The next time you run over a strange object on the side of the road, take a second look as it could be historically significant. One such idol has been spotted in Karnataka’s Udupi.
On the side of the road in Belakur in Udupi district, an old figurine made of granite was stuck on the pavement of a road. People ran their vehicles over it every day but a few days ago, the pictures of the idol began circulating on WhatsApp.
It turned out that the idol is a historically significant one. It is of the fertility goddess Lajja Gauri, who is worshipped even to this day, in several parts of Karnataka.
Shivakant Bajpai from the Archeological Survey of India, saw the images being circulated, and found out where exactly it was situated. He told the local media that he is working towards excavating the rare idol, and has requested the local authorities including the SP and Deputy Commissioner of Udupi to take charge of the idol.
The ASI has not yet dated the idol. However, initial estimates suggest that the idol is from the 6th century. Further studies will give more information on the idol.
“Lajja Gauri is usually not a principal deity in a temple. They usually have it as a sculpture in a temple. Lajja Gauri is known to be worshipped in the tantric tradition, however, for fertility. It has a distinct ethnographic feature of a nude woman sitting in a squat position with the knees apart,” says Remya VP, an expert in temple architecture in Karnataka, who works in the Karnataka Central University, Gulbarga.
Remya adds that the goddess is usually worshipped in North Karnataka, and that “it’s a little surprising that they found it in South Karnataka.”
Remya says that it doesn't look like the statue belongs in Belakur. "My observation from the photographs is that the artefact does not seem to belong to the spot it was found in. Rather, it looks like it happened to be on the spot out of context. The sculpture must have been part of a structure, like a temple. But it might have had ended up there accidentally, possibly during transportation or something,” she says.
She adds that unless we know the original location of the idol, it is hard to conclude whether the cult of the goddess was present in coastal Karnataka. "The priority should be on locating the original context of the sculpture, but it's certainly very rare find," she adds.
As it was found in Belakur, in Udupi, Rangaraj NS, an Ancient Historian who worked in Mysore University, says that the place is a historically significant. “Belakur is important because it was the seat of the Alapur kingdom. This kingdom was only in South Canara, and archeologists have excavated it in the past. There, they have found many sati stones in a single place, so in my opinion it is not that surprising to find the Lajja Gauri statue there, as these practices are all linked.”