Heritage: A Forgotten Marvel
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), established to maintain the ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance, spends around 70 per cent of its budget on preserving the tombs of invaders. The agency seems to have no time and funds to preserve the genuine rich Indian heritage sites. Despite being declared as a protected site in its record since 1920, the ASI has turned a blind eye to Kampilya, the birthplace of Mahabharat’s strong-willed Draupadi. The historic capital of south Panchal King Drupad, about 325 km from Pandava’s Indraprastha (Delhi) and 40 km from Farrukhabad district headquarters in Uttar Pradesh, Kampil, as it is known today, is at the verge of losing all the signs of that splendid period. With the alteration in demography, the glorious feeling among locals too is crumbling. Many important sites, including the temple established by Draupadi herself, have vanished or have been encroached or ruined, but neither the local administration nor the ASI finds time to liberate, fence or draw boundaries of the remaining sites. If concrete and honest steps are not taken urgently to preserve these sites, the remains of a place related to India’s celebrated magnificent history will vanish forever. An on the spot Report by Pramod Kumar.
One can surely feel proud of the Vedic heritage city Kampilya, while turning the pages of ancient texts. The capital city of Panchaldesh, Rameshwar Mandir established by Shatrughna and Lakshman in Treta Yuga, Kapil Muni’s Tapasya Sthal and Kampilvasini Mandir since Vedic era, Kaleshwar Mandir established by Draupadi, the city of knowledge where grand meet of researchers took place to compile Charak Samhita, etc. all generate a feeling of grandeur. If one visits the place with this feeling, one feels deeply pained. It happened with me when I reached there on April 25, 2015.
The first thing that welcomes any visitor in majority of the streets of Kampil today is big heaps of raw tobacco, now the main crop grown by a majority of farmers. Even the temple rooms, historic buildings and public places are freely used for it. Locals say the killer farming began here during 1980s and now it has trapped majority of the farmers. What a pity and downfall for a land once famous for its rich Ayurvedic herbal wealth! However, potato farming has also been very popular but still tobacco tops. “Tobacco has so much charm that some farmers have stopped cultivating wheat and other foodgrain crops,” points out Shivshakti who manages a computer training centre run by Draupadi Trust in the town.
Three Mahabharat sites—Ahichhetra, Kampilya and Hastinapur were declared protected sites by the ASI through the same notification in 1920 (No. UP 1669-M/1133, dated 27-12-1920). But Kampil could not get as much attention as was paid to Ahichhetra, the capital city of northern Panchaldesh ruled by Dronacharya, and Hastinapur. As a result the remains of a golden era are disappearing. It will not be wrong to say that Kampil is the most neglected heritage site today. Everything reminding that glorious period seems to have been encroached. Even the signboards installed by ASI around 1980 were thrown away and the ASI did not find time to reinstall them.
The ruins of King Drupad’s fort are still visible at a mound known as Drupad Tilla. It is in the eastern side of the town. The excavation findings connect the ruins to that period. Old buildings have vanished but a succession of undulating grounds, rising in some places to high mounds with broken bricks thinly scattered here and there are found. The site of Drupad's Palace is pointed out as one of the most easterly and isolated mounds, which is about 400 feet long and from 200 to 250 feet broad, rising to 20 and 25 feet in height on the banks of the Burhi Ganga. Once sprawling at acres of land the Palace is now disappearing due to inattention. Habitation and farming have taken over most of the mound area. The ancient Kalesheshwar Temple established by Draupadi near the mound has also lost its existence. “The biggest blunder that the ASI has done at Drupad Tilla is the grant of permission for farming. It has caused immense damage to the place,” says Sushri Neera Misra, who is working tirelessly to protect the site and also to restore the ancient glory to Kampilya, today a town with 12,000 population.
Significant sites in or around Kampil
Apart from being the birth place of Draupadi, Kampilya has a sound history of religious significance. The Kampilvasini Temple finds mention in the Vedic literature. Today it can be found in Southern end of the town in poorly maintained condition. Another historic site is Rameshwaram Temple which is located on the bank of old channel of the Ganga in south-eastern corner. A brick temple on high platform with Shivling with argha on black stone is installed in the garbha griha. It is believed Sri Ram, while returning from Lanka, took a Shivling from Ashok Vatika and his brother Shatrughna installed that in original at this place. Kapil Muni is said to have worshipped here for a long time and the place is known as Kapil Muni Ashram. Other temples like Chaumukhi Nath Temple are also there but in very poor state. Even the centuries old four faced idol of Chaumukhinath (Shiva) has been stolen from this temple. When asked why the temples are in such a poor state, Kantaprasad (65), a local resident, says, “Maintaining temples has been the responsibility of the society. But today people depend upon municipality for everything. And you know the municipality has its own compulsions and priorities.”
The prime attraction for any visitor in Kampil is Draupadi Kund, where King Drupad performed the yajna wishing for a yodha son (as per the Kampilyamahatma) and a daughter. Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna were born after that sacred fire ritual. That havan kund is still seen near Kapil Muni Temple, but in a changed form—a water pond. Not only this, the water in the pond is so filthy that even a staunch devotee would hesitate to touch it. One more disturbing fact is that an open drain flows close to the pond generating foul smell round the clock. It is height of carelessness, and disrespect to this centuries old heritage site.
The question, which continued to nag my mind, is why majority of the historic places in Kampil are poorly maintained, “Undoubtedly the government agencies are reluctant about it, the local people too are careless. They do not realise the glory of this teerth. If one visits Vrindavan, Mathura, Barsana or Girirajji one develops the feeling of devotion. But it is missing in Kampil,” said a Mahant of Shri Rameshwarnath Temple. But who will regenerate the feeling of devotion is the big question, which nobody appears to own.
The demographic change in Kampil is also said to be responsible for the carelessness. Reputed families migrated to other cities and a large number of outside people settled here, especially with the opening of a spinning mill in 1980s. The mill was closed down after a few years, but the dues of the workers were not cleared.
Therefore they refused to go back. The local tobacco mafias then engaged them as a cheap workforce in their trade. “The ASI also did nothing to educate local people about the heritage. Rather, it silently allowed them to trample upon it. However some sensible people like Shri Jagdish Mishra started organising Kampil Mahotsav since 1978 to educate the people about the rich heritage, but after some time it was shifted to Farrukhabad where it is organised as Farrukhahad Mahotsav.
However, there are still some people who have kept the fire burning. Some women of the town, out of devotion, collect the ancient idols found anywhere in the town and keep them safe in any of the temples. Shyamwati and Prema are two such women who have been doing it for some decades. “These idols were basically discovered during excavations when ancient temples were destroyed by vested interests. We do not know how old they are. We preserved them as they are the forms of our Gods and Goddesses,” says Shyamwati while talking to Organiser. Another name in this list is Sushri Neera Misra, who through Draupadi Trust has taken some concrete steps to restore the lost glory of the historic city.
Her lead role in excavations established the historicity of the ancient city. Sushri Misra in her sixties cannot do it alone. It needs collective efforts on the part of the entire country, especially the Hindu society, to stop the birthplace of Draupadi vanishing in the pages of history.
Need to develop a national Mahabharat Tourism Circuit
Sushri Neera Misra is dedicated to restoring the pristine glory of Kampilya. By forming Draupadi Dream Trust in 2003 she has knocked the doors of the successive State and Central Governments and exhorted the countrymen by organising various activities. Talking to Organiser she shares her vision for overall development of the historic city. Excerpts:
- What inspired you to work for Kampilya?
Kampilya is the symbol of our rich cultural heritage. It represents the birthplace of a woman who is considered to be the most powerful woman of any time. Many of our scriptures have association with this place. What pains me the most is that this rich heritage is being trampled upon and the agencies responsible to preserve it have turned a blind eye. It needs to be restored to its original dignity. Panchal was the place where the best scholars were nurtured and they were counted not in thousands but in lakhs.
- What are you doing through Druapadi Trust?
We want to develop Kampil on the lines of harnessing its cultural, agricultural, craft and human wealth. Apart from enhancing employment opportunities for local people we want a Panchal University for higher education. We want the area is developed as a pilgrimage-tourism place upholding its spiritual value. Besides this long term objective, we have been providing basic IT skills and awareness for better livelihoods for over a decade.
- How much is the support from local authorities or administration?
Almost Nil. We got Rs five crore sanctioned from the Central Government for Kampil, but we do not know where the money has gone. Locals lack vision and understanding of the potential of this rich treasure here.
- It seems the locals too have little respect for this cultural heritage. Why so?
The fact which cannot be ruled out is that majority of the people here today are outsiders and they do not have much emotional attachment to it. They feel: What would they get by preserving old buildings. They do not realise how much money people earn through Taj Mahal? If they develop Kampil on that line, they can earn huge money. After all Draupadi and Mahabharat are internationally popular.
- Does Kampil have the potential of becoming an international tourist spot?
Yes, very much. We have been putting pressure on the ASI to remove encroachment and develop the area. We had to pay Rs 10,000 to ASI for excavation. If they can spend crores and crores on maintaining tombs of dead people, why can’t they maintain the birthplace of Draupadi, the symbol of a progressive woman? Over 70 per cent of the ASI budget is spent on maintaining the tombs and they even do not know as to whom some of the tombs belong to? But they are not bothered about the rich living heritage of India which has been existing there for centuries.
- What do you expect from the Central and State governments?
We have high expectations from the Central Government. It should immediately instruct the ASI to take steps to bring the whole area under its control. It should also assign specific projects related to Kampilya and Panchal development. The other cities related to Mahabharat have already been developed—Mathura, Dwarika, Hastinapur, Ahichhetra, Indraprastha. All these places should be connected to an All India Mahabharat Tourism Circuit covering all the then 16 Maha Janpadas like Magadh, Kashi, Virat Nagar in Rajasthan, Sursena Janpada (Mathura), Kuru Janpada, Hastinapur, Indraprastha, Panchal (both Kampilya and Ahichhetra), etc, which played a key role during Mahabharat. Indraprastha should have a befitting Museum. Today, people go to Cambodia to know about Mahabharat. Why cannot we have our own museum of that magnificence? It should have two components—traditional artistic depiction and modern info-edu-tainment based pavilions, where the people can feel Mahabharat through information technology. By and large there should be a proper development plan as in Kurukshetra. After the creation of Kurukshetra Development Board huge developments took place there. Similarly, there should be a separate Board and budget for Mahabharat Tourism Circuit.
Apart from liberating the heritage sites encroached by local people, the State government should restart the Kampil Mahotsav in Kampil. The temples that have been demolished should be rebuilt. If the ASI can build 80 temples in Murena, why can’t it recreate temples in Kampil? The town once used to have more than 20 temple but today hardly five temples have survived. They too are in poor condition. The main temple established by Draupadi which has fully been destroyed had marvelous architecture. It was the main Shiva Temple at Drupad Tilla, maintained till the 70’s, but the tobacco greed has swallowed it. Even Kushana period artifacts have been destroyed with no action by government against the illegal acts.
Radha’s birthplace to be developed as a model Teerth
Newly constituted Shri Barsana Dham Foundation has taken up the task of rebuilding Shri Radha Temple in Barsana Village. A function to formally start the work was organised on April 26 in the presence of many influential personalities from religious and social fields. All the saints from the Goswami Parivar were felicitated on the occasion.
Shri Barsana Dham Foundation was formed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Samaj Kalyan Evam Shikha Prachar Samiti especially for the cause of proper development of Barsana village and also the areas associated with Radha. The Foundation has made a detailed plan to turn Barsana into an ideal village. According to Shri Jaibhagwan Goel, chairman of the Foundation, world famous Brij region has been underdeveloped so far due to various reasons. But now the region will get a new form. He said beginning from Barsana, the development activities will be taken to other areas of the region also. Under the first phase the temple of Radha Rani would be renovated. Apart from cleanliness, statefacilities will be provided in the premises.
The renovation of the temple has already begun under the supervision of Shri Radha Raman, disciple of noted saint of Man Singh Mandir Shri Ramesh Baba, Shri Pankaj Baba of Vallabhacharya sect and Shri Nritya Gopal Goswamiji. The function was presided over by Shri Ashok Gupta, chairman of the Beriwal Group.
BJP leaders Shri Rakesh Jain and Shri Ravikant Garg assured full cooperation in the project. Besides hundreds of leading personalities, Smt and Shri KK Kumar, chairman of Shakti Bhog Atta and Dr Krishna Murari, receiver of Ladali Lalji Temple were also present on the occasion.