The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) plans to do major excavations in the ancient university township of Nalanda of Bihar with the help of satellite images and Ground Penetrating Radar System.
According to Director (Exploration and Excavation) RS Fonia of ASI, "The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) gave us detailed satellite imagery of about 16 square kilometre area around the ancient site of Nalanda. Till date excavations have been carried out only in 1.5 sq km area."
"The satellite data helped us to understand the topography and structural remains around Nalanda and this year during August-September ASI carried out initial explorations leading to the discovery of a number of mounds in villages of Baragaon, Begampur, Machhardiha, Juafardih, Rukministhan,
Paparnausa, Jagdishpur, Sarichak, Kul, Bhadari, Nanana, as also remains of ancient sculptures, gates, pillars, potsherds of Red ware of medieval period," he said.
"We would now use modern technology Ground Penetrating Radar System and Geographical Positioning System to identify the buried structures under the mounds," Fonia added.
Union Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni had visited Nalanda this year and directed ASI officials to work towards its overall development from archaeological and tourism point of view.
Fonia said, "Baragaon used to be part of the trade route to Nepal and Lhasa from eastern India to reach China and Central Asia."
Nalanda is located about 15 kilometres south of Biharsharif the district headquarter of Nalanda and about 95 kilometers southeast of Patna.
History of Nalanda goes back to the days of Mahavira and Buddha in the sixth century BC. It was the place of birth and nirvana of Sariputra,one of the most famous disciples of Buddha.
"Nalanda became famous in the 5th century AD as a great monastic-cum-educational institution, it was the Oxford University of that time and scholars from different parts of the world came to Nalanda to study. It was a major centre for learning Ayurveda, Sanskrit, Indian philosophy and culture. It can now become a world heritage site and definitely requires archaeological investigation into its economy, social development, trade and communication," Fonia added.
Chinese scholars like Fa-Hien and Hiuen Tsiang are supposed to have been students at Nalanda which was founded by Kumaragupta I (413–455 AD) of the Gupta dynasty. By 1206 the later Pala period Nalanda University had declined.
Excavations conducted by ASI during 1915-37 and 1974-82 exposed the ancient remains of the university.