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Heritage tag passes by Puri
- ASI prefers caves

Bhubaneswar, March 11: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has shot down the Orissa government's proposal to accord global heritage status to Puri town.

While the Naveen Patnaik government wanted Puri to be declared a World Heritage Site, the ASI was in favour of the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves near Bhubaneswar.

Union culture secretary Neena Ranjan and the director-general of ASI, C. Babu Rajiv, who were here on Wednesday, said the town did not qualify for the heritage status.

The construction boom around Lord Jagannath Temple, in violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, adversely affected the prospects of the town.

The ASI team, however, proposed that Khandagiri and Udaygiri could qualify for the coveted heritage tag. Sources said the ASI has asked the government to prepare a master plan and implement it immediately.

Unesco had accorded World Heritage Site status to the 13th century Sun Temple at Konark in 1984. So far, 26 monuments in India have received the prestigious recognition.

A monument has to be of 'outstanding universal value' if it is to be recognised as a World Heritage Site. A cultural monument can be a masterpiece of creative genius, have great architectural influence, be associated with ideas or beliefs of universal significance or can be an outstanding example of a traditional way of life that represents a certain culture, sources said.

'Given the existing status of the site, the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves can qualify for the status. There are fewer encroachments and not much construction work, unlike in Puri. Moreover, the government's proposal for the entire town in not feasible at all,' sources in the culture department said.

Asking the government to prepare a dossier on Udaygiri and Khandagiri, the ASI team has also recommended that the assistance of the Baroda-based Karan Grover firm be sought in this regard. This company had prepared the dossier for Champaner-Pavagarh, a historical site in Gujarat, which recently became a World Heritage Site.

The dossier has to include details like historical significance, light and sound, landscaping, heritage tourism prospects, amenities for visitors and a museum of photographs. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 1.2 crore for the construction of compound walls and fencing at Khandagiri and Udaygiri.

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