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October 28, 2018
The 300-year-old sandstone statue excavated at a local club in Tripura's Gomati district, has now found a place in a permanent temple and is regularly worshipped with a priest on call. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) experts who confirmed the authenticity of the idol, declined to accept its possession.
The statue was found on July 30 this year when labourers were engaged to excavate a part of the Rabindra Sangha premises for erecting Durga Puja pandal at Gomti district's Udaipur. The workers heard a sharp clang at 5.5 feet and they slowly dug up what seemed to be a black stone statue of a Hindu Goddess.
"The idol is of Sheetla Maa. We could make out so much based on its features. A very large group of local people came hearing about the statue and wanted to worship it. We, at the club, decided to honour their sentiments and laid the foundation stone of a temple on the very night," Sekhar Das, a senior member of Rabindra Sangha, a local social club of Udaipur, stated. Three months, after the idol was discovered, the temple is now ready for regular worship Devotees from far off places, thronged the temple every day.
On being asked why the statue was not recovered and preserved in government custody, Gomati District Magistrate Tarun Kanti Debnath said such historical statues are handled by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
"An ASI team was called in but they declined to take its possession. A local ASI official suggested that the idol might be 300-400 years old. But his seniors failed to date the statue and there was no official statement regarding its age. Besides, local people were already up in preparation. So, we didn't press the matter further", Debnath, said.
Talking about the idol, ASI's Conservation Assistant DK Majumder, said, while the recovered statue is an antique item and dates back to at least 400 years, the body doesn't have enough infrastructures in Tripura to take possession of the ancient idols. "We are going to build a museum near the Buddhist ruins at Pilak in South Tripura. But we don't have near enough infrastructures to take care of the entire statue which are recovered in the state. We requested the state government to house these statues in their museums. But many of the statues were not taken and they were absorbed in local temples. Many assets including potential locations of historical ruins were even grabbed as individual properties", Majumder said.
He further said that ASI earlier sought the state government to grant possession of a slate stone Jagannath Temple at Udaipur, Udaipur Palace and other assets to preserve the rich history when the erstwhile Left Front government was in power in the state.
ASI is now planning to propose the state government to grant conservation rights of an ancient mosque at Rajnagar in South Tripura, Chabimura in Amarpur of Gomati district.
Tripura is known for ancient historical sites like Buddhist ruins of Pilak in South Tripura and 8th Century Unakoti rock sculptures in Unakoti district. Royal palaces at erstwhile capital towns of the state like Udaipur in Gomati district and Dharmanagar in north district spiralled into oblivion.
History and archaeology enthusiast of the state, Swapan Bhattacharjee said, that ruins of Udaipur's royal past were lost in the long Communist rule. People illegally grabbed historically important sites, he said adding that proper excavation could reveal a rich past of the ancient capital city.
Asoke Deb, noted litterateur and cultural activist of Udaipur, told indianexpress.com that most parts of modern Udaipur town were built on the ruins of ancient civilization. He also informed that a deity of Suryadev (Sun God) was found during excavation at Gakulpur near Udaipur in the late 1990s. The government declined to take possession of the ancient stone idol and it found a place in a local temple.