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Search for Buddhist relics

- ASI team to explore Lohit valley for pre-historic artefacts

Guwahati, Jan. 11: It is a search for the ancient history of Arunachal Pradesh and it begins in the lofty hills and river valleys of the scenic Lohit district.

A team of archaeologists will set out on a hunt for pre-historic Buddhist relics in the region, which is expected to shed light on some hidden chapters of history of the region.

Superintending archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of India’s Guwahati circle S.S. Gupta told The Telegraph today that they would start the archaeological exploration in Lohit district to search for Buddhist artefacts dating back to the prehistoric period.

Gupta said an ASI team led by him would leave for Lohit to conduct the exploration next month. “The ASI headquarters in New Delhi has given the go-ahead to the expedition.”

Though not much is known about the ancient history of Lohit district owing to paucity of historical evidence, there is evidence of the existence of ruins of ancient settlement, buildings and shrines in certain parts of the district, such as in Daphabum.

“We hope to discover Buddhist stone artefacts,” Gupta said, adding that the exploration would be carried out mostly on riverbanks and hills, where human settlements are believed to have once existed.

According to Gupta, B.P. Bopardikar from ASI’s pre-history branch in Nagpur had found some ruins during an expedition to Lohit district in 1972. Since then, no such work was carried out in the area.

Gupta said that Buddhist rock engravings and “cup marks” were discovered at Tak Tsang and Zemithang areas in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh during an exploration conducted last year. “An ancient Buddhist stupa, which appears to be modelled after the 13th century Buddhinath stupa in Nepal, was discovered at Zemithang in Tawang district,” he said.

“A figure of Buddha seated on a lotus pedestal in a meditating posture carved on a cliff of rock with local dialect venerating him was also found 30km west of Zemithang,” he said.

A team of ASI officials led by Gupta also surveyed Lungphulian, Zotlang, Lianpui, Vangchhia, Dungtlang and Farkawn areas in Champai district of Mizoram last year to assess the archaeological potentiality of the region.

“We found a large number menhirs (a large stone set upright as a memorial or monument in the ancient period) at Vengchhia, which will be protected by the ASI,” he said.

These menhirs put Mizoram on the ASI’s map of protected sites in 2012 — a first for the northeastern state. The relics at Vengchhia satisfy all criteria required to become eligible for central protection. Mizoram was the only state in the region that did not have a single site protected by the ASI.


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