Gujarat Govt expedites work on preservation of Buddhist sites

PTI, April 4, 2011

Ahmedabad, India -- The Gujarat Government has accelerated its efforts for preservation of sites that are going to be part of the Buddhist tourism circuit comprising caves in Saurashtra and the remains of Buddhist monastery in Central Gujarat region.

While the proposal for Buddhist tourism circuit awaits approval from the Centre, the Gujarat Government has expedited its work on preservation of ancient Buddhist caves and sites which are being excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, himself has taken keen interest in these activities and had recently visited the excavation site in Vadnagar of Mehsana district in North Gujarat to take stock of the works taken up there.

“In ancient times thousands of Buddhist monks were coming to Vadnagar in search of spiritual knowledge. It is believed that eastern belt of India is especially influenced by Buddha but with the finding of Buddhist relics in Vadnagar, an opportunity to study his influence on western belt has also opened up,” Mr Modi said during his visit.

According to an official of the Department of Youth and Cultural Affairs, they plan to build a shed made out of special fibre to protect the Vadnagar excavation site from rain and other disturbances.

“We also plan to erect a cultural wall that would display the relics of the Buddhist monastery and coins. An amount of Rs 40 lakh has been allocated for it,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

He said that there was also a long-term plan to build a museum at the Vadnagar site. Since its excavation began five years ago, over 7,000 pieces of Archaeological importance have been found from Ghaskol Darwaja excavation site in Vadnagar town.

The findings include a number of clay utensils, silver coins, beads, ornaments, sculptures, clay plaque, tablets, plaque depicting Buddha, and parts of vessel with inscription related to Buddhism.

The State Government has proposed to develop Devni Mori in Sabarkantha, Taranga in Junagadh and Vadnagar in Mehsana as an integrated Buddhist circuit and asked the Centre for Rs 10.11-crore aid.

Mr Vipul Mitra, Tourism Secretary, said the Buddhist caves found in various locations of Saurashtra region would also become part of the circuit.

The Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mr Fakir Vaghela, said efforts for the preservation of Buddhist caves in Saurashtra region and development of its surrounding areas have already begun as a step towards the tourist circuit.

Mr Vaghela said that restoration of Buddhist caves and development of surrounding areas was being done with technical support and collaboration of the ASI.

Besides restoration and maintenance, sign boards and information charts about the history of the caves have been put up at various locations. Also, security guards have been deployed to protect the ancient monuments, he said.

These caves are located in Shiyot village of Lakpat taluka of Kutch district, Ranpur village of Jamnagar, Sana, Prabhas Patan, Savangiri villages of Junagadh; Khambhalida village in Gondal taluka of Rajkot and in Jhanjhpore village of Bharuch district.
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