New Delhi/Patna, Sep 19 (PTI) An Ashokan inscription and two ancient mounds in Bihar are currently under consideration for according them the status of centrally-protected monuments, ASI officials have said. The Patna Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had sent these recommendations for notification in the span of the last 14 years.
“The Ashokan inscription site is in Rohtas district and recommendation for its ASI notification was sent in 2008, followed by recommendations in 2010 and 2021 as well for listing two ancient mounds in Bihar as centrally-protected monuments,” a senior official told PTI.
Recommendations for a mound in Junglistan area near Vikramshila site in Bhagalpur district was sent in 2010. And, for listing of Ranivas mound in a different part of Bihar, it was sent in 2021, the official said. Currently, 70 sites in Bihar are under the ASI, governed under its Patna Circle, one of the oldest regional circles in India.
Sources at ASI headquarters in Delhi said these recommendations sent by the Patna Circle are “under process”.
According to the procedure, proposals or recommendations sent in a form of meticulous documents by regional circles are examined by a team at ASI headquarters, before making the final decision.
First, there is a provisional notification, and then a final gazetted notification is issued.
There are a total of 3,693 heritage sites in India protected by the ASI. Many of these are UNECSO World Heritage Sites such as Agra’s Taj Mahal, Delhi’s Red Fort, Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb; and the ruins of ancient Nalanda university in Bihar.
The Shiva Temple in Gaya was notified by the ASI in 1996. No fresh site in Bihar has been brought under the ambit of the ASI since then, officials said.
“The ancestral house of first President Rajendra Prasad in Ziradei, Siwan, north Bihar was officially declared a protected monument on May 27, 1991. Its provisional notification was done on October 30, 1990,” a senior official said. ASI was established in 1861 with Alexander Cunningham as the first head of the institution. Patna Circle is one of its oldest circles which was earlier known as Mid-Eastern Circle and still earlier as the Buddhist Circle ostensibly because of the important Buddhist monuments lying in its area, according to the Circle’s website.
Asked when was the first notification done for the Bihar region, the ASI official said, “eight to nine sites were notified in 1909 all together, the earliest ones to be notified”.
Currently, the 70 centrally-protected sites in Bihar include the majestic Tomb of Sher Shah Suri, Tomb of Hasan Shah Suri, Rohtasgarh Fort in Rohats district; Kumrahar, Bulandibagh and Sandalpur sites and Mir Ashraf ki Masjid in Patna; ancient mound in Bargaon in Nalanda; sculptures of various Hindu deities carved on the northern and eastern faces of some of the rocks of Kauvadol hill in Kurisarai, Gaya; Ashokan Pillar at Lauriya Areraj, East Champaran; Vikramshila monastery in Bhagalpur, among other sites.
Patna district has 11 sites in total, as per the list on the Circle’s website.
Sites at Bulandibagh and Sandalpur have witnessed urban growth over the decades and colonies have come up in these areas, another senior official said, adding, “keeping such protected areas free from encroachment is very difficult, as resources are limited, and law and order is a state subject, so we inform the district administration if there is any encroachment reported, and they have to take the action”.
During the early 1890s, Col L A Waddell had carried out exploration and excavations at Bulandibagh during which a Pataliputra Capital and palisades of an ancient city were unearthed.
“Heritage preservation is a constitutional obligation of all governments and citizens. And, in cases, we feel, a monument is important but does not fulfill our criteria, it is recommended for preservation by the state authorities or any other competent body,” the top official of the Circle had earlier said, on the condition of anonymity.
About 50 sites are listed under the Bihar state archaeology department, the official said.
Patna Circle earlier also covered Jharkhand and a large number of sites in eastern Uttar Pradesh. While Ranchi Circle was created in 2003 after Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000, a separate Sarnath Circle was created in 2013 for sites falling in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
ASI had conducted excavation at Kurisarai in Gaya district during financial years 2021-22 and 2022-23, Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy had said in a written response to a question in Lok Sabha on August 1.
He had also shared details on the funds allocated for “survey and large-scale excavation work” of archaeological sites in Bihar during the last three years.
The fund figures for the three years are — 2019-20 (Rs 1,40,000); 2020-21 (Rs 50,000); and 2021-22 (Rs 7,00,000), according to the data shared on it.
In response to another written question on whether the central government proposes to prepare any special action plan for excavation in Nalanda and Gaya in the state, which are considered rich in heritage sites, the Union minister had said, “at present, there is no such proposal under consideration”.
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