Explore these Buddhist temple ruins where the remarkable sleeping Buddha was first discovered.

Ancient Buddhist ruins, Ajina Teppa, Tajikistan by Danny Roper, Wikimedia CommonsThe ancient ruins of the Ajina Tepa Buddhist monastery © Danny Roper, Wikimedia Commons

Some 12km to the east of Qurgonteppa are the archaeological remains of Ajina Tepa, the 8th-century Buddhist monastery from which the remarkable Sleeping Buddha (now in the National Museum in Dushanbe) was uncovered in the 1960s. Though all of the finds were removed to Dushanbe or museums in Russia, it is still possible to see remnants of the 2.5m-thick mud-brick walls that protected the internal courtyard and monastic buildings. Approximately 1,500 artefacts have been excavated from the site since the initial archaeological dig in the 1960s, a testimony to the monastery’s importance and opulence. Ironically, despite its holy affiliations, the name Ajina Tepa itself means ‘Devil’s Hill’, and fragments of gargoyles and other demon-like sculptures were found among the ruins; scholars believe these items served to scare away opponents of Buddhism. Entrance is free and the site is unattended. Hiring a taxi from Qurgonteppa is the most feasible way to access the complex.

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