Clerk crusades to restore Khambhalida's Buddhist caves

by Nayan Dave, TNN, Jan 31, 2009

KHAMBHALIDA, India -- Paresh Pandya, a clerk with a private school, is fighting for restoration of a heritage monument a picturesque site of
Buddhist caves discovered by his father way back in 1958-59.

Forget development of the site located on the bank of a small rivulet at Khambhalida village in Rajkot district, the state archeological department is not even able to conserve around three caves and two fantastic sculptures carved on its entrance.

Originally, there were around 15-20 caves on both sides of the rivulet surrounded by hillocks. But, due to negligence, except three, all caves are ruined or have collapsed. This despite the state archeological department declaring it as a protected monument.

"I have made many representations to the department for the last five years and to ministers concerned, including Bavku Undhad, Anandiben Patel and Fakirbhai Vaghela. Only an assurance letter came recently from the state government stating that Rs 10 lakh have been sanctioned for the preservation of the caves. However, work has not commenced yet," said Pandya.

His father PP Pandya, a renowned archeologist and former director of archeology in Saurashtra state, had discovered the place along with remains of Harappan civilization near Srinathgadh village, around 30 km from Khambhalida. He was also appointed the first director of archeology in the newly formed Gujarat state in 1960. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could take charge at a young age of 39.

"After Khambhalida site, I would like to work for the development of museum at Srinathgadh in which ornaments, weapons, utensils and other things of Harappan civilization should be displayed for the public," he said.

When contacted, YS Ravat, director of state archeology department, confirmed that the group of caves in a scenic location was found by Pandya and originally there seems to be five groups of caves but at present, only the second group is still surviving.

"We are actively working for its restoration and this site would be developed by the end of 2010," he said.

This group of caves consists of three caves, the central one being a chaitya' with a worn out stupa. The entrance of the chaitya' is flanked by two large sculptures of the Bodhisatvas-Padmapani on the right and Vajrapani on the left. Each Bodhisatva is surrounded by attendants. There are depictions of Buddhist railing and foliages. These caves of 4th-5th century AD are scooped out in the local limestone rock.