Heritage lovers question mode of renovation of Buddhist sites

Times of India
Sulogna Mehta | Mar 22, 2016, 09.29 PM IST

VISAKHAPATNAM: The reconstruction works at the Buddhist heritage sites of Thotlakonda and Bavikonda are almost over but what has not gone down well with heritage lovers and some Intach (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) members is the use of bricks and rocks brought from outside to rebuild the 2000-year-old mahastupa and other structures. They have also questioned the need for total reconstruction.

On the other hand, the state department of archaeology refuted the allegations saying that reconstruction was necessary and said all archaeological norms were followed in carrying out the works. According to the department, outside material had to be used to fill in the gaps after all the original available materials found at the site were used up.
In the 1990s, when the sites dating back to the second century BC were reconstructed, original materials, including the bricks and stones that were found at the excavated site itself such as the stone carvings, lamps, rock carvings were used without bringing any materials from outside.

An Intach member, who didn’t want to be quoted, averred, “This time, truckloads of new bricks were brought in bulk from Vijayawada while rocks were brought from Yendada and other areas in the vicinity. I don’t think the Buddhist structures were in that bad a shape to be entirely reconstructed with materials from outside. There are very a few Buddhist sites in India which are as old as Thotlakonda and Bavikonda. Even though the shape and size of the new bricks have been replicated to give them the ancient look, they are still 2016-made material after all and the original bricks can’t be spotted among them. The originality gets lost while reconstructing heritage sites in this manner.”

The actual way to renovate the sites would have been to arrest any further deterioration at the time of excavation itself. After that, materials found lying around the sites should have been preserved and used for renovation or reconstruction, keeping the height and diameter of the stupas intact, she added.

Well-known historian from the city and Intach member Edward Paul said, “There are quite a few such Buddhist sites in India, Nalanda being a prominent one. They have been preserved as they had been excavated without using modern building materials.

As for Thotlakonda, I feel, there wasn’t any need for total reconstruction. One can’t be sure if the dimensions of the reconstructed stupa is as accurate as the original one. The heritage feeling is lost through such reconstruction.”

However, state director of archaeology G Ramakrishna Rao stated, “First, we used up all the available materials, the bricks and stones, to reconstruct the stupas. But still, they were incomplete and gaps remained. Therefore, we needed to bring materials from different places but we took care to ensure that the same type of material was available. We also had to take maximum precaution and support into consideration so that the harmika can be safely placed on top of the maha-stupa and also to prevent the structures from crumbling in case of a Hudhud-like cyclonic storm in future.”

“Even historic structures like Charminar in Hyderabad were renovated using lime and mortar, the material that was used for original construction. Even though the bricks at the Buddhist sites now look new, with time and due to the impact of weather, they will lose their sheen and look discoloured like the ancient ones,” added the director.

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One response to “Heritage lovers question mode of renovation of Buddhist sites

  1. The Indian Government should treat Buddhist renovation and archaeology works in India with care and respect. The revival of Buddhism in India will bring more benefits to India’s economy, culture, and its people rather than threat.

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