BHUBANESWAR: The State unit of INTACH has called for immediate completion of the conservation of ancient tempera paintings in Keonjhar’s Sitabhinji cave as they are in a state of deterioration.
Sitabhinji is the only site in the State to have such ancient paintings which date back to 6th century AD. After making an on-the-spot inspection of the cave, an INTACH team said the paintings will disappear if not conserved at the earliest.
Sitabhinji cave is under conservation jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, the beautiful paintings are gradually fading away. State convenor of INTACH AB Tripathy said the conservation taken up by ASI was incomplete and left halfway. If immediate steps are not taken, the paintings will disappear.
The paintings depict a royal procession with a king, perched on an elephant with a sword in hand, leading it. He is followed by women attendants and horsemen. On lower part of the painting are verses inscribed in Sanskrit which describe the scene and its history. A stone engraving points the King to be Maharaja Disabhanja, one of the earliest Bhanja king.
The paintings lie between two giant boulders called Ravana Chhaya. The place draws its name from the stream ‘Sita’ which flows nearby. Legend has it that Sita took exile here and Luv and Kush were born in the cave after being deserted by Lord Ram.
According to Anil Dhir, another member of the INTACH team, pre-historic implements and tools have been discovered in abundance in this area. The discovery of a four-faced Mukha Linga confirms early Shaivite influence in the area. Besides, there are many rocks with Pali inscriptions, ancient soapstone figurines and even Kushan coins were excavated from the region.
Dhir said he has been visiting the site every year for a decade and the deterioration of the paintings is fast.
“INTACH is taking up the matter with ASI and the State Government and willing to cooperate in conservation of the precious heritage. Proper conservation of the paintings and other archaeological finds needs to be done or we will lose a very valuable and unique heritage site,” Tripathy said.