Alok Deshwal writes: Established in 1861, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) functions as an attached office of the Department of Culture. The major activities of ASI are: Survey of archaeological remains and excavations; Maintenance and conservation of centrally protected monuments, sites and remains; Chemical preservation of monuments and antiquarian remains; Architectural survey of monuments; Development of epigraphical research and numismatic studies; Setting up and reorganization of site museums; Expedition abroad; Training in Archaeology and Publication of technical report and research works.
Under the Ancient Monuments and archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, the ASI has declared 3667 monuments/sites to be of national importance in the country which includes 21 sites that are inscribed in the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
Conservation and Preservation of Monuments
The conservation, preservation, maintenance and development of environs around centrally protected sites are ASI’s prime tasks.
Structural repairs of a special nature and day-to-day maintenance is looked after by the 24 circle offices located in different parts of the country.
Greater emphasis is given for the development of cultural tourism integrating with the monuments. For this purpose, cultural hubs encompassing facilities for tourists such as information centers, public conveniences, modern ticket counters, better signage and drinking water facilities etc. have been created at monuments inscribed in the World Heritage List and other important and more frequented monuments.
ASI has undertaken about 1700 schemes (works) for structural conservation, chemical preservation and horticulture operations based on the priorities, commitments and financial resources. Emphasis is also given to provision of tourist amenities to the World Heritage Sites and the ticketed monuments.
After successful completion of the Phase-I of the Ajanta-Ellora Conservation and Tourism Development Project with loan assistance from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC), the works for Phase-II have been taken up. An integrated programme of comprehensive conservation, chemical preservation and overall environment development of Ajanta, Ellora, Pitalkhora and Aurangabad caves, Daulatabad Fort, Bibi-ka-Maqbara, Patnadevi Temple and Lonar group of temples has been taken up in Phase-II of the project with an outlay of Rs.37.68 crores. ASI has incurred an expenditure of Rs.20.3 crores upto March 2009 on the project and a provision of Rs.8 crores has been made for it during the year 2009-2010.
Also, ASI contributes towards the conservation and restoration of the Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia under the ITEC programme of the Ministry of External Affairs. Archaeological Survey of India has conducted scientific studies and investigations pertaining to structural, geo-technical, water stagnation and arboriculture aspects of this temple. Conservation work at three locations is in progress in accordance with the Project Implementation Programme approved by the International Coordination Committee and APSARA National Authority.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) carried out excavations through its Circle and Excavation branch offices during the field season 2008-09. Significant results of excavations are seen at the following sites
Excavation at Barabati Fort, Cuttack District, Orissa
Barabati Fort is located in Cuttack City and in the delta of the Mahanadi river. The excavation was carried out at the north eastern part of Barabati Fort complex. The excavation brought to light a 4.30 mtrs thick deposit assignable to circa fourteenth-seventeenth century AD was marked by two structural phases. The structures were made of laterite, khodalite and coarse sandstone set in mud/lime mortar. Sporadic traces of plaster made of lime, kankars and shells were also noticed on the surface of the walls.
The important antiquity finds include a seated Goddess, Gandharva, lion-head; lamp fragment, balls and pot fragments of stone; sling balls, fragments of animal figurines of terracotta and axe and a stylus made of iron. The pottery finds comprised storage jars, spouted vessels, lamp, pot stands, knobbed lids, miniature pots, dishes and bowls, the final portion of a hukkah and pieces of Chinese porcelain.
Begampur, District Nalanda, Bihar
This village is situated 1.4 kms north from the ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara. There is a huge mound towards south of the village Begampur. About 400 feet to the south of the hamlet is a large square mound with ruined brick structures. The whole mound is under agriculture and owned by the villagers. Presently the area of the mound is approximately 300 x 300 mtrs and height is about 5 mtrs from the surrounding place.
Ghorakatora, District Nalanda, Bihar
Archaeological potential site, namely Ghorakatora near Giriyak Police Station in the District Nalanda is situated between Biharsharif and Nawada on the National Highway No. 31, 300 mtrs west from Giriyak Police Station. The River Panchana flows west of the site and also connects with the motorable road leading to Tapovan, Jethian and Rajgirh. It is a massive mound measuring about 900 mtrs (north-south) x 500 mtrs (east-west) x 40 to 500 feet in height, first noticed by Buchanan. There was a tomb of Hussan-Hussain at the northern portion of the mound according to the local villagers. At the center of the mound was a small square fort with bastion at the four corners. The ceramic found is red ware, black slipped ware, N.B.P. and black and red ware potsherds. Some antiquities have also been collected such as terracotta beads, gamesman and fragment of Sunga plaque. It indicates that the site may start from chalcolithic culture leading to Northern Black Polished Ware culture, Sunga-Kushana up to the medieval period.
St. Augustine Complex, Goa
During the excavation at St. Augustine complex, Goa, boundary walls, jars, drainwells and platform pottery etc. were found. Several ceramic potsherds in blue and white were collected in the area which fell outside the refectory. A large quantity of the sherds (in heaps) suggest that this area might have been used to throw (dump) the sherds that must have been broken and thrown as waste at the time when the comment was occupied. It is believed this place was the burial of Queen Katherine of Georgia.
The Agra Circle of the ASI also carried out excavation at Ahichchhatra as a sequel to the multi-disciplinary investigations at this site. Three mounds to the southwest of the main habitation mound at Ahichchhatra were taken up. The excavation yielded structural remains of the historical period. This was done by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.