’s development, but they are not enough,” said Bhattarai, adding that Ramgram is a historical place with archaeological significance.

Local people complain that the area has been overshadowed despite its historical importance as the authorities concerned did not prioritise the area’s excavation, exploration, research and development.

Dhanapat Yadav, mayor of Ramgram Municipality, urged the Lumbini Development Trust and other authorities to make sincere efforts towards this end. “The Department of Archaeology should continue excavation works at Ramgram,” said Yadav.

In the past, surveys were carried out in the Ramgram Stupa area in 1997, 1999 and 2014. Locals of Ramgram in Nawalparasi have demanded further excavations of the area after the recent findings. They claim that the area was once the capital city of ancient Koliya state, Panditpur. In 2014, a team of archaeologists excavated substantial evidence suggesting that Panditpur of the then Banjariya VDC was the capital of the ancient Koliya state. The team claimed that the materials uncovered date back to the seventh century BC. They had found mouths of wells, topaz, bangles, crystals, stones, and human statues dating back to the Kushan era (circa second century BC to first century CE) during the excavation.

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