Rajaghatta – The Remains of a Mahayana Buddhist Monastery in Bangalore

The remnants of an ancient Mahayana Buddhist Vihara (Monastery) and Chaitya remained hidden for 1500 years, right in the outskirts of Bangalore, very close to the present airport. Its finding is the first archeological discovery of structures related to Mahayana Buddhism in Bangalore, Karnataka.

The site was discovered and excavated by Prof. M. S. Krishnamurthy (retd.) of Mysore University’s Archeology Department in 2001 and 2004. But, remained unknown to the public. There have been accounts of ancient Mahayana Buddhist Monasteries in various parts of South India, including Kanchi, a major center of learning in Tamil Nadu and Srimoolavasam in Kerala. However, an excavation of the structural remains of a Mahayana Monastery has not happened anywhere south of Nagarjunakonda, Andhra Pradesh/Telangana. In that way, the finding of the remnants of monastery and chaithya in Rajaghatta is of great significance. It sheds light not only into the presence of Mahayana Buddhism in Bangalore, but provides valuable information about Buddhist practices and life during the first millennium CE across Karnataka and the rest of South India.

Rajaghatta Vihara (Monastery) during excavation in 2004. (photo courtesy - Archeology Department, Mysore University)

Rajaghatta Chaithya during excavation. (photo courtesy - Archeology Department, Mysore University)

Many hundreds of small clay stupas (tsa-tsa) were obtained from the Rajaghatta site. These clay stupas contain clay disks with the inscription of buddha images and the dharani of dependent arising in Brāhmī Sanskrit script. Evidence of the presence of Mahayana Buddhism in Bangalore, Karnataka during the first millennium CE (photo courtesy - Prof. M.S.Krishnamurthy)

Rajaghatta, a small picturesque village on the outskirts of Bangalore was a Buddhist settlement from 2nd century to 7th century CE. In 2001/2004, archeologists unearthed the remains of a Mahayana Buddhist Chaitya hall and Vihara (Monastery) in this village in Bangalore rural district. The structures were built with unfired clay bricks (which are quite strong) as well as granite pillars. Many hundreds of small clay stupas (tsa-tsa) were also obtained from the site. These clay stupas contain clay disks with the inscription of buddha images and the dharani of dependent arising (ye dharmā hetu-prabhavā hetuṃ teṣāṃ tathāgato hya vadat, teṣāṃ ca yo nirodha evaṃ vādī mahāśramaṇa) in Brāhmī Sanskrit script. These kind of small stupas with relics, Buddha images and dharanis are usually made by Mahayana practitioners as a meritorious activity. There were also two urns with bone remains in a corner of the main chaithya hall. These could have been the remains of some accomplished practitioners. A few hundred meters from that site, there are also two megalithic burial sites which belong to an earlier period.

Buddha images inscribed on one side of the clay disks found within the mini stupas (tsa tsas) in the Rajaghatta site. (photo courtesy - Prof. M.S.Krishnamurthy)

The area is locally called Budhigundi because of the ash mounds of the remains. Initially people didn’t know the significance of this. Farmers came there to collect soil because the soil there with the decayed human remains is very fertile. Gradually, they came across many small stupas (tsa-tsa). They found that something was moving inside when they shake it. So, they broke open many in the hope of gold or other precious substances. Some farmers claim that some earlier people actually got gold form some of those. Later, one good samaritan informed the archeology department about these findings. That is how Prof Krishnamurthy visited the place and conducted the excavation.

The dharani of dependent arising inscribed in Brāhmī Sanskrit characters on one side of the clay disks inserted in the mini stupas (tsa tsas) found from Rajaghatta. Evidence of the presence of Mahayana Buddhism in Bangalore, Karnataka during the first millennium CE (photo courtesy - Prof. M.S.Krishnamurthy)

Unfortunately, the site was covered again with soil after shifting some of the relics to a museum (Archeology museum of Mysore University). Since the site was not converted into a heritage site by the Archeology Survey of India, it remains unprotected and hence had to be covered back. Thus, this rare archeological finding about the presence of Mahayana Buddhism in Bangalore and Karnataka again remains hidden, with the structures of the chaitya hall and the vihara underneath a farmland.  This site may be permanently lost because, before too long, high-rise apartments may come up in this site, as it is just in the outskirts of the city.

Archeologists excavating the Rajaghatta site. (photo courtesy - Archeology Department, Mysore University)

The Rajaghatta site was covered with sand and mud after the excavation was finished by the archeologists, so that the remains are not lost from this unguarded site. The side of the brick wall of the Monastery still visible there.

Steps leading to the Rajaghatta chaitya. (Photo Courtesy - Archeology Department, Mysore University.)

A bathing pond near the viharas , found during Rajaghatta excavation. (Photo Courtesy - Archeology Department, Mysore University.)

Dharmachakra inscribed in one of the stones near the structure outside the presently live Rajaghatta village. This stone seems to be very old, could be 2nd to 6th Century CE.

Two urns with bone remains in a corner of the main chaithya hall in Rajaghatta. (Photo Courtesy - Prof. M.S.Krishnamurthy)

Rajaghatta also has two Megalithic burial site (kallara) in the vicinity of the Buddhist archeological remains. In India, archaeologists trace the majority of the megaliths to the Iron Age (1500 BC to 500 BC).

There are also few Veeragallus (Hero Stones) around that area. Veeragalllus are memorial stones commemorating the death of a hero, a person who sacrificed his life for the cause of king or public in war, battlefield; cattle raids and safeguard life and dignity of women from miscreants. Archeologist estimates these to be from a later period.

Veeragalllu (Hero Stone)

Veeragalllu (Hero Stone)

10 thoughts on “Rajaghatta – The Remains of a Mahayana Buddhist Monastery in Bangalore

  • June 12, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    Good evening from office bearers of BODHI SATTVA Trust (R), Anekal Taluk, Banglore urban Dost, karnataka state. Oye team visted the said budhigundi or what we called RajGhatt in may 2022 on occassion of birthday celebration of Master Sakya Vamshi. Our team locally studied about this heritage site. So bad that from 2004neither govt of karnataka nor govt of India took interest to protect ,secure,popularise and develop such historical heritage site. Our trust is planning to Consult Dr Krishnamurthy, Orcheologist.in Mysore .please help us in this regard

    • June 14, 2022 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you for interest. It will be great if you could do something from your side to preserve this important historical heritage. Will write more details to you over email.

  • September 8, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    I had visited this site recently. Villagers have cultivating this valuable land and doing agriculture activities. Karnataka heritage of Buddhism vanishing because of lack of knowledge about this site. You have done wonderful works I have red your all writings. It is very impressive and motivational write up. Thank you for enlighten through your website.

  • October 21, 2022 at 4:40 am

    I was present at the time of excavation. I belong to Rajaghatta village, at that time i was a kid studying in 5th std. I saw everything. They also found a stachu, i remember they coverd it with a cloth & tied rope around it. till now i had no idea it was a buddhist monastery. Its very sad our governments did nothig. Looking back at the events i witnessed, I feel emotional.

    • November 20, 2022 at 12:47 pm

      Dear Guru Prasad,

      Thank you for your comment. It is great to know that you were a direct witness during the excavation. Will check further to figure out about the whereabouts of that statue.


  • November 14, 2022 at 11:21 am

    Respected Dhamma Jnanshri & Yoginishri,

    You are really doing wonderfull job about our Buddhism in all the states, We are buddhists from Mysore. Recently we had visited Kadri Temple of Mangalore, there we found Lord Buddha’s statue inside the temple and hided that and not open for people. We had felt very bad about this. Anyway you are re searching our world religion Buddhism, for that very much thank full to you both.

    Thanking you

  • May 26, 2023 at 3:09 am

    I am proud to say I belong to the Rajaghatta village. The area of about 50+ hectares outside the current residential village permeter is called ‘Bhudigundi’ (area lower than the surface around it and filled with ashes). By the time we grew up (refering to mid 80’s) there was no ashes there, what we came to know from our elders is that the place was filled with full of ash and locals sold it for the money. In our childhood the place was full of ups and downs, here and there few farmers cultivating during the monssons, however, now more or less in the entire landscape is being cultivated. Those days we have seen many small small mud pots (kind of piggy bank). We used to carefully remove them from the earth anticipating the precense of valuables inside them, I won’t remember anyone saying found something in those mud pots. Also, we have seen lot of bricks in large sizes and small samll walls made of bricks.

    I had lot of interest in knowing the history of Rajaghatta village during my schhol days, how this village got the name as Rajaghatta? why the place is called BHudigundi? how did the place got destroyed? does someone put fire on that place? or any fire rain came and destroyed that place? there were plenty of questions were coming to my mind. The excavation during 2001 to 2004 cleared few of my doubts but still many question unanswered. No one found a valid reason on how that perticular place burnt down.

    Recently one guy was explaing how the name Rajaghatta came to the viallge. From varanasi’s Rajaghat many Bhuddist people came here and started living , they named it as Rajaghat. In the course of time it became Rajaghtta.

    I would suspect the adjacent places to this particular place still holds lot of secrets in it. Would request our archealogical department to explore more around this place.

    • June 19, 2023 at 5:43 am

      Great to know that Panchakshari ! Hope the archeological Department explore the area more extensively.


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