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Ancient glory under Naxal shadow

india Updated: Oct 12, 2006 01:42 IST
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Fear factor keeps archaeologists away from excavated sites

THE REMAINS of thousand-years-old civilization located in Sonebhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli districts might be lost for ever as Naxalite groups have taken control of the mountains and valleys in which the ancient archaeological treasures are buried.

In Sonebhadra district alone the team of the State Archaeological Department have carried out exploration in an area of about 1122 revenue villages extended over 2782 square km between 1976 and 1997.

They have revealed 25 sites of archaeological importance comprising Neolithic, Chalcolotihic, Megalithic period. In Mirzapur district they have discovered 140 painted rock shelters between 1975 to 1988.

Along with early historical sites, the team has discovered painted rock- shelters, several inscriptions and sculptures. Though they have prepared a list of the findings, the department was planning to carry out a detail study of their findings.

But with Naxalite groups like the Peoples War Group (PWG) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) are spreading its network in the tribal areas of Sonebhadra and Mirzapur districts few of the State Archaeology Department officers dare to visit the ancient sites. Archaeologists are not aware about the fate of the remains and treasure they had dug out.

“The last visit of our team was in the area was in 1997,” says Director, State Archaeology Department, Dr Rakesh Tewari.

With Naxals gaining ground in the three districts having rich archaeological heritage it has become a forbidden land for the archaeologists.

Naxal groups’ writ runs large in the area. Fearing that they would be kidnapped or even killed, archaeologists have stopped visiting the excavated sites. Even the district and police officials refuse to provide security, as the archaeologists have to move and camp in the dense forest areas.

At stake are the thousand-years-old painted rock shelters of Kauva-koh, Gogchara, Hathvani, Lakhma, Kuthalwa Tharh pathra, Sooga Pankh all located in Mirzapur district. All the rock painted shelters belongs to 6000 BC to 1700 AD. They illustrate the society from hunter-gatherer stage to the settled society.

Ancient sites in Sonebhadra include sites at the Bijaigarh Fort and Agori Fort.

Ancient remains and sculptors were found at Baraila, Bardiya, Barhada, Athauna, Baghela Raipur, Baijnath villages.

Numerous shreds of ancient potteries and other materials were found at Bichchi, Nai Dih, Bhawan, Bharahari, Churk and Dharsanada villages. Remains of ancient temples were found in Gothani, Gorari Gothi bandh and Guret villages.

The archaeologists found the early evidence of iron smelting in Malhar village located in Chandauli district. The evidences show that iron smelting flourished in the southern part of Chandauli, Dr Tewari said.

The State Government has planned to construct a museum in Mau village in Sonebhadra district for the preservation of the ancient archaeological treasure.

But the construction of the museum is yet to be completed. Terror of Naxalites forced the officers and employees of construction agency to flee the area. The archaeologists fear that several of the ancient artifacts might have been destroyed or carried away by the smugglers.