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HomeExpositionsHistoryNachne, village in MP that might have buried oldest temple in India

Nachne, village in MP that might have buried oldest temple in India

Nachne is situated approximately 400 km east of Sanchi, the site of another temple from the Gupta period, which is considered one of the oldest in India

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In Nachne, a small village located just 500 m off the highway to Katni in Madhya Pradesh, a team of archaeologists is carefully removing centuries of earth from layers of bricks discovered beneath two mounds. Their goal is to uncover what could potentially be the oldest temple in India.

The excavation sites are situated in Nachne, a mere 30 m away from another archaeological marvel, a Parvati temple from the Gupta era near the Chaumukhi temple constructed by the Kalachuri Dynasty during the 6th-7th centuries CE. This location is steeped in history and is less than 100 km away from Khajuraho.

“We are currently conducting this excavation in search of the oldest temple in India,” stated ASI superintending archaeologist (Jabalpur circle) Shiva Kant Bajpayee during a press briefing.

Nachne is situated approximately 400 km east of Sanchi, the site of another temple from the Gupta period, which is considered one of the oldest in India. Sources familiar with the Nachne excavation informed reporters that the discoveries made so far have led them to believe that they have uncovered the upper portion of a temple.

“The oldest temples known in the country date back to the Gupta era (4th to early 6th century CE). The majority of the earliest temples in the country are located in Madhya Pradesh – such as Temple No. 17 in Sanchi, the Nachne Parvati temple, Tigwa’s Vishnu Temple (in Katni district, 140 km away), and Bhumara’s Shiva Temple (50 km away, in Satna district). We are conducting these excavations with the hope of discovering temples that predate the Gupta era,” Bajpayee informed journalists.

“If we are unable to find it here, we will continue our exploration in the region because it is unlikely that only Gupta-era temples exist. There could be even older temples,” he said.

When asked about the reason for focusing on Nachne, he explained that the village has a rich history and has not been excavated before. “There are a total of eight archaeological mounds in the area. After obtaining all necessary permissions, we have commenced excavation on two mounds. Both mounds are approximately 2 m in height and cover an area of 1,000 sq m,” he stated. The excavation began on 4 March and is expected to be completed in three or four months.

Who discovered Nachne

Major General Sir Alexander Cunningham, a renowned British military engineer who conducted excavations at Sanchi and Sarnath, unearthed the Parvati temple in 1883-84. In 1919, Indian archaeologist RD Banerji paid a visit to the site too.

Cunningham served as a British Army engineer in the Bengal Engineer Group. Later, he developed a keen interest in the history and archaeology of India. In 1861, he was appointed as the first archaeological surveyor to the government of India, a newly established position. Under his guidance, he laid the foundation for what would eventually become the Archaeological Survey of India.

Apart from his administrative role, Cunningham authored numerous books and monographs, delving into various aspects of Indian history and archaeology. He also amassed a significant collection of artefacts although some of them were unfortunately lost. However, the British Museum managed to acquire most of his gold and silver coins, as well as a remarkable assortment of Buddhist sculptures and jewellery in 1894. It is worth mentioning that Cunningham was also the father of the renowned mathematician, Allan Cunningham.

Now, after more than 100 years, the sound of shovels and pickaxes can once again be heard in the village, as today’s Indian archaeologists, with much better technology at their disposal, search for historical artefacts that could potentially reshape the narrative set by Marxist historians.

History of Madhya Pradesh in brief

Madhya Pradesh’s history can be categorized into three distinct periods: ancient, mediaeval and modern. The ancient era was marked by the dominance of the Nanda Empire, the Maurya Empire and the Gupta Empire.

In the mediaeval period, Rajput clans such as the Paramara and Chandela rose to power, with the latter being renowned for constructing the temples of Khajuraho. By the 14th century, the Malwa Sultanate held sway over the region.

The modern period witnessed the ascendancy of the Mughal Empire, Maratha Empire and British Empire in Madhya Pradesh. The princely states of Gwalior, Indore, and Bhopal were integrated into modern Madhya Pradesh.

India gained independence from British rule in 1947, leading to the dissolution of British influence. Madhya Pradesh was established as a state in 1956, and Chhattisgarh was later carved out from it in 2000.

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