Ajina-Tepe, Kurgan-Tube

Ajina-Tepe Buddhist Monastery

Located 12 km from Kurgan Tyube is the district named by local inhabitants as Ajina-Tepe. It can be translated as «the Devil's hill", "the Hill of Evil Spirit". Probably such an attitude to this place among the local residents was caused by the unattractiveness of this place surrounded from three sides by aryks, thick undergrowths, bumps and pits.

It came out as a surprise when archeological excavations which started in 1961 resulted in 500,000 artifacts: sculptures, reliefs, wall painting fragments of a uniform complex of dwelling and cult rooms belonging to the 7th - 8th-century Buddhist monastery.

The archeologists determined that the monastery in Ajina-Tepe consisted of two parts (the temple and monastery), two rectangular yards surrounded by buildings and strong walls. One of yards had the Greater mortar (a construction for storage of relics or for marking of sacred places). In the yard's corners there were Smaller mortars of the same form as the Greater one. The monastery was richly decorated; its walls and vaults were covered with paintings. The walls had niches were both small and bigger statues of the Buddha used to stand (his image prevailed in Ajina Tepe sculptures).

But the most sensational find in Ajina-Tepe became a huge clay statue of the Buddha in nirvana found in 1966 in one of the monastery corridors. Only the bottom part of the figure, from waste to soles, was intact. The upper part of the sculpture turned out to be badly damaged. All other fragments of the sculpture were found separately. The restoration of the statue started in the same year and lasted until 1978. After that the work stopped and didn't begin until 2000.

Today the sculpture "The Buddha in nirvana" is exhibited at the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan in Dushanbe. That is the biggest sculpture of the Buddha found on territory of modern Central Asia.