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Directorate of Archaeology
An overview of archaeological importance of Bihar. Formation and Activities of the Directorate. Museums owned by the Central Government. Museums owned by the Universities and Semi-Government Organisations. Museums owned by the Non-Government Organisations (Trust, Societies, etc.) Museums owned by Private Individuals. Bihar Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites' Remains and Art Treasures Act, 1976. Archaeological Sites:
Dr. Atul Kumar Verma, MA, Ph.D., Diploma in Archaeology. Mobile - 94718-61825.
Exploration & Excavation Officer
Asstt. Director (Conservation) - Vacant
Conservation Officer - Dr. S. K. Jha, MA, Ph.D. Mobile - 94301-96921.
Registration Officer - Vacant
An overview of archaeological importance of Bihar:
Hardly can any other state compete with Bihar in terms of archaeological remains and cultural heritage. Relics of almost all the ages and all the types are found in abundance in practically every part of the state. The archaeological eminence of Bihar is therefore unquestionable.
We have got the first ever Mesolithic habitational remains at Paisra (Munger). Then some of the finest prehistoric rock paintings have been explored out over the hills of Kaimur, Nawada and Jamui. It was for the first time that a Neolithic settlement was discovered in the thick of the alluvium, over the bank of the Ganga at Chirand, which was followed by several similar discoveries elsewhere. The stupas of Vaishali are significant, not only as they represent the earliest of the stupa architecture in India, but also for one of then contains the relics of Buddha. The sutpa at Kesaria is one of the tallest in the world, and of course one of the grandest. The unique Pillared Hall at Kumhrar (Patna), built by the Mauryas, remains quite an inimitable architectural wonder. At Barabar, were carved out the first set of rock-cut architectural caves, again under the Mauryas, which turned out to be a trendsetter in subsequent centuries, particularly in Western India.
Moreover, we have got the finest specimen of the stone-sculpted art in form of the Didarganj Yakshi, representing the classical art at its best. But then, we also have some of the finest specimens of the terracotta art-form, representing largely the folk tradition, from different parts of Patna and Buxar.
Then, there are the Gupta and later Gupta temples. One, rock-built and still quite extant, is at Mundeshwari. The brick-built ones are, however, best represented by the temples at Maniar Math (Rajgir) and Apsadh. All of these are quite unique in their planning and execution.
The massive monasteries and the Buddhist shrines of Nalanda and Vikramshila are unique owing to their massive dimensions and meticulous planning which, together, represent the best of the early medieval Buddhist architecture.
Bihar, moreover, was the cradle and epicenter of the famous early medieval Eastern Indian sculptural art-form, known as the Pala-Sene school of art. We have got best of the specimens from Gaya, Nawada, and Nalanda regions.
A host of mosques and tombs add to the variety of the medieval architecture of Bihar. Of these, Begu Hajjam's mosque (Patna City) is the earliest mosque of Bihar, built in the early part of the 16th century. Built in almost the same time, is the Sher Shah's tomb, which is one of the most distinguished architectural specimens of the medieval India.
Padari Ki Haweli (Patna City), a Roman Catholic Church, built in the late 18th century, is the high watershed of the European architecture in Bihar. Golghar, constructed in about the same time, is interesting particularly because of the fact that it was an adaptation of the classical Indian stupa architecture by the British Engineer. It is a granary structure, quite unparallel. Such has been the depth and variety of Bihar's archaeological remains that there still will remain several other outstanding monuments/ruins un-enumerated here, in want of space.
Formation and Activities of the Directorate:
In the year 1961, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums was constituted on the recommendation of the Government of India. In the year 1987, however, the Directorate of Archaeology was separated from that of the Museums. The two separate Directorates were formed in order to pursue more skilled, and professional operations. The Directorate of Archaeology has the onus of discovering, preserving and developing the antiquarian remains, including monuments and potential sites. Moreover, it conducts excavations of the important sites to unravel the mystery of the past. Through exploration, it also identifies the potential archaeological remains. It, moreover, takes up the publication works on the related subjects. The Directorate also organizes seminars/workshops and publishes their proceedings.
The Directorate has protected as many as 28 archaeological sites, under the provisions of the Bihar Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Site Remains and Art Treasure Act 1976. Over a dozen of archaeological sites have been excavated by the Directorate, of which Balirajgarh, Kataragarh (early historic cities), Chirand and Taradih (Neolithic sites) and Apasadh (a later Gupta temple complex) have revealed significant relics. The Directorate has, moreover, published as may as seven books/reports, of which four are excavation reports, two survey reports and one proceedings of a seminar. The Chirand Excavation Report, the eighth one of the series, is now finished.
Brief description of important archaeological sites/monuments among protected ones:
Agam Kuan, considered as Patna's most quaint monument, is famous for its two important relics – both enveloped in the mystery of legends. The first is Agam Kuan (the unfathomable well), the fabled huge well fed with the Ashokan legends. The other is the famous temple of Shitala Devi, the goddess of the smallpox, a associated with lots of miracles.
The site is situated at a short distance south-west of Gulzarbagh Station. Agam Kuan is a huge well, circular in plan, with a diameter extending over 20'2". It is brick-encased in the upper half of its depth. As many as eight arched windows, all at regular intervals, adorn the well just above the ground and form its most distinctive future.
The well is 105' deep, as far has been fathomed and recorded. Upto a depth of 44' from the surface, a finely worked brick-casing is envisaged. The lower half, a further depth of 61' is, however, secured by a series of wooden rings.
The adjacent temple housing the image of Shitala Devi, and the pindas of the 'Saptamatrikas' (the seven mother forms), is widely revered and worshipped not only for containing the small-pox, but for fulfilling all sorts of desires. The site once contained several ancient and medieval sculptures. Of these, at least one was that of the Yaksha of the Mauryan art-affiliation. This is what Cunninghum reported when he visited the site in 1879-80. But we have no idea now of its whereabouts, whatsoever.
Waddell on his exploration of the ruins of Patliputra during 1890s identified Agam Kuan with the legendary hell built by Ashoka for torturing people as cited by the Chinese travellers of the 5th and 7th centuries A.D. Another legend, still very strong, is that Ashoka threw 99 of his elder brothers in this well after killing them, in order to become king. The site also feeds the Jain legends. The most famous of them is about a Jain Monk Sudarshana who, when thrown into the well by an atrocious king Chand, was found floating over its water seated on the lotus.
People, at large, believe the well's water to be endowed with miraculous power, and the well auspicious.
This is a detatched member of a carved railing of a stupa. The piece of the stone shows the semi-nude female figures on both of its faces, hence earned the name of 'Durukhi' or 'Durukhiya' (double faced) Devi. It was discovered by Waddell way back in 1890s while excavating the site Kumhrar, which eventually became famous for the unique Pillared Hall built by the Mauryas. Sometime afterwards (no authentic record is available on this count), it was brought down to its present location at Naya Tola (Kankarbagh) about a kilometer west and has been kept in a temple-like shed, where it is being also worshipped.
This is a fine specimen of the Shunga art of the 2nd-1st Century B.C. As these female figures are shown grabbing and breaking branches of trees with one of their hands, they are considered to be representing the 'Shalabhanjikas' (the breaker of branches), the young women under a ritual associated with fertility, that was popular during the early historic period in this part of India.
A replica of this image is displayed in the Patna Museum's sculptural gallery. A comparable bifacial female figure was accidentally discovered in the recent past from Rajendra Nagar locality in Patna which is also displayed in the same gallery.
This temple is situated in the chowk area of Patna City and once was considered as the main presiding deity of Patna. Over the years it has slipped to the second position of eminence as city's presiding deity, with epithet 'Choti' (smaller) to the more popular one, the Bari (bigger) Patan Devi. But Buchanan's account is very specific in stating that it was this very temple (Choti Patendevi) which held the primary position as the city's presiding deity during 18th and early 19th century.
The present temple does not seem to be of any great antiquity. The images inside the temple, if Buchanan is to be believed, were installed by Man Singh, the famous general of Mughal emperor Akbar. The temple, however, houses a host of intact and severed Brahmanical images, including, Ganesh, Vishnu and Surya. Beyond the temple, but within its precincts, lie in open fragments of door jumbs/lintels and yet other set of images, Of these, an impressive, but broken sun-image is the most conspicuous. It is very likely that some early medieval temple was built here sometime in 9th-11th Century A.D. and these fragmentary stray sculptural/structural relics are only its ruins. Probably, these were reinstalled in a new temple, built during the 16th-17th century by Man Singh. But authentic information on this count is woefully wanting.
This has the honour of being the oldest mosque in Patna, which pre-dates the reigns of Mughals. Interestingly, the mosque is named after its reinnovator and not the builder. It is situated in the Khawaja Kalan Ghat Road of Patna City.
The mosque was built by one Khan Muazzam Nazir Khan during the reign of Alauddin Shah Sultan of Gaur (Bengal) in the year 1509-10 A.D. (A.H. 916). Subsequently, in the year 1645 A.D. (A.H. 1056), it was reinnovated by one Begu Hajjam.
The distinctive features of the mosque is its glazed tiles as was popular in Gaur those days. The doorway with fine carvings is another important feature of the mosque.
An inscription affixed in the mosque records details of its construction.
- Sonepur Excavation Report
- Chirand Excavation Report - by B. S. Verma.
- Art & Archaeology of Mithila
- Heritage Law & Management
- Patna a Monumnetal History
- Monuments of Bihar
- Telhara (Nalanda) Excavation Report
- Protected Monuments of Bihar - (Editors: Sri Chanchal Kumar, Dr. S.K.Manjul, Dr. A.K.Verma, Dr. S.K.Jha)
- Bihar Ke Smarak
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