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HALF–EXCAVATED SITE RICH WITH HISTORY LYING IN NEGLECT

Friday, 13 July 2018 | RADHIKA NAGRATH | Haridwar — Come Shrawan and the twin cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh reverberate with chants of Bom Bom Bhole with the Shiva devotees thronging famous temples to offer holy water to the Shivalingas.  But just a few metres away from the revered Virbhadra temple in Rishikesh lies a half-excavated site dating back to 1st century AD where just two ASI employees do floral offering on the Shivalinga lying in a dilapidated State overgrown with moss and grass out in the open. There is just a plinth on which the historicity of the site is written. The pathetic indifference shown to the site pains those who are acquainted with its hoariness. The Archaeological Survey of India had carried out excavation at the Virbhadra site between 1973 and 1975 under  N C Ghosh, but the reason why the process of digging deeper was stopped midway is not known. Two ASI staffers guard  the site from 9 am to 5 pm and offer flowers on the stones deified as the living symbol of  Lord Shiva, the original creative  energy of the cosmos. There is no other activity within the boundary wall of the site. The excavation brought to light remains of a three cultural phases, says the plaque standing at the site : the early phase (1st Century AD to circa 3rd century AD) is represented by mud brick wall, the middle phase (circa 4th century to circa 5th century AD) is marked by a floor made of brick and relics of a Saiviate temple and the late phase (circa 7th century to circa 8th century AD) is marked by some residential structures made of burnt bricks. Out of the four excavated sites in and around Uttarakhand, Virbhadra comes under Dehradun district. It is an hour away from Haridwar on Rishikesh -Dehradun road, just a few metres away from famous Virbhadra temple, standing near Ganga. It is at an estimated height of 330 metres. Mythology says that Virbhadra was an avatar created through the wrath of Shiva after the sacrificial fire lit on the order of the king Daksh at Kankhal. An ancient Shiva temple, known as Virbhadra Temple, dedicated to him, is situated in the township of Virbhadra in Rishikesh. In an exclusive talk with The Pioneer, Raj Kumar, who was found doing duty at the excavation site, said, “We  remain here from 9 am to 5 pm and guard the place. The excavation work was stopped in 1975 after the locals  from the surrounding areas raised objection to such  digging. Since then no more digging has been carried out. One can see clearly a yajnashala which must have been part of the temple  premises and two stones shaped as Shivalingas. We offer flowers on them daily.  Had the excavation  been carried out more artefacts would have come up  which would take us deeper into the hoary history of the land.” Pointing out the broad stone bricks used in building walls, Raj Kumar said that such kinds of bricks were used during the 5th century AD.

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