In the name of promoting tourism in this holy city, the Haryana departments of archaeology and tourism have done irrevocable damage to parts of a 6th century Buddhist site.
A visit to the ancient site located opposite the department of fine arts at Kurukshetra University reveals the sorry state of affairs. The archaeology department has used earth-removing machines to level the protected mound. “It is being done to beautify the area and ensure free pathway for visitors. Remnants of the low-level ancient mound were razed for the view of visitors,” said Ranbir Shastri, assistant director, archaeology department, on Tuesday.
He said studies indicated that the parts removed from the site were not of much heritage significance. “We have photographed these parts and, if in the due course of conservation any evidence of the razed parts are seen, it will be reconstructed,” he said.
The archaeological department, which took the possession of the site in January 2011, has blamed the Kurukshetra Development Board and the KU for dumping silt from Bhramasarovar and waste for decades at the historic site.
As per the conservation and promotion programme, the tourism department had decided to landscape the site, install lights and built a pathway, while the archeology department undertook the work of mound levelling.
“These were only layers of silt and sand which were removed after the levelling of the site. We do not think that it had damaged anything here,” Shastri said.
Sat Dev, chairperson of the KU’s department of ancient Indian history, culture and archeology, however, said that levelling earth at a protected site was illogical. The site found a mention by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, who had visited the region in the 6th century AD, he said.
“Tsang records details of a stupa built by King Ashoka which is 300-feet high. It the same mound present on the KU campus,” he said.
Lamenting the state archaeological authorities, Dev said levelling of mound may have permanently damaged the heritage site which may have several unexplored things underneath it.
Conservation activist Sidhartha Gauri said he would approach the high court against the two government departments. “Instead of tapping the scope of Buddhist religious tourism in the state by professionally conserving the ancient, the authorities have damaged the monument that links Haryana’s heritage,” said Gauri, the chairperson of the Yamunanagar-based The Buddhist Forum.