Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the premier institution in India for archaeological research. It is an organization frequently seen in the news for its various activities and discoveries. In this article, you can learn about the major activities, functions and role of the ASI, and also about the ASI circles in India. This is important for the IAS exam art and culture portion, as also for the IAS Prelims exam government departments and ministries segment.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):- Download PDF Here

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What is the Archaeological Survey of India?

The Archaeological Survey of India or ASI is an attached agency of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India.

  • It engages in archaeological research and conservation, and protection and preservation of ancient monuments and archaeological sites in the country.
  • ASI regulates all archaeological activities conducted in the country through the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act), 1958.
  • It also regulates the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
  • It was founded in 1861 by a British Army engineer who took a keen interest in archaeology in India, James Cunningham.
    • Archaeological pursuits started much earlier, in the 18th century, when Sir William Jones formed the Asiatic Society in 1784 together with a group of antiquarians.
    • Alexander Cunnigham is also known as the ‘Father of Indian Archaeology’.
  • It is a statutory body after independence, under the AMASR Act, 1958.
  • The ASI is headed by a Director-General and is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • ASI has more than 3500 protected monuments and archaeological sites of National Importance that it protects and preserves.
  • ASI publications:
    • Ancient India
    • Epigraphia Indica
    • Indian Archaeology: A Review

Candidates can check the following links to assist their preparation for the upcoming UPSC examination –

Difference between History and Archaeology  Major Sites In Indus Valley Civilization UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
List of Ramsar Sites in India [Latest] Ramsar Convention 1971 List of Important Historical Monuments in India 

Archaeological Survey of India Activities

The ASI performs and regulates all activities related to archaeological research and excavation in India. It also preserves and maintains historical monuments and sites.

  • It conducts archaeological excavations and explorations.
  • It maintains, conserves and preserves protected monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
  • It engages in the chemical protection of monuments and antiquarian remains.
  • It performs the architectural survey of monuments.
  • It conducts epigraphical and numismatic studies.
  • It sets up site museums.
  • It gives training in archaeology.
  • It publishes material in archaeology.
  • It also conducts archaeological expeditions outside India.
  • It engages in horticultural operations in and around archaeological sites.
  • It regulates the AMASR Act and the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, among others.

Candidates can also read about Conservation of Heritage Sites in India on the linked page. The heritage sites in India are protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, which was amended in 2010.

The ASI has specialised wings for its activities such as excavation branches, prehistory branch, building survey project, epigraphy branches, temple survey projects, science branch and an underwater archaeology wing. A dedicated Museums Branch maintains about 50 museums spread across the country.

Get comprehensive UPSC Notes for Art and Culture in the link.

ASI Circles

The ASI has about 30 circles into which it has divided the whole country for the maintenance of monuments and carrying out archaeological work. The list of ASI circles (as of April 2021) are given in the table below.

Agra  Aizawl  Amravati 
Aurangabad  Bangalore  Bhopal 
Bhubaneswar  Chandigarh  Chennai 
Dehradun  Delhi  Dharwad 
Goa  Guwahati  Hampi 
Hyderabad  Jabalpur  Jaipur 
Jhansi  Jodhpur  Kolkata 
Lucknow  Mumbai  Meerut 
Nagpur  Patna  Raipur 
Rajganj  Rajkot  Ranchi 
Sarnath  Shimla  Srinagar 
Thiruchirapalli  Thrissur  Vadodara 

There is a mini circle at Leh, Ladakh.

The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2023.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Archaeological Survey of India


Q 1. What is the function of the Archaeological Survey of India?

Ans. The Archaeological Survey of India is responsible for conducting archaeological excavations, maintain sites of national importance, hold an architectural survey of monuments, regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and also regulate Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

Q 2. When was the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) established?

Ans. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was established in 1861 under the Ministry of Culture for the protection of the cultural heritage of the country.

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