Millennium Post

With ASI not issuing license, Mogalmari's dream of being tourist spot stuck in limbo

Kolkata: The state government's attempt to promote Mogalmari, an excavation site of Buddhist Monastery in West Midnapore constructed during the post Gupta period between 5-6 century AD, as one of the most important tourist destinations may be jeopardised as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not renewed license to the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum (DAM) in the state which had been carrying out the excavation for the past three years.
As a result of this, the future of the Mogalmari excavation site hangs in balance. Mogalmari is a unique artistic creation embellished with stucco work of Nalanda in Bihar and partly with the Raktammthika Mahavihar of Bengal, enriching the history of the state. The excavation was first started by a team from the Calcutta University led by the then head of the Department of Archaeology Dr Ashoke Dutta in 2003. Later, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum protected the mound and started the excavations after Ashoke Kumar Das, the then District Magistrate of Howrah hailing from the Mogalmari wrote to the directorate urging it to undertake excavation works.
After starting the excavation in 2013, the DAM excavated many antique seals and coins suggesting that the monastery was set up during the post Gupta age. It is evident from the mixed metal coins carrying a mention of King Samachar Dev who ruled in South Bengal. A senior official of the excavation team said that the monastery was situated on the 64,000 square meter mound and the entire village of Mogalmari carries the evidence of one of the oldest Buddhist monastery which had a mention in the account of Buddhist monk Hsuan-Tsang. The artefacts that were recovered during the excavation suggest that it was a big monastery where people used to come from various parts of the world.
The state Tourism department had been developing Mogalmari as a favourite destination for tourists from various parts of the country and abroad. The state Archaeological department has a plan to set up a museum showcasing the artefacts recovered from the monastery. But the non-issuance of license by the ASI may hamper the process. Some, however, think this could be a political move by the Centre not to give Bengal the mileage and the credit of excavating one of the India's oldest historical site. The ASI is saying that they have not issued license as the state government has failed to submit a complete report.
S B Ota, Joint Director General of ASI in New Delhi told Millennium Post: "We have not issued the license to carry out the excavation works to state government department as it has failed to submit a complete report on the project. Any archaeologist who is carrying out an excavation knows that a complete report must be submitted within a stipulated time. Let the state government submit the complete report and the ASI will consider the issuance of license next year."
This has, however, been negated by a senior official of the DAM who on condition of anonymity said that they submitted complete project reports every year on the basis of which, they have got license in the past. But this year, the license has not been issued. "Had we not submitted the complete report of the project, the ASI would not have issued license in the past three consecutive years," the official maintained.

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