Posted on: 2014-10-06 09:00
KATHMANDU, OCT 06 – In July last year, archaeologists carried out an excavation at Baluwa area in Gokarna, next to where Lichhavi King Amshu Verma’s sixth century inscription was found in the late seventies. But just over a year later, a three-storey house stands tall on the very spot where the discovery was made.
By the time the Department of Archaeology learnt about the building, the construction was already halfway through. According to Ram Bahadur Kunwar, coordinator of the excavation, the departement’s directive to the Village Development Committee to impose restriction on construction of any structure in the area was not followed.
The house owner, Yangde Sherpa, oblivious to the archaeological value of the land, says she was tricked into buying the property at a higher price by an agent two years ago.
“The Village Development Committee had given me the approval to build my house on the land. I didn’t know what to make of it when I was later told that the land was archaeologically important,” she says.
The Ancient Monument Preservation Act of 1956 states that the government is entitled to declare an area as preservation site and if it falls under private ownership, it has to provide compensation to the owners for the property as was the case of Hadigaon’s archaeological dig led by an Italian team around the Satya Narayan area which yielded brick building foundations that is believed to date back to the period between first and second century BC.
In case of the archaeological site in Baluwa village, however, there has not been any preservation drive, except for last year’s dig (after which nothing else was done). A small temple has been built behind the inscription, and they both lie in close proximity to the road. No fences have been built around the area where the ancient inscription was discovered.
Shyam Sundar Rajbanshi, who has written a book based on the inscription, says it talks of a ’Raj Bihar’ hinting that an entire city could be buried underneath, around the area. “Out of the 250 artefacts that exist from the Lichhavi period, this is one of the most important,” says Rajbanshi.
The Lichhavi period, which lasted over 600 years, is also known as the golden era and traces of its Vajrayana Buddhism are found in Gokarna. Sudarshan Tiwari, who holds a doctorate in Lichhavi studies, says the area north of Chabahil all the way up to Sankhu is filled with many monasteries or Buddhist Bihars, boasting of an area rich in archaeology.
“The department needs to act immediately,” says National Archives Chief Prakash Darnal, adding that its time to understand that one cannot continue work in archaelogically important sites if the population there is growing rapidly. “They should at least put up a sign urging people not to build houses around the vicinity while sorting out the legalities and developing a preservation plan for the area,” he says. For now, except for Sherpa’s house, the area is relatively empty. But it will not remain so for a long time unless the government puts increased attention and efforts to preserve historically important sites.