BHAWANIPATNA: ARCHAEOLOGISTS and historians have resented the damage caused to historical Asurgarh fort near Narla block in Kalahandi district due to deposit of earth in the moat surrounding the fort on three sides. As a part of a water body renovation project, earth was removed from Radhasagar tank and dumped close to the moat. While Narla block officials claimed that the moat is located outside the protected fort area, archaeologists said the moat is an integral part of the protected site and cannot be destroyed.
Asurgarh fort dates back to 4th century BC. An ancient metropolis, it is considered contemporaneous to Sisupalagarh, Ujjain, Ahichatra, Kosambi and other ancient Indian cities. Different antiquities, structures, coins and beads were excavated from the site. Though in 1973 the site wasdeclared protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Monuments Act, 1958, proper excavation and preservation of monuments are not being done. In fact, the site was considered an emporium of bead-making and trading and its hydraulic system was considered unique. The fort was planned in a rectangular pattern as per Kautalyan principles of ‘Durgabidhana’ and ancient Indian geometrical formula.
The main fortification spreads over 12 hectares and there was also an external fortification, which is now in ruins. At present, the height and width of the fortified wall measure 11 m x 7.5 m and the encircled moat measures 36 m in width. A stone barrage constructed over the Sandol river in the north-west side of the fort to provide controlled water to the fortified area and the moat still exist. Sources said in the wake of water scarcity in Punjipadar village under Mandel gram panchayat adjacent to Asurgarh fort, renovation work of the dried up Radhasagar tank was being carried out using JCB machines.
The excavated earth was dumped in the southern part of Asurgarh moat. This led to filling up of the moat by nearly 40 per cent on the southern side. Contacted, BDO of Narla block, Kailash Chandra Siala said funds of `six lakh was sanctioned under the fourth State Finance Commission to Mandel gram panchayat to renovate the water body. “The tank is located on the south-west side of Asurgarh moat. Renovation work of the water tank is not being done anywhere inside the protected area of the fort hence, permission from the Archeological Survey of India for dumping earth near the moat was not required,” he said. Archaeologist Dr Baba Mishra, who is also a faculty member with the Government Autonomous College, however, said moat is an integral part of the fort. “Asurgarh is famous for its excellent hydraulic technique and water management. Filling up the moat will affect the beauty of the fort and further excavation of the hydraulic system will be affected,” he added.