Odisha: Discovery of Rock Cut Elephant by INTACH team

Bhubaneswar: The Indian National  Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage has stumbled upon an ancient rock sculpted elephant in the Kanas Block of  Puri District.  The discovery was made last month by a team comprising of Anil Dhir and Deepak Nayak during the exploration of monuments in the Daya River Valley. The exact find spot,  at the far end of the Gada Balabhadrapur  village,  is near Nirakapur,  5 kms from the  Mandakini  River Bridge on the New Jagannath Sadak.

The find spot of the ancient elephant is nestled in the flood plains of the Daya and Mandakini Rivers. The sculpted elephant is very similar to the rock cut elephant found at Dhaulagiri, which has been dated by historians to the 3rd  Century B.C. (272-231 B.C), one of the oldest known.

The surrounding region where the elephant has been  found is rich in  Buddhist antiquities,  discovered over the last few years. In fact, the surrounding regions of Gada Balabhadrapur like Delanga, Kanas, Aragada, Naranagada, Tipuri, Sirai Dandapata have yielded many Buddhist antiquities. Many of the early era temples of the place have  enshrined Buddhist images. Earlier,  the Intach team has also discovered a Rock Cut Cave with rock art and  inscriptions at Naranagada.

The history of Gada Balabhadrapur village  is shrouded in antiquity. Being in the flood plains of both the Daya and Mandakini, the village was,  and   still is,  prone to frequent flooding. It is believed that a Fort ( Gada)  was established by the Bhoi rulers of Khurda  sometime in the  16th Century CE. There are many remnants of a fort and it’s moat (Gadakhai)  which are  evident  in this village. The monolithic rock cut elephant figure, the laterite pillar and other ancient stone blocks  are  all symbols of  the Buddhism  that once flourished in the region. A systematic archaeological excavation will yield many more artifacts.

The Gada Balabhadrapur   elephant is very similar to the other three monolithic elephants found across Odisha, all of which have been studied and acknowledged to be from early times. The most notable among these rock elephant is seen at Kaima in Jajpur,  which is an exact copy.   Even the stone pillar near the elephant at Kaima is replicated at the Gada Balabhadrapur site. There are other similar pillars which lie underground as reported by the villagers.

The rock elephant at Sitabinj in Keonjhar and the one at Dhauli at the other examples.  According to different Buddhist scriptures and  the Jataka Tales, Buddha, in his previous births as Boddhisatva,  incarnated in the form of elephant. The elephant as a prominent emblem of Buddhism.

A five members team of INTACH Odisha Chapter, comprising of Amiya Bhushan Tripathy, Sanjib Hota, Deepak Nayak, Biswajit Mohanty  and  Anil Dhir visited the site recently.  They recorded the oral history of the place by interacting with the villagers and are of the opinion that it is an important archaeological find which needs proper care and protection. Both the elephant and the stone pillar are presently under an ancient Tamarind tree.  It the tree falls down, as can happen due to the frequent cyclones,  it will damage them.

INTACH has requested the government to make a proper study of these artifacts and take measures for their proper preservation and conservation.  A.B.Tripathy, the State Convener of INTACH, is of the opinion that a proper archaeological survey of the area should be undertaken, as there are many buried artifacts in the flood plain.

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