Famed Ashokan Pataliputra site in Patna is waterlogged, faces uncertain future; ASI writes to CGWB  | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Famed Ashokan Pataliputra site in Patna is waterlogged, faces uncertain future; ASI writes to CGWB 

The remains of Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s palace and the famed 80-pillar court at Kumhrar in Patna is threatened by waterlogging. Archaeological Survey of India has written to the Central Ground Water Board to send its team to suggest whether it would be safe to remove the protective sand cover.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2017 11:57 IST
Reena Sopam
The waterlogged Kumhrar archaeological site in Patna.
The waterlogged Kumhrar archaeological site in Patna.(Reena Sopam/HT photo)

The iconic remains of Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s palace and the famed 80-pillar court at Kumhrar in eastern Patna has been threatened by heavy waterlogging and faces oblivion.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), mandated with its upkeep, has now written to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) to send its team to examine the situation and suggest whether it would be safe to remove the protective sand cover, laid in 2002-03 to protect it from wasting away.

Chief minister NItish Kumar, on one of his visits to the site, had urged the ASI to excavate the Mauryan palace hall and display it for public viewing. 

At present the site appears like any other park in the city as the ancient structure lies buried beneath tons of sand, which the ASI used to preserve it from ruination due to perennial waterlogging.

The site of the remains of 80-pillar hall of emperor Ashoka is waterlogged at Kumhrar in Patna. (Reena Sopam/HT photo)

“The waterlogging problem has to be dealt with before exposing the palace complex.We want the CGWB’s suggestion before moving ahead in this direction. The area continues to witness waterlogging because of poor drainage system,” DK Sinha, superintending archaeologist, ASI, Patna Circle told HT.

Another ASI official said the entire surroundings lay encroached with illegal settlers building homes all around the site without recourse to drainage. “Where is the open space to plan drainage?”

He said, as a rule, any construction activity is prohibited within 100-metre stretch of such heritage sites. Yet no one bothered, as encroachers indulged in unplanned construction. 

Archaeologists say the condition of the heritage site had gone from bad to worse, with signs of damage on the remains, exposed as it was to waterlogging over decades.

The site was discovered by a young American archaeologist named David Brainerd Spooner on February 7, 1913, He chanced upon a brick wall under a structure and beneath that found 30 cm thick charcoal and ashes.Beneath that was found a huge square substructure with 72 massive Mauryan sandstone pillars made of black spotted buff sandstone monoliths - 15 ft apart and arranged in eight rows.

Spooner also discovered a series of parallel wooden platforms with just one column of the 72 pillars intact. It was this discovery that established Patliputra’s identity. He deduced that this structure, which seemed to be a replica of the great Persian structure at Persepolis, was the grand conference hall where Ashoka conducted the third Buddhist council.

AS Altekar and V Mishra from KP Jaiswal Research Institute conducted another excavation between 1951 and 1955 to unearth eight more pillar pits apart from the 72 already discovered by Spooner, and also found the ruins of a brick structure dating back to the 5th century.

A terracotta seal found on the same spot read: “Arogyavihare Bikshusamghasya (hospital of Dhanvantari)”. A seal was also found carved with the word ‘Dhanvantareah’ written in Gupta Bramhi script. A plethora of antiquities like copper coins, ornaments, antimony rods, terracotta seals, dice made of ivory, and toy carts were also excavated.