Mrunal Manmay Dash

Aragarh, also known as Airagarh, is a Buddhist destination in Odisha, situated north of the Daya river in Godiput-Matiapada panchayat under Delang block in Puri. It is a hill located 256 feet above sea level and stretches for over 3 km from east to west.

The discovery of broken Buddhist icons made of ingenious rock and the carving of Naga Kanyas and Gaja Sinhas in the four pillars of the temple offer ample testimony of the Buddhist memorial. The site is said to have flourished between 1st-2nd BC and 10th-11th AD.

However, the historic Aragarh hill is now lying abandoned. The area has turned into a forest with bushes growing everywhere. Decades of neglect due to alleged government apathy have turned the area into a jungle and a den for drug addicts.

“Buddhist monks used this Aragarh hill to meditate and worship. They had created ‘Buddhist Vihars’ on these hills and stayed there too,” said a local Saroj Kumar Panda.

Another local, Bijay Samantray said, “Nobody is taking responsibility for Aragarh hill. I heard recently some money is sanctioned for its renovation. But I can’t see anything more than cutting off some bushes here and there. Nobody knows what happened to the money.”

The idol of Buddha was not worshipped in India until the first century AD. There was only symbolic worship. This stupa is a shining proof of that. Such sites have also been discovered at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and Nagarjunakunda in Andhra Pradesh.

Near the site there are two-storied Buddhist architecture carved in stone belonging to 6th and 7th centuries. The upper part is a meditation temple while the lower part is a cave.

As per reports, a grant of Rs 1 crore has been announced after repeated demands for its restoration. However, due to the upcoming elections, there is a question in the minds of the people whether it is an eyewash for the voters.

“The ASI had earlier undertaken some renovation works. But it is not sufficient. The situation of Aragarh hill has gone from bad to worse with antisocial elements making it their den. A local committee should be made with elderlies and youths of the nearby villages. Only then the historic site can be restored and maintained,” said a local, Rajesh Satrushalya.