Ancient temples demolished by State Archaeology alleged Intach Odisha

Bhubaneswar: The Vishnu Temple of Gorahandi and the Jain Temple at Phuphugam, both 45 km from the District Headquarters, were lying in a deserted and ruined condition in the middle of agricultural fields. They had been brought to the notice of the district administration to ensure proper conservation. The 6th Century C.E. Vishnu Temple belonged to the period when the Nala Dynasty held sway in the region, and was probably built by the Nalas of Pushkari. It was a small temple of the early Kalingan order with a Rekha Vimana.


A team from Intach Odisha had gone to the site on the 26th Feb and observed that the old temple had been totally dismantled and its stone blocks scattered in the field. The team of Intach members from the State and Koraput Chapter comprised Sanjib Hota, Deepak Nayak, Anil Dhir, Bikram Nayak, and Ajit Patro. Shockingly, the entire ancient structure had been dismantled, and the old stone blocks and been chiseled and polished to make a new structure. All the carvings and embellishments of the earlier temple had been totally destroyed. A half-finished square structure that bore no resemblance to the earlier temple was seen. The ancient Chaturbhuja Vishnu image had been removed from the old temple and kept in the open. Except for the two carved door jambs, the entire decorative motifs have been destroyed. The lintel section of the doorjamb with a prominent Gajalaxmi motif is lying abandoned at the site. Many of the old stone blocks have been taken away by the villagers.


Similarly, the Jain Temple of Phuphugam, just three km away from the Vishnu temple too, has a half-finished renovation. This temple too is an early Kalingan order temple which can be dated to the 6th- 7th Century C.E. The Jain Tirthankar images have been worshipped as Narayan Mahaprabhu by the villagers for centuries. Here too, the original structure has been dismantled and the stone blocks are lying in disarray. The newer structure has been half completed with the images lying in the open. The temple premises had a single un-deciphered stone inscription panel which is missing now.


The manner in which both these early-era temples have been destroyed in the name of restoration has dismayed the team. According to Deepak Nayak, the conservation work has been done in an unscientific manner by semi-unskilled persons. No archaeological expert must have visited the place. The dismantling of two of the earliest stone temples is a cultural genocide. In fact, he laments bringing attention to these forgotten structures, which had survived for more than 14 centuries only to be destroyed in the name of preserving them.

Sanjib Hota has made a report and is writing to the authorities for the callous manner in which the restoration was done. Anil Dhir said that no sane archaeologist or heritage expert would demolish the old structures and make a new one at the place. Both the old temples were in a restorable state and could have been conserved in their original form. In fact, the old temples should have been left intact and the newer structures built alongside where the images could have been secured.


Ajit Patro said that Intach’s Koraput Chapter is soon going to launch a project to document the entire heritage of the district. The rich Jain monuments and early period heritage structures have not been properly listed till date.


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