Impressed with the local gram panchayat's efforts to reconnect with the forgotten legacy of the era of Ashoka the Great, the district administration on Saturday announced a fund of Rs 9 lakh for the Ashoka Edicts Park.
On the occasion of Buddha Purnima on Saturday, the project was declared adopted under the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) by the district administration.
Also, the villagers, all of them non-Buddhists, started working to erect a boundary wall and earth filling in the first phase of the project in the presence of district officials and Karma Yeshe Rabgye, a British Buddhist monk and author of book “The best way to catch a snake”.
Last year, the gram panchayat of Topra Kalan village, around 15 km from Yamunanagar on the Kurukshetra-Haridwar road, unanimously donated village's 2-acre common land to build the historical park.
Brain behind a move to protect Buddhist monuments and legacy in Haryana, Siddhartha Gauri of The Buddhist Forum, an NGO, told Hindustan Times that it was a little known fact that it was Topra village where the iconic Ashoka Pillar was originally erected before it was dismantled and taken to Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi by the Sultan of Delhi Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century.
It is duly documented by Tughlak's contemporary historian Shams-i-Siraj.
The pillar uprooted from Topra was the only pillar in India which had seven edicts issued by Ashoka, whereas rest of the pillars had only six edicts.
“The ancient Brahmi script was first deciphered on the same pillar having Haryana connection by British expert James Prinsep in 1837,” said the activist.
Additional deputy commissioner SS Saini said that the project would help in creating awareness about rich cultural past and the administration would support the project.
Ramkali, the village sarpanch, said that if promoted well, the park would boost the rural economy of the region as it would attract a large number of spiritual and religious visitors from India and abroad.
“We were never aware of the village's glorious past until Gauri and his team informed us. Panchayats of 40 villages from Radaur block of the district have pledged to lend support to the project,” she said.
RS Bhatti, convener of the local chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said that in the first phase, the park would have replicas of all identified Ashokan pillars in India, a meditation hall and Ashoka's sculptor.
“Experts of architectural and civil constructions at the IIT-Roorkee have agreed in principle to design the entire project as volunteers. We hope that philanthropists and the government agencies will financially support the project,” Bhatti added.