The Archaeological finding or material remains provide a wide range of knowledge on the ancient history of Odisha.
Knowledge of pre-history from material remains
Valentine Bali’s exploration in 1875 at Angul, Talcher, Dhenkanal and Bursapalli exposed the pre-historic sites of Odisha. Paramananda Acharya of Mayurbhanj and C. Worman of Harvard University had discovered the famous paleolithic site at Kulina. R.P. Chanda’s works on Mayurbhanj and G.C. Mahapatra’s location of extensive paleolithic sites in Central and Northern Odisha are great contributions to early history of Odisha. The discovery of Asokan rock art at Dhauli and his edicts at Dhauli and Jaugada threw significant light on Kalingan history of third century B.C. Jaugada was another fortified city which served the purpose of Asoka’s administration.
Sources of information through excavations by ASI and others
In 1949 a new chapter opened in the history of Odisha with the excavation at Sisupalgarh conducted by B.B. Lal. A fort with impressive gateways led historians to identify it with Kalinganagari which is assumed as the capital city of Kharavela. The art and architecture of Khandagiri and Udayagiri added another source to the history of ancient Odisha. Further, the site of Sisupalgarh has been excavated several times by R.K. Moanty and Monica L. Smith discovering the material remains which gives us a good idea on the socio-economic life of the people of the then Odisha. The excavation at Manikpatna and Golbai speaks about the maritime activities of the people of Odisha and also mentions about the social and economic life of the people. The recent excavations at Harirajpur and other places by K.K. Basa has revealed many unexplored aspects of ancient history of Odisha.
Excavations of Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitgiri
Devala Mitra’s major excavation conducted at Ratnagiri brought to lime light the imposing Buddhist monasteries and stupas with famous Nagabandha. It flourished between 5th-13th century A.D. as a centre of Buddhist religion, art and architecture. Two other Buddhist sites at Udayagiri and Lalitgiri near Ratnagiri project the remains of Buddhist and Hindu religion. Sri Madhavapura Mahavihara and Simhaprastha Mahavihara which flourished between 7th- 8th century A.D. was located at Udayagiri. Lalitgiri is a famous site that contains Buddhist stupas, monasteries, images of Buddha, three Buddhist relics and images of Brahmanic divinities. Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitgiri also yielded archaeological remains relating to Brahmanic religion, pottery, terracotta plaques, iron implements, figurines of animals and mother goddess. These three sites are also known as the ‘Diamond Triangle’ of Odishan history and archaeology. All the three sites contained large number of material remains like pottery, terracotta plaques, iron implements, articles of household, figurines of mother goddesses and animals which gives an idea of the dominance of Buddhism in that region.
Material remains of Western Odisha
The material remains have also played an important part in revealing the history of Western Odisha. The temple-complex at Ranipur Jhanal in Bo1angr contains several temples. The most important of them are the 64-Yogini temple and Somesvara Siva temple. The site developed around 7th-8th century A.D. The material remains through excavations at Boudh, Maraguda( also known as Jonk) valley, Sonepur, Amathgarh, Kharligarh, Manikgarh etc. have thrown a good deal of light on the history of Western Odisha. Partial excavations in some of them have brought to light structures and icons which are assigned to the time of the Nalas (Cir. 350-500 A.D.) and the Sarabhapuriyas (Cir. 500-700 A.D.). The site of Podagarh (Navarangpur district), the capital town Puskari of the Nalas also contains a good amount of relics scattered over a wide area.
Material remains of southern and the south-western parts of Odisha
The southern and the south-western parts of Odisha have projected a few specimens of Pidha or Bhadra deulas (temples). The Gokarnesvara group on Mahendra mountain in the Gajapati district and the Nilakantthesvara group on the Jagamunda hill in Rayagada district are the best examples Of this kind. The existence of Sundara Mahadeva on the bank of river Rusikulya has given opportunity to study the origin of this cult that developed during Purusottamadeva of Gajapati dynasty.
On the other hand, the temples of Odisha also provide sources of information for the reconstruction of history of Odisha. The typical Odishan style, the Sikhara or rekha (curvilinear) also known as Kalingan style of architecture developed in 6th_7th century A.D. in Bhubaneswar. The Laxmanesvara, Bharatesvara and Satrughnesvara group of temples marked the early phase of temple architecture in Odisha. The Parsuramesvara group is a transition to the ornate Muktesvara which later on developed in Lingaraja, Jagannatha and Konarka. The Lingaraj, Jagannath, and Konarka marked the perfection of Kalingan style of architecture. The Black Pagoda marked the perfect stage of temple architecture as well as iconography in Odisha in comparison to the other temples of Odisha. These temples along with other temples like Ganesh temple at Panchama, Biranchi-Narayan temple at Palia, Samalesvari temple at Sambalpur etc throw light on Saivism, Vaishnavaism, Saktism, Ganapatya Cult, Sun worship etc. Thus, the material remains have been adequately used for the reconstruction of the history of ancient Odisha.