Using a site specific minimum intervention module, the Bhopal circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has strengthened centuries-old rock cut caves at Dhamnar in Mandsaur district, inclusive of Buddhist and Brahminical religious structures.
Having completed the first phase of the preservation wherein 14 of the 51 caves at the site were restored, the ASI Bhopal circle has presented it as a conservation model that could be replicated elsewhere in the state and country.
N Taher, superintendent archaeologist of Bhopal (ASI), told HT that he had written to the director general of ASI, suggesting replication of the model.
About the specific four-step conservation model, Taher said the first step was to thoroughly document the site, followed by appropriate conservation work using minimum intervention module.
In the third step, an interpretation centre was set up at the site to allow visitors to understand the importance of site and the conservation work. The final step was to come out with a well-researched booklet on the site.
Explaining the site specific minimum intervention module of conservation, the officer said such conservation ensures that the condition of the important archaeological structures do not further deteriorate and thus are saved longer for the posterity.
Also, the overall ambience and appearance of the structures/sites are minimally changed. This module is low budget, involves only optimum work on the site and mostly uses local material, he said.
The Dhamnar site, about 360km from here, includes 51 rock cut caves containing Buddhist structures like stupas, chaityas, porch and small chambers both of Hinayana and Mahayana sects of Buddhism constructed in 5th-6th centuries AD.
The conspicuous sculptures include colossal seating figure of Buddha.
The site also includes Brahminical rock cut caves (7th-8th century AD) and a single monolithic temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu (8th-9th century AD).
The site was crumbling mainly because of being constructed by porous laterite rocks which got weathered badly over the centuries, destabilising the structure.
For conservation purpose, “laterite pack” technique was used where powdered laterite nodules were mixed with brick surkhi (powder) and traditional lime mortar.
This mixture was applied to the cracks and gaps and also on the weathered surfaces to stabilise and strengthen the entire structure.
Laterite pack being homogenous with original raw material becomes part of the structure and does not display unusual “scars” of conservation, Taher said.