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Workers found a tunnel 12 feet underground in Cuttack City near Barabati Fort (above) while digging sewerage pipes.

Workers find old underground tunnel near medieval fort, home of Ganga dynasty rulers

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A team of construction workers digging in the ancient city of Cuttack discovered an old underground tunnel and structure near an ancient fort and the capital of the rulers of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty in Odisha State south of Kolkata.

Workers dug a trench 12 feet (4 m) deep to lay sewerage pipe when they came upon the tunnel, Officials halted work and intend to hire archaeologists to research what the tunnel is. One report said it was a British-era structure, others believe it is much older.   The Times of India describes it as a “tunnel-like structure.”

"Cuttack is over thousand-year-old city and there is every possibility that the structure may have historical importance. Leaving nothing to chance, work at the site has been stopped," Cuttack Municipal Corp. Commissioner Gyana Ranjan Das told The Times . "We will request the archaeology experts and ASI officials to visit the site and examine it. We will resume work only after getting clearance from them," added Das. The ASI is the Archaeological Survey of India.

Historians told The Times the tunnel could be a significant discovery.

Part of the structure found 12 feet underground in Cuttack

Part of the structure found 12 feet underground in Cuttack ( Photo by IamIndia )

"Cuttack was the capital of rulers of the Ganga dynasty. The presence of Barabati Fort points to the fact that the city has huge historical value. The rulers may have dug the tunnel for some purpose," historian L.K. Mishra of Ravenshaw University said.

Das told The New Indian Express Paper : “At the first sight, it appears to be a tunnel. But the brick construction and the arch also suggest an ancient housing structure that would have been buried in course of time and elevation of ground for new constructions. Locals have also not much idea about the structure.”

The uncovering of the tunnel follows a find of ancient idols three years ago from the moat surrounding nearby Barabati Fort.

There were two Ganga dynasties in India that were distantly related. The Eastern Ganga Dynasty came later, from the 11th to 15th centuries AD in all of the modern state of Odisha and parts of neighboring Wet Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Their capital was Kalinganagar in Andhra Pradesh on the border with Odisha.

Their most famous monument is the Konark Sun Temple in Konârak, Odisha. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple is of the sun god Surya. The UNESCO site says it is one of the most outstanding architectural and artistic temples in conception, proportion and scale. The temple was built, possibly to celebrate victory over Muslims, in the 13th century by King Narasimha Deva. The site is one of the earliest places of sun worship in India, going back long before the 13th century, UNESCO says.

The majestic Konârak  Sun Temple, a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage site

The majestic Konârak  Sun Temple, a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage site (Photo by Maharajsaran/ Wikimedia Commons )

King Anantavarman Chodaganga founded the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. He was a descendant of rulers of the Western Ganga Dynasty, who ruled southern Karnataka State from the 4th to 10th centuries AD. Anantavaramn was an arts and literature patron. He was a religious man and is believed to have built Jagannath Temple of Puri, also in Odisha. The World Heritage Encyclopaedia article on the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, which is republished at Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press, says Anantavarman had a long line of illustrious successors on the throne, including Narasimha Deva I, who ruled from 1238 to 1264 AD. The last ruler of the dynasty was King Bhanudeva IV, whose reign ended in 1434.

Dancing poses on the wall of the Konark Sun Temple, an Eastern Ganga Dynasty treasure

Dancing poses on the wall of the Konark Sun Temple, an Eastern Ganga Dynasty treasure (Photo by Vedhanarayanang/ Wikimedia Commons )

These rulers of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty were at war through their history with Muslim rulers, who constantly attacked, the article states. Despite this the state had prosperous commerce and trade. Some of this wealth was used to build temples.

Jagannath Temple of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, a temple so famous it has been replicated elsewhere in India

Jagannath Temple of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, a temple so famous it has been replicated elsewhere in India (Photo by Amartyabag /Wikimedia Commons )

The Jagannath Temple is dedicated to Krisha, the most important incarnation Vishnu, the highest Indian god to Vaishnava or Vishnu followers. The pillars supporting the temple are incised with depictions of Krishna or Lord Jagannath's life.

The city of Puri is considered Krishna's abode on Earth when he incarnated. Tradition says he was born in 3228 BC and died 3102.

Featured image: Workers found a tunnel 12 feet underground in Cuttack City near Barabati Fort (above) while digging sewerage pipes. (Photo by Daniel Limma/ Wikimedia Commons )

By Mark Miller

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