(Last Updated on : 05/03/2009)
The Archaeological Survey of India or the ASI serves as one of the best sources of history of India. It is an agency in the Government of India in the Department of Culture. The organisation is responsible for archaeological studies and the preservation of cultural monuments. The main aim of the survey organisation is to find out the historical facts and the conserve it. Moreover, the premier organization responsible to preserve and protect the monuments those are of National and International Importance. The organisation falls under the Ministry of Culture.
It is considered that the Archaeological Survey of India was founded in 1861 by the British colonial administration, Sir Alexander Cunningham. He was provided support by the then Viceroy Canning. At that point of time, the ASI used to serve the area of Afghanistan also. The head-office of the Survey was located at the Railway Board building in Shimla in the year 1944 when Mortimer Wheeler was the Director-General. After independence, it came under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958.
However, the Archaeological Survey of India is actually the present form of the Asiatic Society of British archaeologist Sir William Jones, the Asiatic society was founded in January 15, 1784. In addition to that the society used to regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. ASI at present administers 3636 monuments and it has been declared to be a national importance and it falls under the provisions of the Antiquity and Art Treasure Act 1972.
Archaeological Survey of India is designed to preserve and maintain the ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance. The works and mission of the ASI is divided into twenty four circles within the whole country. The organisation carries out its work through its Circles, Museums, Excavation Branches, Prehistory Branch, Epigraphy Branches, Science Branch, Horticulture Branch, Building Survey Project, Temple Survey Projects and Underwater Archaeology Wing.
Archaeological Survey of India provides evidences of the early Historic Period. In addition to the monuments and sties Taj Mahal, Tomb at Sikandara, Qutb Minar, Sanchi and Mathura received nominal funds during the 19th century. The important sites excavated by the ASI include Harsha-ka-Tila at Thanesar in Haryana exposing a cultural sequence from the Kushan period to medieval periods.