Ancient ruins of the historic Nalanda university in Bihar faced "few hiccups" on the road to being inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, even as the ASI asserted that it was "confident" of earning the coveted tag.
Ancient ruins of the historic Nalanda university in Bihar faced “few hiccups” on the road to being inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, even as the ASI asserted that it was “confident” of earning the coveted tag.
The archaeological site of the ancient seat of learning was on Friday declared as a world heritage, but sources said it needed an “all-out effort” from the Centre and the Bihar government to convince the jury as the ICOMOS had pointed to “weakness” in the over 200-page nomination dossier.
The inclusion of Nalanda and three other sites from China, Iran and Micronesia was announced at the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Istanbul in Turkey.
“ICOMOS in its recommendations had asked India to deepen the study of the nominated property in order to better articulate the attributes of its potential significance and even suggested to defer the bid,” informed sources said.
It had also recommended the nomenclature of the nomination to be “changed from ‘Excavated Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara’ to the ‘Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara’,” the sources said.
International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), founded in 1965, provides the World Heritage Committee with evaluations of cultural and mixed properties proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List.
Last August, an expert from ICOMOS had visited the ruins of the ancient university to evaluate India’s bid and the Paris-based NGO had offered “suggestions” on the dossier prepared under the supervision of ASI, a few months ahead of the Istanbul meet.
But the Archaeological Survey of India asserted it was “confident that Nalanda would earn the UNESCO tag.”
“We were confident of achieving it from day one. We were confident that our bid was strong and our dossier made our case. We were not worried about what ICOMOS had suggested,” ASI Director General Rakesh Tewari told PTI.
“We had all the details in our dossier that exhibited the Outstanding Universal Value of the ancient site and we also had made photographic documents and a film on it especially for the bid,” he said.
Tewari said India’s bid was supported by over 16 countries and India’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO in Paris, Ruchira Kamboj, also made a strong case which helped us clinch it.
“Vietnam initiated it and countries like Indonesia, Jamaica and the Philippines supported it,” he said.
Sources said a top official from Bihar government also visited Paris and added strength to India’s case.
The ancient seat of learning, said to be one of the world’s oldest universities, construction of which began in 6th century AD, flourished under the Gupta Empire.
The ruins of Nalanda university located about 90 kms from Patna in the eponymous district, in its hey days had learning centres, monasteries, and a gigantic library that attracted students of various disciplines from far and wide.
The ancient varsity’s end came in 12th century when it was ransacked, looted and burnt in 1193 AD by the invading Turk Army led by its commander Bakhtiar Khilji.
The site includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal.
ASI, which falls under the Culture Ministry had prepared the nomination dossier. It was submitted in January 2015 to the World Heritage Committee for the purpose of its inscription in the year 2016.
The Nalanda archaeological site got included in the Tentative List of World Heritage on January 9, 2009.
“Our years of hard work paid off finally. We are elated and excited by this achievement. It is a moment of pride for ASI, and of course for the entire country as Nalanda has been a beacon of excellence in days of its glory and even in days of its ruins it continues to attract people from around the world,” Tewari said.
India’s Culture Ministry, after the news came out, tweeted, “Congrats…! Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara is now a #WorldHeritageSite. Thank you @UNESCO @IrinaBokova.”
Irina Bokova is Director-General of Asia, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
Nalanda stands out as one of the most ancient universities in South Asia, UNESCO had said in a release.
“Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE,” it said.
Nalanda ruins is now Bihar’s second World Heritage Site after the iconic Mahabodhi Temple complex in Bodh Gaya in Gaya district was included in the coveted list in 2002.
Besides the site of India, the other names included in the UNESCO World Heritage List this year include ‘The Persian Qanat’ of Iran, ‘Nan Madol’– ceremonial centre of Eastern Micronesia — and ‘Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape’ of China.