Zurmala is a 12-m high Buddhist stupa, found in the north-east of the ruins of Ancient Termez. It was built in the Kushan era, about I-II centuries BC, when Buddhism was ruling religion in the Central Asian region.
The site of Ancient Termez is located10 km to the west of the modern city. Its countryside is known for a whole complex of ancient Buddhist buildings which covered agricultural fields in the Middle Ages. In the course of time, the Buddhist stupa reduced almost to a shapeless mound of clay, which could be hardly identified as a Buddhist ritual structure.
Nevertheless, thousands of years ago the Stupa Zurmala had an important religious significance for the people of that region. Like other stupas, found in Central and South-East Asia, it symbolized Buddha’s death and burial (“stupa” is translated as “a heap of stones, a top” from Sanskrit). It is indicative that the structure of later Buddhist stupas with upwardly decreasing “umbrellas of honor” was developed into pagoda type of construction in China, Korea, Japan and other south-eastern countries.
Excavations at Zurmala showed that initially the Stupa rested on a podium, lined with white stone slabs and had a tour on its top. The Stupa itself is a cylindrical tower with a diameter of 14.5 m. It was built of mud brick and crowned with a domed roof with “umbrellas of honor”, attached to the rod. The total height of the building is over 16 m. The upper part of the tower had a reliquary – a chamber to store Buddhist scriptures, statues or Buddha relics. Outside, the Stupa was painted in bright red.
Zurmala was the first Buddhist monument discovered in the territory of Central Asia in the early XX century. Its belonging to Buddhist cultic structures was identified by A. Strelkov, a member of scientific expedition of the Museum of Oriental Cultures as early as 1927. In total, about 40 monuments of Buddhism, half of which is located in the territory of modern Uzbekistan, were found and studied in Central Asia.