Dates of the life of Buddha
All sources agree that Siddhattha Gotama the Buddha lived for 80 years but there is wide disagreement about exactly when he was born. From at least as early as the 2nd century BCE, Sri Lankans have believed that he was born in 624 BCE. This date probably reflects the belief in India at the time Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka. Until recently Indologists and historians considered 563 BCE to be the more likely date of his birth. However, in 1988 an international conference was held at Gottingen University in Germany to review all the evidence pertaining to the Buddha's dates and there was wide consensus among scholars that he was born later than 563, perhaps as much as a 100 years later. More research is needed before we can be sure. Of course, uncertainty about the Buddha's dates has no bearing on the veracity of his teachings.
2013 archeological discovery
In November 2013, an international team of archaeologists digging under the Maya devi temple discovered remains of an ancient tree shrine dated before 550 BCE, which is possibly the earliest evidence of Buddhist structures ever found and one of the first archaeological evidence of Buddha's life. The excavation was headed by Robin Coningham of Durham University, UK, and Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust, Nepal. According to Coningham, the shrine is "the earliest Buddhist shrine in the world".
The research also revealed the presence of fragments of mineralized tree roots, which correlate with the Buddhist tradition: Siddhartha Gautama is said to have been born in a garden, beneath a sal tree, while his mother, Queen Maya Devi, grasped a tree branch.
"This is one of those rare occasions when belief, tradition, archaeology and science actually come together," lead study author Robin Coningham, professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom, said at a press briefing, November 25, 2013.
The fact that a shrine appears to have been in place at the place of Buddha's birth at around 550 BCE could provide evidence that the birth date may be closer to some of the traditional accounts found in Sri Lanka and some other Southeast Asian countries, which is 624 BCE instead of 563 BCE.
- Varma, Subodh (26 November 2013). "New finds at Lumbini may push Buddha's birth to 6th century BCE". The Times of India.
- Morgan, James (26 November 2013). "'Earliest shrine' uncovered at Buddha's birthplace". BBC.
- Vergano, Dan (25 November 2013). "Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal May Push Back the Buddha's Birth Date". National Geographic.
- Wang, John (25 November 2013). "Earliest Evidence of Buddha Found in Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini, Nepal". Epoch Times.
- Morin, Monte (25 November 2013). "A shrine within a shrine reveals evidence of Buddha's birth". Los Angeles Times.
- CNN.com report