Monday June 24, 2019

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.

Next Story

Hindu Icons Which Have Spiritual Significance

These icons have to be treated with extreme respect and should not be touched or removed without the owners consent.

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rangoli
Rangoli, Toran, Aum and Swastika – optional display inside or outside the home. Pixabay

Hindu Council of Australia has compiled a list of Hindu Icons that Hindus may wear on their body and which have spiritual significance. This list has been made to remove confusion among non-Hindus about what is sacred to Hindus.

Hindu Sacraments worn on the body

Hindu icons all year round

bangles
Bangles worn on wrists by women – a cultural item. Pixabay

Scared Hindu icons that can not be removed

  1. Nose stud – essential for girls during puberty, can not be removed for one year.
  2. Yajnopavit/Janaue – essential for boys after their Yajnopavit right of passage, once worn can not be removed and worn again without extensive rituals (not even during swimming lessons)
  3. Sindoor/Mangalsutra – essential for married women. Removal is not permitted while husband is alive.
  4. Choti/Shikha – small hair tail for boys during a right of passage.
  5. Pagdi (Turban, A cloth wrapped around the head) – touching or removing it is disrespectful. It can be removed for a short period in privacy, like when having a shower and must be worn as soon as possible.
  6. Sivalingam (Veera and Adi Shiva people, Lingayat) or other Hindu Gods as pendant in a necklace.

Sacred Hindu icons that can be removed by the wearer

  1. Bindi – optional for women and girls, it can not be removed by others.
  2. Bangles worn on wrists by women – a cultural item
  3. Kondhani – a bracelet made of black thread worn around the waist
  4. Anklets (Pahjeb, Payal) – a metal bracelet worn on ankles
  5. Ear rings/studs for boys and girls in some families
  6. Gem stone on rings for special effects of planets
  7. Hindu Sacraments worn on Special Occasions

    Anklets (Pahjeb, Payal) – a metal bracelet worn on ankles
    Anklets (Pahjeb, Payal) – a metal bracelet worn on ankles. Pixabay
  1. Tulsi Mala – A necklace of Tulsi beads. During special religious observations.
  2. Teeka, Tilak, Vibhuti – essential during Hindu prayers, optional otherwise
  3. Mehendi/henna/turmeric – essential when getting married or when a close family member gets married, optional for married women during karva chauth day. Henna is a fast colour (looks like a emporary tatto) that takes a week or more to fade away
  4. Men are not allowed to cut their hair during Sabramalai month (Mid of November to January 14/15)
  5. Rakhi – a special bracelet worn on special festival day of Rakhi.
  6. Kajal/Surma (dark black eye ointment)
  7. Raksha/mouli – multi colour thread bracelet as a protective icon during special days
  8. Gajra – a flower arrangement by woman at the back of there hair.

Hindu icons in a Hindu home

These icons have to be treated with extreme respect and should not be touched or removed without the owners consent.

  1. Rangoli, Toran, Aum and Swastika – optional display inside or outside the home.
  2. Home shrine

(Originally Published: Hindu Council of Australia)