Excavations at Indian heritage sites top culture ministry's agenda

Senior culture ministry officials said that the government’s key focus as part of the work of the ASI will be on sites with ancient heritage
Last Updated 21 February 2022, 16:52 IST

Excavation of sites linked to ancient Indian heritage will be at the top of the agenda of the culture ministry for this year. This includes, among others, Adichanallur along the Cauvery basin, Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh linked to the Mahabharata, the 4,000-year-old burial site at UP’s Sanauli, the Harappan-era ancient city of Rakhigarhi in Haryana, as well as sites linked to Buddhism in Kashmir’s Poonch.

Senior culture ministry officials told DH that the government’s key focus as part of the work of the Archaeological Survey of India will be on sites with ancient heritage, including those that find a mention in mythological texts. “We plan to pay more attention to excavations this year, which faltered for two years due to the Covid pandemic,” said the official, adding that the budget allocation for excavations is also set to increase.

Adichanallur was one of the oldest excavation sites in India, where the first excavation took place in 1876. The site is one of the oldest megalithic sites in India, burials here have led to findings of Dravidian as well as mixed-race skeletons, including one that dates back to 905 BC.

Some of the other key sites along the Cauvery basin where excavations have taken place include Gottiprolu in Tamil Nadu’s Nellore district, which unearthed a trade city that is two millennia old. Another site is Karnataka’s Brahmagiri where excavations took place last in 1978. The site is known for Mauryan-era Megalithic monuments. Another site in TN, the Sangam-era settlement in Keezhadi led to some tussle for control of the excavations between the ASI as well as the state excavation department.

“We will ask them for permission to join the excavations when the need arises,” the official said.

In Hastinapur, excavations have already begun last week. The last time that an excavation took place at Hastinapur, known to be the site where the final battle in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata took place, was seven decades ago when archaeologist BB Lal excavated it in 1952. The excavation will seek answers to the dating of the period of the Mahabharata.

The Indus Valley site, Rakhigarhi in Haryana, spread over 550 acres has led to findings that date back to more than five millennia. Archaeologists believe that the Harappan-era city was one of India’s oldest, and a museum to display the findings was announced in this year’s Budget.

In Kashmir’s Poonch, the excavations are trying to find a link with the Indus Valley civilisation. The ASI had earlier carried out a survey in 2019 at the site, close to the Akhnoor-Poonch highway, to explore monuments or antiquities of historical importance.

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(Published 21 February 2022, 16:52 IST)

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