Orissa town boasts of 3,000 rare Buddhist relics

by Jajati Karan, CNN-IBN, October 28, 2007

Jajpur, India -- For the past 25 years, villagers in Uttarpratap in Orissa's northern district of Jajpur have been worshiping an ancient idol after they discovered it in the village pond.

Little did they know that it's a figure of Bodhisattva or follower of Buddha belonging to the 7th century.

For 57-year-old Nrusingha Charan Sahoo, an Oriya literature lecturer, this is not the first such discovery.

This is a typical village temple in this area where the villagers worship the statue of Lord Buddha as the village deity.

The villagers did not know much about the deity till Nrusingha Charan Sahoo told them about it's importance.

"We now came to know from him about the idol. But we will continue to worship it and would not give it to anybody,” says Deepak Kumar Mishra, the village priest.

Jajpur district boasts of several rare Buddhist relics. In the last three decades, Nrusingha has collected more than 3,000 rare relics from the area entirely with self-financed resources.

The most important being this rock-cut elephant in 1979, which dates back to the time when Ashoka was King.

“My interest is to discover important relics in the area and identify it. Then I invite researchers and scholars to make further findings on it and draw conclusion,” said Nrusingha Charan Sahoo, a Buddhist researcher.

Many historical scholars and researcher on Buddhism have been benefited by the findings of Nrusingha.

And though he himself has remained largely unknown for his work, that has not deterred him from pursuing his passion.