Archaeologists of the Odishan Institute of Maritime and South-East Asian Studies (OIMSEAS), a wing of the Culture Department, have decided to excavate the Aragarh site in Puri district to bring the Buddhist relics to the light.
The OIMSEAS, which was recently granted permission to go ahead with the excavation by the Central Government, has sought funds from the State Government. Excavation will begin from December last week or January next year and continue for four months. A budget of `15 lakh has been sought for the purpose.
Aragarh, also known as Airagarh, is situated north of the river Daya in Godiput-Matiapada panchayat under Delang block. It is a hill located 256 feet above sea level and stretches for over three km from east to west. Towards its eastern side stands a two-storey, flat-roofed Buddhist Chaitya (temple).
The temple’s four pillars are carved with ‘nagakanyas’ and ‘gajasimha’ motifs. In the upper chamber, Buddhist icons were worshipped. The ground floor was meant for the people who lived there.
OIMSEAS secretary and Buddhist researcher Sunil Patnaik said while the organisation’s archeologists were carrying out beautification and conservation work of the temple last year, they stumbled upon a huge mound in the vicinity and found Buddhist relics lying scattered.
“After consultation with Buddhist scholars, we concluded that there must be something hidden in the mound. We are expecting a stupa may be buried under it,” Patnaik said.
He informed that during preliminary exploration of the place, a ‘kunda’ carved out of muguni rock was found four feet west of the Chaitya.
“A broken Buddhist icon was also found in the place. Another broken icon of two feet by two feet, made of igneous rock, is lying south of the Chaitya.
As many Buddhist icons are found on the Aragarh hill top, it confirms that the place was a stronghold of Buddhism,” Patnaik said, adding that the existing relics date back to the period from 1st-2nd century AD to 10th or 11th century AD. The site will be excavated horizontally.
This apart, the Government has allowed the Department of Anthropology of Utkal University for further excavation at the mound in Banga village in Hirarajpur, 15 km from Bhubaneswar.
Last year, students and archeologists of the university had stumbled upon a 4000-year-old skeleton in a portion of the mound.
This time, the excavations will be carried out with the help of OIMSEAS.