Locally known as ‘Korunga Gumpha’, the cave is about 4 kms from Shankarpur Chowk on the road that connects Athagarh to Dhenkanal
The symbols in the short engravings (inside the cave) pertain either to Buddhism or Jainism and are similar to the famous caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri in Bhubaneswar. It might have been the dwelling place for Buddhist or Jain monks of that era
- Deepak Kumar| heritage enthusiast
Cuttack: There are several places in Odisha which bespeak of Buddhism and Jainism. One such place is the historic rock-cut cave at the top of a hillock about 8 kms away from Athagarh town in Cuttack. Locally known as ‘Korunga Cave’ or ‘Korunga Gumpha’, the cave is located about 4 kms from Shankarpur Chowk on the road that connects Athagarh to Dhenkanal.
Two adventurists and heritage enthusiasts Deepak Kumar Nayak and Subhasish Dash explored the area and found many engravings which testify to the presence of the two faiths there.
Interacting with Orissa POST, Deepak said, “From a large shaped Khandolite stone the ancient cave was probably hewed out.” At the backend wall of the cave, a half-finished antechamber is found. The entrance is separated by a pillar at the middle. An inclined stone with bed-like structure is also there inside the cave. Two lines of ancient inscriptions are visible on Northern wall of the cave. Taking into consideration the palaeographical styles of inscriptions, the construction period of the cave may be dated back to 8th Century i.e. the Bhaumakara dynasty’s regime in Odisha, he added. “The symbols present in the short engraving indicate its connection either to Buddhism or Jainism similar to the famous caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri in Bhubaneswar.” It might have been the dwelling place for Buddhist or Jain monks of that era.
Deepak further added that the cave is located at an average elevation of 600 feet above the sea level. Reaching there was an extremely tough task for the explorer duo. They were assisted by two locals from the nearby village—Narendra Rout and Suvendu Nayak. They started climbing to the hilltop from the Southern end of the hill and after a tough trekking through wild bushes, thorns and slippery path; they finally reached the hilltop and located the ancient cave.
It may be mentioned here that the cave has not yet been recognised by Archaeological Survey of India or the State Archaeology Department and so it remains in dilapidated condition sans any maintenance. Dense vegetations have grown outside the cave making it difficult to reach the cave. Though few archaeological documents list some information about the cave, however, the site is largely unknown to most apart from few local residents. The site can also be developed as a tourist destination due to its scenic views and natural beauty if proper action can be taken in this regard. Archaeology officer Jeevan Patnaik also feels that many monuments in the state have not been recognised yet and the process of finding these spots are still on.