The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is an attached office in the Ministry of Culture. It was set up in 1861 with the primary object of surveying antiquarian remains in this country and their study. ASI’s function is to “explore, excavate, conserve, preserve and protect the monuments and sites of National & International Importance.”
Functions and Powers
Archaeological Survey of India is an attached office of department of Culture with headquarters in New Delhi. It has 24 regional Circles and 5 Regional Directorates.
Its main functions are:
preservation, conservation and environmental development of centrally protected monuments and sites, including World Heritage Monuments and antiquities
maintenance of gardens & development of new gardens surrounding centrally protected monuments and sites
exploration and excavation of ancient sites
specialized study of inscription and various phases of Indian architecture
maintenance of Archaeological site Museums
Operation of the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act
Research and Training in different areas of Archaeology
ASI is the successor of The Asiatic Society of India. It was founded in its current form in 1861 by Sir Alexander Cunningham with the help of the then Viceroy Canning.
It regulates all the archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, an ‘Ancient Monument’ is defined as follows:-
“Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years and includes—
Remains of an ancient monument,
Site of an ancient monument,
Such portion of land adjoining the site of an ancient monument as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving such monument, a
The means of access to, and convenient inspection of, an ancient monument;”
It defines archaeological site and remains as,
“any area which contains or is reasonably believed to contain ruins or relics of historical or archaeological importance which have been in existence for not less than one hundred years, and includes—
Such portion of land adjoining the area as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving it, and
The means of access to, and convenient inspection of the area;“
Monuments and sites
According to the provisions of the AMASR Act, 1958, ASI protects monuments, sites and remains of national importance by giving a two-month’s notice for inviting objections, if any in this regard. After the specified two-month’s period, and after scrutinizing the objections, if any, received in this regard, the ASI makes decision to bring a monument under its protection.
At present nearly 3650 ancient monuments and archaeological sites are under the supervision of ASI.
The recently excavated site by the ASI is the Harsha-ka-Tila at Thanesar in Haryana exposing a cultural sequence from the Kushan period to medieval periods.
Of all the protected sites and monuments, 29 properties are inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. The list of UNESCO world heritage sites in India is given below:
- Agra Fort (1983)
- Ajanta Caves (1983)
- Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989)
- Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (2004)
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004)
- Churches and Convents of Goa (1986)
- Elephanta Caves (1987)
- Ellora Caves (1983)
- Fatehpur Sikri (1986)
- Great Living Chola Temples (1987)
- Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)
- Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)
- Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)
- Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (1993)
- Khajuraho Group of Monuments (1986)
- Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (2002)
- Mountain Railways of India (1999)
- Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)
- Red Fort Complex (2007)
- Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)
- Sun Temple, Konârak (1984)
- Taj Mahal (1983)
- The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010)
- Kaziranga National Park (1985)
- Keoladeo National Park (1985)
- Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (1985)
- Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988)
- Sundarbans National Park (1987)
- Western Ghats (2012)
Other than these sites, there are 34 tentative sites which are submitted by the Indian government and are under consideration.
Under the ITEC programme of Ministry of External Affairs, the ASI has taken up the conservation project of Ta Prohm, Cambodia. The total outlay of the programme is 19.51 crore. The Prime Minister of India, during his visits to Cambodia in April and November 2002, had assured of assistance in Conservation and Restoration of Prasat Ta Prohm. The project is assigned for a period of ten years and is to be completed in five phases.
The Institute of Archaeology
The Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, was established in 1985, by upgrading the School of Archaeology which was established in 1959. The institute aims to impart advanced training in multidisciplinary field of Archaeology, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Museology, Conservation, Antiquarian law, etc. It has a 2 years Post Graduate Diploma course in Archaeology.
National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities
The National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities was launched in 2007. It aims for preparation of a National Register for Built Heritage, Sites and Antiques and setting up of a State level database on Built Heritage, Sites and Antiquarian wealth for information and dissemination to planners, researchers etc. and better management of such cultural resources. The stipulated timeframe for the mission was five years from 2007 to 2012.