Behind the `50 crore grant that was announced by chief minister ML Khattar on Friday for setting up of the Ashoka Edicts Park were the efforts of the local gram panchayat and a non-government organisation The Buddhist Forum to reconnect Haryana with the forgotten legacy of Mauryan era.
The historical park, which is to be developed as a major tourist attraction, is proposed to be set up at Topra Kalan, 15 km away from Yamunanagar on the Kurukshetra-Haridwar road.
There is a plan to establish all major Asoka pillars and rock edicts in India and abroad, a museum and planting a sapling of Mahabodhi tree from Sri Lanka at the site.
Panchayat of Topra Kalan played a key role in the project as it unanimously donated 27-acre of common land for the purpose. The socio-cultural project has been marred by financial strains but villagers are labouring to build the park with a hope that it would boost the economy of local villages.
Siddhart Gauri, who is the founder of Yamunanagar-based The Buddhist Forum and is active in protecting Haryana's Buddhist legacy, told HT that it was little known that the iconic Asoka Pillar, which now stands above the palace of Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, was, in fact originally erected at Topra Kalan before it was shifted by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century.
This fact is documented by Tughlaq's contemporary historian Shams-i-Siraj, he said.
The pillar, in fact, was the only one in India with seven edicts - all others have six.
"British archeologist and historian James Prinsep was the first one to decipher the Brahmi script on the pillar in 1837and establish the Haryana connect," the activist said.
The pillar, made of chunar rocks mined near Varanasi, was ferried from Topra (then in Ambala district) through the Jamuna river (now called Yamuna) to Delhi.
The Union ministry of culture gave its nod for replicating the iconic Ashoka Pillar in February last year.
The then Kurukshetra MP Naveen Jindal had written to the Union culture ministry to seek permission for the project, following which the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) studied the proposed site and submitted its report to the ministry.
In her reply sent to Jindal on February 6 last, the then culture minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch, stated that the proposed park was in accordance with the relevant laws and had cleared the project.
Students and faculty members of IIT Roorkee and Government College of Arts, Chandigarh have been involved in designing the project.