Himachal govt to brainstorm ways to protect Buddhist heritage in Tabo

The 11th century Tabo monastery is also known as the Ajantas of the Himalayas. HT Photo

The 11th century Tabo monastery is also known as the Ajantas of the Himalayas. HT Photo

Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla| Updated: May 30, 2015 20:58 IST

The 11th century Tabo monastery, known as the Ajantas of the Himalayas, has weathered many a storm over the centuries; but now it is succumbing to the elements.

And with no solution in sight to brave the fast changing climatic conditions, the government now plans to brainstorm ways to protect the Buddhist heritage site in Tabo, a bowl-shaped valley in Lahaul and Spiti.

Built in 996 AD by a Buddhist king and his two sons, the Tabo monastery is among 36 protected monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It has nine temples, four decorated stupas and cave shrines, besides a huge collection of manuscripts and ‘Pramana’ texts.

However, over the recent years, the monastery’s mud structure and murals depicting the rich Buddhist culture have been under a threat. Increased rainfall and moisture level have already affected the miniature paintings drawn by masters of the time.

Moreover, repeated restoration by ASI has also caused damage to the mud structure, and the state languages, art and culture department has already raised the issue with it.

Now, the government says it will be deliberating with archeological experts and historians to find ways and act fast.

“We are holding a seminar at Tabo to find ways to protect the monument,” additional chief secretary of the languages, art and culture department, Upma Chaudhary, told HT.

The deliberations are being held jointly with the ASI.

The state department is also concerned about the fast increasing construction in an around the Tabo monastery, situated at a height of 3,050 m above sea level. Over the past few years, haphazard constructions had come up in an around the monastery, and the art and culture department wants the local administration to regulate building activity there.

Earlier, the state government had raised the issue of the monastery’s bad condition during a conference of tourism ministers. Himachal had apprised the Union tourism minister that maintenance of the Tabo monastery was being carried out by ASI, but that it was still in a poor shape.

The state sought to inform the Centre that Tabo is emerging as a centre of Buddhist studies, besides being a famous hub of Buddhist tourism and as such the maintenance work at the monastery should not be sloppy.

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One response to “Himachal govt to brainstorm ways to protect Buddhist heritage in Tabo

  1. Heather Marie Stoddard

    It is alarming to read the last paragraph in the article on Tapo, asking that “maintenance” of this Buddhist heritage site of world importance and reknown, “should not be sloppy”. This suggests that it has been up to now. Please will the Himachel State Government and ASI consult urgently with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and other specialist international NGOs on Himalayan art protection, to make sure that the superb, irreplacable 11th CE wall paintings and stuccos in Tapo are properly cared for, both in the short and long term.

    Prof. Heather Stoddard
    INALCO, Paris & Wolfson College, Oxford.

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