Building an Online Repository of Buddhist Rock-Cut Monuments

From its inception, this website has been predominantly a solo endeavor. In 2019, I briefly collaborated with academic peers and friends, but without sustainable funding, the collaboration lasted only two weeks. During that period, friends like Deven Oza, Himanshu Desai, and Sandeep Joshi lent their expertise.

Deven, an animation artist with a studio in Baroda, extended his support beyond his professional realm to manage the website’s domain, hosting, and server support. His commitment has been unwavering.

Himanshu Desai, a polymath in an age that seemingly favors generalists rather than super-specialists, volunteered to design the website in 2019. Although we planned to further develop the site, differing priorities led to a hiatus.

Sandeep Joshi, an artist, art historian, and school teacher, dedicated his time to curate the Kanheri module during those pivotal seven days.

Despite others showing willingness, various obstacles prevented their involvement.

The challenge of funding has been a constant hurdle. Our lives, balancing between livelihood and living, have not allowed us the opportunity to even seek funding.

I possess thousands of photographs from various sites, thanks to permissions from the Archaeological Survey of India and state authorities. These photographs, however, remain largely unused, a fact made painfully clear when I lost two hard drives in the 2016 flood. This collection should be accessible for research and educational purposes, benefiting students, educators, and researchers worldwide. Yet, the hurdle remains the lack of a centralized online platform for systematic visual documentation.

The task is daunting. Uploading thousands of photos is only a fraction of the work. Organizing them systematically, providing high-resolution images, and ensuring easy navigation and discoverability require robust technical support. While academics might contribute voluntarily, finding tech professionals willing to work pro bono is challenging.

A collaborative effort between subject specialists and IT professionals is essential, ideally under one roof, to efficiently cover all Buddhist rock-cut monuments in India. Wikipedia, while a valuable resource, operates on a user-generated content model that sometimes includes outdated or incomplete information, making it less reliable for academic citation.

Faced with these challenges and lacking a team, I decided to learn WordPress and begin uploading photos and details independently. The aim is to display a portion of the collection, serving as a foundation for a seed funding application to hire a dedicated team. My rough estimate suggests that about 20 crore Indian rupees would be needed to complete this project over ten years with a team of ten specialists.

In the laster half of 2023, I intend to focus my myself on this work, while seeking potential funding and a host institution to support this encyclopedic venture. The proof of concept has items from Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Aurangabad, Pitalkhora, and others, with plans to expand to more locations.

Please note, the site is in its nascent stage, currently hosting about five percent of the intended material. It is a work in progress, expected to evolve over several years. I invite you to return regularly and share how you might contribute to this pioneering research effort.

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