A child plays in front of a giant idol of Lord Buddha in Lalitpur. (Representational image)
A child plays in front of a giant idol of Lord Buddha in Lalitpur. (Representational image)Reuters

An ancient Buddhist artifact - an Indian-styled temple step - has been auctioned for a record price in the UK.

The 1,300-year-old granite temple step was given to British resident Bronwyn Hickmott's parents by a tea planter who returned to Britain from Sri Lanka in the 1950s. The 2.4 metre long stone was used as a doorstep at Hickmott's residence in Exeter, Devon.

After being turned down by producers of BBC1's Antiques Roadshow and rival auction house Sotheby's, it was put up for auction with a pre-sale value between  £20,000 and  £30,000 at the Bonhams. The stone fetched £553,250 (₹45,854,189), way beyond its pre-sale estimate.

"We had been turned away by other international auction houses as well as television antiques shows. Everyone pooh-poohed our belief that the stone was special," Hickmott was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.  

"It was only Bonhams' determination to research the stone that has led to this happy result. We are thrilled."

The pre-Hindu granite step - Sandakada pahana (or moonstone) - resembles those found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. The city lies some 205 kilometres north of the capital city of Sri Lanka - Colombo. It has been given the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

The city dates from the middle of the fifth century BC and the stone is from the Anuradhapura period, between 400BC to 1017AD. The stone is inscribed with carvings of lions, horses, elephants and birds. These carvings symbolise four stages of life - growth, energy, power and forbearance, reported Daily Mail.

The temple step is one of the seven stones that exists, and is unique to Sinhalese architecture in Sri Lanka.