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|Maya Devi Temple|
Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, Nepal
3rd century BCE (Maya Devi Temple)~550 BCE (earlier shrine beneath)
Maya Devi Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple situated at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lumbini, Nepal. It is the main temple at Lumbini, a site traditionally considered the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. The temple stands adjacent to a sacred pool (known as Puskarni) and a sacred garden. The archaeological remains at the site were previously dated to the third-century BCE brick buildings constructed by Ashoka. A sixth-century BCE timber shrine was discovered in 2013.
In November 2013, an international team of archaeologists digging under the temple discovered the remains of an ancient tree shrine dated before 550 BCE. The researchers speculated that the site is the earliest evidence of Buddhist structures and the first archaeological evidence of Gautama Buddha's life. The excavation was headed by Robin Coningham of Durham University, UK, and Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust, Nepal. According to Coningham, the shrine is "the earliest Buddhist shrine in the world." The speculations of the researchers were widely reported in international press, to the dismay of the rest of the scientific community, who mostly have disputed the conclusions of the researchers. Julia Shaw, a lecturer in South Asian archaeology at University College London, cautioned that the shrine may represent pre-Buddhist tree worship, and that further research is needed. The conclusions drawn by the researchers were also heavily criticized by Buddhist scholar Richard Gombrich.
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