सरगुजा के उदयपुर-रामगढ़ के पक्ष में कालिदास के रामगिरि होने का दावा है, रामवनगमन के दौरान सीता-राम के विश्राम की मान्यता है और इसे प्राचीनतम नाट्यशाला भी कहा गया है। इस पहाड़ी पर मानव-निर्मित गुफाएं सीताबेंगरा-जोगीमारा कई तथ्यों के कारण उल्लेखनीय और महत्वपूर्ण है। पिछले कोई डेढ़ सौ साल से इस पर बहुतेरे अध्येताओं, विशेषज्ञों ने प्रकाश डाला है, जिनकी जानकारी इन्हीं पृष्ठों पर आगे दी जाएगी। यहां ऐसी ही जानकारियों के आधार पर प्रस्तुत है किशोर दिवसे जी की अनुमति से उनका लेख, कई तथ्य और स्थापनाओं से सहमति न होने के बावजूद, इसे महत्वपूर्ण मानता हूं। यह अंग्रेजी अखबार मध्यप्रदेश क्रानिकल, रायपुर में 1 मार्च 1998 को प्रकाशित हुआ था-
Ancient Amphitheatre of Asia : Sitabengara & Jogimara caves
Chhattisgarh had been and is still a top starrer as for as its flora, fauna , bio- diversity, and archaeological heritage is concerned. Thevolcano of questions every time errupts are -low political will of Chhattisgarh govt. to make and strenghthen tourist circuits, feeble vox populi to enhance CG tourism chart prominent on national map, and state industrialists to participate actively for the development on tie-up basis. By - gone days are OK but its high time to make Chhattisgarh state's amazing archaeological heritages glittering stars...., and of course- Ancient Amphitheatre of Asia : Sitabengara & Jogimara caves must be placed on top priority.
Abundance of buried treasure and antique edifices above the ground are hidden in the depths and remote unidentified locations of the archeologically fertile belt of Bilaspur division in Chhattisgarh. Sitabengara and Jogimara caves are one of them, which are of utmost archaeo-historical importance. The caves are located about 175 kms from Bilaspur in the Ramgiri Mountain near Lakhanpur in Ambikapur district. The golden glittering fact about Sitabengara and Jogimara caves is that 'It is most ancient amphitheatre of Asia.'
Sitabengara and Jogimara caves are lying side by side and one said to be of 3rd century BC. Sitabengara is considered as 'Natyamandapam' and Jogimara is the 'green room' of the participant artists and dancers. The archaeologists opine that 'it is an amphitheatre related to Mahakavi Kalidasa more than 2000 years back.' Intensive research on it may put some more light on its historical and archaeological importance. Sitabengara is the ancient amphitheatre of India and most probably Asia. Infact, it is not related to any particular religion, but the wall paintings in the caves reflect the development of folk art and literature alongwith the socio-economic infrastructure prevalent during the then period.
Sitabengara is said to be the largest cave used as an amphitheatre. The gallery and the rocky staircase are carved by cutting mountain. The outwardly appearance of Sitabengara is same as described in the ancient legendary writings of Bharat muni the father of ancient dramatics.
The cave Natyamandapam is 44X15 feet in size. The walls are vertical, entrance is oval and it is 6 feet in height. Going inwards, the height diminishes to 4 feet. The cave’s internal structure was used as a dais of the theatre in the ancient times. The amphitheatre is formed in 3 tier system and each tier is of 7.5 feet in height. The level of all the three manchas is separated by 21 feet. In front of main entrance, lies stone carved moon-shaped platform facing outwards. It’s presumed that the dramatic performances and other programmes were being convened in this ancient premises. This platform had a capacity of accommodating 60 persons atleast.
The front elevation of the cave is quite simple with no carvings which were prominent during the time of Ashoka (Maurya dynasty). The archaeologists opine that this cave must have been formed before the formation of the cave of Lomash Rishi i.e. during the Maurya period. There are two holes tying in the close vicinity which are formed by cutting the surrounding platform of the entrance. These holes must have been used to fix the poles. It is presumed that to avoid inconvenience in autumn and rainy season it had an arrangement to hang curtains on it. In that case the spectators must be sitting on the broad plateau and the chorus singers /performers must have been in action by the side of it. It may be said that the curtain tradition might have been originated from India. According to Dr. Katare- 'this amphitheatre might have been used mainly for drama and dance performance'. Hence, the cave must be considered unparallel and ancient in the history of Indian culture.
According to the ancient believes the caves are also related to Yogika’s (Sura-Sundari) who participated in the Nritya natika. Some archaeologists opine that Sitamark Jogimarhi of Orissa and Natyamandapam of Pulgal caves near Nasik, all the sites were used by the tribal communities at that time. Bharat muni in his Natyashashtra, has mentioned and described Vikrishta Natyamandapam. In that context if we study Sitabengara Jogimara, we may conclude that these caves also come under Vikrishta category. The exterior decoration of Natyamandapam is by vivid means and the interior decoration was done be using mud-powder, and coatings of cow-dung and stone powder. These patterns of stone wall coatings are still seen on the walls of the caves.
According to the pundits of dramatics, the play the Uttar-Ramcharitra of Mahakavi Bhavabhuti was staged here during the time of Yashawardhan. The inscriptions found in Pali disclose Devideen, an artist from Kashi had participated in the play here and co-artist was a daasi Sutanuka. As far as its history relates back Shri Lochan Prasad Pandey (Late) opine that this amphitheatre was formed about 2000 years back where plays were staged on the northern side of Sitabengara cave's entrance. Just below the caves of roofing following narration in Magadhi (Pali) is inscribed of which each line is 3 feet in length, and each letter sizes about 2.5 inch which are faded now. The inscribed couplet is mentioned herewith.
"aadimayanti hridayam sarawagurukawayo ye shatayam phale wasantiya ha bhawanee bhute kridaspitam awam alagete"
The researchers have interpreted the couplet as 'Enlightens the heart so great poets are conferring at night, where the breezes float everywhere…full of humor and music. The breeze embraces the mother jasmine'
It's evident from the above inscription that the cave was not a site of rishis and monks meant for practicing tapa but obviously a major place of cultural and artistic performances. Here poems were recited and plays were staged and were not related to any particular religion or cult, but human feelings.
The interior decorum elevates the cave to the norms being most ancient amphitheatre of Asia. Moreover the overall amphitheatres formation co-relates to that of great theatres in architecture may be due to this similarity. Some Pundits feel that India dramatist has been influence by Greeks while other straightaway deny it.
DANCERS' GREEN ROOM JOGIMARA CAVES
In the close vicinity of Sitabengara is located Jogimara cave. In fact the caves are no far apart. It measures 30 feet length and 15 feet in breadth with eastern front elevation. In the book entitled 'Bharat Ki Chitrakala' this cave is termed 'Temple of Spring'. The folklore related to it narrate herewith a Devadasi Sutanuka was devoted to God of Spring. It is said that Jogimara was green room made for resting dancers engaged in chorus. The Sutanuka is said to be Nayika of a love story. On the wall of the cave five lines ver is inscribed which is faded down to the passage of years and years.
1. Shutanukanama 2. devdasikya 3. Shutanukanam Devadasikya 4. wankmayiya lahane sheye 5. Devadite namh Lupandase. It means Sutanuka devadasi (about her) A devadasi named Sutanuka, she was flirted by a resident of Varanasi Rupadaksha (make up man)
The Story in the folk lore farm is very much interesting- A devadasi sutanuka was in love with an artiste Devideen breaking all the socio-mythological barriers of their community. Devideen’s heart was also floming with the fire of love in reciprocation. Their feeling of love. were terms formed into this inscription to make their love immortal and never lasting. In contradiction to this thought some historians opine that to expose the love birds game these verse was inserioed so that others are cautious and deta in the future. Had Devideen inscribed the lines, the other colleagues would have washed it off.
Ancient Indian wall paintings are depicted in Jogimara caves. Major portions of these paintings are faded due to the persistent exposure to humidity since last few centuries. Artististic value is not much but it’s being ancient is undoubted and mainly based on mythological themes. Indians have the age old tradition of making Chaitya Vihar, temples. and sculptures by carving stones. Wall paintings were made by plastering the wall with lime. The wall paintings are taken to be during 300 century BC. Roof of the cave is painted with the figures of flowers, three horses two wheeled hooded chariot, figures of elephants and soldiers. The wall paintings depict human forms wild life & beautiful natural scenes.
Left Human forms are coloured red with outer black linings. The eyes are coloured white and hairs are styled in hairdo (Juda) form. The line sketches of horses ,birds and trees are also lined red which throw light on the social life during that period. The drawings of circles and different geometrical shapes are coloured red and yellow. In a few places fish and crocodile forms are also visible, One important fact to be mentioned here is that some paintings are replaced with new ones.
According to Dr. Hiralal these wall paintings are related to Bundela period while Ramkrishnadas opine the paintings to be of Jain period which were paintings by the order of Kaling King Kharwel.
Most astonishing fact for the the researchers and academicians about these caves is that it may be related to Mahakali Kalidasa’s poetic creations. In the world famous epic of Kalidasa Meghdootam its mentioned that Yaksha took shelter in Jogimara cave where he sent his message of his being loneliness to his beloved by sending to clouds as messengers. The Beautiful heart throbbing sites of natural greenery and Jalakund is mentioned by Kalidasa in Meghdoot. The route described was from Ramgiri to Alkapuri where the clouds acted as messangers that travelled for a long distance. Where the clouds rained on way that very spot which was a panoramic hilly terrain was known as Amrakoot is now called Amarkantaka. It is a widely acclaimed tourist centre of Chhattisgarh with magnifiscent bio-diversity and abundance of medicinal plants. Amarkantak is situated in the north west of Raigarh and North east of Vindhyachal mountain range, On route Ujjain and its 200 kms away from Bilaspur.
The other sight seeing places in the close viscintly and nearby are Kabir Chaura, Vashishtra Gufa, Lakshman Ghogra and few remanants of temples. Tracking up the mountain Ramgiri we find remnament of the main entrance of the fort which is formed by two huge Shilakhand called Pauri Deodhi. Going upstairs is Kabir Chaura. This is a plateau and belonged to Jogi of Ramgarh Dharamdas. Vashistha Gufa is at some distance where Vashistha muni was said to be practicing meditation. Further stairs are there to reach the magnificent Simhadwar. Stattue of Bhairav is lying here with the infront facing towards left. Onwards is Ganesh Seedhi up to Rawan Darbar where Broken scupltures of Rawan, Kumbhakarna and dancers are lying. A narrow pathway from here leads to the top of Ramgiri who the statues of lord Rama, Lakshman and Sita are in a temple. The courtyard of the temple has the statues of flying god Hanuman and lord Shanker. Remanants of three temples are a top the hill. First is of Varundeo (god of rains) Second is totally destroyed but broken pieces of Mahakali, lord Ganesh and other gods and goddess statues are lying here. The third temple lies at the last. The sculptures here are of lord Vishnu, medtating. apsaras, lord Ram with Sita with monkey god Hanuman. According to Mirashi the sculptures can be considered of medieval age in context to the alankars and most prominent feature in the sculptures is that the faces have the image of the tribal’s inhabitant of that period. A few more caves are still at Ramgiri yet to be explored which were the meditation places. One large cave is Laxman Bengara located in the southern mountains of Ramgiri. Folktales narrate that Ram and Laxman during their Vanwas of 14 years stayed here in exile so that not to be noticed during that period.
A small plateau is still there on a resting place and a magnificent natural scenic beauty can be witnessed in front. This is the historical site of ‘Ramgitri’ offering the researchers, tracking and the adventure lovers with abundance and visibity of any thing that is imbibed in environmental charizma. and biodiversity including logical believes, folklores and folktales. Mr.G.L. Raikwar and Mr. Rahul singh, archaeological officers duo took lot of pains for this site. Every year on Ramanami a mela is held here where hundreds of devotees congregate and take a holy dip at Sitakund.
MP government arranges a programme every year in the first day of Ashadha and wonderful cultural programmes are held. But the dark side of the coin of it is that the natural looks of the cave instead of being maintained its natural form its being deterioted by cementing the stair case. Wox popli opines, this pre-historical amphitheatre to be made a tourist spot which is possible only when the archaeological dept .and MP govt takes interest. In addition to this political stalwarts of Bilaspur division which are at present not that much active towards the tourism sector must show keen interest in hidden treasure from this area because lack of adequate funding for the archaeological department. The question at last arises before the intellectuals when do are start digging to regain our lost art and history.
Senior Journalist, Writer, Translator
Pune, Maharashtra,Mobile -09827471743