Just 15-km off Kotdwar town in Uttarakhand lies Bharat’s heritage in neglect.
The name of the place is Kanvashram, about 100 from Dehradun. A legend goes that Maharishi Kanva raised the abandoned daughter of holy maid Urvashi and Rishi Vishwamitra, named Shakuntala, who gave birth to Bharat after their secret marriage with king Dushyant.
Bharat spent his childhood in the ashrama and later became the name giver of Bharatvarsh, that is India. The place today has a few broken old idols, some half buried in the mud, some stolen away, some used up in the walls. But the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) appears to have no time to preserve the heritage. The place often throws up beautifully carved stone idols and statues even on a little digging, or ploughing.
Kanvashram is situated on the banks of Malan River amid a thick forest. It covers about .64 hectares of land enclosed by a boundary wall. Within the walls lie the idols of Kanva Rishi, Shakuntala, Bharat and lions in utter neglect.
In 1956, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Sampurnanand had visited the place on the direction of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and laid a foundation stone for the development of this area. The foundation stone with Sanskrit inscription bears witness.
In fact, there had been a lot of pressure on the government from a group of people who wanted the place to be developed into a great heritage resort with a centre for research on the Bharat of Maharishi Kanva’s time. There have been promises, visits by political figures, but nothing really happened on the ground.
A renowned local scholar Pitamber Dutt Devrani had launched a campaign of sorts to turn the place into an educational hub as there used by a gurukul on the place during the Maharishi Kanva’s times.
According to sources, a local MLA SS Negi and a cabinet minister had drawn attention of the government to the rare ancient idols and statues jutting out of the ground here and there. They wrong a letter to former culture minister Amrita Rawat in 2012 suggesting a museum should be built and the rare statues be preserved.
After 10 months, the director of cultural department asked the regional archaeological officer at Pauri to conduct a survey and forward its report. In February 2013, two nontechnical clerical level officials from the regional archaeological department were sent to Kanvashram. Going by their report, the regional archaeological department stopped with the cultural department on this matter.
However, Ashish Kumar, the regional archaeological officer wrote a letter to the archaeological department of India at Dehradun in August 2012, asking them to conduct a survey fair assessment of the place.
However, it cited paucity of manpower, technical knowhow and budget to undertake the task. The careless attitude towards the rich past does not augur well for the state that makes tall claims of promotion of tourism, said AR Nautiyal, an activist from Kanvashram support group.
~ Arvind Moudgil