Aragada stup hints at historical cluster

3oriexca1_164549The Telegraph
Bibhuti Barik

Entire structure to emerge by fortnight

Bhubaneswar, May 2: Archaeologists have stumbled upon a Buddhist stup atop Aragada, a hill on the city outskirts, which could date back to as early as the first century.

The hill, about 5km from Jatni, also has a double-storey cave temple from the seventh or eighth century. The place is barely 200 metres from the Kahurda-Puri railway line and offers a beautiful view of the meandering Daya river from the 174-metre hilltop.

The culture department’s archaeologists, who are in the preliminary stage of excavation, have found the distinctly carved stup after removing layers of soil. It lay buried under an earthen mound covered with wild bushes.

Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies secretary Sunil Kumar Patnaik said: “After a month’s work, we have found scattered architectural remains and a circular stup on the hilltop. Its full shape will emerge after a fortnight or so.”

Patnaik, a well-known Buddhist scholar, said the stup’s construction style and the type of stones used showed it was much older than the two-storey cave temple located nearby. He said it could date back to the first century.

Historians are also studying the correlation between the locations of Sisupalgarh, Dhauli hills, Biswanath hill and Aragada as they appear to form a cluster. They think that there might have been a sizeable Buddhist population in and around Bhubaneswar as the infamous Kalinga War (261BC) was fought on the banks of the Daya river near the Dhauli hills.

Patnaik hoped that the excavations at Aragada would provide fresh insight into the antiquity of Bhubaneswar and Puri.

Niranjan Rout, a research scholar doing his PhD in Buddhist studies at Utkal University, said: “In a translated version of Madalapanji (chronicle of Jagannath temple), eminent historian Karuna Sagar Behera and his associate U.N. Dhal have made a reference to Aragada.”

Bhaskar Chandra Jena, a resident of the nearby Haripur village, said: “Till 1984, the Aragada hill was unknown outside this area, and the villagers used to be the cave temple’s caretakers. In 1984, during the Raja utsav, we had invited former MP Chintamani Panigrahi to the festival. After that, the place gradually came into notice with the culture department’s involvement.”

The cave temple near the excavation site has been built in the Nagara style of architecture, which became popular in India between the fifth and seventh century, and Khandolite stones have been used in the structure. There are votive stups lying nearby and the temple has unique latticed windows on its eastern and western sides.

Madhusudan Panda, the caretaker of Aragada, which is a state archaeology protected site, said: “Earlier, a villager had discovered four statues while ploughing his field near the hill. These statues are now worshiped at a temple in Haripur.”

He said many foreign tourists coming to Aragada also visited the temple at the village because of its beautifully statues.

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