A team of archaeologists from Bihar and Santiniketan-based Viswa Bharati University in neighbouring West Bengal has raised concerns over the government ropeway construction project atop Mandar hills, in Banka district, where artifacts of 11-12 century AD were found.
The team has asked the district administration not to use in ropeway construction work ancient pillars and stone slabs, lest the archaeological remains will be destroyed.
The team, which was at Banka, 254 km east of Patna, for surface exploration of Mandar hills, found that pits were dug up to erect pillars for the ropeway were damaging archaeological remains. It also discovered that ancient stone pillars were being used to create a platform near a temple.
It was also of the opinion that the district administration should hold consultations with experts so that archaeological remains were not destroyed.
“I have received a mail and am consulting my seniors,” Banka district magistrate Nilesh Deore said. “I will forward the matter to the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC), which is handling the ropeway project,” he added.
Deore admitted that the site was full of rare archaeological remains, which needed to be conserved.
Archaeologist Anil Kumar, who led the team, said it was surprising to see heritage being destroyed this way.
“The contractor, assigned the ropeway work, is digging pits without realising the damage to heritage. We collected remains of bricks and pottery from a pit created to erect a pillar and found it to be of 11-12 century AD,” Kumar said.
“Even more shocking was the use of ancient stone slabs for constructing a pathway to the temple. When we intervened, the people there stopped work,” he said, while wondering what would happen when his team left the place.
Mandar hills are believed to have been used in mythological Samudra Manthan (churning of the sea). Many rare sculptures of Varaah, Kamdhenu with a calf, Narasimha, lord Shiva, 3.5 feet high conch shell, Madhusudan and Saraswati can be seen scattered around the hill.
Despite its historical importance, neither the Archaeological Survey of India nor the state archaeology department has declared the hills a protected site.