This small, about 10cm in size, clay disk (probably dating 600-700 AD) found at Kumrahar (कुमराहार), Patna in 1914. Kumrahar is the area where remains of the ancient city of Pataliputra were excavated.
This historic, partly damaged, disk was found at a depth of only 1 ft. 6 inches (45.7cm). It depicts a five-storyed rectilinear temple tower with a chattravali-like pinnacle on its top and an arched chamber at its base is commonly known as ‘The Bodh-Gaya Plaque’. The temple is surrounded by a railing beyond which is a collection of smaller structures. Between the two lateral railings stand diminutive figures of two elephants. A human figure can be seen and in the centre. Many small delicate figures of elephants, trees, leaves etc. are also present. Towards the bottom of the plaque is a barely evident inscription in Kharosthi (खरोष्ठी) script.
The delicately carved plaque has posed quite a few questions for archaeologists and historians. Many historians opine that the plaque depicts the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh-Gaya. Some don’t agree with this as Kharosthi was not used in northern India after the 3rd century AD (meaning that the plaque must predate this period), and structures like the Mahabodhi Temple had not evolved at that time. Another argument they put forward is, if the plaque represent the Mahabodhi Temple, then the Bodhi Tree must also be there. The statue shown within the temple is in the ‘Bhumisparshamudra’ (भूमिस्पर्शमुद्रा) rather than the ‘Abhayamudra’ (अभयमुद्रा).
The plaque was originally had a pride of place in century-old Patna Museum, but now shifted to newly built Bihar Museum, Patna.
Following detailed line drawing of the Bodh-Gaya plaque (Image ID: DR-BI-00169) is available at the Center for Art & Archaeology of t he American Institute of Indian Studies, University of Chicago (US). The centre houses a large repertoire of manually made measured architectural drawings, created through several documentation programs. The to-the-scale-line-drawing shows the various elements of the plaque.