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In this MP village, archaeologists dig for the oldest temple in India

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BHOPAL: In a small village just 500m off the highway to Katni, in Madhya Pradesh, a group of archaeologists brushes off centuries of earth from layers of bricks being uncovered from under two mounds. They hope that what lies beneath is the

oldest temple in India

.
The dig sites are in Nachne village, merely 30 metres from another archaeological wonder — a

Gupta-era Parvati temple

— and close to Chaumukhi temple, built by the

Kalachuri Dynasty

(6th-7th centuries CE).

It’s a site rich in history and less than 100 km from Khajuraho.
“We are carrying out this excavation with the objective of finding the oldest temple in India,” ASI superintending archaeologist (Jabalpur circle) Shiva Kant Bajpayee told TOI.
Nachne is around 400km east of Sanchi, the site of another Gupta-age temple, considered among the oldest in India. Sources who know about the Nachne dig told TOI that what they have found so far encourages them to believe it’s the top half of a temple.

“The oldest known temples in the country are from the Gupta era (4th to early 6th century CE). The majority of the earliest known temples of the country are in Madhya Pradesh — Temple No. 17 in Sanchi, the Nachne Parvati temple, Tigwa’s Vishnu Temple (in Katni district, 140km away) and Bhumara’s Shiva Temple (50km away, in Satna district). We are conducting these excavations with the hope of finding pre-Gupta-era temples, Bajpayee told TOI.

“If we are not able to find it here, we will continue our exploration in the area as it cannot be that only Gupta-era temples exist. There can be temples older than that,” he reasoned.
Asked what led them to zero in on Nachne, he said it had the right history and was unexcavated.
“There are eight archaeological mounds there. After seeking all requisite permissions, we have started excavation on two mounds. Both are around two metres in height and spread over 1,000 sqm,” he said, adding that excavation began on March 4 and is likely to be completed in 3-4 months.
The Parvati temple was discovered in 1883-84 by Alexander Cunningham, the famed British military engineer who carried out excavations at Sanchi and Sarnath. Later, the site was visited by Indian archaeologist R D Banerji in 1919. After over a century, the clink of shovels and pickaxes again echoes in this village in search of history in stone that may rewrite history books.

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