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Hiuen Tsang’s trail to be explored by India, China

The Chinese government, Bihar government, Nalanda University and K P Jayaswal Research Institute are coming together for the project.

kolkata Updated: Nov 08, 2016 10:38 IST
Mou Chakraborty
Mou Chakraborty
Hindustan Times
Hiuen Tsang,Nalanda,Bihar
According to Hiuen Tsang’s texts, Nalanda University complex was spread over a stretch that was 16 km long. But only 1.8 km has been excavated so far.(HT Photo)

China will partner Bihar government to explore and excavate several spots in Pataliputra, Nalanda University and Rajgir Hills that have been mentioned in the travelogue of Xuan Zang, better known as Hiuen Tsang in India to unearth Ashokan pillars, footprints of the Buddha on a rock, relics of the Buddha’s ruins and similar treasures.

Scholar, traveller and Buddhist monk, Hiuen Tsang (602--664 AD) was one of the most important chroniclers of the exchange between two of the oldest civilisations India and China.

Read: First India-China movie ‘Xuanzang’ to hit screens this month

Modern gadgets such as Ground Penetrating Radars (GPR), Light Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) -- a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth -- drones and satellite imaging will be used for exploration and excavation.

Dr Bijoy Choudhary, director of K P Jayaswal Research Institute and Director of Bihar Heritage Development Society is playing a pivotal role in the forthcoming project. “I have spoken to the chief minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar and he has given a go ahead. Now we are in talks with the consul general of China in Kolkata. The dialogue has started but formalities are yet to be tied up,” Choudhary said.

The Buddha and relics associated with his followers as found in the Chinese monk’s texts will constitute the focus of the excavation. (HT Photo)

“The travelogues of Hiuen Tsang has to be deciphered by them. The Bihar and Chinese governments will bear the costs equally between them,” he added.

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“We are excited about the project. It is a step forward for the bond India and China shares from ancient times. Institutions in Hunan Province and Shaanxi province are known for their expertise in the study of archeology. We would be exploring tie up with some of these institutions,” said Ma Zhanwu, the Chinese Consul General in Kolkata.

Prof. Gopa Subharwal, vice chancellor of Nalanda University said they will soon join the project. “So far only 1.8 km of Nalanda University has been excavated, and there is immense possibility of more archeological remains to be unearthed,” she said.

Nalanda Mahavihara, in Magadhan region was the destination of a long arduous journey undertaken by the Buddhist monk Xuan Zang in the seventh century. During his six-year stay at Nalanda, Xuan Zang traversed the region of Magadha, visiting several Buddhist monasteries and stupas and documented them.

“Alexander Cunningham’s rigorous explorations on the trail of Xuan Zang has not been followed up. There are serious gaps in the archeological narratives. Pataliputra, an immensely important ancient city has no matching archaeological features. Xuan Zang mentions several monuments in Bihar and give relative distances and directions,” said Choudhary.

Read: The Nalanda enterprise rose from a fundamentally false premise

He thinks modern gadgets and deciphering Xuan Zang’s travelogue can help solve many riddles.

The scholars are of the opinion remains from Paleolithic age like stone tools, rock paintings interesting archeological features and religious monuments of Hindus, Buddhists, Islam and Jains may be discovered during the excavation.

First Published: Nov 08, 2016 10:38 IST