An archaeological site that is known to be a Buddhist monument is facing danger in Srinagar, India. The site, which dates to the 3rd century, is located in Srinagar’s Harwan area, and was proclaimed an archaeological site two years ago by the Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums J&K (Jammu and Kashmir).
Despite being included in a proposal to the Indian government for the protection of unidentified archaeological sites in the state, officials told Rising Kashmir that they hadn’t received any response from either the state government or the government of India.
The site is known to belong to a Buddhist period from which terracotta tiles have been recovered. Two archaeological monuments, dated at 15 and 11 centuries old, have apparently also been left unprotected by the state government: according to Dr. Fida Hassnain one of them, Pandrathan Temple, was built on the site of the Buddhist temple where Xuanzang, a Chinese monk, stayed during his two years in Kashmir (Wang 2006, 268–69). Rising Kashmir further reports that the Indian and state governments have not provided protection for 144 other proposed archaeological sites in J&K. The requests from officials seem to have gone unnoticed, even though the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Archaeology Act both urge the importance of conserving such sites.
With Srinagar holding so many ancient treasures, the state government has provided adequate protection to a mere five sites. These are: Mosque and Tomb of Madin Sahib Hawal Srinagar, Hari Parbat Fort Srinagar, Old Ceremonial at Old Secretariat Srinagar, Historical Tomb at Soura Srinagar, and Hari Parbat wall (Qalie) Srinagar. On a larger scale, Rising Kashmir reports that the Indian government “protects only 69 sites of J&K whereas State protects only 41 sites across J&K with 17 sites in Kashmir and 24 sites in Jammu division.” A list of archaeological sites in Jammu and Kashmir recognized by the ASI can be found here.
Officials from the archaeological department have expressed their concern over the government’s apathy. M. Saleem Baig, conveyor Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage J&K (INTACH) J and K chapter, told Rising Kashmir: “The department needs a major reshuffle. There is a need to appoint young scholars to this department to avoid future loss of archaeological sites.”
In 2011, the Hindustan Times reported that about 3,650 monuments and sites across India were safe under the protection of ASI, but that this was far below the actual count of sites in need. Delhi itself allegedly had more than 1,000 unprotected monuments. The total number of monuments lacking government protection across the country was reckoned at approximately 33,826.
Wang Tuancheng, Dust in the Wind: Retracing Dharma Master Xuanzang’s Western Pilgrimage, 2006