Buddha statue
Headless Buddha statue. [Representational Image]Creative Commons/Patrice Speed

A headless sculpture of Buddha belonging to the Chola period of 10th century AD was excavated from a sugarcane field at Manalur village in Thanjavur district.

The three-foot long sculpture of Buddha was discovered by Buddhist scholar B Jambulingam and heritage enthusiast Mani Maaran during their search in the region. Both the head and the right hand of the granite statue were missing when it was excavated.

"The iconographical features of the sculpture show similarity to those found in the region earlier, mostly belonging to 10th-11th century AD. The findings of Buddha sculptures in and around the area show the existence of a Buddhist temple here," The Times of India quoted superintendent of Tamil University Jambulingam as saying.

Jambulingam said Buddha sculptures have been found in Thanjavur many times, especially in Vayyacheri, Cholanmaligai, Kumbakonam, Madagaram, Manganallur, Pattiswaram, Perandakottai and Vikramam.

He said that there is a possibility that the headless statue belongs to the head found earlier in Vayyacheri.

"Of these, only the head of the Buddha were found in Vayyacheri and Perandakottai. A couple of decades ago, a friend told me about a Buddha head he found near a tank in Vayyacheri,"  said Jambulingam. 

"He even sent a photograph of it. But when I went to conduct a field study, I couldn't find it there. As the distance between Vayyacheri and Ayyampet is only six km, I believe the head might be the one of the Buddha sculpture we found now in Manalur," Jambulingam added.

Jambulingam has identified about 67 Buddha idols in Thanjavur, Tiruchi and Pudukottai districts during his field study, ever since an accidental visit to Thanjavur in the 1980s.