Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Excavations reveal Buddhist monastery complex at Bharatpur of Bengal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various mudras of Buddha

Mains level: Ancient Buddhist Architecture


Recent excavations at Bharatpur in West Bengal’s Paschim Bardhaman district have revealed the presence of a Buddhist monastery.

Bharatpur Buddhist Monastery Complex

  • The Kolkata Circle of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) started excavating the site in the second week of January and a structural complex of a monastery has now been partially exposed.
  • The site was initially excavated almost fifty years ago between 1972 and 1975 when archeologists from ASI found a Buddhist stupa at the site.

Uniqueness of this site

  • This place hosts a large stupa along with a monastery complex and black and red ware pottery from the Chalcolithic or Copper Age.
  • In other sites across West Bengal, such as Karnasubarna in Murshidabad, Moghalamari in Paschim Medinipur and Jagjivanpur in Malda, archeologists have found only smaller votive stupas.
  • Further excavation is likely to shed more light to understand the earliest occupation of the site and its continuity till the establishment of a Buddhist monastery.

Key findings

  • In the 1970s when the site was excavated along with the stupa, five beautiful seated sculptures of the Buddha in Bhumisparsha Mudra -with all five fingers of the right hand extended to touch the ground — were found.
  • These miniature sculptures, each about 30 cm in height, were most likely used for worship in the monastery.

Back2Basics: Mudras of Buddha


(1) Dharmachakra Mudra

  • It is also called as the gesture of ‘Teaching of the Wheel of Dharma’ that describes one of the most important moments in the Buddha’s life as he performed the Dharmachakra mudra in his first sermon in Sarnath after he attained enlightenment.
  • It is performed with the help of both the hands which are held against the chest, the left facing inward, covering the right facing outward.

(2) Dhyan Mudra

  • It is also known as Samadhi or Yoga Mudra.
  • It is performed with the help of two hands, which are placed on the lap and place the right hand on the left hand with stretched fingers (thumbs facing upwards and other fingers of both the hand resting on each other.)
  • This is the characteristic gesture of Buddha Shakyamuni, Dhyani Buddha Amitabh and the Medicine Buddha.

(3) Bhumisparsa Mudra

  • This gesture is also known as ‘touching the Earth’, which represents the moment of the Buddha’s awakening as he claims the earth as the witness of his enlightenment.
  • It is performed with the help of the right hand, which is held above the right knee, reaching toward the ground with the palm inward while touching the lotus throne.

(4) Varada Mudra

  • This mudra represents the offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity.
  • It is performed with the help of both the hands in which palm of right hand is facing forward and fingers extended and left hand palm placed near centre with extended fingers.

(5) Karana Mudra

  • It signifies the warding off of evil which is performed by raising the index and the little finger, and folding the other fingers.
  • It helps in reducing sickness or negative thoughts.

(6) Vajra Mudra

  • This gesture denotes the fiery thunderbolt that symbolises the five elements—air, water, fire, earth, and metal.
  • It is performed with the help of right fist and left forefinger, which is placed by enclosing the erect forefinger of the left hand in the right fist with the tip of the right forefinger touching (or curled around) the tip of the left forefinger.

(7) Vitarka Mudra

  • It signifies the discussion and transmission of the teachings of the Buddha.
  • It is performed by joining the tips of the thumb and the index fingers together while keeping the other fingers straight, which is just like the Abhaya Mudra and Varada Mudra but in this mudra the thumbs touch the index fingers.

(8) Abhaya Mudra

  • It is a gesture of fearlessness or blessing that represents the protection, peace, benevolence, and dispelling of fear.
  • It is performed with the help of right hand by raising to shoulder height with bent arm, and the face of palm will be facing outward with fingers upright whereas the left hand hanging down while standing.

(9) Uttarabodhi Mudra

  • This denotes the supreme enlightenment through connecting oneself with divine universal energy.
  • It is performed with the help of both the hands, which are placed at the heart with the index fingers touching and pointing upwards and the remaining fingers intertwined.

(10) Anjali Mudra

  • It is also called Namaskara Mudra or Hridayanjali Mudra that represents the gesture of greeting, prayer and adoration.
  • It is performed by pressing the palms of the hands together in which the hands are held at the heart chakra with thumbs resting lightly against the sternum.


Answer this PYQ from CSP 2014 in the comment box:

Q.Lord Buddha’s image is sometimes shown with a hand gesture called ‘Bhumisparsha Mudra’. It symbolizes-

a) Buddha’s calling of the Earth to watch over Mara and to prevent Mara from disturbing his meditation

b) Buddha’s calling of the Earth to witness his purity and chastity despite the temptations of Mara

c) Buddha’s reminder to his followers that they all arise from the Earth and finally dissolve into the Earth and thus this life is transitory

d) Both the statements ‘a’ and ‘b’ are correct in this context


Post your answers here.
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