Bhubaneswar : The ruins of an ancient temple dating back to the 13th-14th century have been discovered by the members of the ‘Rediscover Lost Heritage’ group near the mouth of the Bhargavi River in the Balanga area of Puri district.
The group, which is currently listing the archaeological monuments of the Ratnachira River Valley, found the ruins in the middle of the river, just one km upstream from the source of the Ratnachira.
According to locals, many such large stone blocks were discovered in the previous years, which were moved up the steep bank and kept in the premises of the nearby Akhandalamani temple.
According to historian Anil Dhir, the team found carved stone panels, broken images, pillars, door jambs and a multitude of minor broken artifacts.
Some of the carved stone panels have been affixed in the sides of the existing temple, which was made about a century ago.
Team member Deepak Kumar Nayak said the ruins of the ancient temple are found scattered, both inside the river bed and the surrounding areas.
Many of these blocks have also been carted away by the villagers for construction. A stairway from the river bed to the steep bank has around two dozen of these carved ancient temple blocks.
‘We came across an intricately carved lintel section of a broken door jamb. The central figure is a beautiful Goddess Gajalaxmi image”, Mr Dhir who led the team said.
Nagakanya images were seen in many carved stone blocks, besides a lot of fine filigree work of the older temple. The temple might be dating back to 13th/14th Century CE or earlier, considering the iconography of the antiquities”, Mr Nayak said.
The team also discovered a large cluster of blocks in the middle of the river which appears to be the
foundation of the ancient temple.
There are hundreds of huge sunken stone slabs, which were possibly once used in the temple’s construction.
Mr Dhir said considering the bulky size of the stone slabs one can imagine it was not a small temple but a mid-sized or bigger temple.
Some of the stone slabs documented on the bank were 8 feet long and 2-4 feet in breadth and weighed between 1.5 to 2 tons, he said.
Both sandstone and laterite stone slabs were discovered from the site. The slabs have consistent and identical holes on both sides, suggesting the use of iron clamping.
As the sheer weight of the blocks makes it impossible to remove them from the sand and mud, they have been in place for centuries. Many were damaged and ruined by machinery used for sand mining, the historian said.
Many idols which were discovered over the years have been placed in different temples in the nearby villages. The locals also showed the team many coins, potsherds and small ornaments which are frequently found in the vicinity.
Mr Dhir said a more detailed study is needed by experts to determine the antiquity of the temple. The temple certainly crumbled due to the change of course of the Bhargavi River.
Both the Prachi Valley and the Ratnachira Valley in Odisha are a treasure house of many archaeological wonders, most of them being obscure and unknown as they have not been documented, he said.
Like the Prachi valley, the mythical Ratnachira too is in its death throes, once a navigable river, it is today a weed-choked stream which only flows during the monsoons.
Legend has it that Lord Rama had drawn the river to quench Sita’s thirst, using her pearl ring to chart its course.
The ancient river, which now runs dry for most of the year, has many myths and legends with flourishing heritage on both sides of its short stretch.
Earlier, the team had discovered an early stone temple in Biro Purusottampur village and a cache of 22 ancient idols in Laudanki village.
A proper survey of the entire 60 km Ratnachira valley should be undertaken by the State Archeology Department and the monuments should be documented, Mr Dhir said.