The Archaeological Survey of India’s Patna circle has sought the Central Ground Water Board’s opinion on whether the ruins of the Mauryan-era hall in Kumhrar can be opened for public viewing.
Remains of the 80-pillar hall, excavated by archaeologist DB Spooner from 1912-14 and the KP Jayaswal Research Institute in 1951-55, was filled with sand and soil in 2004 to save it from ground water seepage and waterlogging.
Experts had said the accumulated water could damage the remains, so the entire hall is buried underground.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, on a visit to the site this February, had asked officials to explore the possibility of re-opening the structure to the public. The art, culture and youth affairs department requested the Patna circle of the ASI to look into it, and the ASI sought the opinion from the central water agency.
The department has also offered financial and technical support to the ASI, an official said. “A series of meetings were held with ASI officials to keep track of the progress,” the official said. “In the last such meeting on March 20, the ASI informed the department that it had sought the Central Ground Water Board’s help.”
Another official in the department said the state government believes the option of checking the water level at the site can be explored because the groundwater table has receded in Patna over the years.
State officials also said that since the drainage system has been developed over the years, possibility of seepage from settlements around the site in Patna was minimal.
“Though we are making our best efforts, the final call has to be taken by the ASI because it is a protected site. But we would continue to pursue the case,” added the official.
ASI Patna circle superintending archaeologist D.N. Sinha said: “Any decision to remove the filling from the 80-pillar hall will be taken only after getting the opinion of the experts.”
The Kumhrar site had first come to light towards the end of the 19th century when a British official Laurence A. Waddell carried out excavations between 1892 and 1899. He brought to light the remains of wooden beams arranged in a double row. Further details were brought to the fore by Spooner of the ASI who re-excavated the site and concluded that there had existed at the site a Mauryan hall resting on 80 or more pillars.
Further details about the site came to the light during excavations conducted by JA Page and Manoranjan Ghosh during 1926-28. After the KP Jayaswal Research Institute’s excavations, it was concluded that it was an 80-pillar assembly hall for Buddhists that was built during the reign of Mauryan emperor Asoka.
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