'Wooden Konark' lies in neglect

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By SUNIL PATNAIK
  • Published 13.06.12
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Artworks, sculptures and paintings on the panels and ceilings of the Biranchi Narayan temple near Berhampur. Pictures by Gopal Krishna Reddy

Berhampur, June 12: The Biranchi Narayan temple at Buguda in Ganjam district, often known as the “Wooden Konark” for its exquisitely carved wooden sculptures, is facing the threat of crumbling for the lack of repair work and maintenance.

The temple that was built by King Srikara Bhanjadeva of the Bhanja dynasty in 1777 is located 70km from here.

The temple was built out of wood and not stone like other temples in Odisha. The temple walls feature mural paintings that tell stories from the Ramayan, the Krishnalila and the Mahabharat.

The roof of the temple is built on 46 pillars (32 of short pillars and 14 taller ones) and is decorated with intricate designs on wood. The unique wooden sculptures based on mythology and of deities render an aesthetic appeal. Unlike the Konark temple, which faces east, the Biranchi Narayan temple faces west.

While at Konark, the rays of the rising sun fall on the Surya, at the Biranchi Narayan temple the rays of the setting sun fall on Surya’s feet, Bhakta Ramanuj Das, the mahanta or chief priest of the temple said.

The presiding stone deity of the temple is Biranchi Narayan, whose image was recovered from the ruins at Malatigada (a fort in Malati hills near Kendupadar in Ghumsar estate built between 850 and 885 AD). The fort was destroyed by the ravages of time and the idol was buried under the earth from where it was excavated.

However, the ancient monument needs urgent attention, said Das. “A minimum of Rs 5 lakh is needed annually to look after the temple. We try to generate half the amount. The major share of the income comes from the rent charges of the adjoining building of the temple from where the judicial court runs. We get an interest from the fixed deposit of Rs 12 lakh,” the priest said.

The land belonging to the temple is also not being managed properly, he said. There are also no facilities for lodging and boarding of the tourists nearby, although the state tourism department has declared Biranchi Narayan temple a tourist spot.

The archaeology department is also not undertaking any repair work or taking steps to maintain the wooden sculptures and mural paintings of the temple, he said. “The electricity wiring inside the temple is completely damaged. There is no main switch in the temple. I came into contact with a live wire a few days ago when I tried to switch on a light,” said Das.

Also, white ants have damaged the wooden carvings in the sanctum of the temple.

Ashok Nanda, a local resident said that famous artist Asit Mukherjee had made a documentary film on the Biranchi Narayan temple depicting its artistic aspects, which had aroused international interest.

“The temple still attracts a lot of visitors including scholars, art lovers besides devotees. But if the government and authorities of the archaeology department do not take urgent steps to retrieve the precious treasure trove, the rare sculptures and paintings on the temple will be lost forever,” he said.