6th-7th century Shiva temple discovered in Odisha, claims INTACH
A survey team of the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage has claimed to have discovered the ruins of a 6-7th century Shiva temple in Puri district making it one of the oldest temples in Odisha and one of the earliest in the post-Gupta era.
The four member team led by Anil Dhir, Deepak Kumar Nayak, Subhashish Dash and Suman Swain of INTACH found the temple at Biropurusottampur village in Pipili tehsil of Puri district during the survey of Ratnachira Valley and its monuments. The temple locally known as Swapneswar Mahadev is located by the side of Ghateswar temple in the village and is made of square stone Khandolite stone blocks with no binding or cementing as is seen in most Odisha temples of 11th and 12th century onwards such as Jagannath temple and Konark temple.
Dhir said the stone blocks were placed one over other in symmetry to make the temple wall and roof.
“No evidence of iron clamps has been seen. The neatly chiselled blocks denote an era when Kalingan traditional temple architectural style was in its infancy. The temple is devoid of any external embellishments on both the inner and outer walls; even the parsadevata niches are empty,” said Dhir, a noted historian.
Nayak said the temple is believed to have been built after the post- Gupta era. “The region was a part of the South Toshali area of the ancient Kalinga kingdom and finds mention in the copper plate inscriptions of the post-Gupta period. The Kanasa plates of Sri Lokavigraha and Olasingh plates of Bhanuvardhana, issued in the 6th-7th century throw light on the worship of Maninagesvar (Shiva) and Naga Cult of the South Toshali region. Taking into account the material and style of this temple, it is evident that it was built at least 1300 to 1400 years ago, and is among the oldest intact temples in the region,” he said.
Anil Dhir, who had earlier completed the detailed survey of the Prachi Valley and the ancient Jagannath Sadak said similar temples were seen in the Mahendragiri hill ranges of southern Odisha.
Dhir said the ancient monument is in a very precarious state and on the verge of collapse. Growth of thick vegetation on the top and the sides has caused severe damage. The thick roots have split the stone blocks and developed wide cracks and the rear wall is dangerously leaning backwards. The sanctum sanctorum gets flooded because of the leaks in the roof. The entire temple may crumble down anytime if proper measures are not taken immediately.
Superintendent of Bhubaneswar circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Arun Mallick said the agency would soon study the temple for its exact history.