Sirpur is a small town in one of India’s most backward states: Chhattisgarh. Located on the banks of river Mahanadi, about 50 km from the state capital, Raipur, it was once a blooming city – anciently called Sripur, which finds recurring references in ancient epigraphic records, dating back to the 5th-8th centuries AD. This immensely thriving city was the capital of the Sarbhapuriya and Somvanshi Kings of Dakshin (south) Kosala. From the 6th to 10th centuries, it was also one of key Buddhist centres in India and was visited by Hieun Tsang, the 7th century Chinese pilgrimist and scholar. It is believed that a devastating earthquake in the 12th century completely buried this prosperous town under mud and debris.
Since 1863, Sripur, the Lost City, has been excavated, from time to time, unveiling its past glory. With a broad view of the temples excavated since 1863, the author offers a description of the temples, monuments, and other material unearthed by him during the last eleven years. A.K. Sharma’s excavations, which began in 2000 AD, have brought to light seventeen Siva temple complexes, a trinity temple, eight Buddha viharas, a spiralling palace complex, a chieftain’s abode, six priestly houses, and a model residence of Maha Sivagupta Balarjana, meant for religious occasions, in the Panchayatana Siva temple; besides a huge market complex. Sharma also came upon a seal with the inscription ‘Siva Gupta-Rajas’, (in 7th century Brahmi script), in one of the rooms of Maha Sivagupta’s residence. Generously illustrated with maps, line-drawings and photographs, the book not only unveils some of the hitherto-unknown facets of Sirpur’s rich cultural heritage, but also dispels many a misconception that has been prevalent about the Chhattisgarh region.
A.K. Sharma: a distinguished excavator and extensively published author, retired from the Archaeological Survey of India after a service of 33 years. Thereafter, he has been with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, as an Officer on Special Duty.