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A collector's quest to pick up pieces of history

Mayank Bhusan Pani

BARGARH: Satya Ketan Mohanty’s house is a museum of sorts, replete with more than 10,000 relics and rare artifacts that date back to several centuries. From tribal ornaments, coins to even drift wood, the 42-year-old collector has been collecting it all for the last 25 years and with a mission - to educate the children and youth about the past. 

He exhibits his collections at schools and colleges. With his vast collection outgrowing the space in his house, he now plans to set up a public museum in Western Odisha next year to exhibit them. His passion towards collecting rare artifacts began at the age of 17 when he met a numismatist during a train journey to New Delhi. “My sister and I used to collect coins.

While travelling to Delhi, we showed our coins collection to a co-passenger. I did not know that he was a member of the Numismatic Society of India and told him that I plan to set up a museum some day. But he told me that collecting antiques requires austerity and patience. His words instilled determination in me to collect antiques and artifacts. There has been no looking back since then”, recalled Mohanty.

Today, he owns more than 10,000 rare antiques which he has divided into 14 sections. His collection includes gold coins of Ganga dynasty, coins of Kushana dynasty, old medals and mementos, artifacts of Buddhist period, over 150 fossils, rare sea shells; a collection of 1,200 tribal rare musical instruments, arms, weapons and ornaments; more than 350 kinds of minerals and rocks.

He has also collected  2,000 types of postal stamps, old envelopes and around 700 types of dry herbs. One of his collections titled ‘Dastawez’ has a large number of old scriptures and engraved documents. A supplier of construction materials by profession, Mohanty has been collecting artifacts from across Odisha and neighbouring states and spends 50 per cent of his income to procure them from various sources. Apart from collecting artifacts, Mohanty is a wood sculptor and makes sculptures using drift and waste wood.

While Mohanty exhibits his collections at various educational institutions including GM University, Rampur College and Panchayat College here, he has a dream of setting up his own public museum in Sambalpur. Although he had planned to begin work on the museum this year, it could not materialise due to the lockdown. “I have already bought land for the museum in Sambalpur and if everything goes well, work will start next year”, said Mohanty, who has also secured a place in the record books for largest collection of coins and sea shells.

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