With the 13th Finance Commission grant of ` 65 crore, the Culture Department has drawn up a road map to develop the various Buddhist sites in the State. An amount of Rs 12 crore has been earmarked for conservation, documentation and development works of Buddhist heritage sites scattered across the State.
The works will be carried out in three years. This apart, to give a boost to the tourism prospects, the State Government would develop the Buddhist sites by constructing roads and other essential facilities in the areas.
Archaeologist-cum-secretary of the Odishan Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies Sunil Patnaik, who is associated with this project, said altogether Rs 12 crore would be utilised in three phases for conservation of 33 of the existing 120 Buddhist sites in the State.
Of these 33 sites, nine are protected by the State Archaeology and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and 24 are unprotected sites.
These sites are in the districts of Cuttack, Puri, Khurda, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Ganjam, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Jajpur and Boudh. The maximum number of such sites have been traced in areas like Dharmasala, Neulipur, Deuli, Tarapur, Kaima, Radhanagar, Langudi Hills and other areas of Jajpur district and Boudh which has substantial presence of sculptures and Buddha idols.
Patnaik said many Buddhist sites in the Dharmasala area of Jajpur district stand testimony to the existence of the Buddhist culture in this region for centuries.
Director of Culture Department Sushil Das said as a part of conservation, structural conservation, chemical conservation and ambience development will be carried out in the 33 sites. “Illumination, construction of approach roads, boundary walls will be done wherever required,” he said, adding that work would begin soon.
Apart from conservation, a massive documentation drive will be taken up to trace out Buddhist sites in all the 30 districts. Archaeologist Patnaik said the documentation reports would be studied by a high-level government committee before a final report is made.
Meanwhile, the Odishan Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies has been unearthing Buddhist sites at Kaima, Deuli, Tarapur, and Radhanagar since long. An ancient fort was discovered three years back at Radhanagar. The ancient fortress at Radhanagar resembled the one at Sisupalagarh in Bhubaneswar.