Citizens cheer relic return - ASI to restore lalitgiri buddha caskets

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 12.09.07
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Bhubaneswar, Sept. 12: The end to the long-drawn battle between Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and Lalitgiri citizens may be drawing to a close after years of struggle.

Lalitgiri’s heritage enthusiasts have finally received a nod from Union ministry to procure the Buddha relics from ASI.

What are believed to be rare remains of religious significance, so far were confined to a dark ASI strong room for 24 years. The Union ministry of culture is also contemplating restoring the relics at Lalitgiri (Cuttack), where they were discovered in four containers during a 1982 excavation.

The decision has reached the Lalitgiri citizens in the wake of series of protests by many leading Buddhist intellectuals and organisations including the recent demonstration before the Raj Bhavan. Odisha International Centre, Agami Orissa and Buddhayan, are some of the groups, who have been fighting for the issue.

Early this week, a three-member delegation from Orissa met Union culture minister Ambika Soni and the director-general (DG) of ASI, Ansu Baisya, at New Delhi. This was followed by talks with the big bosses at ASI.

“Ambika Soni and the ASI DG have assured us to reinstate the relics at their original places and very soon the matter would be officially communicated,” said Pradipta Bhuyan, of Buddhayan.

“The minister said the centrally-protected monuments and sites under ASI control at Lalitgiri, Udayagiri and Ratnagiri were receiving adequate attention by way of conservation, preservation and environment development,” said Bhuyan.

The intellectuals believe that the caskets would established the status and image of Lalitgiri as a foremost centre of Buddhism in the world. “Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and former Governor Rameshwar Thakur, too, had strongly recommended to the Centre to consider the demands of the local people,” stressed Paresh Nayak of the Odisha International Centre. “It is unfortunate that the ASI kept the excavated caskets with historical, religious, archaeological and cultural importance out of public view. But we are happy that our demands have been heard at last,” said Lalit Mohan Patnaik of Agami Orissa.