We try to relate the Xuanzang’s detail with the existing remains. This plan cannot be without errors. For lack of proper dating mechanism at the time of its excavation we have very limited information about the exact number of reconstructions, respective periods of the structures and reconstructions. We also have evidence from the travel accounts of corean traveler Hwui Lun; we shall use his description to establish links and cross check the findings.
All the data for the study are taken from the ASI annual report, the first hand observations of the archaeologist who conducted the excavations. As mentioned in earlier posts, Xuanzang has provided description of one “complex” which was later mentioned by Hwui Lun & Dharmasvamin. This complex is the 6 monasteries in one boundary and Xuanzang also calls it a convent or great college.
As per the excavations report all the subsequent structures were raised either by encasing the old one or over the debris of the previous, following same original ground plan.
The entire major mound in the campus is now excavated. For lack of conclusive evidence a clear-cut demarcation of various layers and contribution of kings at different periods cannot be determined. However from the available information we have a broad division of the Gupta and the Pala period, and fortunately Xuanzang stay is in between the two. There is some confusion pertaining to the dating of monastery no 1A and 1B. At first glance it appears to be among the first monasteries in the campus since it is not following the planned row of monasteries a later development. But the archaeological evidence suggests it to be much later development. The first layer of 1A is resting on the debris of 4th layer of monastery no 1 and 1st layer (earliest) of monastery no 1 is 7th century AD. But some observers have found the 2nd layer floor level of temple 1A and 5th layer of temple no 3 are on same level, hence the first layer should be one of the earliest structure.
“Monastery no 5”, has two different directions in “Life” and “Travels”, we will examine the more suitable layout matching the excavated remains. The number of structures mentioned by Xuanzang is more than the existing (excavated). Sizes of the smaller structures is not mentioned by Xuanzang we can safely assume the smaller structures are either lost in subsequent centuries or is one among many cluster of small structures spread in the campus.
Archaeological findings are not conclusive to establish any one to one link with Xuanzang description. The reference point of the division of monasteries by the archaeologists is the Devapala period which is 200 years after the Xuanzang stay. On the basis of archaeological evidences the monasteries no 1B, 4 (5), 6 & 7 could be present at the time Xuanzang stay. No conclusive evidence is present in favour of Monastery no 1& 1A, but we will keep it in the list and see its possibilities. On the basis of archaeological evidences Temple no 3, 12, 13, 14 and the “Sarai mound” Structure were there at the time of Xuanzang stay.