Archaeologists flee survey site after mob attack in Lakhisarai

Hindustan Times

Remains of the stupa found at Ghosikund mound of Lakhisarai district of Bihar. (HT photo)

Remains of the stupa found at Ghosikund mound of Lakhisarai district of Bihar. (HT photo)

Archaeologists trying to survey a recently discovered Buddhist site in Ghosikund village of Chanan area in Lakhisarai, ran into a wall of protestors who took to violence to block the site, where they want an engineering college to come up instead.

Ghosikund hillock, which has been partly excavated, has thrown up a rich historical sequence of artefacts, right from pre-Buddhist times to the age of Guptas and Palas and promises to add to the rich historical legacy of the state. The uncovered site is believed to have thrown up a casket containing Buddha’s remains, as is mentioned in Cunningham’s travelogues of British times.

“Call it ignorance, or contempt for history, the region continues to witness conflict between heritage and modernity,” said an archaeologist.

Last week when a team of experts and research scholars from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal visited the site for inspection, they were opposed and manhandled by the locals and forced to leave. The team was formed by the state government to survey the site in Lakhisarai and chalk out a conservation strategy.

“It’s shocking. Though efforts to get the site conserved have been going on for the last many years, Lakhisarai district administration cleared nearly seven-acre of land for an engineering college at the site in May 2016. Land measurement works had also begun and it stopped only when the culture secretary intervened,” Vinod Kumar, coordinator of Dharohar Bachaao Samiti, Lakhisarai, told HT.

He said, locals had very little awareness about history and heritage. The worst came on February 13 when the team reached the hilltop. “Suddenly a large number of locals appeared and began opposing the team. They demanded a stop to the archaeological survey and became very aggressive. Team members had to be leave and take shelter in car. But they assaulted me and damaged my mobile phone and camera,” Kumar said. “We informed the Lakhisarai superintendent of police (SP) about the incident.

A government official on the team, who did not want to be quoted, said the team was at Lakhisarai to survey sites, but had to withdraw due to public opposition, with people turning violent.

Arun Kumar, a native of Lakhisarai who teaches archaeology at Shanti Niketan (West Bengal), said the Ghosikundi mound has already lost a majority of its bricks. “You can see many Gupta age bricks of this Stupa being used in many modern day houses and other structures in the locality,” he said.

Unfortunately, the mound is yet to be protected and has never been excavated. Recently, the Archaeological Survey of India and the state archaeology confirmed its archaeological potential. “It is also yet to be confirmed whether the mound yielded a relic casket, as reported in Alexander Cunningham’s reports. (Cunningham was a British army engineer with the Bengal Engineer Group who later took an interest in the history and archaeology of India.) Yet the antiquities and bricks lying there indicate it to be the stupa he discovered,” Kumar said.

Discussing Lakhisarai’s Buddhist links, he said it used to be a centre of Buddhist religion in ancient times and was known as Krimila, located on the banks of Krimikala river (modern day Kiul river). Lord Buddha spent three varshavaas (rainy seasons) atop Chaliya mountains,” he signed off.

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