Bhubaneswar, July 14: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) started excavation on the premises of the 12th century Sari temple today to dig out the entire basement of the ancient structure.
Some beautiful statues of women in relaxed postures and lions on the corners of the temple wall were found during digging.
The full-scale excavation began after a sample survey and digging at a specific location inside the temple a month ago.
During the sample digging, archaeologists of the central conservation body had found evidence of the presence of a large basement and suspected that there could be more structures inside the temple compound.
The temple is situated at the end of the lane from the north gate of Lingaraj Temple leading to the Krushna Chandra Gurukul Sanskrit College on the southern bank of the Bindusagar lake.
ASI experts say the Sari Temple’s architectural design is similar to that of the Ananta Vasudev temple.
“A chance visit to the temple by one of our archaeologists gave us an interesting idea that a major portion of the temple was lying below the soil level perhaps due to rapid urbanisation, raising of road level, constructions nearby or as the result of a natural calamity such as an earthquake. So we have to excavate the entire campus of the original structure and see what has to be done for its complete restoration,” superintending archaeologist of ASI Bhubaneswar circle Bhuvan Vikrama told The Telegraph.
As the ASI workers, under the guidance of experts, started digging today, beautiful statues of women, lions on the corners of the temple wall, deities and fragments of the artwork surfaced.
Another senior ASI official said: “From the design of the temple it is evident that the drainage system was towards Bindusagar lake and we are hopeful of excavating a ‘paduka kunda’ or pond meant to collect the water and milk offerings from the sanctum sanctorum. But after preliminary measurement, it has become clear that some portions of the temple compound might have been there within the premises of the nearby Sanskrit college towards north and the Suka-Sari temple on the south.”
Saying that Sari temple could have been a victim of the urbanisation in the city as the Baital temple, Vikrama said: “It’s not just the blockage of the drainage outlets of the temple, but also unwanted raising of the ground or road near the temple compound resulted in water started accumulating inside. This affected the entire structure.”
With the excavation and study of the temple wall, the ASI experts feel that they may get some clues to the regular flooding of the sanctum sanctorum of the 12th century Megheswar temple.
Suryanarayan Das, a resident of Gangotri Nagar near Samantarapur, said: “Many temples in the Old Town area have suffered from the effect of urban development and road level rising above the temple compound.”
Sources in the ASI said: “If, during excavation, it is found that a major portion of the temple is lying inside the nearby Sanskrit college and the Suka-Sari temple under the State Archaeology, letters will be written to state government to provide land to ASI to carry out excavation in those areas.”