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Sisupalgarh’s latent treasures to be unearthed

- Archaeological Survey of India to begin excavating new sites at ruins of the historic fort next year

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 18: The Sisupalgarh fort on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, which is now threatened by rapid urbanisation and real-estate activities, is likely to see new excavation work in the coming year.

Officials of the local Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) circle here have not yet decided the date of excavation at the fort.

ASI’s superintending archaeologist, Bhubaneswar Circle, A.K. Patel said: “There is a possibility of excavation at Sisupalgarh, but as most of the land is now encroached, the process can only be carried out on the land which is owned by the government.”

According to historical documents, Sisupalgarh was the capital of ancient Kalinga during the rule of Chedi dynasty, which had Kharvela as its most powerful king.

The ruins of the fort represented a well-planned city, which was first excavated by well-known archaeologist B.B. Lal in 1948-49 in collaboration with the Odisha government.

In 2010, the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) announced restriction of construction activities inside Sisupalgarh fort, but many houses came up with permission from the local block development officers concerned before that. BDA sources said there could be more than 500 illegal houses near the ancient fort.

However, local residents alleged that encroachment had become acute and the number of illegal houses had touched 1,000. “Neither the ASI nor BDA has allowed construction of a single house in Sisupalgarh. Yet all these houses have come up. It proves that the Odisha government is not taking any interest in protecting such an important historical site,” said a senior ASI officer.

The Telegraph had, in the past, carried several stories on the urbanisation effect on Sisupalgarh.

“Sisupalgarh is a unique historical site not only in the country, but also in the world. The local people should pay respect to the historical treasure. Damaging a historical site could be compared with murdering a human being. We must learn to respect our heritage sites,” said professor Sadasib Pradhan of Utkal University.

Bijay Kumar Rath, leading historian and former superintendent of state archaeology department, said: “For one-and-half years we have been hearing about an ASI plan to take up excavation at Sisupalgarh, but it has not yet happened.”

In the past, several programmes were announced, but nothing came to protect the unique fortified settlement, which now stands as a ruin in Sisupalgarh.

A leading industrial house had given a proposal to build a Rs 174-crore archaeology park inside the fort, but later it turned out to be a damp squib when the company found that land acquisition alone might need more than Rs 200 crore.