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Recovery of a broken sclupture of Vishnu recently from Dhevasa village at Sheikhpura, a sleepy district of eastern Bihar once established the claims of many that the entire Seikhpura-Lakhisarai zone could throw a new light on Buddhist history, evolution of Buddhist art and Hinduism in ancient India.
The half broken black granite made standing Vishnu idol is said to be dated back 12 the century CE of late Pala period was found during digging of a pond at Dhevsa village. The lower part of the idol is however disappeared.
Upper part of the idol is in intact condition showing very stylize Kirti mukha or Grass, two highly stylized flying Gandharvas shown on either side of Halo of Vishnu Gada and Chakra, a typical 12 th century nomenclatures of Pala sculptures as attributes of the idol. The crown of Vishnu has been designed as spire of the temple. Typical 12 th century scrolls have been beautifully depicted on the outer side of halo, mouth of the Kirtimukha and edges of the apex of the stele, claimed Manoj Kumar, curator Archaeological Museum Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyalaya Haridwar on the basis of his preliminary observation.
“As per the inscriptions of Balgudar and Lakhisarai, late Pala king Pala Pala had ruled over the region, the Vishnu image along with others might be at that time,” Kumar said.
According to him during last three months many such old sculptures dated Pala period were found; on May 14 last another image of Vishnu was recovered from a pond outskirt of this same Dhevasa village, the image of some female deity of the followers of the school of Buddhism was found at Pachna Pahari on May 17, another image of Vishnu at Mehus village on May 31, the image of Sun God at Shekhopursari on June 12 and the image of deity Lakshmi at Samas village on Samas village was found during digging pond.
Many history lovers claim that since the region was under the influence of Pala rulers who established Lakhisarai region as their administrative center, such types of ancient sculptures mainly the stone made idolsare found in large numbers in the areas.
Lakhisari and its neighbouring Seikhpura district has numerous hill sites, too, that had settlements during ancient times and historians expect them to yield valuable antiquities that would throw much light on different facets of the country’s history.
“Archaeological remains belonging to the Gupta period have also been found at various places in this region. Pala era objects and coins of medieval rulers have also been discovered, indicating that the sites were occupied in the two districts till medieval times,” Kumar said.
Anil Kumar, associate professor of ancient Indian history, culture and archaeology department at Visva-Bharati University, however said that the region (both Lakhisari and Seikhpura) is not far away from Nalanda and in fact, this region was located in between Vikramshila and Nalanda, on the corridor which connects the capital of Pala kingdom at Gaur (Bengal) with Nalanda. So being an important destination equally nearer to the two great sites of ancient learning, this region was always remained important for Palas and hence founding of such types of sculptures are common in the region, he said.
Earlier Anil Kumar has been assigned for the excavation of Jainagar Lal Pahari, in the heart of Lakhisarai township jointly with Vijoy Kumar Choudhary, executive director of Bihar Virast Vikas Samiti (BVVS). In the first phase excavation, many important archaeological remains of the ancient time have been recovered from Jainagar Lal Pahari at Lakhisarai which in the references of early Buddhist texts of around 4th century AD is mentioned as Krimila. State chief minister Nitish Kumar twice visited the excavation sites at Lakhisarai. The second phase of the excavation works at the site delayed due to the lockdown episode of ongoing KOVID-19 pandemic.
Shiv Shanker Singh Parijat and Raman Sinha, Bhagalpur based historians who exclusively work for reviving the glory of Vikramshila, focused on the stone sculptures which found at Seikhpura. According to the duo, during the time of Dharma Pala and Deva Pala two talented artists-cum- sculptors-cum painters, Dihman and his son Beetpala became famous for giving a new version in the history of art, especially in the field of sculpture manufacturing. The father and son were also famous for making idols out of metals at that time.
“It is obvious that finding of such sculptures are not very uncommon at Lakhisarai and Seikhpura , the important places located on Nalanda corridor. Secondly, the region was important for the Palas both on administrative and military strategic points to hold their control over Magadh and other western parts. We know from the pages of history that how art loving Pala kings gave priorities in installing such sculptures at the temples, Buddhist monasteries and even in public places inside their territories. After Dharma Pala or his successor, Deva Pala, other Pala kings maintained the tradition of their ancestors. Hope with the scientific measures, the actual time of such objects found in the region could be ascertained,” the duo pointed out.
However, spontaneous recovery of such ancient sculptures and other archaeological evidences of the ancient times at Seikhpura in recent past, people have started demanding for a museum so that such treasure troves of yesteryears could be well preserved and maintained.
“It is a good thing that the district has started producing the evidences of the ancient eras. Very less work has been done in Seikhpura and Lakhisarai districts despite evidence of settlements right from the Stone Age. The region is considered very important from the viewpoint of Buddhist history, evolution of Buddhist art and Hinduism,” Manoj Kumar said.