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A mystery in middle India: An ancient 80-km wall no one knew about

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pradesh-january-hindustan-member-sankalan-remains-tiwari_b06ee64a-da6f-11e6-a260-7aa04c68bc63.JPGIt’s a whodunit, a jigsaw puzzle and a history lesson all in one. In the heart of Madhya Pradesh, at the very centre of India, stands a massive stone wall that’s odd, as walls go. It runs straight in parts, zig-zags wildly in others, stops or branches off where you least expect. Some sections tower at 15 feet; others are a just a low stretch of rubble .
History buffs are calling it the Great Wall of India, and if it does run for 80 kilometres as they suspect (many sections still need to be excavated), it may well be India’s longest fortification and, worldwide, second only to China’s. Locals however refer to it simply as ‘diwaal’, a structure that’s been at the back of their villages, and the back of their minds, for as long as anyone can remember.
The barrier stands halfway between Bhopal and Jabalpur, stretching from the tiny township of Gorakhpur-Deori to Chokigarh in Chainpur Bardi in the Raisen district. It cuts through Vindhya valleys, teak forests, langur domains and wheat fields. At one point, it is interrupted by a 20-year-old dam.

The wall zig-zags across the Vindhya mountains just north of the Bhopal Jabalpur Road in Raisen district, and alongside, a man-made pond has been discovered. (Pratik Chorge, Ashwin Patil/HT Photo)

Everywhere it goes, surprises follow. Discovered thus far are ruins of long-abandoned dwellings, debris from magnificent temples, fragments of statues, step wells, a pond with sandstone banks, compounds, stairs and strange snake insignias. Experts say we’ve only scratched the surface of its secrets.

[FONT=&quot]Those looking to solve the puzzle face another challenge – several relics and stones have been stolen. Jamnabai Khare, who’s lived in Gorakhpur for 60 of her 80 years, recalls seeing a Sinhavahini, a goddess astride a lion, which is now missing. Chaubey has a photograph of an intact statue of Kal Bhairav, an incarnation of Shiva (others are missing heads or limbs). “The image is all that remains – the idol was stolen last year.”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The ASI has no plans to survey the area and chose not to contribute to this story. Official studies, when they begin, may be hampered as much of the wall is on forest land.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]For now, the mystery remains. Vyas says that wall has already revealed the preoccupations and skills of the people who built it. Raghavendra Khare sees it as a point of pride for locals.Raisen’s former collector, Lokesh Jatav, who visited the wall at the end of his term late last year, says the stone riddle is irresistible. “If developed, it could be a great stopover for tourists visiting nearby UNESCO sites like the prehistoric art at Bhimbetka and the Buddhist stupa at Sanchi.”[/FONT]

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