Blind faith keeps alive buried history

GANIAPALI (ORISSA) : It is faith alone which has kept a glorious tradition and a piece of history alive in this nondescript village. Residents of Ganiapalli worship Yogibaba and Siddhababa of the Buddhist tradition with the entire gamut of Hindu rituals and accept them as the presiding deities of the village. Natural disasters are seen as the fallout of their anger and a good rain their benign doing.

The images of the deities belong to the fourth century AD and are of great historical significance. Studied together with the Buddhist relics strewn in the area, they can provide clues to many missing links in the growth Buddhism and assimilation of traits of diverse religions in the State.

However, little effort has been made by the authorities concerned to piece together history from the available evidence and free it from the tangle of legends and myths that abound here.

In 1935, the images were unearthed by a villager from an agricultural land and the discovery was brought to the notice of the then Zamindar of Borasambar, Lal Rajendra Singh Bariha and district collector of Sambalpur. In 1961, Charles L Febri, the author of The History of Arts of Orissa was thrilled to find the ancient images. He, however, decried their poor maintenance.

Forty years on, things have not changed much. The deities now a have a roof over their heads. But that was the contribution of a villager.

The images are beyond recognition now. They were 'mended' by some local artisan who not only placed the missing hands in an awkward position but also disfigured these with fanciful cement additions.

The images, made of bluish chloride stone and located in Buddha Vihar, depict different events of Buddha' life.

The one on the left shows the first sermon at Sarnath, the only one so far known in Orissa. The right hand image is of the extremely rare Muchalinda Buddha. In 1978, eminent historian NK Sahu carried out an excavations in the area and discovered the remains of the ancient halls and revealed a multi-storeyed monastery, regarded as the earliest of its kind in Orissa.

However, there has been no follow up excavation after the significant discoveries.

Some educated youths and teachers of the village have formed a organisation, Muchalinda Bouddha Vihar Parisad to draw the attention of the government to the development and maintenance of the shrine. President of the Parisad Biranchi said the entire monastery needs to be brought out from under the earth's surface.

secretary of the Parisad Pittabash Sahu said, adding it should be provided with lights and boundary wall among other things. Contacted local legislator Prakash Chandra Devta said he has already approached the Archaeological Survey of India for further excavation work.

Till something concrete is done the rich tradition has to survive on faith alone.

Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 8, 2001
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