Ancient statue unearthed from silt

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An intricately carved khondolite stone statute of a lion has been recovered from the silt being excavated from the Barabati fort moat. 

The statue of the lion is believed to be over 800 years old [Credit: Badrika Nath Das]

Labourers engaged in levelling the excavated material, dumped along the banks of the Mahanadi river, spotted the three-feet tall statue, which is believed to be 800 years old. The two wheels, engraved on two sides of the statue, resemble the Konark wheel. 

“I have sought a report from the archaeologists camping at the site. Once we get that, we can form a definite opinion about the find,” said superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), A.K. Patel, adding that the Barabati fort was a monument belonging to the 13th century Ganga dynasty. Patel said similar artefacts had been recovered from the ruins of the fort even in the past. 

“We got information that a huge stone statue of a lion was recovered from the silt, which had been excavated from Barabati fort moat and dumped along the Mahanadi riverbed,” said Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) executive engineer, Ashok Kumar Parida. 

According to the CMC officials, the statue was kept under their possession throughout the night and today handed over to officials of the ASI. At present, the statue is at the ASI’s camp office within the Barabati fort area. 

The ASI is developing a well laid-out garden on the fort precincts while the CMC is engaged in removal of silt and renovation of the moat encircling the outer perimeter of the fort. The silt removal is being done with the help of machines. 

“Nobody had anticipated the recovery of such a statue from the moat, which used to act as a defence against attacks by enemies trying to capture the fort,” said Parida. 

At present, seven excavators, 20 trucks, 40 tractors and around 100 labourers are engaged in excavating silt from the moat. Around 70 per cent of the work had been over and the remaining part was expected to be completed soon, Parida said. 

Recovery of the statue has enthused historians who believe that more statues and other artefacts could be recovered from the site if the excavation work is done in a more precise manner. 

“Usually, recovery of the lion statue could indicate possibility of the existence of a temple because such figures were normally found on the entrance of temples. The ASI should initiate steps for both horizontal and vertical excavation at the site,” said historian Kharabel Mohanty. 

The ASI, during the excavations in 1989 at the fort, had recovered more than 300 statues of different kinds and sizes, which were fragments of a temple. The excavation process was completed in 1994. 

During another excavation a few years ago, the ASI had recovered skeletal remains of an elephant within the Barabati fort. The ASI officials said that steps would be taken to preserve the statue of the lion in keeping with the guidelines. 

Author: Vikash Sharma | Source: The Telegraph/Calcutta [June 09, 2011]

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