Roundtable on 'Archaeology in Bangladesh'

Call to protect, preserve, promote, project heritage sites

- A Monitor Report 16 May, 2018 | 602 Views | - +
Dhaka : Ruins of innumerable palaces, buildings, forts, mosques, madrashas, temples, viharas, stupas prove that civilisations, economically well-off and educationally enlightened, existed in Bangladesh at different periods of time.

The educational institutions, be they of Buddhists, Hindus or Muslims, attracted students who studied subjects besides religious texts and whose publications spread knowledge far and wide.

But most of those that exist are in various stages of decay.

Only a handful of heritage installations, ranging from places of worship, educational institutions to "Taha Khanas," places of relaxation of the then elite, are being looked after by the Department of Archeology. Some are still inaccessible to tourists.

At most of the places, the local communities were unaware of their importance of the sites, which are being vandalised by picnickers. Shops or residences are built near them.

This condition prevails when the stakeholders are talking about "packaging products" for presenting those to foreign tourists.

Speakers said these at a roundtable discussion on "Archaeology in Bangladesh" held on the sidelines of Biman Bangladesh Travel and Tourism Fair-2018 (BBTTF-2018), organised by Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the city recently.

Taufiq Rahman, Director, TOAB initiated the discussion saying the roundtable was arranged on archaeology from a tourism point of view.

Wahidullah, CEO, Silver Web Tours, said the roads leading to Paharpur - whether using Bogura-Naogaon road or Joypurhat road - needs to be improved. Most of the tourists using my services are old. They do not find the journey to be a comfortable one, he said.

Nadira Kiron, President, ATJFB, said the Department of Archaeology should be more proactive. Information is neither available online nor are the telephone numbers are up-to-date, she said.

Heritage buildings or ruins should be conserved in the state those are, only taking care that they do not crumble. It was only through a media campaign that the mindless renovation in Panam city using modern-day cement was stopped, she said.

She called for keeping the attractions open during weekends and holidays.

She suggested awareness building among the people of the community where the archaeological sites are located.

There are some heritage buildings in Old Dhaka but there is none to look after those. These buildings do not seem to have any guardians. About 15 such buildings have already been destroyed, Nadira Kiron said.

Ziaul Haq Khandaker, suggested that social media including YouTube, facebook should be effectively used for promotions, though these we can reach millions of people.

Syed G Quadir pointed out the lack of adequate manpower at most of the sites. He also raised the question as to why the statue of goddess Tara was removed from public view at the Paharpur museum.

Why most of the statues and artifacts were in storage. What am I going to show to the people, he posed the question.

Faruque Hasan, researcher and author, said loaded trucks ply day night on the road Choto Sona Masjid. Some day may come that the structure may crumble down because of the vibrations caused, unless plying of vehicles are stopped.

There were also different kinds of shops, including tea shops, at different heritage sites, which should be immediately closed down.

Masud Hossain said most of the sites like Dhibar Dighi were not accessible. One has to walk one and a half kilometres to reach Jagaddal Vihara.

Kazi Wahidul Alam, Editor, The Bangladesh Monitor, pointed out that social media could be used now to promote the country and its heritage sites and create similar impact.

A member of the audience mentioned that picnics should be banned from heritage sites and be made free of local goons.

Choto Sona Masjid

Md Altaf Hossain, Director General (Additional Secretary), Department of Archaeology responding to the issues raised by discussants and other participants of the discussion, said he had raised the issue of bypass with relevant authorities, to take the traffic load away from the road beside the Choto Sona Masjid.

He said he was also liaising with LGED and related authorities to improve accessibility to different archaeological sites.

He said has banned picnics at architectural sites and he himself had removed ovens set up at some of those places (for picnics), he said.

He sought the help of TOAB members in putting up proper and informative information boards and signage.

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