Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, is justifiably known as the “City of Temples” as it has around 700 temples. On Wednesday the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) unearthed a stone structure said to be remains of an ancient temple during excavations near Shree Lingaraj Temple.
The ASI Odisha Circle, Superintendent Arun Mallick informed that Ekamra Kshetra heritage project near the Suka Sari temple for the beautification of the Lingaraj temple and its surroundings is going on. “So far we have found a portion of wall containing some beautifully engraved statues of danseuses of the temple which were earlier buried under the campus of the demolished Sanskrit college. Another side of the wall is being dugout. It will require 10 more days to bring out the structure completely,” Mallick said.
The excavated remains are believed to be the floor of an ancient temple dating back to the 10th Century. As per ASI, the Suka Sari temple complex appears to have been built on the Panchayatana model. This is a model where the main temple is surrounded by four subsidiary shrines. The Suka Sari temple was previously buried under the campus of the demolished Sanskrit college to its north. The ASI excavation wing said, the existence of one subsidiary shrine of the Suka Sari temple, located on its north-eastern part and behind Bhabani Shankar temple, was known.
“Today, we found the floor of a temple in the north-west direction of the complex and two more structures on the south-west and south-east corners are partially exposed. Once the structures are completely dug up, we can confirm that the Suka Sari temple was a Panchayatana model like the Brahmeshwara and Chitrakarini temples in the vicinity,” said Dr Sushant Kumar Kar, head of excavation wing, ASI.
The ASI authority assumes that most of the remaining portion of the exposed structure has been lost due to the ongoing demolition work by Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation Limited and Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) as part of the Ekamra Kshetra project for beautification of Lingaraj temple and its periphery. The last couple of months several structures have been demolished including a Mutt on the land adjacent to Suka-Sari temple complex.
The ASI Odisha maintains that the Suka Sari temple (belonging to the 10th-11th Somavamshi period), which are considered older than the 11th century Lingaraj shrine is protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act). Before starting the beautification project of Lingaraj temple and its periphery no permission was taken by the Works Department or BDA.
According to the AMASR Act, the 100-metre area surrounding the monument is declared a prohibited zone and another 200 metre is a regulated area for the purposes of construction, reconstruction, repairs and renovation. Any construction or repair work in that periphery of the monument requires permission from National Monument Authority and ASI.
The ASI Odisha expressed apprehension that some portion of the structure might have been damaged due to use of machines while digging the area under the beautification drive. Only the floor has remained now.
“Bhubaneswar was known as Mandira Malini because it had over 1,000 temples of different architectural styles. Today, much of it is buried under encroachments,” said Padmalochan Mishra, a historian. To Mishra, it is only doing irreversible damage to heritage. The ASI team, however, carried out the excavation works by using scientific methods.
(Featured Image Source: Odisha TV)
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