He obtained his PhD from Deccan College, Pune, on the topic Settlement Pattern of the Harappan Civilization in Chautang Basin, and authored a book on the same topic. He has co-authored seven monographs on inventories of monuments, cannons, and art history. He is credited with the publication of 29 papers in international and national journals. Dr. Garge spoke to Raamesh Gowri Raghavan about the future of archeology in Maharashtra, and India.
Sir, you have been in the job for over a year now. What are the new plans and schemes you have introduced in this period?
During this tenure, I can divide the project work into four segments:
Conservation, with a heavy-duty emphasis on conservation of forts. There was already the ‘Gadsamvardhan’ scheme for conservation of forts, initiated by Vinod Tawade, Hon. Minister for Culture, Government of Maharashtra. In the earlier phase, the Directorate had shortlisted 14 forts; in the 2nd phase (after I joined), after consulting the committee we shortlisted another 14 forts. For the past one year, we were working on the preparation of conservation plans of these forts, for which we have submitted estimates of about ₹ 63.5 crores. The ministry has given approval, and out of this, we have started work on five forts. By the end of the year, we will execute the plans for the remaining forts.
Besides, there is a very ambitious project for conservation of the Sundarnarayan Temple in Nashik city at an estimated ₹4.5 crores. This is a temple of the Peshwa period. The problem is that the stone selected was not of a good quality, so the outer surface had withered and cracked, leading to several breakages. We have dismantled the entire shikhara and the exterior walls of the garbhagriha. We will be recreating new members in good quality basalt stone, and re-erecting the shikhara over the garbhagriha. This was a challenge as heavy-duty lime was used as the original binding material, which you don’t often see in stone temples. In terms of technology, this is entirely different. As this is right in the middle of the city, we had no space to store the architectural members once they were dismantled, so space around had to be really optimised. A team was summoned from Tamil Nadu to do stone carvings. Besides this, there are a few wadas where conservation is ongoing.
There are a few projects in the pipeline. There is a clustering of monuments in Sindkhed Raja (the birthplace of Jijabai) including a few wadas, for which an integrated development scheme has been taken up by the Directorate. Estimates have been prepared and approval has been sought from the government. In the next financial year, we will be executing this project.
The second is development of museums. When I joined, I noted that security is a major concern. So, a scheme of installation of hi-definition CCTV cameras was launched. Out of 13 museums with the government, in the past one year, installation of CCTV is complete in five museums: Nagpur, Aundh (Satara district), Kolhapur (two museums) and Sindkhed Raja on which we have spent ₹ 4.35 crores. Installation of CCTV in the remaining museums will continue, for which Mantralaya has sanctioned ₹ 3.85 crores.
In the future, there is also a scheme to turn the entire power supply of our museums to solar. We did a pilot in Nagpur museum (24kV) and the Chief Minister Devendra Phadnavis inaugurated this project. Now the entire power in the daytime is supplied by solar. We are trying to make our museums energy-efficient, conservation-oriented, and futuristic.
Two, new projects for museum buildings were prepared by the Directorate.
Three, scientific excavations and explorations. We did scientific clearance and excavations at a temple in Kikli, near Ambejogai, in Beed district. Many beautiful sculptures and architectural members were found by villagers accidentally when a JCB was excavating a plot for construction. We have also found a tank near the temple. We have prepared a protection proposal and have sent it to Mantralaya. If the proposal is approved, we will take up the excavation of the tank and conservation of the entire temple complex. Last year, we also surveyed petroglyphs of Ratnagiri. One training-cum-exploration camp was organised at Patne for departmental candidates for prehistoric explorations, in collaboration with IISER Mohali.
Four, the revival of publications. We have plans to revive the guidebook series which existed during the time of Dr. A.P. Jamkhedkar. For the past 20 years, there have been no new publications, except for one or two annual reviews. The earlier series was site-centric, while the new series is focussed on districts. The first in this is already launched, called Aurangabad and its Neighbourhood. The second publication is Gadsanvardhanacha Margavar, which is about the conservation of forts. We are also planning an annual bilingual bulletin called Mahapuravrutta so that people in Maharashtra as well as outside get information about archaeological departmental activities. A compilation of reports on excavations at Nagardhan is also in progress. Two catalogues from the Aundh Museum, the first on Ajanta series and the second on Kīratārjuniyam are also under progress and they are likely to get published in 2019.
Sir, what are the difficulties and challenges faced by the Directorate in the preservation of monuments and antiquities? How can citizens assist in your work?
First and foremost, the problem is a shortage of manpower and funds. We have 373 monuments and 13 museums, which are looked after by just 80 watchmen. There are constant efforts of getting more manpower from the government. We are also exploring possibilities of providing security through CSR funds, local village-level committees and organisations (NGOs) involved in the conservation of forts, who can approach the Directorate with plans to provide a volunteer workforce for watch and ward, and cleanliness.
What are the ongoing excavations and explorations the Directorate is conducting? Are there any planned for the future?
We will be carrying out explorations in River Shivana in Aurangabad District. Next year we are proposing excavations at Hatnur, a chalcolithic site in Aurangabad district.
What is the role of the Directorate in education, with respect to heritage, conservation, and archaeology?
Right now, this is more of awareness. The Directorate conducted workshops for people who are enthusiastic about fort conservation. Five workshops were conducted across Maharashtra at Mumbai, Nashik, Pune, Aurangabad, and Nagpur to create awareness about conservation. In the future, we are planning a collaboration with Mumbai University for a certificate course. We are also collaborating with CSMVS to host their Museum on Wheels at our respective museums.
Many amateur groups in Maharashtra are interested in the conservation of monuments, especially the forts. Are their attempts scientific? If not, what can they do to remedy the situation?
Personally, I have great respect for their feelings. But ethically and legally, hardcore conservation work should not be attempt- ed by amateur groups. It should be left to professionals.
Instead, these groups can take up important works like cleanliness campaigns under Swachh Bharat Mission, and they can create awareness of responsible tourist behaviour. They will really help conservation by doing that. There is a Government Resolution that allows such groups to approach the Directorate and conservation will be carried out by contractors empanelled by the government under Directorate supervision.
While Maharashtra is home to archaeological wonders like the Ajanta, Ellora, Kanheri and Elephanta Caves, what are some of Maharashtra’s hidden archaeological secrets?
I think today, I can call the petroglyphs in the Konkan area as the actually hidden treasures. Earlier it was known on a limited scale, but as we are finding more and more petroglyphs from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, a full-scale survey may actually lead to finding thousands of them. This is going to throw light on a dark age in the history of the Konkan. This could also bridge gaps between the Stone Age and Iron Age cultures.
How do we achieve a balance between conserving our past and our developmental needs?
It’s a very difficult choice between development and the preservation of a bygone era. It seems Mumbai has achieved its balance, where one can see preserved caves of the early historical era, and rich colonial buildings, which are inscribed as World Heritage. The Salsette Project by Mumbai University is creating a database which is filling the gaps in between for archaeological evidence. A complete history of human habitation would be known with more data created by projects like the Salsette Project.
Are you planning to carry out similar projects in other cities on Maharashtra?
One scheme of listing heritage buildings and the status of their conservation has already begun in Aurangabad. This is being done in order to check the feasibility for the nomination of Aurangabad as a World Heritage City on the lines of Ahmedabad.