Ruins of Vikramshila University in
Bhagalpur district of Bihar.
(Bihar): It was among the most important centres of
Buddhist learning in ancient India, but the remains of Vikramshila
University in Bihar have been sadly neglected for years. Now, it
appears, the ruins of the university would be conserved on the
line of its older counterpart Nalanda.
The conservation plan comes in the wake of the Bihar government's
move to develop Vikramshila's ruins as a tourist destination like
Nalanda, situated around 90 km from the state capital.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has roped in the National
Culture Fund (NCF) and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC)
to conserve its excavated ruins with an initial investment of Rs.2
Vikramshila University was set up by the Pala dynasty (750-1174
A.D) king Dharmapala in the late 8th or early 9th century. The
site is located near Antichak village in Kahalgaon sub-division of
Bhagalpur district, about 150 km from Patna.
"The conservation work would begin from February in a phase-wise
manner," ASI Patna circle's Superintending Archaeologist Sanjay K.
Manjul told IANS in Patna.
He said the initial investment will be Rs.2 crore, though the
total cost of the mega conservation and development plan is yet to
be worked out.
"NTPC has agreed to fund the conservation work through NCF. A
memorandum of understanding has been finalised for it," he said.
NTPC, under its corporate social responsibility scheme, decided to
fund the conservation work. Officials of the three agencies
visited the site last December.
Last year, the ASI decided to launch a mega plan for conservation
of the university ruins.
Manjul said the conservation, which has been neglected for
decades, will help preserve the legacy for future generations.
According to ASI officials here, conservation of 52 shells or
reading room-like structures adjoining the main stupa and a major
portion of the excavated structure will be taken up.
The ancient Vikramshila University was intended to complement the
existing world-class universities at Nalanda and Takshila. It
lasted four centuries before being destroyed during an attack on
local kingdoms by Bakhtiyar Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate.
As per the ASI, the remains at Antichak were excavated by B.P.
Sinha of Patna University during 1960-69. The antiquities found at
Vikramashila comprise terracotta objects, including a large number
of plaques representing Buddhist and Brahmanical deities, animal
and bird figurines and some symbolic representations, as also a
large number of stone images of gods and goddesses.
A few small bronze statues of Buddhist deities like the Buddha,
Maitreya, Vajrapani, Avalokitesvara and Manjusri too have been
found. The bulk of antiquities comprise stone, iron, copper,
silver and bronze objects, including a few silver and copper
Members of the Vikramshila Nagarik Samiti said after more than
three and a half decades of excavation by the ASI, no work has
been done at the site on the pattern of Nalanda.
The Samiti has been demanding that Vikramshila be included in the
state's Buddhist tourist circuit for its development.
The ancient university at Nalanda was a seat of higher learning in
the fifth century. The university was home to over 10,000
students, including from abroad, and nearly 2,000 teachers.
(Imran Khan can
be contacted at email@example.com)