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    Prachi Valley

    Just concluded excavations are casting a new light on an ancient and rich civilization on Odisha soil. Prachi Valley civilization predates both the Mohen-jo-Daro and Harrapan sites. The history needs to be rewritten so that the Prachi Mahatmya will find its rightful place in it. 

    Unearthed ancient artifacts could provide a richer understanding of social life and environmental conditions of the ancient civilization - that believed to have flourished five thousand years ago at the site. 

    The sacred River 

    Like the puranic origin of rivers such as Ganga, Narmada or Godavari, the sacred origin of the Prachi is profound in our ancient scriptures. The depiction of Prachi been emphasized in the Uttarakhand of Padma Purana as Prachi Mahatmya. 

    It is believed the gigantic sized stones required for the Konark Sun temple were transported by huge boats through river Prachi. The traditions suggest that at one time extensive trade and commerce was carried on in this valley. 

    Tributary to Mahanadi, river Prachi presently flows from Phulnakhara, flowing about a distance of sixty kilometers, it meets the Kalinga Sagar (Bay of Bengal) through several mouths between Kalikanagara in the north to Ramchandi in Puri district. 

    Once a vibrant navigable river now reduced to a rivulet, Prachi is a dried-up river, which is only visible during the monsoons. Blame it on reckless unplanned networks of zigzag roads and rampant construction on its alluvial plain that has gradually choked the river. 

    Several scholars claim that the tributary of the Mahanadi river system is older than that of the Ganga. 

    Cultural landscape 

    The Prachi river flows over sixty kilometers length with a catchment area of around six hundred square kilometers is part of the Mahanadi delta in Odisha along the eastern coast been an important topographical as well as the cultural landscape of India. It comprises parts of the present-day districts of Puri, Khurda, Cuttack, and Jagatsingpur. 

    This valley region which roughly spreads over an area of 3600 km, had come under the rules of several dynasties of ancient Kalinga. Prominent among them is the Chedi, the Murunda, the Mana, the Vigraha, the Bhaumakara, the Somavamsi, the Suryavamsis and the Gangas. Prachi valley trough the landscape of time seems to have carved out a distinct position with regard to culture, art, and architecture. 

    Scriptural References 

    Reference to Prachi is found in Puranic literature such as Markandeya Purana, Kapila Samhita, the Suryasamhita, the Gyanakosha, the Sambapurana, the Bramhapurana, the Skandapurana. 

    There are also special mentions of Prachi in the Hatigumpha inscriptions and Prachi Mahatmya. Scholars also cite a reference to the river in Odia Mahabharata which was composed in the 14th century by poet Balaram Das. 

    De facto museum 

    The precious architectural remains of Prachi valley have survived since the ancient era to modern times. It seems to be a natural museum of our unique artistic heritage. It provides a unique opportunity to study and trace the gradual evolution of temple architecture and sculptural art that Odisha is famous for. Prachi is a very important field of study and research for an in-depth understanding of our history and culture. 

    Being so rich and diverse in character with unexplainable glory remains a unique example of religious and cultural synthesis. Prachi Valley contributes immensely to the history of Odisha and makes it outstandingly glorious. The realms of our history remain incomplete without the study of ancient sites, monuments, and antiquities of Prachi Valley. 

    The heritage monuments 

    The valley which once cradled glorious civilization carries many archaeological remains in the form of temples and sculptures starting from early historic to the medieval period. It has witnessed the blending of varied religious cults, which included Jainism, Buddhism, Shaktism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism. 

    Prachi river valley is replete with numerous Siva lingam, saktis, Linga with Saktipithas and several other Saiva sculptures like Panchamukha, Trimukha Siva, Ugrarupa Siva, Umasahita Murti and Soumyarupas of Siva. 

    Ardhanarisvara image of Lord Siva found at Vilavesvara temple of Paidapatana, in which Siva and his divine consort Sakti are blended to form oneness of an androgynous deity. 

    Ekapada Bhairava with one leg is being worshipped in the Sobhanesvara temple at Niali and the Ajaekapada Bhairava is also worshipped on temple walls of the Gangesvari temple of Bayalisbati. 

    Shared by the Author; Source: Unknown

    More temples 

    Prachi valley also preserves various Shakti deities like Durga, Parvati, Camunda, Varahi, Mangala, Manasi, etc. Durga images are found at Bhiligrama, Astaranga, Bayalisbati, Kudapatana, Ambapada, and Citra etc. Camunda images are found in the Grameswar temple of Sauma, Angeswar temple of Pitapada, Chamunda of Kakatapura, etc. Garudipanchana Bhagalpur has always drawn the attention of devotees. Mangala of Kakatapur is the most popular goddess of the Prachi river valley. Prachi valley also preserves various temples like Varahi temple at Chaurasi and Durga temple at Motia. 

    The ancient temples of Prachi Valley include Nilakantheswar temple, Sovanesvar temple, Svapnesvara temple and Varahi temple which are the product of Bhaumakara rulers. The second phase was marked by the temples of Siddheswara, Rameswara and Sovaneswar built during the Somavamsi rule. 

    The last phase is represented by the temples like Madhavananda, Bayalisabati and Visnupur temple, which of the Ganga period. The design evolved from Triratha to Saptaratha. The square temples developed into well proportionate Rekha temples. 

    Pre-Christian era 

    Rich finds dating back to the Chalcolithic period have been unearthed during ASI excavations. The discovery of four thousand-years-old weapons made from bones and animal fossils has evoked a lot of excitement among archeologists. Besides bone weapons, several blacks and red earthen pots, stone axe, deer horns, fossils of fish, sharks and turtles were discovered from the excavation site. 

    ASI has discovered pottery pieces, and tools made of stones and bones believed to be of the pre-Christian era from a mound in Jalalpur village of Cuttack district. 

    Rural Settlement 

    The excavation has revealed a rural settlement of the Chalcolithic period (3,500 — 4,000 years). The people used to hunt and fish with bone and ceramic tools. Such discoveries indicated that a rural settlement might have thrived during that period. Further discoveries show that there been continuity in the progress of rural culture from a pre-historic era. Excavation carried out in Jalalpur village has unearthed remnants of axe, adze, celts and thumbnail scrappers chiseled from stones, harpoons, point, and stylus made of bones and potteries with marks of paintings. 

    Subsistence economy 

    Rich materials found from excavation sites indicate that the people had a subsistence economy and they largely relied on available natural resources for their basis needs through agriculture, fishing, and hunting. 

    ASI researchers assume that the bones found during excavations have belonged to deer species and bovidae. Samples of tortoiseshell, dolphin and shark teeth and fish bones indicated that the settlement been closer to the coastal area. The Discovery of rice grains and moong daal grains indicates they were pros in agriculture. 

    Mysteries of twelve Trenches 

    ASI excavators came across a couple of circular wattle and daub structures, which were predominantly used by the population to take shelter during the pre-Christian era. A dozen of trenches being dug simultaneously for the purpose. It would be no surprise to know if the eastern coast was vulnerable to devastating cyclones back then as well. 

    Copper Stone age Civilisation 

    In Niali block where excavation has been expedited by the ASI team after recovery of ceramic relics and artifacts of Prachi valley civilization believed to be from the Copper Stone Age. Tools and weapons made of clay and stones, earthen pots, animal and bird bones belong to the Copper Stone Age. 


    Further research is expected to throw light on whether there was any cultural link with other contemporary civilizations. And what happened to once-vibrant civilization that was established around the Prachi river, and how it declined. 

    Prachi river valley is an extremely important geographical tract. Innumerable monuments of various religious sects have survived the vagaries of time and onslaughts of nature over centuries. 

    Quite obliviously we have been living on a site where this great civilization once flourished. Watching only the fragments that pop up to the surface, while having no notion of the glorious civilization of which our ancestors were once a part. 

    [ASI have concluded the excavations and the report is awaited. Most of the informations are in the public domain, collected from news archives, articles quoting ASI officials and experts. ^ Not a scholarly article, nor meant for any academic purpose. Views and opinions expressed are personal.]

    Hrushikesh Swain

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