Sunday, January 15, 2023

Neglected Ashokan Stūpas of Navadevakula (Newal)

Ancient brick in the wellhead, Khamabhauli.

Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang, 7th CE) traveled more than 100 Li SE from Kanyākubja (now Kannauj) to reach Navadevakula. Navadevakula was a city situated on the eastern bank of the Ganges River (Rongxi 1996: 132). It was  over 20 Li in circuit which is like 6-7 Kms. Cunningham in 1878 identified Newal ​​(26° 54'  N. 80° 10'  E) near Bangarmau as the remains of ancient Navadevakula (Cunningham 1880: 48).  Faxian (Fa-hein, 5th CE), like Xuanzang on his way from Kanyākubja, had crossed Ganges and traveled 3 Yojan South i.e. approximately 30 kms to  arrive at a place called A-le meaning forest (Legge 1886: Ch XVIII). At A-le Faxian saw stūpas where the Buddha preached law. Cunningham thought Faxian and Xuanzang were referring to the same place (Cunningham 1880: 47).

On my foot Journey I arrived at Newal on October 18, 2022. As I approached the Newal from the NW direction I noticed a huge irregular mound running from NW to SE. The mound was up to 4-5 ft high,  and extended as far as I could see on my left and right side. I was later told the mound is almost 1.5 kms long and up to 600 meters wide. The newly constructed Lucknow-Agra expressway is situated on the NW border of the mound. The mound gets very prominent, rising up to 30-40 ft on its SE corner. The highest part of the mound i.e. the SE corner has two villages Newal and Jagtāpur settled over them. A large part of the mound is now farmland, littered with brickbats everywhere. A few farmers whom I met informed me how occasionally they keep discovering ancient antiquities in the form of stone sculptures, metal implements, corroded utensils and of course a plethora of ancient potshards.

My host shri Praveen Kushwaha is a neo Buddhist and is well aware about the rich ancient past of his village, Newal. He took me around the village and showed me how the mounds were destroyed indiscriminately during the construction of the expressway in the mid 2010s. Developers of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway needed lots of earth and these mounds became easy prey. Farmers got lured by the handsome money offered by the Expressway developers. Ancient mound, the remains of Navadevakula of Xuanzang now has scars left by Expressway developers all over it.

Shri Pravesh Kushwaha showing the scars on the Newal mound.

A farmer in Newal showing what he just found while ploughing the field.

In the evening I discussed the two Ashokan stūpas mentioned by Xuanzang with my hosts. Emperor Ashoka erected these stūpas to mark the places where the Buddha gave sermons. The first Ashokan stūpa was situated 200 paces in front of a Buddhist monastic complex. The monastic complex consisted of three Sarvāstivāda monasteries where more than 500 monks practiced. The monastic complex was 5 Li east of Navadevakula i.e. 1.5 - 2.5 kms East of Newal. The 2nd Ashokan stūpa was situated 3-4 Li North of the Sarvāstivāda monastic complex.

Map 1. Ancient Navadevekula, and the two Ashokan Stūpa sites plotted on GE map.

Map 2. Ancient mound of village Bhagwantpur Gote depicted on GE Map.

Map 3. Ancient mounds in Khambahauli depicted on GE map.

Cunningham in his survey of Newal identified mounds in Bangarmau with the  remains of Buddhist monasteries and Ashokan stūpas of Xuanzang. Bangarmau is situated South-South-East of Newal. I was not convinced with the identifications offered by Cunningham. Instead, I thought we should look for the Buddhist remains in the villages situated exactly East of Newal. I had done some homework by plotting the probable places  on Google Earth that may match Xuanzang descriptions. After carefully examining the neighborhood of Newal on Google Earth I had a notion that the village Bhagwantpur Gote situated 3 kms East of Newal could be the site of the first Ashokan stūpa. My guess was the village Khambahauli situated 1.5 kms (3-4 Li) North of Bhagwantpur Gote should be the site of 2nd Ashokan stūpa of Xuanzang (see map1).

Praveen ji and his father Shri Rameshwar Prasad Kushwaha ji were ignorant of any ancient mound in Bhagwantpur Gote (26° 54' 54'' N. 80° 14' 15'' E) and Khambahauli ​​(26° 55' 49'' N. 80° 14' 21'' E).  Some telephonic conversation of Praveen ji with his friends in Bhagwantpur Gote and Khambahauli confirmed the presence of ancient mounds in these two villages.  After a while Pravesh Kushwaha, the younger brother of Praveen ji arrived and joined our exploratory discussion. Pravesh is the elected village head of Newal Panchayat. Pravesh ji had   observed that the two villages Bhagwantpur Gote and Khambhauli were situated on mounds.

Next morning we visited both the villages. As we approached Bhagwantpur I noticed from a fair distance the village was settled on a mound.  The mound was 200-250 mts long and was little more prominent in the south side.  The mound was approximately 40ft high from the neighboring agriculture fields. The mound was very badly damaged. According to one elderly villager, before these modern burnt bricks became easily available villagers found these mounds an easy source of  earth to make mud houses.   There was a muslim shrine on the southern peak of the mound.  Little east of the muslim shrine, I entered an open courtyard in front of the house of Shri Ram Awatar ji. The open area in front of the house was created by excavating the mound. The excavation in the mound revealed layers of very ancient bricks. One broken brick that I measured was 15in long and 10in wide. Another fragment measured 11in in width and 3in depth.  A washroom and cowshed in the space created by clearing the mound also had big-sized ancient bricks all over. The huge size of brick reveals it to be a very ancient structure. A walk in the streets of the village revealed the mound was huge. The mound was approximately 250m long and up to 200mt wide in the middle (see map 2).  I think the mound is big enough to represent the descriptions of Xuanzang. Probably, the prominent part in the south should be the remains of  the ‘Ashokan stūpa’  to mark the place where the Buddha preached (Rongxi 1996: 132).

NE corner of Bhagwantpur Gote. The village is settled on a big mound.

Damaged mound in the NW corner of the Bhagwantpur.

An ancient brick in the mound. Bhagwantpur.

Ancient bricks reused for making a toilet.

Blackslip and Northern Black Polished Ware? Ancient pottery in Bhagwantpur.

Ongoing Vandalisation of ancient mound in Bhagwantpur.

Ancient bricks reused for flooring the cowshed. Bhagwantpur.

An exposed part of the mound. Bhagwantpur.
The southern peak of the mound. Bhagwantpur.
Talking to a few villagers in Bhagwantpur.

Encouraged by the finds in Bhagwantpur, we next went to Khambahauli. Few people standing by the road at the entry of Khambahauli directed us to the NW corner of the village where according to them was the mound we were looking for. As soon as I saw a huge hemispherical mound, covered with dense vegetation at the turn of the road, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had no doubt  this was the 2nd Ashokan stūpa of Xuanzang in the vicinity of Navadevakula. It was so very overwhelming. According to Xuanzang it was here Buddha preached the Dharma for seven days. Xuanzang shares how 500 hungry ghosts became awakened after hearing the Dharma (Rongxi 1996: 132). I was particularly very happy with the condition of the mound. Though the sacred stūpa lay neglected for more than a millennia, there was very little encroachment. Thankfully, there were no dwellings on the top of the mound. This gives me hope that this stūpa mound could be  revitalized with some effort.

The mound is locally referred to as ‘Maulle Miyan’. According to villagers, a few centuries ago there was a muslim shrine on top of the mound. The shrine got abandoned, nobody knows when  but presently its fallen remains could be seen on the top of the mound. I noticed numerous lakhori bricks from the fallen shrine on the top of the mound. Lakhori bricks were popular in the 17th-19th century. Coincidentally, there is a cemented/brick path that encircles the mound  making it like a circumambulatory path around the ancient stūpa (see Map 3). I circumambulated  the stūpa mound and noticed the path encircling the mound was almost 600 mts long. This stūpa according to Xuanzang was 200ft. The mound is now only 20-25 ft high from the neighboring fields but its diameter is more than 300ft. The mound occupies more than 5 acres of land. The mound was damaged at a couple of places. Also, there were some temporary huts, cowsheds and a few abandoned houses on the fringes of ‘Maulle Miyan’ mound. Sizes of a few bricks that I measured were, (1)13in long and 2in depth,  (2) 11 X 7.5 X 2in and (3) 10.5 X 8.5 X 3in.

Xuanzang mentioned two more shrines beside the Ashokan stūpa where the Buddha preached. First one was to mark the presence of  four past buddhas and then there was a stūpa containing the hair and nail relics of the Buddha. By now I was surrounded by a group of curious young and old villagers accompanying me. They guided me further northwest to a mound that had huts and a government school built over it. The second mound is  called ‘Nivariyā’. According to villagers besides the Maulle Miyan this was the only mound that had ancient big sized bricks. Nivariyā mound is spread over a large area with the highest point of the mound not more than 6-8 ft high relative to the nearby farms.  At the northwest slope of Nivariyā mound I noticed an old abandoned well which had an octagonal wellhead and circular brick lining (see map 3). Each face of the octagonal wellhead was 90in (7ft 6in). An octagonal wellhead is surely a Buddhist feature inspired by the Noble Eightfold Path, the central teachings of the Buddha. Wells with octagonal linings and wellhead are well documented in monasteries of ancient Nālandā Mahāvihāra.  One of the bricks that I measured in the wellhead was 12.5 X 10 X 2.5 inches.

There was another mound called ‘Ratan Singh’, 150 mts west of  nivariyā mound. The mound was covered in thick vegetation. I did not find any bricks or pottery on this mound. In a temple near nivariyā mound I noticed a collective of fragments of some ancient brahmanical temple.  Probably the temple remains were from the medieval period.

Maulle Miyan mound, Khambahauli.

Ancient brick 13 Inch length, Maulle Miyan mound, Khambahauli.

Ancient brick 2 inch depth,  Maulle Miyan mound, Khambahauli.

Temporary huts on the periphery of the Maulle Miyan mound.

Ancient bricks bulging out from the Maulle Miyan mound.

Lakhori bricks from a fallen shrine on the top of Maulle Miyan mound.

Huts and cowshed in the periphery of the Maulle Miyan mound.

Ancient brick,  Maulle Miyan mound.

Octagonal Well. Khambahauli.

Ancient brick 11 Inch length, Octagonal Well, Khambahauli.

Ancient brick 3 inch depth,  Octagonal Well, Khambahauli.

Shri Ram Kumar ji showing ancient bricks from Nivariyā mound. 

Ratan Singh mound.

Ratan Singh mound.

Sculpture Shed, Khambahauli.
Ancient sculpture from ancient temple, Khambahauli.

Ancient sculpture from ancient temple, Khambahauli.

Conversation with the villagers in Khambahauli.

With my host shri Praveen Kushwaha ji who guided me in and around Newal.

Xuanzang has mentioned that the Ashokan stūpa was situated on the banks of Ganges. Presently the Ganges flows 15 kms as the crow flies from Khambahauli. Cunningham in his report has mentioned that Newal was  situated on the high bank of Kalyāni river which is an old course of Ganges (Cunningham1880: 49). Rameshwar Prasad ji recollected how the Kalyāni river which is now situated 3 kms south of Newal just a few generations ago flowed past Newal.  Presently, Newal and Khambahauli both the villages are situated on the banks of Panchnaiyā rivulet (Panchnai Nala, Cunningham 1880:49) (see Map 1). Rameshwar ji also added that after flowing past Newal the Panchnaiyā rivulet merges with Kalyāni river. Seems the Panchnaiya rivulet is an ancient stream of Kalayāni or say the Ganges river.

Archaeological remains of Bhgawantpur Gote and Khambahauli fulfills all  necessary conditions of distance and directions to be the two Ashokan stūpas to mark the sites where the Buddha gave sermons as documented by Xuanzang. Finds in these villages are compelling. These sites deserve study by competent authorities. These sites according to Xuanzang are sacred footsteps of the Buddha. I am sure, a little effort by stakeholders can save the Khambahauli mound from further decay.  Few people whom I met in  Khambahauli, I shared with them what these mounds in the village may represent and why it is important to preserve them for posterity.

Story chronicled by Surinder M Talwar.


Beal, S.;1914,  The life of Hiuen-Tsiang by Shaman Hwui Li by Kegan Paul. London: Trench Trubner  and Co.

Cunningham, A.; 1880, Report Tours in the Gangetic  Provinces from Badaon to Bihar, in 1875-76 and 1877-78 , Vol-XI, Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing. 

Cunningham, A.; 1871. The Ancient Geography of India - I: The Buddhist Period. London: Trubner and Co.

Rongxi, Li; 1996, The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions, BDK America, Inc.

Watters, Thomas; 2004, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, (Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and  S.W. Bushell), Reprinted in LPP 2004, Low Price Publications, Delhi. 

Legge, James; 1886, Records of the Buddhistic Kingdoms by Chinese monk Fa-Hien. Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc. Downloaded from

Thursday, January 12, 2023

In the search for the two Ashokan Stūpas in Kannauj

Holding the broken sandstone image of Buddha. Chintāmani.

Life (Beal 1914) and Travels (Rongxi 1996), the two accounts of Xuanzang’s journey, have mentioned two 200 ft Ashokan stūpas in the immediate neighborhood of Kanyākubja (now Kannauj), to mark the place where the Buddha gave sermons. The first Ashokan stūpa mentioned by Xuanzang was situated north-west of the City. The Ashokan stūpa to mark where Buddha preached Dharma was situated north of the river Ganges (Rongxi 1996: 130). Besides this Ashokan stūpa Xuanzang saw a small stūpa containing hair and nail relics of Buddha. Close to the Ashoka stūpa were three monasteries built in one enclosure, with separate entrances. A temple in this monastic complex had the tooth relic of the Buddha, stored in a precious casket. At each side, and in front of the monasteries there was a temple more than one hundred feet high, built with brick, on stone foundations. In front of each of the two temples, there existed a small monastery. At a short distance south-east of the monasteries was a colossal 200 ft temple made out of brick, on stone foundation, housing a standing statue of the Buddha of over thirty feet in height. Xuanzang also noticed several thousand families of monastic servitors living nearby. 

By any estimate this Buddhist complex of three monasteries, a 200 ft Ashoka stūpa, numerous temples and hundreds of monastics and their servitors living, should be large and spread in a large area. Cunningham expressed his inability to identify any Buddhist remains in Kannauj mentioned by Xuanzang.  Cunningham offered few conjectures but expressed his inability to find anything of importance in those places (Cunningham 2000: 284, 291).

On my foot journey, I arrived at Kannauj on 17th October 22. On way to Kannauj from Gurusahaiganj I was joined by Shri Ram Babu Shakya, Shri Shiv Pratap Singh, Shri Ramendra Kumar Shakya, Shri Aditya Vikram Singh  Shakya, Shri Rahul Pratap Singh Shakya, Shri Narayan Kushwaha and Shri Gautam Shakya. All of them are heritage volunteers who came from Chhibramau to help me in my Kannauj explorations.  All of us first went to the Govardhani Māi temple. Govardhani Māi (27° 04' 47'' N. 79° 51' 58'' E) is an extremely popular shrine among the locals. The temple is situated on a very huge mound. At first glance the mound looks like the remains of a huge stūpa. Govardhani Māi temple has many ancient Brahmanical sculptures but the most prominent sculpture at the site is a Jaina image from the medieval period. A broken brick that I found measured 3in X 10.5in X 14in (approx.).

Map 1. Ancient sites and river beds in Kannauj plotted on Google Map.

Map 2. Dahelpur, Chintāmani, Ismailpur and Kali Nadi plotted on Google Map.

Map 3. Ancient mounds in Dahelpur.

Govardhani Māi Shrine.

A Jaina image at Govardhani Māi Shrine.

Ancient bricks in a vandalised mound. Govardhani Māi Shrine.

With the group of heritage activists from Chibaramau.

This mound could date from a very early period. But, the Govardhani Māi site may not be the Ashokan stūpa mentioned by Xuanzang for a number of reasons; firstly, it is situated approximately 6 kms north-west of Kannauj. Xuanzang has not given the distance of the site, but I think the site mentioned by Xuanzang should be 1-2 kms from the city. Practically, a distance of 1-2 kms is convenient for the followers to visit Buddha and also convenient for the Buddha and the Sangha to walk for collecting their daily alms to the nearby habitations. Secondly, the archaeological site is not big enough to match the descriptions of Xuanzang. We did some explorations in the neighborhood of Govardhani shrine and inquired with the locals. There were not many mounds to complement the description of Xuanzang. And thirdly, the ‘Ashokan stūpa’ in question was situated on the north bank of the Ganges. Local people informed me that the Ganges presently flows more than 2 kms north of the site and that there are no ancient river beds anywhere near the Govardhani temple. 

After arriving in Kannauj city we went straight to another very popular shrine called Chintāmani Temple. The previous night, I met a school teacher Shri Sushil Shakya in Gursahaiganj.  Sushil ji had noticed huge mounds in the neighborhood of Chintāmani shrine in Kannauj. He emphasized that I should visit Chintāmani temple and its surrounding. As I was entering the Chintāmani village, my eyes lit up with surprise. I noticed a broken sandstone image of the standing Buddha lying by the roadside. Villagers told me the find spot of the Buddha and other images lying in Chintāmani is Dhaelpur, a village less than one kilometre further north. As I approached Dhaelpur I noticed a very huge imposing mound approximately 50 ft high from the road on which I was walking. The mound was multitier, covered by small-small green patches of farms. It was obvious; that the ancient mound was being used for agriculture. Here, I met a curious elderly person, Shri Ram Awatar ji who after some discussion volunteered to take us around. The mound (27° 05' 00'' N. 79° 54' 50'' E) was locally referred to as ‘Gaḍhi’, meaning a fortress. We climbed-up the mound from its west side. The mound was flat on the top. There was a sculpture collective that had broken stone sculptures and temple panels.  From the top of the mound, I noticed a river stream touching the Gaḍhi mound on the south side. Ram Awatar ji informed us that once the Ganges flowed from here and the stream sighted by us was of river Gangā (the Ganges).

From Google Earth, I found that the stream was actually Kāli Nadi, a rivulet that originates from foothills of Himalayas. It follows approximately 500 kms of winding path in the plains between the rivers Gangā and Yamunā. On its way to Kannauj, it also touches the Buddhist sites of Atranji Kherā and Sankissa. Kāli Nadi moving past Dahelpur finally confluences with the Ganges just 3 kms east of Dhaelpur. From the top of the Gaḍhi mound I noticed another mound on its north. A village road divided the two mounds. The second mound according to Shri Awatar ji was called ‘Rājā Basuk’. Rājā Basuk was not as tall as Gaḍhi, but was spread over large area. Maybe, it extended more than 300 mts further north. Unlike the Gaḍhi mound which was mostly free of encroachment, the Rājā Basuk mound was totally occupied by houses. Dhaelpur village was settled over it. Ancient bricks were all over the mounds. Neighboring fields were full of potshards and brickbats. I noticed a big vertical cut on the south-eastern face of Gaḍhi mound. This large cut had revealed a cross section of Gaḍhi where ancient bricks could be seen bulging. I noticed seven sculpture collectives in different corners of the Dhaelpur. All the sculptures were Brahmanical. They were broken and disfigured.  I think, I found a disfigured head of Buddha in one of the sculpture collectives in Dhaelpur. A brick that I measured near a field at Dahelpur was 1.7in X 7in X 11in.

With Sushil Shakya ji and my host Veerpal Kushwaha ji. Gurusahaiganj. 

Gaḍhi mound from south side. Dahelpur.

A broken sandstone image of Buddha in a village collective. Chintāmani

Kāli Nadi from the top of Gaḍhi mound. Dahelpur.

Sculpture collective on the Gaḍhi mound. Dahelpur.

A mound north of  Gaḍhi mound. Dahelpur.

Rājā Basuk mound. Dahelpur.

Rājā Basuk mound. Dahelpur.

The vandalisation of  the Gaḍhi mound revealing ancient bricks. Dahelpur.

 Some Sculptures found in Dahelpur

One of the  sculpture collectives with broken images. Dahelpur.

Disfigured Buddha Head ? (Dahelpur)
With Shri Ram Awatar ji. Dahelpur.

Xuanzang further mentioned two big and beautiful Brahmanical shrines situated ‘not far to the south’ of the stone temple of standing Buddha image. The first temple was of God Sūrya and another one further south, was dedicated to God Maheśvara.

Approximately 1.5 km south of Gaḍhi mound, I noticed two big mounds in a small village called Ismailpur Nooruddinpur. The first mound called Meenā Bāzār (27° 04' 17'' N. 79° 55' 01'' E), had a dilapidated muslim shrine made from Lākhori bricks on its top. The mound proper was around half an acre big but its immediate surroundings were strewn with ancient brickbats spread in a large area.  The second mound called Chandan pir (27° 04' 15'' N. 79° 55' 04'' E) also contained a  muslim shrine, which was made by reusing sandstone panels of ancient Brahmanical shrine.  Broken sculptures and parts of the temple were scattered inside and outside the Chandan Pir. The shrine is situated on the northern end of the 0.4 Acre big mound. Shri Sarvesh ji, who has his house on the mound, informed me that the shrine has very few and occasional visitors. One brick that I measured at Chandan pir was 2in X 8.1in X 14.5 in. The Meenā Bāzār and Chandan Pir mounds were 100mts apart from each other.

Based on my findings, I am convinced that Dhaelpur is the site of the Buddhist complex mentioned by Xuanzang.  Firstly, Dhaelpur is situated approximately 2 kms North-North-West of the NW edge of the ancient Kannauj city, which is the ideal distance for a monastery from a city or village. Secondly, it is situated on the northern bank of the river (Kāli Nadi) as mentioned by Xuanzang.  Kāli Nadi is a tributary of Ganges and confluences with the Ganges at the eastern edge of village Dahelpur. Thirdly, Gaḍhi and Rājā Basuk mound and the mounds in their surroundings are spread in more than 20 acres of land, and thus match up with the descriptions of Xuanzang. Fourthly, the presence of the 6-7th CE, broken sandstone image of the Buddha suggests a Buddhist connection to the place. Excavation of mounds in Dahelpur may yield more Buddhist remains.  It is also important to note that the remains of Brahmanical temple in Ismailpur Nooruddinpur, situated south of Dhaelpur village, match the descriptions of Xuanzang. Dahelpur, Chintāmani and its surroundings need scientific study from competent professionals to find the complete truth.

Meenā Bāzār mound. A muslim shrine on the top. Ismailpur.

With villagers at Meenā Bāzār mound.  

A Brahamanical artefacts at Chandan Pir Shrine. Ismailpur. 

Chandan Pir Shrine. Ismailpur. 

A Brahamanical artefacts at the Chandan Pir Shrine. Ismailpur. 

Shri Sarvesh ji showing an ancient motif panel at the Chandan Pir. Ismailpur.

Villagers showing the Brahamanical past of the Chandan Pir. Ismailpur.

An ancient brick from Chandan Pir mound. Ismailpur.

Encroachment around the Meenā Bāzār mound
Chintāmani Shrine.

The second Ashokan stūpa to mark the presence of the Buddha mentioned by Xuanzang was located 6-7 Li SE of Kannauj City.  It was here that the Buddha had delivered the ‘doctrine of impermanence.’ Beside it is a site where the four past Buddhas used to sit and walk up and down. Near it was another small stūpa containing hair and nail relics of the Buddha. The stūpa according to Xuanzang was propitious. Anyone circumambulating the stūpa with a pious mind would get cured of illness. Faxian has also mentioned about the Ashokan stūpa to mark the place where the Buddha had delivered the ‘doctrine of impermanence’ (Legge 1886). Faxian places the stūpa 6-7 Li West of the City and on the northern bank of the river. Obviously, both the pilgrims are describing the same Ashokan stūpa where the Buddha delivered his talk on impermanence, but, there is inconsistency between the descriptions of both the pilgrims.

Next, I decided to walk from Dargha Hazrat, the north-west border of the ancient city to Mehndi Ghāt, situated little beyond the south-east border of the ancient city. This is approximately 10 km long road that runs parallel and adjacent to the remains of the ancient Kannauj. The 10 ft wide road keeps Kannauj on its south side and the Ganges on its north. All along this road, I noticed a continuous mound with a 15-20 ft high wall made up of crumbling bricks and earth. This continuous mound looked like the remains of a fortification wall. This  mound runs continuously from Dargah Hazrat in the NW to Abādi Rājgir in the SE. Xuanzang mentioned the City to be 20 Li long (Rongxi 1996: 121), which comes to approximately 6 to 7 Kms. Abādi Rājgir is situated 6.5 kms as the crow flies SE of  Dargah Hazrat. It seems Abādi Rājgir could be the eastern limit of the ancient city of Kannauj. I also noticed that this continuous mound from Dargah Hazrat to Rājgir has prominent spikes in the villages of Salempur and Deokali, where the mound rises up to 30-45ft.

Cunningham had proposed Kishen Kali Burj and Mahallā of Lāla Misr situated to the south-east of the Killah Mound as the probable site of Ashoka stūpa mentioned by Xuanzang. The killah mound is a part of the ancient city of Kannauj, over which the modern city of Kannauj is settled (Cunningham 2000: 284). Both the places identified by Cunningham are situated SE of killah mound but still they were inside the ancient city of Kannauj. The Ashokan stūpa according to Xuanzang was outside the ancient city of Kannauj. Hence, Kishen Kali Burj and Mahallā of Lāla Misr proposed by Cunningham do not qualify the descriptions of location of the Ashokan stūpa mentioned by Xuanzang. 

Around 1.5 kms further east of Abādi Rājgir I noticed big mounds in village Gumtiyā (27° 01' 10'' N. 79° 58' 22'' E). This village was partially settled over a mound. These mounds were situated adjacent to the Ganges. The northern face of the mound was washed off by the Ganges. The exposed cross section of the mound revealed a few layers of bricks. The exposed bricks were out of my reach, but I noticed the bricks were big sized and could be very ancient. Xuanzang has placed the stūpa to be 6-7Li SE of the city. This comes around 2-3 kms.  If Abādi Rājgir is indeed the eastern limit of the ancient Kannauj city then the Gumtiyā village is the potential site of the 2nd Ashokan stūpa mentioned by Xuanzang.

View of River Ganges from the Gumtiyā mound.

Ancient bricks all over the Gumtiyā mound.

The Gumtiyā mound cut by the Ganges exposing ancient bricks. 

Gumtiyā Mound by the Ganges.

Sculpture collective called Gumtiyā Tikhā.
A sculpture in the sculpture collective called Gumtiyā Tikhā.

A sculpture in the sculpture collective called Gumtiyā Tikhā.

Shri Vishram Singh,  Gumtiyā Tikhā.
A roadside sculpture shed near between Gumtiyā and Mehndi Ghāt.

A roadside sculpture shed near between Gumtiyā and Mehndi Ghāt.
A roadside sculpture shed near between Gumtiyā and Mehndi Ghāt.
Overflowing river due to heavy rains on 8-10th October.

Morning time. somewhere near Kannauj.

It is surprising, Kannauj was a flourishing Buddhist center at the time of visit of Faxian (5th CE) and Xuanzang (7th CE), yet, there are almost negligible Buddhist artifacts discovered from Kannauj. Government Archaeological Museum, Kannauj has no Buddhist sculptures in its display. Numerous sculpture collectives that I encountered during my exploration in Kannauj and its surroundings had only Jaina and Brahmanical images from the medieval period except for the lone 6-7th CE Buddha image that I discovered at Chintāmani.

Most likely, after Harshavardhana (590 to 647 CE), the rulers, patrons  and the people of Kannauj  shifted their allegiance from Buddhism to other faiths like Brahmanism and Jainism. Xuanzang in his visit to Kanyākubja has documented how ‘heretics’ attempted to kill King Harshavardhana because he was giving patronage to the Buddhists (Rongxi 1996: 130).

Dr Jalaj Kumar Tiwary, a senior archaeologist from the Archaeological Survey of India, based on his study of images from the medieval period found in Nālandā and its surroundings has argued how people in Nālandā in 11th CE onwards gradually shifted their allegiance towards Brahmanism (Tiwary 2021). I think something similar might have happened here at Kannauj after the reign of Harshavardhana (606 to 647 CE). A detailed archaeological study of ancient remains in Chintāmani, Dhaelpur, Gumtiyā and other sites in Kannauj may reveal the complete truth about the Buddhist remains mentioned by Xuanzang in Kanyākubja.

Story chronicled by Surinder M Talwar.


Beal, S.; 1914, The life of Hiuen-Tsiang by Shaman Hwui Li by Kegan Paul. London: Trench Trubner and Co.

Cunningham, A.; 2000, Archaeological Survey of India Four Reports Made During the Years 1862-63-64-65, Vol-I, Published by ASI, GOI, 2000, (First Published in 1871).

Cunningham, A.; 1871, The Ancient Geography of India - I: The Buddhist Period. London: Trubner and Co.

Rongxi, Li; 1996, The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions. BDK America, Inc.

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