The State of State Archaeology
Kashmir archaeological department from last three decades has never been active in exploring new archaeological sites or to excavate any existing ones
HERITAGE WEEK BY AJMAL SHAH
Kashmir has a history of 5000 years. From the habitational pits of Burzahom and Gufkral to the highly decorated tiles of Harwan and Hutmur, Kashmir history has remained untold archaeologically. Explorations and excavations have been undertaken at very few selected sites such as Burzahom, Gufkral, Harwan, Semthan, Kanispur in Kashmir Valley and Manda, Akhnur in Jammu. Kashmir has potential for archaeological studies can be gleaned by the fact that it remained one of the melting pot of nations and cultures from last five thousand years. In ancient times Kashmir had contacts with the regions of Central Asia, China and Far East. There have been many routes till recent times traversed by the people towards Central Asia. One of the sections of the Silk Route passed through Ladakh gave impetus to the trade activities during ancient times. Kashmir came into contact with Persian and Roman empires and flourished during the Kushan period (1st century AD), due to the exchange of goods, ideas and cultural traits.
Kashmir archaeological department from last three decades has never been active in exploring new archaeological sites or to excavate any existing ones. The reasons are obscure which demand kind and immediate attention from the authorities. The inadequate staff, the fractured wings and the apathy of the government has completely paralysed the State Department of Archaeology, Archives and Museums, beyond recovery. Due to the non-availability of technical staff neither excavations nor explorations has been undertaken by the State Archaeology Department. Some accidental discoveries threw open many new secrets of the bygone era, but due to no further archaeological investigations, all these discoveries have lost their importance. There are many archaeological sites throughout the length and breadth of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, which are not even in the list of heritage sites of the archaeology department. There is not even a map of the heritage sites prepared by the department so far. Some sites are completely vanished of which the only records are available now. There has been no effort to preserve the archaeological heritage of the border areas of Uri, Kupwara and Gurez valley, which are full of archaeological treasure. With this attitude there has been no phenomenal growth in the activities of the department since 1980. It was as early as 1960s, during the time of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who remarked that the State Archaeology Department is one of the least productive departments in Jammu and Kashmir and ordered for the closure of the same.
As compared to the other states of India, Kashmir archaeological research has never been satisfactory. The material retrieved from the excavations at Burzahom and Gufkral by Archaeological Survey of India has been sent for analysis outside the state and was never returned despite of many attempts by the Ministry of Culture. The newly constructed museum has a gallery to display the Neolithic artefacts and antiquities but practically there is nothing which can be displayed for the general public or for researchers. Most of the material was shifted to Calcutta museum and Purana Qila, New Delhi, and it is very unfortunate that they do not even give permission to scholars to consult the material. Ministry of Culture and Tourism miserably failed to get this archaeological treasure back to the valley. Now, the question which haunts every conscious mind is that, what can be displayed regarding Neolithic Kashmir in the newly constructed museum at Lal mandi, Srinagar. The answer simple and most economic is that, these sites must be excavated once again and since there is no technical expertise available in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the question again arises, ‘who will excavate’? In this case the only way out is to, do a collaborative work with the academic institutes like, Deccan College, Pune or M. S. University Baroda, which are pioneers in the field of archaeology.
The rich cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir has been left unattended by the authorities. Under the auspices of Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the archaeological heritage has been vanishing. This attitude of the Ministry of Culture itself shows that they have made false claims of being the guardians of the cultural heritage of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All attention has been given to the scenic spots and archaeological sites were never developed in such a way that they could attract tourists. There has been no effort by the state government to promote heritage tourism for which the ground has been set all over the globe.
Although the concept of tourism has been changing and challenging throughout the world but in our state it has remained as traditional as it was at the initial stage. Heritage and adventure tourism are new concepts which attract many tourists now a days. But there has been no effort to promote these new concepts, which will lead to the degeneration and decline of tourism industry in coming years. In European countries scenic spots are no more tourist attractions, but what attracts tourist is the diverse culture, history and adventure. The monumental buildings erected before thousands of years have been one of the most motivating factors for the tourist destinations in 21st century world. While on tour people seek to understand the culture and civilization of the place they visit.
On this World Heritage Day, let’s dig into our past and take pledge to revive the archaeology department and preserve the culture and heritage of Jammu and Kashmir.
Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Archaeology, Deccan College, Deemed University, Pune and has represented Kashmir archaeology at National and International conferences in India and abroad. HE can be mailed at: email@example.com
Lastupdate on : Wed, 18 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 18 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 19 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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