Yet another moment of pride and honour for SRM University-AP as the Indian National Science Academy (INSA, New Delhi) has sanctioned the Project “Nalanda and Bodhgaya: Understanding the past environment and transnational networks of the World Heritage Sites” to Dr Sharmishtha Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, Department of History with a total outlay of Rs 5 lakhs. The co-investigator of the project is Dr Amrita Saha, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Amity Institute of Environmental Sciences and Amity Institute of Social Sciences, Amity University, Kolkata. The project is a pioneering initiative to make a comprehensive study of the landscape and environmental factors (physical and cultural) governing the Buddhist World Heritage Sites of Nalanda and Bodhgaya (Bihar, India).
One of the first attempts in South Asia to understand monasteries and monastic complexes in relation to the landscape parameters, the work is distinctive in its scope and methodology because of its multidisciplinary approach involving archaeology, history, and environmental science. It aims for a holistic understanding of the sites and the region. Bodhgaya and Nalanda are two major Buddhist sites of India, the first marking the site of enlightenment of Gautama Buddha and the other being one of the oldest educational institutes of ancient times. Both the sites have been witnessing travellers, pilgrims, students, and religious preachers from the farthest corners of the world.
The foremost objective is to investigate the environmental settings (location, settlement geography, palaeolandscape features, layout of the monastic complexes, dietary patterns) of the monastic sites. This will be executed through the generation of a series of maps by superimposing colonial site plans, old maps, satellite imageries and corroboration of the same with extensive field surveys. The scientific study of the topographic delineations, soil samples, and artefactual evidences would be undertaken in the course of the study.
These attempts would generate a detailed study of the regular lives in the two monastic complexes along with the social and cultural ties established with the lesser-known monasteries and villages of the hinterland area. The project also seeks to explore the local, national, and transnational networks emanating from the sites, thus contributing to a global networking. The project is expected to create frameworks for extending the study to the other monastic complexes across South and Southeast Asia. In the long run the work will be published in the form of an annotated atlas featuring the monastic complexes, the wider geographical hinterland, and the transnational networks between India and Southeast Asia. This would serve as one of the noteworthy contributions that puts forth a holistic study of the cultural landscapes of the World Heritage Sites.