“Digging at ancient mounds may reveal Buddhist heritage”

The Archaeological Survey (ASI) of India purportedly initiated digging at Daundia Khera village in Unnao after a priest, Shobhan Sarkar, claimed to have dreamt of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried under the ruins of a dilapidated fort.

However, the agency has not conducted any excavation at key sites in Ayodhya though they are “centrally protected.” This was sourced through an RTI query. The Buddhist organisations in the temple town believe that digging at some of the key ancient mounds like Mani Parbat, Sugriva Parbat and Kuber Parbat could help establish the Buddhist heritage of the town.

Mani Parbat is identified by a stupa built by emperor Ashoka. During his stay in Ayodhya, Lord Buddha is considered to have preached the Law of Dharma from here. Sugriva Tila is an ancient monastery. Alexander Cunningham, ASI’s first director general has mentioned the sites in his findings.

However, these sites are not defined as Buddhist under the ASI, reveals RTI information sourced by Ayodhya resident Vineet Maurya. Mr. Maurya who has for the past two decades campaigned in favour of revamping Ayodhya’s Buddhist culture, believes that restoring such spots is the only way to attract a large number of tourists and grants from foreign countries. He has written letters to the Archaeological department, the Chief Minister and the Home Ministry to carry out carbon-dating and declare these sites as Buddhist tourist spots.

“I have got no response till date,” he says. Significantly, in 2011, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court claiming that a Buddhist monastery (Baudh Vihar) existed at the site of the Babri mosque and hence the disputed land at Ayodhya should be handed over to followers of the faith.

Prior to the Babri Masjid’s demolition, excavations were conducted in Ayodhya by various agencies on three occasions. In 1969-70, excavation was done by a team of the Ancient Indian History, Cultural and Archaeology Department of the Banaras Hindu University under Professor A.K. Narayan. Another excavation was carried out in 1976-77 by Professor B.B. Lal of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies and the ASI’s K.V. Sundar Rajan. This was followed by an excavation in 1979-80, when the ASI excavation team conducted a dig with the support of the IIAS, Shimla under the direction of Professor B.B. Lal and K.N. Dikshit.

The excavation’s findings have been kept at the Old Fort area in Delhi. Later, the ASI also conducted an excavation under the project Archaeology and Ramayan times.

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