Pauni, Dt.-Bhandara, Maharashtra

  • Pauni, Dt.-Bhandara, Maharashtra
  • 20.78°N 79.63°E

The ancient site comprises three mounds, known as Jagannatha Temple Mound, Hardolala Tekri and Suleman Tekri. Of these, the Jagannatha Temple Mound, situated on the southern periphery of the Balasamudra lake, in casual agricultural operations had yielded few railing-pillars with carved Buddhist motifs and human figures of devotees as also a massive coping stone with inscriptions in Mauryan Brahmi characters prior to this excavation.

The excavation revealed that (i) the original stupa was encased in subsequent times, (ii) the pradakshina-patha was constructed three times, and (iii) an elaborate stone railing with gateways at the four cardinal directions was added in the last phase.


Repairs to the railing and to the dome of the encasing stupa continued till about the second century A.D. The entire complex thus seems to have remained in worship from the beginning of the third century B.C. to the third century A.D.


The original stupa, having a diameter of 38.20 m., was built of bricks, the construction being in box-pattern with empty spaces filled in with whitish clay and brickbats.


On account of the subsequent encasement of the stupa, it was not possible to trace the pradakshina-patha, if any, of this phase. Likewise, due to large-scale despoliation by brick robbers, the height of the dome also could not be ascertained. Save for a few sherds of coarse red ware, no other finds were recovered from the associated strata.


During the second phase, the original stupa was encased by an additional masonry resulting in an increase of 3.20 m. in its diameter. The encasement was also done in the box-pattern. Along with the encasement was laid out a Pradakshina-patha, composed of greenish-yellow murum, capped by about 2-5-cm. thick lime and gravel mixed with mica. The Pradakshina-patha still retained at some places traces of post holes indicative perhaps of the existence of a wooden railing. This wooden railing seems to have decayed in the course of time.


Thereafter, a five-course brick wall encircling the stupa was constructed to provide a base for the wooden posts of the railing. The old Pradakshina-patha was covered with a 15-cm. thick deposit of murum capped by lime, gravel and mica flakes.


This elaboration also does not seem to have continued for long. The stupa complex was again renovated. In this phase, the following innovations were made: (i) the wooden posts of the peripheral railing were replaced by stone pillars which rested on slabs placed right over the brick-wall (ii) the Pradakshina-patha was remodelled; and (iii) an outer railing and cardinally-placed gateways were erected. The peripheral railing consisted of stone pillars, placed at intervals of 1.15 m. Some of these were found to be ornamented with carved figures of yakshas, lotus medallions, royal elephant processions, etc. Beyond this peripheral railing was the 3.70 m. wide Pradakshina-patha made up of 10-cm. thick slabs. The outer railing consisted of pillars placed 1 m. apart over undressed slabs. Each pillar had four sockets, the lowermost being rectangular and the upper three lenticular in section. Some of the pillars were beautifully decorated, with motifs of lotus medallions, vegetal friezes, human devotees standing in veneration, stupa with railing, bhadrasana, kalpa-vriksha, Bodhi-tree, parrots and floral friezes. One of the pillars bore a name-label of Naga Muchalinda. The human sculptures as also the decorative patterns are in the Sunga idiom. These railing-pillars were surmounted by heavy coping-stones, one of which had a lovely lotus medallion, carved in relief and bearing an inscription in Asokan Brahmi, informing of its being a gift of Visamita (Visvamitra). During this renovation, gateways were also erected at cardinal directions. Repairs to the railing seem to have continued till about the late Satavahana period as attested by palaeographic and numismatic evidence. That the entire monument was the result of munificence from various individuals is attested by numerous inscriptions on suchis, pillars and coping-stones.


The human sculptures on the railing-pillars showed many features characteristic of the Sunga School. The female figures had diaphanous garment, tucked in a bunch at the side, elaborate mekhala and heavy beaded valayas. They are carved in low relief but their artistic coiffure is reminiscent of Bharhut. The males had short dhotis with the ends gathered in front and let loose up to the ankle, beaded valayas, ornamental armlets and coiffure embellished by buns and bunches arranged with the help of pearl-jalis.


Associated with these sculptural and epigraphical remains were coins (punch-marked, Satavahana and Kshatrapa) and a few beads of garnet, agate and carnelian. The ceramic evidence showed the use of a coarse red ware in the earlier levels and of the N.B.P. Ware in the levels associated with the final phase of the Pradakshina-patha, indicating thereby that the stupa was constructed before the appearance of the N.B.P. Ware at the site. The topmost debris yielded a few sherds of the Red Polished Ware which confirmed, along with the numismatic evidence, the desertion of the stupa site around third century A.D.