The ruins of ancient Nalanda University
Patna, Aug. 14: The World Heritage tag would elude the ancient Nalanda this year as the draft nomination dossier is all set to miss the September 1 deadline even as the state-of-the-art university is ready to start classes that day.
Though Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), custodian of the Nalanda ruins, claims to submit the dossier by September 1 to the ministry of culture, several loose ends would create confusion.
For instance, the state government has still not given any declaration to the ASI for demarcation of buffer zone over an area of around 300 metres along the periphery of the excavated remains of the 5th century Nalanda University.
Declaration of the buffer zone is a mandatory criterion for any World Heritage site. Minimal construction and other human activities are permitted in the buffer zone.
Also, the ASI is still to finalise the conservation plans for the ancient Nalanda University for the next five years.
Several other chapters, including conservation works carried out at the archaeological site during the last decade, population residing in the core and buffer areas, are to be added to the dossier.
ASI additional director-general B.R. Mani told The Telegraph that some of the chapters in the dossier are still to be completed. “Most of the chapters in the dossier for the excavated remains at Nalanda have been completed but a few chapters are still to be finalised,” said Mani.
For instance, we have sought comments from Buddhist scholars and several other stakeholders, which would also be incorporated in the dossier. However, we are certain that we would be able to send the dossier within the set deadline of September 1,” said Mani.
The Unesco included the excavated site of Nalanda, one of the oldest universities in the world, in its tentative list of World Heritage site in 2009. As per documents submitted by the ASI to Unesco in 2009, ancient Nalanda University rose into prominence in the 5th century AD as a great monastic-cum-educational institution for oriental art and learning in the whole Buddhist world, attracting students like Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsing from China and other countries.
The process of preparation of the draft nomination dossier — a formal application for seeking a position in the coveted list — started last year. The draft nomination dossier is a voluminous document, which deliberates on numerous aspects about a monument, including its origin, universal significance, exceptional testimony to the civilisation, masterpiece of art and architecture and association with different cultures among others.
M.S. Chauhan, superintending archaeologist, ASI-Patna circle, claimed that all related documents and other requirements from Patna have been sent to the ASI headquarters. “The matter is now at the level of our headquarters,” said Chauhan.
The ASI initially wanted a buffer zone of 1km around the excavated Nalanda University site but the state government agreed to restrict it to 300 metres only. “We wanted more buffer area around the Nalanda site but the state government was reluctant. Accordingly, we have mentioned buffer zone of only 300 metres in the dossier,” said Mani.
“We have kept the buffer zone up to 300 metres around the Nalanda ruins as there is too much human settlement thereafter. It would be very difficult to remove the population staying in rest of the area and demolish the existing structures,” said a senior official at the state archaeology directorate.
The buffer zone at Mahabodhi Mahavihara, Bodhgaya, the lone World Heritage site in Bihar, is proposed to be of 3km. No new structures are to be permitted in the first 1km buffer area except those vital for religious use and designed sympathetic to the site that too only single floor structures. No new buildings exceeding a height of 44ft would be permitted in rest of the 2km buffer zone.
Nalanda University ruins are primarily an archaeological site exposed during the excavations conducted by the ASI during 1915-37 and 1974-82. An inscribed seal written “Sri-Nalandamahavihariy-Arya-Bhikshu-Sanghasya” identifies the site as Nalanda Mahavihara.
As per records with the ASI, there are references that the city was spread over an area of 16sqkm. The extensive remains are of six brick temples and 11 monasteries arranged on a systematic layout. Various subjects like theology, sabda-vidya (grammar), hetu-vidya (logic), astronomy, metaphysics, chikitsa-vidya (medicine) and philosophy were taught here.