Monday, May 09, 2011

Stupa from Mauryan era found in Gir sanctuary

Stupa from Mauryan era found in Gir sanctuary
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The recent discovery of a stupa in Girnar sanctuary by Delhi University historian Dr Nayanjot Lahiri has suddenly caught the attention of not only archaeologists but even the Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh has written to chief minister Narendra Modi asking for a complete archaeological survey of Girnar sanctuary as well as Sasan Gir sanctuary. "Lahiri recommends a thorough archaeological survey of the Girnar Reserve Sanctuary and Sasan Gir which, she believes, will reveal that the forest there have protected not merely wildlife but our historic heritage as well," he said.

The Girnar sanctuary is home to around 24 lions, while the Sasan Gir sanctuary is home to over 290 lions. The stupa in question is locally called Lakha Medi and is near the Bhordevi temple.

Originally, this stupa might have been more than 50 feet high and its core is of solid brick. Ramesh said that this might well be a Mauryan stupa. Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and the stupa at Piprahwa in Uttar Pradesh also have solid bricks cores. These old bricks are being used by the Bhordevi temple to build new structure.

Another such stupa locally called Rathakot was located near a temple Jina Baba Ji Madi and is located a little beyond Hasnapur Dam. The stupa there is in better condition then Lakha Medi.

Lahiri said there are a couple of Buddhist stupas that still stand in the Girnar forest and have been practically forgotten. She said that Lakha Medi stupa is built on a rocky knoll, about seven kilometres east of Junagadh.

"My own tryst with the Lakha Medi stupa was made possible because Junagadh's well-known nature man Rasik Bhatt had roamed these forests looking for medicinal herbs and plants," said Lahiri. She said the Sanchi stupa, which is similar to the one in Lakha Medi, has been conserved and, hence, is a world heritage site, but Lakha Medi still remains forgotten.

S K Nanda, principal secretary of ministry for forests and environment, said that the state archaeology department and the forest department will meet next week to chalk out a detail roadmap for the conservation of these stupas. "If required, the forest department will also have a different access for these stupas," he added.

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