Kara-Tepe monastery, (in) Old Termiz, Surxondaryo Viloyati, UZ

Raw data

A Buddhist cave monastery close to the banks of the Amu-Darya - Bradley et al. (2007:248-249)

"Hinayana was widespread in Tokharistan; according to Hsüan-tsang" - Melikian-Chirvani (n.d.)

Termiz - "The main sights lurk northwest of the city on the road to Qarshi. Driving out here you'll notice various piles of rubble in the cotton fields of what used to be Termiz (and is now known as Old Termiz). These are Buddhist ruins, levelled by Jenghiz Khan along with the rest of Old Termiz in 1220. Today archaeologists are busy trying to recerse some of the damage at Fayouz-Tepe, a 3rd-century AD Buddhist monastery complex 9km west of the bus station. Discovered only in 1968, in recent years it's been restored and partly rebuilt with support from Unesco. The modern-looking teapot dome protects the monastery's original stupa. Looking south-west from here the remains of Kara-Tepe, a Buddhist cave monastery, are visible on the banks of the Amu-Darya."
Bradley et al. (2007:248-249)

[2] The remains of Bactrian Buddhist monasteries have been found near Termez in southern Uzbekistan at Kara Tepe, Fayas Tepe and Dalverzin Tepe,

Brahmi inscriptions of Kara-tepe "mention a sangha, vihara [monastery] or school." p. 118
(Litvinskii et al. 1996:118)

"Kara Tepe is the name of a natural hill made up by cemented sands, located not far from Old Termez. It consists of three complexes: Northern, Western and Southern. Unique ancient Indian inscriptions, clay statues of Buddhas and Boddhisattvas are today displayed in Termez and Tashkent museums."

"Kara - tepa : Karatepa is a Buddhist place of worship built on three hills situated in the north-west part of Old Termez.
It includes a number of temples and monasteries that appeared in the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. The architecture of Karatepa is characterized by a combination of caves made of pahsa and unbaked brick.
Interiors of the shrines were decorated with topical and ornamental paintings on stucco plaster and sculptures made of loess and clay. In the architectural decor marble-like limestone and carved stucco were widely used.
During the Kushan period, as witness dedicatory inscriptions on ceramics, the Buddhist centre in Karatepa (or part of it) could have had the name of Khadevakavihara, or King's Monastery (according to V.V. Vertogradova). Thanks to support from the Kushan administration, the Karatepa centre achieved the peak of flourishing in the 2nd-3rd centuries. In the 4th-5th centuires a considerable part of the shrines stopped functioning. During that period caves were used as burial places, and entranceways were usually bricked up. However, it is highly probable that some shrines, or at least their surface parts continued to exist as Buddhist places of worship till the 6th century. In the 9th-12th centuires hermits called "sufi" settled in semi-destroyed caves.
The walls of Karatepa caves still carry numerous grafitti drawings and visitors inscriptions (Bactrian, Middle Persian, Brahmi, Soghdian, Syrian (?), Arabic), made both when the Buddhist centre was functioning and in the period of its decline when caves were still accessible."

"While Begram was the summer capital, Kara-tepe presents a group of caves, stupas and monasteries […] The Buddhist complex of Kara-tepe was also deserted at some moment when the Kushano-Sasanians occupied it, but the discovery of Kushano-Sasanian coints and later construction provides evidence of its subsequent continuity as a reliogious centre." Dani and Litvinsky (1999:111)

Input by: tmciolek, Aug 28, 2009

"Karatepa, a Buddhist center, built on top of three hills on the north-west of ancient Termez. Karatepe is made of temples and cloisters dated back II century AD. The cave of Karatepa well preserved mysterious pictures and characters on its walls. Characters were created during the renaissance of Buddhism and its later periods." - http://www.uzbooking.com/uzbekistan/termez/

“To the northwest of Old Termez., on the left bank of the Amu Darya river, there is a three-head hill. The local people call it Koratepa, which means “Black Hill”. From its southern, the highest point one can clearly observe the citadel, surrounded by walls, and the ruins of the ancient town. The first archeological excavations took place at Koratepa in 1936. They proved that centuries-old loess cultural layers hide a temple complex with cave monastery, founded by Buddhist monks at the end of the 1st century.
At Koratepa archeologists discovered three tiers of rock-hewn cells for monks. The excavations revealed clearly visible layout of the ancient structures. Two-millennium-old stone steps lead down under the earthen vault whose diameter is 5 metres. In the underground chambers archeologists found fragments of statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, statuettes of dragons and of a winged lion, as well as wall paintings with one of the world’s oldest images of Buddha surrounded by monks. On the same walls there are portraits of donators, who were rich enough to order the construction of the temple. In the cells there were found ceramic lamps, reliquary boxes, coins of the times of Kanishka I and the Sassanid rulers. Koratepa complex also had a vihara (‘dwelling’ in Sanskrit) – a dormitory, where pilgrims could take shelter. The walls of this dormitory bear the surviving graffiti picture of a Buddhist stupa.
On the plastered walls, in the niches for sculptures, and on the ceramic containers there are Bactrian, Indian, Persian and more recent Arabic inscriptions. Of a particular value are ceramic containers with Indian Buddhist inscriptions in Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts. In the monastery there were also above-ground structures built of square adobe bricks. Inner yards were paved with brick slabs and flanked on either side with aivans supported by wooden pillars. The splendid stone pedestals of the pillars still survive. In the complex there are also remains of two stupas – symbolic Buddhist reliquary structures.
The cult complex of Koratepa is one of the world’s oldest surviving Buddhist cave monasteries. The Chinese monk Xuan Zang [ven.xuanzang], who made a pilgrimage to India early in the 7th century in search of holy Buddhist books, mentioned his visit to shrines of Koratepa in his famous travelogue “Records of the Western World”. “
Input by: tmciolek, Apr 13, 2013

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 13 Apr 2013

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 2 km from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Kara-Tepe monastery, UZ.

General location of the Kara-Tepe monastery, UZ.
lat=37.2748 long=67.1782
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2009.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Kara-Tepe monastery - Bradley et al. (2007:248-249)

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Uzbekistan:Surxondaryo Viloyati

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

  • Approx., Lat 37.2748 Long 67.1782 - based on inspection of maps.google.com, tmciolek, 28 Aug 2009.

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Theravada - Melikian-Chirvani (n.d.)

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

  • [missing data]

11. Date-early

  • MBM chrono-tag <=0200 - tmciolek 07 Apr 2013
  • <=0200 0200-32c 0233-66c 0267-99c 0300-32c 0333-66c 0367-99c 0400-32c 0433-66c 0467-99c 0500-32c 0533-66c 0567-99c 0600-32c 0633-66c 0667-99c 0700-32c 0733-66c 0767-99c 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-xl

12. Date-intermediate

13. Date-late

  • Destroyed by the Mongols in 1220 - Bradley et al. (2007:248-249)
  • MBM chrono-tag 1200=> - tmciolek 07 Apr 2013

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • [missing data]

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Archaeological, epigraphical

16. Additional notes

  • [missing data] (incl. details of the size of the monastic population)

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

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