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Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to develop Buddhist sites

by Pranava K Chaudhary, TNN, May 5, 2011

PATNA, India -- Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is likely to develop over half a dozen Buddhist sites, located in four districts of Bihar, associated with the footprint of Lord Buddha. Most of these sites are ASI-protected monuments which need immediate care. The ASI director general has given necessary directions to the officials concerned to make a detailed report.

The ASI's directives came following the receipt of a survey report of these sites by a group of experts. The team leader of the group, Ajit K Prasad, former deputy director, archaeology, government of Bihar, said the ASI DG has assured him to develop all these sites. A development plan for the purpose will be prepared soon.

An eight-member team led by Ajit K Prasad had visited these sites in East and West Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Vaishali to trace the footprint of Buddha last year. "The available evidence suggests that Lord Buddha had visited Rampurva, Lauriya, Nandangarh, Areraj, Kesariya, Vaishali and Hajipur in course of his journey to Bodh Gaya," Prasad told TOI.

The team also observed that the remains of two Ashokan pillars are lying on a stupa mound at Rampurva site. The site is about five km north-west of Gunaha railway station on the border of Bihar and Nepal in West Champaran district. In 1880-81, Alexander Cunnigham had excavated this site and again in 1907-08 Dayaram Sahni also dug the same place.

According to experts, Rampurva is the most important Buddhist site after Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar. This site must be included among the Buddhist sites and has potential to be developed as a world heritage site. The famous Chinese traveller, Xuanzang, had also mentioned this site in his travel accounts.

Similarly, Areraj in East Champaran district is an equally important site. The team has suggested to ASI to conduct immediate excavation at the site to know the cultural sequence of the site.

Another important Buddhist site is Kesariya in East Champaran, which was visited by Lord Buddha during his journey to Bodh Gaya. Patna circle of ASI has excavated the main stupa site. The total height of the stupa is about 52 metres and the topmost cylindrical portion of the stupa is 20.25 metre.

The experts also mentioned some lesser-known Buddhist sites which are not protected. These sites need immediate protection and conservation. Some of these sites are Bhikhan Thori, Hetukunwar, Mahayogini, Shahodra, Baudh Barva, Chanmari, Jagdishpur, Chankigarh (all in West Champaran), Sagardih, Nawniardhi (East Champaran).

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