Bhubaneswar, Feb. 12: Ace sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra has inched a step closer to realising his dream. His proposal of replicating the world-famous Sun Temple at Konark was discussed for the first time today at the government level.
Mohapatra, 65, who was conferred Padma Vibhushan (the second highest civilian award) on January 26, had expressed his desire to undertake the project in an interview with The Telegraph in November last year.
He said replicating the 13th Century wonder was imperative since it would collapse sooner or later in spite of the various renovation and maintenance measures being undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
“Everything has a life span. It has been noticed that people who lack necessary expertise are engaged by the ASI to take up the repairs. I have photographs of the two temples taken 50 years ago. You can see how the repairs over the years have distorted the temple sculpture,” he said.
The famous Sun Temple at Konark was built by King Narasimhadeva of Ganga dynasty in 13th century, probably in 1238.
Reacting to his concerns, the state government today held a meeting with Mohapatra to discuss the project. The session was attended, among others, by chief secretary B.K. Patnaik, culture minister Maheswar Mohanty and Sudarshan Sahoo, another well-known sculptor. They discussed a wide range of issues including the location of the project and whether the proposed structure would be a miniature or a full-size replica.
“We debated on the size and height of the temple, whether we would recreate the entire thing or only the façade and also if it would be built on the premises of the Konark temple. Many artists are in favour of the proposal. However, the chief minister will take the final call on this,” said the culture minister, after emerging from the meeting.
However, Mohapatra said the state government had already earmarked 17 acres for the project, within a 2-km radius of the Sun Temple.
“Though the upper portion of the temple had been damaged long ago, I will bank on pencil sketches of the original structure prepared by the British which are now treasured in the State Museum and in a folder of my cell phone,” he said.
The main temple at Konark used to be 200-feet high before it was damaged.
Mohapatra said the edifice would be carved out of sandstone and granite and nearly 500 to 600 craftsmen and workers would be required for the purpose. The budget, however, has not been estimated yet.
The ace sculptor, who has crafted many a temple in different parts of the country, said the plan to replicate the Black Pagoda of Konark had been hanging fire since decades. Mohapatra had in the past made a similar proposal to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through former chief minister J.B. Patnaik. “The government had allotted around 200 acres for the project in the mid 1970s, but it did not materialise because of fund crisis during the Emergency. The chief minister will take a decision soon. But in any case, I am determined to make the project a reality and will arrange for funds,” said Mohapatra, who has carved the gigantic 18 feet long and 15 feet high Konark Horse presently installed at Master Canteen Square here.
“We are successors of the artists who had created Konark Temple in the 13th century. Therefore, we have traditional know-how to play with stones,” Mohapatra said.
In a related development, the Kalinga Heritage Preservation Trust in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Odisha chapter) will organise a seminar on February 16 here to discuss various aspects of the New Sun Temple project.