Survey of Monastic Remains of Northern India
IN India, north of the Vindhyas, such a clean sweep has been made of vihāras by time's ravages and men's that no monastery ruins remain standing except at two places, Nālandā and Somapura (Paharpur). A good many of them, however, sunk to their earth- buried foundations, have disclosed their lost identities under the archaeologist's spade and shovel.
Excavations over more than a century at different archaeological sites in northern India have shown that a monastery site was rarely abandoned. When the first structure got totally ruined or destroyed, it was replaced by a new one in situ, so that the original foundations went deeper and deeper under layers of successive construction. The monastic remains already brought to view, except at Taxila, are mostly of the Gupta or post-Gupta age, but from under the excavated foundations peep out vestiges of more ancient Kuṣāṇa-age structures. They are distinguishable by the special shape and size of bricks used in Kuṣāṇa constructions.
The remains of the Taxilan monasteries are the most ancient hitherto discovered. Before the Hüṇna invaders laid it waste in the fifth century AD, the Taxila region under the Kuṣāṇa kings ( first- third centuries AD) had been a flourishing seat of Buddhism. It covered three city-states, now known as Bhir Mound, Sirkap and Sirsukh, where saṅgha life appears to have flourished in a number of large monastic establishments. Their foundations have been unearthed; they form an extensive complex. Their age is indicated by the archaeological finds in the debris. Among them are sundry specimens of Gāndhāra art, but no find of post-Kuṣāṇa period. Back of the Kuṣāṇa age, no trace of monastic ruins of the BC centuries has been discovered so far.
Among these ruins of Taxila are the remains of the Pippala Monastery, so called from the name of the mound on which it was situated. Judged by the layout it was a unitary construction. It is thus described by Marshall.1
'Of the Buddhist monuments (at Taxila), the most interesting was that unearthed in a mound called Pippala. . . . The remains brought____________________