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Tourism panel for upkeep of heritage site

- Villagers chalk out details for panel to conserve Maha Moggallana stupa

People of Juafardih have decided to set up a tourism development committee to ensure the conservation of the Maha Moggallana stupa at the Nalanda village.

The site is considered the birthplace of Maha Moggallana, the chief disciple of Lord Buddha. Although a protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), it is a neglected spot. It has become an area for the villagers to graze their cattle and put up their clothes to dry.

The ASI in 2007 carried out an excavation at Maha Moggallana stupa in the village, around 2km west of the Nalanda university ruins and 90km southeast of Patna. Evidences, including a stupa from the Sangha period and artefacts, were found suggesting the spot could be Kulika — the birthplace of Maha Moggallana according to the travelogues of Hiuen Tsang.

The excavation went on for around eight months, the villagers said, but since then there has hardly been any more work on its conservation. Manoj Kumar Yadav was among the 250 labourers from the village who worked on the excavation for eight months. He said: “During excavation, a stupa was found which the ASI officials took away to Patna. I worked here for five months and then ASI hired me as a driver. After the boundary wall was completed, no one came to the site to collect information about its condition.”

He added: “Monks visit this place twice a year but even then it is in a bad shape. Since there is no gate, cattle graze freely. In the evening, one would find children playing cricket. In winter, people sit here around a bonfire.”

Superintending archaeologist of ASI, Patna circle, M.S. Chauhan said: “The site is a protected area. We have sent a proposal to the government to declare it as a buffer zone (which needs to be maintained). For now, it comes under the protected area.”

Deepak Anand, a faculty member at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, said the site was in immediate need of conservation and restoration measures.

“Juafardih is the birthplace of Maha Moggallana, a chief disciple of Lord Buddha. Hiuen Tsang visited Kulika (the birthplace of Maha Moggallana) in 7th century and left eyewitness account of the place during the time. Juafardih is an integral part of Nalanda’s history and many clues that we encounter while resurrecting history lead us to Kulika,” Anand said.

Anand said: “During the excavation, a stupa of the Sangha period was found along with artefacts from the Moggallana period. This is an important site and would attract many Buddhist pilgrims if properly managed. The site is in the centre of the village and in a bad shape. It needs suitable conservation and restoration measures.”