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Mission to conserve Magadh heritage - Negligence exposes ancient sites to encroachment & extinction

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ALOK KUMAR Published 02.03.12, 12:00 AM

Gaya, March 1: Bodhgaya and Gaya might be a treasure trove of archaeological sites and ancient heritages, but lack of adequate steps to conserve them have exposed them to encroachment and extinction.

Considering the situation, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has started documentation of the ancient heritage sites falling in the Magadh division comprising Gaya, Bodhgaya, Nawada, Aurangabad and Jehanabad.

“Initially, an ASI employee has been deputed at Bakraur village in Bodhgaya for documentation and to look after the archaeological sites and their structures,” the ASI, Patna circle superintendent, Sanjay Kumar Manjul, told The Telegraph. The documentation work has been planned because ASI should at least have a clear record of these sites and structures, he added.

In Gaya, there are many places of archaeological, religious and historical importance that include Bodhgaya, Kurkihar (Wazirganj block), Jethian (Atri block), Tekari (Tekari block), Guneri (in Sherghati sub-division) and in other parts of the district. Ancient idols of Hindu deities and of Lord Buddha dating back to the Gupta and the Pala dynasties, Buddhist stupas and other ancient structures have been found on many occasions from these places. But there are reports about tampering with the original form of the structures and also smuggling of the idols found during excavation.

There are several mounds in and around Gaya and Bodhgaya. ASI excavated a mound at Sujatagarh in Bodhgaya around five years back. In Bodhgaya itself, there are several other archaeological sites like Dhungeshwari, Matangwapi, Dharmaranya and Bakraur that need proper conservation. In Gaya and Jehanabad districts, the ancient Barabar hills, where the rock-cut caves, popularly known as Satgharwa, have been declared a Centre-protected monument but not too much has been done to ensure their conservation.

A social activist, Satyanarayan Singh, alias Sato Babu has written several letters to the tourism department and the ASI for conservation of the ancient idols of Buddha and the stupas found at Kurkihar in Wazirganj block of Gaya district. However, no concrete step has been initiated so far, Singh told The Telegraph.

Now, the ASI, Patna circle, has planned the documentation of ancient mounds and structures to ensure their proper conservation. After the documentation work is complete, it will decide on whether or not the mounds have to be excavated and which ancient structures need conservation.

However, approval and licence need to be sought from the ASI director-general (DG), Delhi, for excavation work of the mounds. A proposal for excavation work will be sent to the director-general after proper listing of the sites. The ASI, Patna circle, has also prepared a proposal to open an archaeological conservation office in Bodhgaya. This proposal has been sent to the ASI DG, Delhi, for approval.

Regarding lack of proper steps being initiated to ensure conservation of archaeological sites and ancient structures, the ASI superintendent said there was shortage of manpower.

A report on the shortage of manpower has also been sent to the office of director-general. Regarding the requisite staff strength, Manjul said it should not be restricted in numbers because there is lot of work to do in Bihar in archaeology sector.

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