The book "Sculptur Art of Sirpur" gives a detailed description of Brahmanical, Buddhist, Jain and secular sculptures recovered from Sirpur in Chhattisgarh. Both minor and major sculptures show an advanced sculptural art with a linga of native art that flourished in Chhattisgarh right from 2nd C. B.C.
Mathura art in famous but after recent excavations in Chhattisgarh in general and Sirpur in particular it is clear that Chhattisgarh art was in no way inferior to Mathura art.
Due to secular structure at Sirpur art of sirpur shows impact of one religion on the art of another.
A.K.Sharrna is known for his contribution in Archaeology. During his 33 Years of carrier in Archaeological Survey of India he explored and excavated throughout the country and has published tall his excavation reports which are eighteen in numbers, the last being Ancient temple of Sirpur.
He edit the yearly research magazine Puramtham' and Pura-jagat.
Apart From many assignments presently he is Archaeological Advisor Govt of Chhattisgarh. He is the excavator of Mansas, a Vakataka site and Sirpur, both c)I which were excavated for more than ten years.
Prabhat Kumar Singh, he is employed as Supervisor in the Department of Archaeology, ( ;ovr 11 Chhattisgarh and worked at Sirpur since 2005 I le excavated at Modku Oweep, a Kolachuri temple site, the report of which is completed. Ile is the (o-author ()I the book "Buddhist Bronzes Irony Sirpur" and author of many research articles.
Praveen Tirkey, he is employed as Excavation Asstt. , in the Department of Archaeology, Govt of Chhattisgarh. I le is working in Sirpur since 2008 and has many articles to his credit.
On the basis of classic beauty of the sculptures and their iconography, the mfirtikala of Sirpur holds a remarkable position in the art history of Central India particular and India in generaL Sirpur has been a principal centre for culture of South-Kosala (ancient Chhattisgarh) region. Amongst the historical sites of the state possessing scattered ruins of tangible cultural heritage, it holds the first position. Inimitable paradigm of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain art and architecture are available here. Its invaluable cultural importance, attracts not only scholars but also inquisitive lay man, pilgrims and domestic and foreign tourists.
Apart from ancient art, it was centre of polity, education, medical facilities, trade and commerce, and religions as welL Mahanadi (the Citrotpala Gaitga as stated in Mahabharata) had played a wide role to increase the spiritual value of the place. Pilgrimage inscriptions found in ancient temples of Sirpur indicate that it was a great pilgrimage centre also. Today also people gather in the month of between Parktima to Mahagivaratri, to celebrate a fortnight long fair, known as maghi mela.
Enormous epigraphical evidences that have came to light from Sirpur are not less important. These revealed not only ancient history but literature also. The Sirpur copper-plates of Sudevaraja and gold coin of Prasannamatra indicate that Sirpur was a well developed city during Sarabhapuriya period. The stone inscriptions of Paricluvarits'i queen Vasata and his son Mahagivagupta Balajuna along with his numerous copper-plates proclaimed that Sirpur was 'City of temples' and an important Saiva-pitha of Daksina-kosala. His time is called golden era in the history of ancient Chhattisgarh. The Pancluvargi rulers of Sirpur were Hindu by faith but they gave patronage to the society of other religions and sects also. It is why that the epigraphs, monuments and sculptures of this site exhibit true Indian secularism.
Starting from Alexander Cunningham, J. D. Beglar, H. Cusins, Kilhorn, Pt. Lochan Pd. Pandeya, E Hultsch, Roybahadur Hiralal, Dr. V. V. Mirashi, Dr. M. G. Dixit, Balchandra Jain, D. C. Sircar, Prof. A. M Shashtri, Dr. S. N. Rajguru, Dr. K. D. Bajpai, S. K. Pandey, Dr. Shriram Nema, Prof. L S. Nigam, G. L Raykwar, Rahul Singh and S. S. Yadav, there is a substantial list of good many scholars who have worked on different aspects of the history and culture of Sirpur in particular and Chhattisgarh in general, but nobody has done any consolidated work on the sculptural art of Sirpur till date. This work is aimed to fill up this gap.
Sirpur (latitude 21°25' N; longitude 82°11' E, MSL 262 m.) is a small village on the right bank of River Mahanadi in Mahasamund District of Chhattisgarh state, India. It was the 'Capital' of Daksina Kosala (ie. ancient Chhattisgarh) in early medieval period during the reign of last Sarabhapuriya kings Pravararaja, Sudevaraja and Pancluvains'ins. The original name of the place was `Sripura' which found initially cited in copper plate charter of Sarabhapuriya king Sudevara ja and so, scholars admit that this place started working as Capital town from his reign. Possibly, the name Sripura was given by them (Sarabhapuriya) after Sridevi ' because it is well known that they were orthodox Visnuitte and being so Sridevi ' would definite be their kuladevi.
Being a capital, Sirpur had got direct patronage. This is why influence of individual sentiments, interest and peculiar conditions of the time of different rulers could be seen on the development of art and architecture at Sirpur. It suddenly collapsed after the downfall of its patrons.
More than a decade long excavations at Sirpur have brought to light, royal palace, Prime ministers house, residential area, numerous Siva and Yugala temples (both iva and Visim found enshrined in, separate sanctums of one temple), temple of trinity, panciiyatana temples, veda-pathasala, Saiva and Vaisnava mathas, Buddha and Jain vihar -as, priest houses, temple shops, a hospital, shops cum row houses of traders in sprawling ancient market area which is datable to 6thc. B.C.
According to archaeological sources unearthed so far, undoubtedly, it was a most important centre for art and architecture of Daksina Kosala where knowledge of making all kinds of sculptures and edifices achieved a significant purity of form and reached to apex. Its mine of statues and monuments proved that it was confluence of ancient Indian religions Jain, Buddhist and Brahmanica It has also been the richest source of red and yellow sand stone and black lateritic stone images of Pancluvathsi Art-school, and also yielded an extensive series of Buddhist bronzes.
Sirpur is such a place where discovered cultural material is not associated with a particular age but with different periods. The temples, monasteries, yajnasala, Ved-pathasala, sculptures of gods and goddesses of different cults and epigraphs reveal the religious thoughts of the ruling family and contemporary people.
In last quarter of the 19th century, J.D. Beglar and Alexander Cunningham2 made systematic and extensive explorations. Their efforts brought to light hidden remains of Sirpur. But till their time, it was mainly famous for its wide-ranging but ruined art-architectural and epigraphically remains including great Laksmana temple, Rat temple, Gandharvegvara temple (rebuilt in Bhonsala period by using old material) and Surang did (unexcavated). Cunningham noticed a massive Buddha head made of sand-stone south-west of ChotaKila, near a ruined temple and concluded that Buddhism in Sirpur was ultimately buried, and, possibly cautiously rooted out by the complete spoil of all its temples and statues.
A sudden discovery that could have changed total scenario about Buddhism at Sirpur, lost its actual value due to lack of proper reporting. The chief-priest of Gandharvegvara temple late Shri Bhikhamdas Goswami found a hoard of bronze-images in 1939, during plundering of ancient bricks and stones for new constructions. Number of bronzes was about sixty. In 1945, they came in possession of the then malagujara of Sirpur Shri Shyam Sundar AgrawaL4 Three of them, were given to Muni Kantisagar5 by him, out of which one was sent to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavana, Mumbai.6 Later on Central museum, Nagpur and Mahant Ghasidas Memorial museum, Raipur obtained two and four images of that hoard respectively. Whereabouts of rest of the icons is unknown. Most icons of that hoard were of Buddhist gods and goddesses, comprising Buddha seated in bhusparfa and varada mudra, Bodhisattva AvalokiteSvara, Padmapani, Vajrapani, Manjusri and Tara.. They indicate that Buddhism was well established in Sirpur. Only two metal images of first Tirthankara Adinatha have been reported from that hoard? One metal image of Visnu has also been reported from the forest of Fusera nearby Sirpur.
New episode of archaeology was set in motion at Sirpur in 1953, when Dr. M.G. Dixit9 started excavations here. He conducted excavations at many sites in three successive seasons but could not get any remains prior to 5th century A.D. On the basis of a gold coin of Sarabhapuriya king Prasannamatra, he considered that the antiquity of Sirpur begins from 5th century onward. He exposed three Buddha vihara but except Ananda Prabha kuti vihara and Swastika-vihara the third which he had named as Bhikesuni (lady monks) vihara got ruined due to lack of proper conservation and further maintenance. Now, it has been cleaned and conserved during present excavation (2006) under the directorship of the first author. Dixit unearthed a variety of stone sculptures along with some metal figures of Buddhist deities and other ritualistic objects viz. stupa and vajra during his excavations in 1956. He has recovered five bronze-images of previous hoard from local inhabitants and sent it to Mahant Ghasidas museum Raipur.
From 1999-2000 to 2003-04, excavations at Sirpur under the aegis of Bodhisattva Nagar juna Smaraka Sarhstha Va Anusatildhana Kendra, Nagpur and then in continuation from 2004-05 to 2010-11 on behalf of Department of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh the site has been excavated by the first author.
Architecture, Sculpture and paintings are the three great arts which appeal to the spirit through the eyes. There is no reference to image worship in the Rgveda Similarly the concept of a formless God in the Indus civilization is a surprising feature. Tribal society is centered on the tribal god and obedience to the tribal chief and tribal laws. The river itself was deity to primitive people. Ritual was devised which made each woman a goddess and each man a god at best for the time of worship, and their union was holy. It has been shown by various scholars that the art of man in its very beginning is mainly religious in character. Grundwedel and Burgess13 observe "the most important basis for the development of an independent art among any people lies in its religion."
Della Setta14 has shown the intimate connection which exists between the art and religion of various nations of the world. This deep association is more pronounced in the case of early Indians. Grundwedel says "the religious character, so deeply rooted in the national life of the Indian races has also contributed as the guiding principle in the art . In broader sense, the term iconography really signifies the interpretative aspect of the religious art of a country, which becomes manifest in diverse ways.
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