Monday December 17, 2018

Sitabinji: This Odisha village has a link to Ramayana & houses a 1500-yr-old Fresco art

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Sitabinji Caves

By Prateek Kumar

The ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 261 BC resulting in the bloody Kalinga War, coincides with the modern day Odisha. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April 1936, as a province in British India and consisted predominantly of Oriya speaking regions. In this eastern state of India lies the hub of ancient painting, Sitabinji.

Sitabinji, a village near Keonjar district of Odisha is popularly known for the conservation of an ancient painting form created by tempera method. The 1300 to 1500 years old painting lies in between two giant boulders known as Ravana Chhaya. The place attained its name after the stream Sita that flows nearby.

According to Hindu Mythology, the name Ravana Chhaya means the “Shadow of Ravana”, the King of Lanka.

Architecture

There is a gap between two rock boulders of granite with a beautiful tempera art which is not linked with any religious beliefs and shows the prospect of royal procession. The bigger boulder is inclined towards smaller boulder, making a triangular gap in between which is  6.7 m in height and 4.7 m in depth.

Significance

The significance of the cave can be mapped in the ancient times, even before the art work was created. The cave was used by the followers of lord Shiva around 4th – 6th century AD. There they worshipped Mukha Linga, the linga with four faces of lord Shiva that still exist in the Sitabinji region and depicts that lord Shiva was very popular in Odisha during the 5th century AD.

Archaeology

The site contains fragments of bricks with Pali inscriptions. Soapstone figurines and Kushan coins were also found in the region along with the paintings older than Mesolithic period which is sometimes also referred as “the paintings of Sitabinji.”

Historical Significance

The tempera art form of Ravana Chhaya can be called as a marvel attained in ancient times. The rough layer of granite was smoothened with an aid of lime before carving the painting on a big boulder of rock, which is done with great perfection and dedication. The painting depicts the royal procession as a royal figure sitting on an elephant with a sword in hand, followed by women attendants and a few horsemen which is very less in common with Hindu religion. The theme of this carving is considered as a shelter for a royal retreat while hunting.

Below the painting there are verses inscribed in Sanskrit that describes the scene and its history. The engraved stone shows the name of king as Maharaja Sri Disabhanja, considered to be the earliest Bhanja king.

Different measures have been adopted by the government to preserve this ancient architecture as Keonjar is an industrial hub of India and can lead to the destruction of these historical pieces of art.  Furthermore, to protect the painting from water and other hazards, authorities have made a channel to clear the water from the rocks and have created a porch outside the cave. But unfortunately, the lower part of the painting is destroyed despite adopting all the protective measures.

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

World Hindu Congress, Hindu
Hindus don’t oppose anyone, don’t aspire to dominate: RSS chief

“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

Hindu, Mosque
Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)