Thursday, January 26, 2012

Furore over Buddhist site given to Navy

Furore over Buddhist site given to Navy

Andhra Pradesh | Posted on Jan 24, 2012 at 08:58am IST
The New Indian Express

VISAKHAPATNAM: The All India Lay-Buddhist Organisation (AILBO) and the Forum for Better Visakha (FBV) have decided to move the court against the government order transferring around three acres of Thotlakonda Buddhist site to the Indian Navy to construct a 60 feet road making a passage to its own site of around 100 acres beyond Thotlakonda.

The controversial GO No. 37, issued on January 18, kicked up a row in Visakhapatnam. The Thotlakonda Buddhist site is a protected monument on the Bheemili beach road, about 15 km from Visakhapatnam. The monument is located on the top of a hill.

The site spreads over an area of around 600 acres and has been declared a protected monument by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Incidentally, it is the Indian Navy which discovered the Thotlakonda Buddhist site during the aerial survey conducted for setting up the Naval base in Visakhapatnam.

The archaeology department carried out major excavations at the site between 1988 and 1993.

The excavations uncovered three kinds of structural remains–religious, secular and civil.

The structures include a mahastupa, 16 votive stupas, a stone pillared congregation hall, 11 rock-cut cisterns, well-paved stone pathways, an apsidal chaitya-griha, three circular grihas, two votive platforms, 10 viharas, a kitchen complex with three halls and a refectory (dining hall).

Apart from the structures, the Buddhist treasures unearthed include nine Satavahana and five Roman silver coins, terracotta tiles, stucco decorative pieces, sculptured panels, miniature stupa models in stone, Buddha padas with asthamangal symbols and early historic pottery.

The GO permitting transfer of land to the Navy said there was no other way for the Navy to reach its site, which is beyond Thotlakonda There is no other direct passage to the Navy site, it said.

The Indian Navy proposed that the 60 feet road to be constructed can be used commonly by both the Navy and the Department of Archaeology.

Archaeology department’s assistant director in-charger, IDV Prasad Babu, said the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is said to have plans to set up a coastal surveillance radar system at the Naval site to detect, identify and track maritime vessels.

The land will be given to the Navy only temporarily, he added.

Coming down heavily on the archaeology department, the all India governing body member of AILBO, K Venkata Ramana Rao, said once the Navy builds the road at Thotlakonda, they will occupy the entire Buddhist site saying its a prohibited area.

He said the Navy should create a passage to its site via Kapulaupadda, sparing the Buddhist site.FBV convener EAS Sarma said the archaeology department failed to safeguard the centuries old Buddhist site.

If the road is built, the structures at the site will get damaged because of heavy vehicular traffic, he said and urged the Navy to lay their road via Jeeyar Ashram and protect the Buddhist site.


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