The acronym A.S.I. Stands for the Archaeological Survey of India and was initiated in the British times in. This department has done a tremendous job in the conservation of old heritage sites in India and the monuments of national interest are under the upkeep of this body. The department is in constant efforts of excavating the old sites, study of old culture and architectural facts, developing museums, displaying the old exhibits.
The department is indulged in excavation work all around India to bring to the light about the old civilization. In Uttar Pradesh they have 3 major circles- Agra, Lucknow and Meerut. The sites like Ataraji Khera, Bilsad in Etah,, Sankhisa on Farukhabad and some near Meerut have been excavated by it. The latest discovery has been done in Bilsad in etah which was earlier known as a Buddhist site. While conserving the old pillars the archaeologists have found the remains of an old temple dating back to Gupta dynasty.
Location of Bilsad
Bilsad is a town located in Aliganj tehsil of Etah district of Uttar Pradesh. This place has been recorded as Piloshana by Huan Tsang. It is 6.0 kms away from Etah and 7 kms from Aliganj. This place is famed as an ancient site of Buddhist era and Gupta dynasty. The place has been much developed by Kumar Gupta. We find an inscription mentioning his name at this place similar to the Gadhwa stone inscriptions of 5th century AD mentioning Gupta rulers.
How to reach Bilsad
If you want to make a tour of Bilsad you can hire a cab from Agra to this place. If you want to travel by train you can travel to Etah and drive a car from the station. You can also travel to Bilsad by your car. If you want to travel by public transport take a bus to Aliganj etah and hire a tuk tuk to approach Bilsad.
Why Bilsad is famous
The team of archaeologists have found the remains of an old temple platform and the steps leading downwards. The development already conserved this site as a Buddhist heritage place in 1928. During the routine conservation the team has found the remains of this temple which dates back to the era of Kumar Gupta of Gupta dynasty. Bilsad has been a prominent city having a Buddhist stupa as recorded by the traveler Huan Tsang in his travel accounts. He narrates that people following different faiths dwell over here. He also tells about the 5 temples and a Sangham and says though the Stupa is in ruins even it is nearly 100 meters elevated. He says that stupa was built by Ashoka where lord Buddha delivered a sermon for 7 consecutive days.
The columns of Bilsad have human figures and the inscriptions in couch script which tells about Mahendraditya which was the epithet given to Kumar Gupta
Bilsad Inscription with Conch script
Couch script known as Shankha Lipi has been a popular script in the ancient India. Like the Indus valley script developed in the Indus valley sites similarly couch script has been once very popular in Indian subcontinent. The inscription written in this script are abundantly available from north to south of India. from Akhoor in Kashmir to Karnataka in south, Bilsad in Uttar Pradesh and Junagarh in Gujarat.
What is conch script ?
This script is pictorial and has much affinity to Brahmi script. This has decorative figures in the shape of a conch or Shankha Brahmi has been a popular script of ancient India and this script has some relation to Brahmi which was deciphered by James Princep. Most of the Buddhist texts are in Pali language and Brahmi was one among the prominent. Similarly the Jain texts are replete with Brahmi script.
Thus it is clear that these old scripts were prevalent before 6th century BCE. The conch script was also in Vogue during this time and had been in used up to the time of Gupta dynasty. Unfortunately the script has not been deciphered so far. On the basis of inscriptions available in the Sonbhadra caves Rajgir, Udaigir caves in Madhya Pradesh, Mansar in Maharashtra and many other sites it is believed that the script has more or less 12 characters. Thus is averred that this script is nearly 8 century older than Christ era.
Famous heritage sites with conch inscriptions
In Uttar Pradesh state there are 3 prominent places of Gupta dynasty- Dasavtar temple of Deogarh, Bhitargam temple near Kanpur and Bilsad temple in Etah district. These 3 sites have inscriptions in the conch script dating back to Gupta era of 4th century. In Bihar the Murdeshwari temple, Bijak caves in Jaipur etc have plenty of inscriptions in this script besides this script has been used in the other places of Indonesian inscriptions also.