Recently, like other parts of the country, the international museum day was celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir, but very few people know that the museum movement in Jammu and Kashmir has, more or less, remained out of fashion and very less has been discussed for a long time now.
There exist very few museums in public as well as in private sector and ironically the state could not establish a single archaeological site museum at any of its wonderful archaeological sites.
Despite showcasing the world-class significant archaeological sites, decades have passed the state could not set up a single Archaeological Site museum at any of the archaeological site. Today we celebrated the International Museum Day and functions were held in few of the private and public museums at Jammu and Srinagar cities.
During the last few decades, archaeologists have discovered several archaeological sites and recovered significant archaeological artifacts and ancient coins besides finding the tools used by the primitive man in his Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.
There have been great advances when it comes to discovering archaeological sites and treasures of the medieval and early medieval periods, but even after having discovered a rich archaeological site treasures, there exists no site museum at any of the significant archaeological sites.
The most significant archaeological remains of Neolithic period at Burzhama, Kushan era remains of terracotta settlements at Harwan and Akhnoor, medieval period magnificent remains of stone structures of Parahaspura and Martand have got no site museums.
In fact, it is now a well established fact that, like many other places, Kashmir too is found as a suitable place for living by the early man. Earlier there was some confusion about its existence but the investigations carried by archaeologists to a greater extent have collected data to trace out the early living system of the man in Kashmir.
The archaeologists during their investigations of Manasbal valley, revealed the imprints of early man in the form of his habitation abodes which consisted of caves and some Paleolithic (early Stone Age) tools. The archaeologists then believed that these caves were used as shelters by the prehistoric man.
The task of discovering the evidences of pre-historic settlements in Kashmir had been initially taken up by foreign archaeologists. The first investigation of this kind was initiated by Professor H D Sankalia when he explored the imprints of early man from Lidder Valley in as early as in 1969. He came across several ancient stone tools, which included a huge flake tool and hand axe.
These finds were later endorsed by similar stray finds form the upper Vishaw and Rambiar valleys of Shopian and Kulgam districts, However, these finds could not throw any such light on the living styles of the early man, except that perhaps the early Kashmiri man had used these tools for hunting and also self protection from the attacks of wild beasts.
It was not known where these people took shelter until the excavations at Burzhama and Gufkral archaeological sites revealed few cave pits besides stone and bone tools. The results of observations of these sites got further endorsed by the discovery of stone tools and finding of caves which were located here at varying heights of the mountain of Manasbal.
The earlier excavation of 1960’s undertaken at Burzhama plateau yielded significant information about Paleolithic, Neolithic and early historic period way of life. Since, it has been the first habitation site which speaks volumes about ancient life style of this land.
The findings of the cave pits revealed that the people of the age had lived in and outsides the caves, and while the discovery of burials helped to believe that they used to bury their dead in graves either in crouching or in extended positions. Several burials are reported were encountered by archaeologists in Burzhama excavation.
One of the drawings engraved on a rock here depicted a hunting scene. Besides thousands of most outstanding artifacts including the exquisite collection of bone and stone tools and magnificent pottery artifacts were also excavated from this site.
Instead exhibiting those artifacts in any museum of the Jammu and Kashmir, these artifacts are since decades languishing at Purana Qilla Delhi in the lockers of the ASI.
In fact few of the pottery artifacts which also included a painted vessel are displayed in the National Museum at Janpath New Delhi, but there is not a single artifact of this site housed in any of the museum of Jammu and Kashmir.
In absence of these artifacts, the researchers and tourists who often visit these archaeological sites are unable to understand the significance of the sites and therefore miss the slice of history that such places offer.
It would be in the interest of the things if a site museum is established at Burzhama and few of the artifacts of this site are taken back from New Delhi and displayed in the proposed site museum , till then these artifacts can also be displayed in any museum at Srinagar.
The setting of a site museum at Burzhama and at other celebrated archaeological sites would be in the interest of promotion of heritage tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.
This would also enable researches to get an easy excess to the collections and their observations of these materials is definitely going to throw more lights on pre-historic culture of Kashmir. The Archaeological survey of India is expected would facilitate the move, as it is this agency which has been maintaining the prestigious archaeological sites and monuments of Jammu and Kashmir including the world class Neolithic site of Burzhama. The collections of Burzhama are also lying in their custody.
In fact it was also learnt that government had very earlier proposed to establish Site Museums at Burzhama, Haripuabat fort, Parihaspora and in Lidder valley to house and showcase the archaeological wealth of these areas, but till date no such proposal has seen the light of the day.
The best way to celebrate the international Museum Day is to discuss the problems which the concerned agencies dealing with the maintenance of heritage are facing and encourage and promote them so that they could identify such archaeological sites, where site museums are established. The first priority shall be creating a site museum at the world class Neolithic site of Burzhama.
But it is possible, only when few of the artifacts of Burzhama collections languishing since decades at Purana Qilla New Delhi are brought back to Jammu and Kashmir.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.