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EDITORIAL: As the climate change-triggered rains hit the living civilization of rural Sindh harder they were equally merciless to the remnants of the Buddhist civilization that once flourished in north-western Pakistan. One of the world’s oldest preserved stupas is on the brink of erosion battered as it was by the torrential rains in Taxila.

Reports from the site say the Double-headed Eagle stupa located at Sirkap is crumbling fast. Awash in Bactrian Greek influence brought by Alexanader’s army the Double-headed Eagle is carved in stone and plastered with lime.

So are other stupas and stucco sculptures of the Buddhist period. Sirkap was the centre of Buddhist teachings and functioned as a university with pupils coming from all over the kingdom of Gandhara. According to Gandhara Art and Culture Association General Secretary Dr Park Kyo Soon, the Taxila sanctuaries reflect the multicultural nature of the Indo-Greek kingdom.

‘’It is so revered that most state guests from Buddhist-populated countries such as Thailand and Malaysia are brought here to say their prayers,’ says Raja Kamran, who has been serving as site supervisor for more than 10 years.

The Sirkap site is enlisted as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (Unesco). And whatever could be manually retrieved from the site in the shape of statutes, ornaments and coins now rests in the Taxila Museum; Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India, laid its foundation stone in 1918.

It seems the nature has now joined the human hand to help erode the Buddhist sites around Taxila. These sites were already being neglected as there were bureaucratic hurdles that stemmed the flows of allocated funds for protection and preservation of these rare civilizational symbols.

In the past few years the Punjab government did release funds for construction and development projects like a hall, boundary wall and pavements, but has not allocated funds for the preservation and restoration of the stupas in the open, which are crumbling due to rains and other hostile natural elements.

‘’Unfortunately, we have witnessed mass destruction at the site,’’ says the president of a local NGO, Munazza Peerzada. However, according to the latest reports, the concerned department has got approved PC-I from the government to erect a protective roof over the endangered stupas. Hopefully, that roof would be there on the stupas before the arrival of next monsoon.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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