A network of caves, temples, and ancient Buddhist structures was discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the Bandhavgarh Forest Reserve, home to a critically endangered population of Bengal tigers. The team also found mural inscriptions in some of the oldest writing systems of South Asia, such as Brahmi, Shankhalipi, and Nagari.
In a statement, the agency said the findings have added a “new chapter in the history of Baghelkhand,” the name for the northeastern regions of Madhya Pradesh and southeastern Uttar Pradesh in central India.
The team documented around 65 square miles between May and June, marking the first of such excavations since 1938. Twenty-six temples, 26 caves, two temples, two votive stupas (containers for cremated monks), and 46 sculptures, some of which depict Hindu deities, were discovered.
The team also found the remains of chaitya, or a Buddhist sanctuary, and cells containing stone beds likely constructed by followers of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.
“The most startling finding is the remains of the Buddhist structures in the region where a Hindu dynasty ruled. It suggests religious harmony, but who built these Buddhist structures is not yet known,” the ASI said in its announcement.