Published: 27th March 2018
Nagpur students chance upon medieval fort during excavation
Several temples dating back to the 13th century; around 15 dilapidated temples, were found by the group at the site in Wardha, Maharshtra
A visit to a hillock would have passed off as just another routine trip for students of Nagpur University, had they not stumbled upon a rich cultural site in the neighbouring Wardha district during an excavation. As the students dug up the place over a period of 20 days, they found a medieval-era fort and indicating signs of a small battle, said an official.
The findings were made by the post-graduate students of the Nagpur University's Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology Department during the course of their fieldwork at Keljhar in February and early March.
The team, including 17 students and technical staff, led by head of the department (HoD) Preety Trivedi, discovered the 'medieval fort', believed to be of 15th or 16th century, and remains of a temple, dating back to 13th century, at two different sites at 'Keljhar in Wardha, located about 51 km from Nagpur, Trivedi said.
As per the archaeological material present at the site, there are evidence of a large number of dilapidated and broken down temples belonging to the 13th century, when the Yadav dynasty ruled the region, Trivedi said.
Around 10 to 15 temples of Hindu and Jain religions must have existed here in the 13th and 14th century, she added. Trivedi said during her preliminary study of the region and collection of data, she had come across several references of archaeological material in records and gazetteers about Keljhar.
"However, I found that no excavation was conducted there. During my foot survey of the region in July last year, I saw the entire place was full of archaeological material and historical remains," she said. "Subsequently, I submitted a proposal to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for excavation in Keljhar and got the licence for it in December last year," she said.
The team first started excavation at Buddha Vihar in Keljhar in February this year and found remains of an "unfinished and finished temple," broken pieces of the base of a 'Shiva-ling' (a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva), small pieces of sculptures of some other Gods and Goddesses, dating back to the Yadav period of 13th century, she said.
"After this, we moved to the Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Sansthan in Keljhar and started excavating there. Initially, we saw a broken piece of a temple at the surface of the mountain and thought that it could be a full temple, so we continued with the excavation," she said.
After conducting 'step trenching' on the site, the team discovered "an entire bastion of a fort and multiple drainage systems over a large area. Finally, we were able to prove what is given in our gazetteers that there was a fort in Keljhar," Trivedi said.
After digging for about 20 days, the team was able to find many things, like the fossil of a horse, sling balls, cannon balls, small-sized stone balls, arrowheads and "signs of use of ammunition in the form of Bharmar rods", she said. These are all signs of a small battle, she added.
However, the HoD said they cannot tell exactly when the battle had taken place as several of them had taken place in the area. "We have just taken out the samples and are sending it for scientific analysis to the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow," she said.
"My next aim is to find underground 'stepped wells' (commonly known as bawli) and the entrance of the fort and excavate two or three more places in Keljhar where I feel there are some temple remains still existing intact," she said. Trivedi says she will put up a proposal to the ASI to continue her licence for excavation next year also.