Renowned world heritage site Sanchi might have a scope of expansion in near future with the Bhopal circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) planning to develop the nearby Buddhist sites for their likely inclusion as extension to Sanchi.
The ASI has already made a proposal to develop these Buddhist sites of Satdhara, Sonari, Murelkhurd and Andher, all in Raisen district, about 45km from Bhopal, along with Sanchi, built in the 3rd and 2nd century BC, as a major Buddhist tourism circuit in country.
"Recently, the Union government decided to promote Buddhist tourism circuits to highlight their historical and cultural values and the ASI Bhopal has identified the sites in vicinity of Sanchi to be included in these circuits. We have plan to develop these sites on the lines of Sanchi and have drawn up a proposal," N Taher, the superintendent archaeologist of ASI Bhopal, told HT.
The officer said once the sites are developed, the ASI plans to recommend these four sites for world heritage status as an extension to Sanchi.
The group of Buddhist stupas and other remains at Sanchi in Raisen district was accorded world heritage status in 1989 and is one of the best known Buddhist sites internationally. However, the four Buddhist sites in close proximity of Sanchi are of equal historical and archaeological importance and could well be accorded world heritage status, experts feel.
Prominent archaeologist Narayan Vyas, a retired official of ASI, said Sanchi world heritage site could be expanded on the lines of the Rajasthan group of forts by including the these sites.
He said that if this could happen by 2018 – the bicentenary of discovery of Sanchi – it could be a big achievement.
Vyas, who has made a compilation of UNESCO sponsored excavation reports on Sanchi, suggested several other activities that could be taken up in the run up to the bicentenary of the discovery, including excavation in the eastern foreground of the central stupa (number 1) at Sanchi.
He said John Marshall, the former director general of archaeology in India who is credited with restoration of Sanchi (between 1912-1919), had said in his book 'Guide to Sanchi' that he was leaving the excavation work in eastern area to the 'spade of some future explorer' as there were clear evidences of presence of remains of earlier structures beneath.
"Thus, excavation in this area is likely to throw up more interesting findings," Vyas said.
The archaeologist also has suggested publication of excavations reports, notification of new findings on the site and their inclusion in guidebook and holding of national and international seminars for maximum publicity to Sanchi ahead of the bicentenary year.
Madhya Pradesh culture and tourism minister Surendra Patwa said the government was completely in favour of highlighting the importance of the sites and would take necessary steps for their conservation and promotion.