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Adivaraha @vajrayudha11
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“Divine in the stone...ancient art of Northwestern Aryavart.” Part - II

Artistic heritage of medieval Eastern Punjab (Indian Punjab) - Forgotten legacy of the past & its modern theft.
When it comes to medieval Indian art, people talk about celebrated sculptural art of Pala-Senas in Bihar-Bengal, famous elaborate carvings of Hoysalas, Graceful art of Rajput kingdoms and so on.

But Punjab is seen nowhere in this golden age of India!
Not so long ago I compiled a thread about the sculptural art of Western Punjab and Afghanistan shading some light on artistic heritage of forsaken land of Aryavart

What about Indian side of Punjab? Was it part of the same artistic trend as we see on the other side of border?
Answer comes from Dholwaha - This otherwise ordinary looking village of Hoshiarpur district probably derived its name from "Dhavala-vaha" - White rivulate - a stream with crystalline water on the banks of which it is situated - an apt name chosen by ancients I suppose!
To give some context - around 8th/9th century North India was experiencing peace and prosperity under the Pratiharas. Ruling from Imperial city of Kannauj, their influence at point extended from Bihar and Bengal on one hand to Multan on other.
It was also the period of great artistic and architectural florescence, remnants of which are scattered in many parts of north India.

Go through this thread to get some glimpses into artistic excellence of the period
Perhaps with caravans of Hindu & Jain trader same artistic spirit reached to Dholwaha - which started flourishing as a market town on trade route from Punjab plains to Hills at the same time.

Images: 1) Head of Vishnu & 2) Uma Mahesh Pratihara period, Dholwaha
Many temples were established in the town as was the spirit of time and graced by the divinity carved in stone as shown above. Temples themselves were artistic excellence of par as the remaining evidence suggests
Sadly this profusion of artistic activity came to an abrupt end around the end of the 10th century. With weakening authority of Pratiharas Jihadi hordes flooded N. India. And Temple towns of Punjab like Dholwaha stood first in their way.
Temple building activity was still in progress at Dholwaha even in its final days as suggested by many unfinished Murtis with chisel marks all over them found from the place.
Ruins remained buried or unnoticed until a century ago when while digging for a Thana, people found sculptures buried beneath the land. Subsequent Archaeological surveys established the antiquity of the town.
Much of it lies scattered around Dholwaha. However many sculptures have been removed to the Archaeological Museum at Hoshiarpur. (Look at the Murti of Garuda in left upper corner!)
Dholwaha however wasn't the only one of its kind. From the British period onwards many exquisite sculptures have been found immersed in ponds or buried beneth earth (to protect them from Jihadis) or still in active worship in remote villages of Punjab.
For instance this exquisitely sculpted image of Uma Mahesh was found by the village Panch of Ghanuali from the village pond. 1000 years ago Hindus immersed it to prevent it from being destroyed/polluted by the Jihadis.
Similarly this masterly sculpted ~1000 years old Murti of Sri Vishnu was found from the village of Janer near Moga. It was discovered by villagers while digging a part of the rain water drain. Now in active worship by villagers.
But perhaps most undamaged and complete sculpture of Sri Vishnu dating back to Pratihara period was found from the Velore near Ferozepur.

Just divine...isn't it?
Another Murti of Divine Sri Hari from the Punjab has made it was to Met Museum of NY. Just zoom it to enjoy its elaborate details!

Tragedy is that it is the only colour image for entire thread that I could get! That is how much we cherished our antiquities in India, friends!
But if only that would have been happily ever after of this story. What many perceives as divinity is perceived as mere antiquity by others.

What survived Jihad is now facing modern art theft courtesy to combined nexsus of Sarkari babus and smugglers!
So for instance this Murti of Vishnu was last seen in 1970s in a house in Khanpur. What looks like a masterpiece of Pratihara period from the image is completely untraceable at present!
But the most shocking case happened at Mard Khera. This ~1000 yers old Elegant, spectacular & almost complete image of Aditya was found by villagers while digging a mound in 1980.

It soon became center of devotion for locals. Eventually Stolen in 2003 and never recovered!
Locals suspect appearance of ASI in the locality have something to do with the theft. And judging by whats going on in museums of Punjab their claim may not be completely misplaced.
Since atleast last 4 decades Museum after museum of Punjab is being drained of its antiquities - Coins, miniature paintings, daggers and gun, belongings of martyrs & sculptures and being replaced by replicas. Possible only because of the nexsus of Sarkari babus & Art smuggler
What is most shocking is the claim that local officials used to bribe seniors from IAS and PCS cadres to get favors from them in 80s and 90s.

In any other nation such large scale theft of heritage would have been national news..But here...
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