Choudwar fortress being ravished by Infrastructure Development Corporation: ASI

The New Indian Express reached out to the divisional head of IDCO, Cuttack division, Parikshita Mohalik on the issue but there was no response.
Remains of the fortress at Choudwar
Remains of the fortress at ChoudwarPhoto | Express

BHUBANESWAR: After Chudangagada fort, yet another protected site in Cuttack district - an ancient fortress at Choudwar - is facing threat of illegal land excavation.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has accused the Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) of excavating and levelling the protected area of the fort site by using heavy machineries, in violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958.

Located on the left bank of river Birupa, the entire Choudwar fort site was declared Centrally protected in 1937, comprising an area of 1,450 acre of land spread across villages of Agrahat, Jajbhairab, Mundmal, Chhatisa, Bandala, Govind Jew Patna, Kapaleswar and Kedareswar. It dates back to 12th CE.

In a letter to the Cuttack collector and district magistrate on Tuesday, the superintending archaeologist of ASI, Puri circle, alleged that for the last six months, contractors hired by IDCO have been using heavy machinery to level and clear land for constructions in the area and continue to do so even now.

While ASI has issued a notice to the divisional head of IDCO, Cuttack division, to stop the illegal excavation, there has been no response. “We had also approached the police station with a complaint over the matter but the latter did not lodge any FIR,” superintending archaeologist DB Garnayak said.

On the day, the national conservation agency also sought intervention of the Cuttack SP and IIC of Choudwar police station to lodge an FIR over the issue. 

This paper reached out to the divisional head of IDCO, Cuttack division, Parikshita Mohalik on the issue but there was no response.

However, managing director of IDCO Bhupendra Singh Poonia said he will verify the allegations. “There is no new construction coming up at the site as of now but I will look into the allegations,” he said.

Sources said while the fort site lands belongs to the state government, it is governed by the AMASR Act after being declared as a heritage site. As per the Act, the owner of the land cannot excavate the protected land without permission of the Central government.

The fortress at Choudwar is one of the five forts (Panchakatakas) built by Chodagangadeva of Ganga dynasty. While it is believed that the site contained a number of temples, they are all in ruins now scattered in and around the eight villages. Remains of only one temple - Kedaresvara - are existing on the site.

In 2004-05, a scientific clearance work close to the site revealed a square chamber at the centre and two walls running parallel all around the central structure with central projection like ‘triratha’ on plan. Last year, the Centrally-protected Chudangagada fort in Cuttack district was encroached on one side by land sharks and a state government department constructed school infrastructure on the other side of the fort.

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