gumbatuna stupa

2nd Century Buddhist Gumbatuna Stupa Swat, Pakistan

Gumbatuna Stupa is a 2nd century Buddhist stupa located in Swat Valley, Pakistan. It is located about 9 kilometers south of Barrkot in the Kandag Gandhara valley.

The stupa was first recorded by A. Stein in 1930 when the main stupa and votive stupas were identified. Later, another archaeologist also explored the area.

The remains of the Gumbatuna stupa are scattered over a range of 1500 m wide and 1000 m wide. The ruins were restored in 2011-2012 and about 25% of the terrace was excavated in 2011. Radiocarbon dating estimates that the shrine and buildings were constructed in the 2nd century.

The main stupa is located in the lower zone, which has a plinth 17 m long on each side and a projection of about 3.7 m. Above the dome are the remains of Harmika and umbrellas. The stupa has two terraces and a cloister and dome is a double-domed dome and is surrounded by more than 20 smaller stupas.

Gumbatuna Stupa Location

The site of Gumbatuna (Gumbatuna is the plural of Gumbat, the Pashto word for dome) is a Buddhist establishment located on the right bank of the Swat River, 9 km west of Barikot village along the metalled road leading towards Nimogram in a wide valley. 

The valley is largely drained by the Swat River, which flows through the area through several braided channels. The archaeological remains of Gumbatuna Stupa are scattered over an extent of 1,500 meters from north to south and 1,000 meters from east to west in wide terraced fields sloping into the hills beyond, known as the Shamozai Range. There is a spring in a picturesque ravine north of the sacred area.

Excavation of Gumbatuna Stupa Swat Pakistan

The first season’s excavations were limited to only the terraces that make up the huge main stupa and the votive stupas partially uncovered by treasure hunters. The central terrace consists of a circular monastery now occupied by the modern village of Gmbatuna. The upper terrace consists of various groups of monastic residences, caves, viharas and stupas.

Main Stupa

The lower zone includes the main stupa surrounded by a votive stupa and columns bordered by an enclosure wall. The main stupa stands on a square plinth measuring 17 m on each side with an offset projection 3.71 m long and 3.82 m wide for the east step. 

The huge stupa is probably the best preserved in ancient Udyana, consisting of a dome, upper and three lower drums, resting on a square podium and a round slab. The structure above the dome contains an accordion and umbrellas, which are now missing. 

Gumbatuna stupa has a square plan and consists of a base bordered with a straight Scotia pattern (H.O 50cm). The podium or square plinth stands up to a height of 3.90 m from the top of the plinth. The upper part of the plinth is paved with slate slabs, from which protrudes a crown (h. 0.35 cm) built in corbel style.

The Pradakshina patha around the drum is paved with large slate stone slabs of various sizes, from 0.20 cm to 0.60 cm (in width).

Around the base of the first drum in the four corners, the square bases of the pillars are still preserved, indicating that the stupa was once decorated with four pillars. Such decorative features have also been recorded on the Saidu, Najigram and Amlukdara stupas in the Swat Valley.

The drums of the Gumbatuna stupa are cylindrical in shape with a height of 04.70 m. The drum is topped by a hemispherical dome (height 04.80 m) and a diameter of 10 m. From the east, a 2 m wide shaft is cut through and sunk from top to bottom by relic hunters. 

Gumbatuna stupa is climbed by twelve steps on the eastern side leading to the top of the podium. A slate stone bypass was created around the plinth of the stupa plinth. The masonry of the main stupas is made in diapers.

Architectural of votive stupas

The main stupa was surrounded by 27 votive stupas of various sizes, square in plan, all composed in the diaper masonry style. The floor around these stupas was paved with slabs of slate stone. 

The upper parts of the votive stupa are missing except for votive stupa Nos. 16 and 27, which exist up to the drum. The facing of the plinth built in the nappy style in the case of some stupas is smooth, while the stupa numbers 14, 15 and decorated with Corinthian pilasters.

Gumpatuna Stupa History

Excavations at Gumbatuna were limited to the north, south and west sides. The area in front of the main stupa has yet to be excavated to complete the rescue operation at the site. Excavations were limited as statue looters also disturbed the site and removed antiquities, although a large number of statues and an impressive stupa complex were uncovered. 

These sculptures include Buddha, bodhisattvas, architectural elements in stone and stucco. The site did not yield any coins that could help provide a clue to absolute dating.

However, the sculptures in stone, stucco and diaper masonry seem to belong to the early Kushana era. Therefore, it seems likely that the site of Gumbatuna stupa flourished during the 2nd century AD and lasted until the 7th-8th. century AD.

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