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Discoloured faces of heritage

Discoloured and damaged statues of Buddha in the foothills of Dhauli, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. Telegraph pictures

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 25: Installation of fibre statues of Lord Buddha at the historic Dhauli hills on the outskirts of the city has caused resentment in the state’s artistic fraternity.

One of the major attractions of the hills is the rock-cut elephant overlooking the famous Asokan edicts inscribed on stone. Most of the state’s eminent sculptors feel that putting up fibre statues at this rock-hewn memorial to Buddhism and King Asoka was completely out of sync with aesthetic sensibilities.

The memorial is also known for a peace pagoda, set up by the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha. The seven fibre statues of Buddha have been put up in a park being developed by the state tourism department in the foothills of Dhauli.

The park is part of a Rs 5-crore project of the tourism department to make the place more attractive for tourists. Sources said there was also a plan to install a 40-foot-long statue of sleeping Buddha in the park. The Odisha Tourism Development Corporation is executing the project.

“A stone statue can last more than 1,000 years as is evident from our ancient monuments made in stone. In contrast, fibre-made pieces of art have a life of one to five years. While stonework needs no extra care, fibre objects entail regular repairs and colouring to protect them. So why choose fibre as the medium for creating such pieces of art?” asked noted sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra.

Another well-known sculptor, Sudarshan Sahoo, said: “These days, putting up statues and other art works has become a business. Quality is sacrificed and people seem to have scant regard for cultural heritage and tradition.”

Sahoo, who has created and installed several statues and panels of Lord Buddha and Jataka tales at various places in India and abroad, said that while longevity was an important factor while installing art works, care should also be taken to avoid toxic materials such as fibre.

“Use of fibre in making statues should be discouraged on environmental grounds as well,” he said.

Both Mohapatra and Sahoo were part of the international peace pagoda (Vishwa Shanti Stupa) project at Dhauli in 1972. They had sculpted Buddha statues and panels surrounding the pagoda.

The Dhauli hills were also the backdrop of the famous Kalinga war fought along the banks of the Daya river that flows nearby. In the wake of the war that took place around 261 BC, victorious Magadh emperor Asoka turned a Buddhist, marking a turning point in the history of the country. The transformation of Chandasoka into Dharmasoka is the stuff of history.

D.P. Mohanty, associate professor, department of paintings and visual arts, Banaras Hindu University, who was in the city last week in connection with an art exhibition, said: “Stone carvings are for ever and an eternal part of our tradition. Making historic statues with fibre is just belittling their importance.”

K. Yoda, temple in-charge at the Dhauli pagoda, said: “We want to propagate Buddhism through the statues of Lord Buddha irrespective of the material used in making them.”

Director of the corporation and joint secretary of the tourism department M.R. Patnaik said: “The fibre statues near Dhauli had been commissioned before I took charge, so I cannot comment on them. However, as far as longevity is concened, I will personally prefer stone-carved statues.”


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