Silchar, Dec 10, 2023, IANS
Silchar, Dec 10 (IANS) Sculptures dating back to the 8th century reflecting both Hindu and Buddhist influences, have been discovered by a team from Assam University at a hill near the Assam-Mizoram border.
Ganesh Nandi, assistant professor at Assam University's Department of Visual Arts, and researcher Binoy Paul claimed that in order to get to their destination they had to trek through forests for nearly an entire night from Assam's Hailakandi district and pass the state border between Assam and Mizoram.
They said that the sculptures were discovered in the Kolalian area, which is close to Mizoram's Mamit district in Assam’s Hailakandi. The majority of the people that live there are members of the Reang tribe, who are Hindu devotees.
Nandi claimed that these stone carvings resemble the sculptures in Tripura's Unakoti and Pilak, which date back to the 7th and 9th centuries.
He said, "We think that the sculptures found in Kolalian were created during the same period."
According to the professor, there was just one full-sized statue that resembled Lord Buddha in attire and style, but had more of a feminine appearance.
"We cannot be sure if it is Buddha or a Hindu deity but the art form has similarities with the Buddha idols found in Cambodia,” he stated.
According to Nandi, Maharaja Dhanya Manikya sent his general, Rai Kachak, to this region to subdue some Reang rebels and performed a Durga Puja there.
This little Reang group was one of the many small kingdoms that belonged to Tripura's Manikya kingdom.
“As per the local folktales, Rai Kachak came here for a few days and offered Durga Puja on this peak," Nandi remarked.
According to the ‘Rajamala’ (the history of the Manikya Kings of Tripura), Rai Kachak served as Dhanya Manikya's general who was the Maharaja of Tripura from 1490 to 1515 CE. Dhanya Manikya built numerous temples with exquisite stone carvings, such as the Tripura Sundari Temple in Udaypur.
Nevertheless, there is no proof that the stone structures in Kolalian date from that era.
According to Nandi, the artistic style of these sculptures is reminiscent of the Gupta and Paul eras (750–1200 CE).
"We may conclude that this is strikingly similar to the stone works completed during the Gupta and Paul periods given the style of the stone works, the embellishments, and the attire of the idols. These allusions can also be found in Unakoti and Pilak.
"I hope this place has more idols," Nandi remarked.
According to ‘Rajmala’, Cachar was formerly known as the Kingdom of Hidamba and was a part of the Tripura Kingdom for a while, he claimed.
"These sculptures might have been made during that time. Before drawing any firm conclusions, we'll need to conduct an extensive investigation," the professor stated.
After taking images of the damaged idols, Nandi conducted additional research and discovered that the embellishments, particularly those on the female structures, resembled stone works from the Paul and Gupta period.
Nandi and Paul claimed that although the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and other researchers missed this site, the villagers were guarding the stone structures because they believed that they were sacred to them.
"The locals from the Reang community told us when we arrived that no one had ever gone there for research. These sculptures are without a doubt the oldest examples of this type of art in Barak Valley's history, based on our research," Nandi said.
The Kolalian locals claimed that there were numerous pieces of art across the entire hill, but now there are just a few that remain.
Pitaram Reang, a local, said, "We believe in the Hindu religion and we have been offering Puja to these idols as Hindu Gods and Goddesses for generations."
According to Pradip Kumar Reang, another local, there were forts and numerous other stone structures associated with Reang tribal monarchs in Kolalian, Rengdil, and the surrounding districts. However, the majority of these structures were demolished by foreign invaders.
He said that they were constantly contacting journalists, scholars, and residents of mainland India to draw attention to these pieces because they thought doing so would have preserved the remaining sculptures.
"We honour them as Ganesh, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Shiva, and Durga. The notion that surrounds our entire civilization is this one. For many years, the priest's family has been carrying out their obligations. Although we are weak, exposed, and less protected, our principles will never waver," the local added.
Jayanta Bhushan Bhattacharjee, a senior researcher and former vice-chancellor of Assam University Silchar, stated that despite working on the historical sites of Barak Valley for decades, no one realised that such significant efforts were made in this region.
Regarding the geographical history of this region, Bhattacharjee stated that throughout the early centuries, this place had a thriving civilization and a triangle connecting Tripura, Srihatta (Sylhet), and the Dimasa kingdom.
According to him, Kolalian stands close to the triangle that was formerly a part of Surma Valley.
"If we look at the geography, Unakoti, Pilak and Kolalian are on a typical geographical route and it is very much possible that the sculptures found in Kolalian are more than 1000 years old," he stated.
The region's history, according to Bhattacharjee, is mainly oral, and there is a dearth of proof everywhere. However, the finds made by Nandi and his associates could alter the course of events in Barak Valley and the neighboring territories.
"Although many historical monuments have been lost, they now need to be safeguarded and conserved. There might be further work there when the Archaeological Survey of India visits," he said.
According to an ASI Guwahati official, they will visit the area and Assam University will send a team with them.
40, Akhaura Road, Agartala 799 001, Tripura, INDIA.
Administrative Section: 0381-2315907
News Section: 0381-2329560
© Tripuratimes.com. All Rights Reserved.