Dharmachakra – Jina Vihara, Monastery I is located to the north of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara. The excavators, Marshall and Konow, record that, “in 1907 we discovered, in the monastery area, a singularly imposing structure dating approximately from the 12th century A.D.”1. A precise date for this complex could be ascertained later due to the epigraph found from the vicinity. Kumardevi, queen of the Gahadawala king Govinda Chandra (1114-54 C.E.) of Kanauj, is said to have constructed this monastery2.
Monastery I was found in badly damaged condition3. However, the south western part of this masonry complex, which is comparatively intact, when excavation revealed a surrounding wall of the quadrangle…… “around which the monastery is built”….. this wall….. “returns towards the north, but after a space of 6 feet breaks off abruptly……”4.
The total area occupied by Dharmachakra-Jina Vihara at its ground measured 760' in east-west direction. The monastery complex was also enclosed by a wall, which was intercepted by carved bastions. A long wall stretching from the second gateway (west) to the western limit of the site was traced in the excavations5. The main entrance to the monastery was from the east, which opened into a 114' long (east-west axis) courtyard. The entrance was “flanked on the outsides with richly carved bastions with a neatly constructed gate-keepers lodge within”6. The boundary wall of the eastern side, which embodies the gate and encircles the courtyard, is composed of 4'4" thick masonry. The boundary wall is composed of brick-bats, which fills the inner part, while its façade is constructed of complete and chiseled bricks placed neatly. The monastery had a second gateway, which was not in full alignment with the earlier one. Attached to a spacious courtyard, this gateway was located on its eastern axis. The second gateway, a larger composition than the previous one, was also decorated and attached to it was a gatekeepers’ chamber. “But, between the bastions and the lodge, instead of a mere wall, there was a large gatehouse, measuring 61' x 28' and containing several chambers”7. Excavators presume this gateway to look like a gopuram of the South Indian temples, since the foundation of it is massive. The medium used for the gateway, the chiseled brick and stone, and the nature of composition was same as the main building of the monastery. Some pilasters were also recovered from the area, but the elevation of the structure could not be ascertained due to its ruined condition.
The main courtyard was attached to two smaller courts in the south and perhaps in the north. The floor of the courtyard was covered by 4'x2'3"x1' sandstone slabs, and was also covered by a concrete floor, corresponding with the concrete flooring of the eastern part of the main shrine. Exposed near the western boundary wall, the courtyard at three sides was encircled by dwelling cells. Near the north-western corner of the court was exposed a well, surrounded by a low parapet. A great drain was exposed, which was draining all the refuge water from the monastery. Exposed up to the length of 52', its side walls were 6' high and about 2'6" thick. Its floor was covered with sandstone slabs and the drain too was covered by sandstone slabs (average size 5'3"x1'6"x8"). The drain was about 6' deep and 3'4"wide.
The basement of this monastery was made of chiseled bricks decorated on the outer and the inner facades by insetting moulded bricks up to the height of 8'. This structure was found in a badly damaged condition. The stone carved lintels and doorjambs were found lying in basement and over the courtyard. Existence of another storey of this monastery can be presumed from the debris. The images recovered from this complex date between late Gupta and early medieval, suggesting that the Dharmachakra-Jina Vihara superimposes some earlier structures.
1.Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report 1907-08: 43.
2.Majumdar, B. 1947. A Guide to Sarnath. (2nd Revised Edition). The Manager, Government of India Press, Delhi, 36.
3.Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report 1907-08: 43-46.
4.Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report 1907-08: 43.
5.Majumdar, B. 1947. A Guide to Sarnath. (2nd Revised Edition). The Manager, Government of India Press, Delhi, 36.
6.Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report 1907-08: 45-46.
7.Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report 1907-08: 45.