Deopahar Archaeological Site: Flying Nymphs of Numaligarh

The Deopahar Archaeological Site (Also called Deoparbat) has been on my mind for a while now. Although I passed through this route several times, I never realised it was so easy to reach. Anyway, this time I sorted it out. I was attending an open quiz in Moran, a small town ahead of Sivasagar. I stayed there that night and started early next morning. The plan was to visit the ruins quickly and then catch another bus back to Guwahati.

The plan was simple and I got down at the diversion towards Numaligarh on the Asian Highway No 1. The actual Numaligarh Township is a few KMs from the highway and it has developed because of the oil refinery here. Deopahar is somewhere in between these two points on the road.

I took a shared auto and reached the point in a few minutes. The site is stop a hillock which is located just on the road. A steep hike of around 5 minutes took me to the top of the site where I saw the cluster of scattered ruins.

Stairs going to the Deopahar Archaeological Site

At the Deopahar Archaeological Site

Deopahar ruins are basically remains of a large temple. There are some sculptures scattered all over the hilltop while the base of the temple, or probably that of the sanctum sanctorum is intact. It wouldn’t have meant much if not for the exquisite artistry displayed on practically every piece of rock here.

Reaching the main site

Now, the main portion is protected with a tin roof just like it is done at Madan Kamdev, the place that was looked the most similar to me. It’s not the most aesthetic way to preserve or present it but that’s what we have now!

Intriguing sculptures
Mystic masseur
Such elephant motif are not uncommon in Assam

I took multiple rounds of the temple and observed the sculptures closely. There are scores of them showing various deities, animals, and plants. Experts have compared them to late-Gupta era works found in various parts of India and so we can safely assume these ruins to be around 1000-1400 years old in absense of any clear documentation. In fact, certain Kirtimukha portions looked strikingly similar to stuff I have seen in Morena and unlike anything I have seen in Assam.

Detached Kirtimukha
Who’s that?
Yet another kirtimukha… part of a larger structure
Probably part of the gateway

However, the most famous part of the temple are the one’s still intact on the base, the faces sculpted along the circumference. Who are they? Local accounts sometimes mention them as flying apsaras nymphs while some mention them as flying Vidyadharas. However, they also looked like traditional bharabahaka sculptures to me. The surface is built in many layers and these faces sculpted at a level higher than average humans. That is why they do give an illusion of flying.

The flying apsaras
Or flying Vidyadharas
They actually look like bharabahaka sculptures

The sophistication if the sculptures at Deopahar Archaeological Site yet again made me feel the what felt at Guwahati Museum or for that matter, at a place like Sri Surya. The pre-Ahom classical antiquity of Assam is extremely underrated and it was pretty well-connected with the trends of the rest of India even during those times.

Video footage

How to Reach Deopahar Archaeological Site?

It’s around 4 KMs from Numaligarh Tiniali (Asian Highway 1 diversion) and around 5 KM from Numaligarh town. You can get down at the Numaligarh diversion on the highway and get a shared vehicle going towards Numaligarh town.

Jitaditya Narzary

2 thoughts on “Deopahar Archaeological Site: Flying Nymphs of Numaligarh”

  1. I love visiting archaeological sites — which India of course has so many — for their history, magnificent craftsmanship, and unique architecture. While going to Assam sounds like a far-fetched dream for me, at least for now, I immensely enjoyed traveling vicariously to this lesser-known site in your country through your photos. The carvings on the ruins are so exquisite. I hope one day the main temple would be completely restored with those stones currently lying down in the site’s grounds returned to their original places.

  2. Mohan Hariharan

    Brilliant…thanks a lot especially people like from Tamil Nadu do not aware of such hidden treasures. Thanks for bringing out

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