Archaeological excavations at Maligaimedu near Gangaikondacholapuram is set to end on Friday amid calls for scaling up the exploration to cover more areas in the ancient city that King Rajendra Chola I (1012-1044) had built after his victorious expedition up to the Gangetic plains.
This season’s excavation, inaugurated by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on February 11, led to the exposure of more brick structures of what is believed to a medieval palace.
More significantly, broken pieces of a bracelet made of gold and copper, a figurine made of ivory and a copper coin were found this year. Besides these, Chinese ware, iron nails and broken pieces of other copper objects were found. Brick structures were also found in most of the 19 quadrants opened.
With the licence granted by the Central Advisory Board for Archaeology (CABA) expiring on September 30, the team of archaeologists and workers have been busy covering quadrants with tarpaulin sheets over the past few days to protect the site during monsoon. The process of documentation would continue over the next few weeks. The Department of Archaeology is likely to continue the excavation at the site next year too, sources in the department said.
Gangaikondacholapuram was the capital of the Cholas for about 250 years from about 1025 CE. It is widely believed that palaces of Chola kings had existed there about 1,000 years ago but were destroyed during the Pandya invasions or later. Excavations carried out in the 1980s by the Department of Archaeology, under the direct supervision of its first director late R. Nagaswamy, had already unearthed parts of a palace and the city. During the excavation last year, more portions of the palace’s structure were exposed and brick structures were unearthed in 13 of the 17 quadrants.
In the recent months, the excavation site had been attracting a steady stream of visitors, including tourists visiting the famous Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram, listed as one of the three Great Living Chola Temples by the UNESCO. Local residents and heritage enthusiasts feel that the scope of the exploration should be widened to cover more places around Gangaikondacholapuram, including the Ayudha kalam (place where weapons are manufactured) and Manmalai (mound of sand). “I wish the officials take up a wider and deeper exploration in Manmalai, believed to have been the ‘thermutti’ (the place where car is kept) during the period of Rajendra Chola,” says P. Ramamurthy of Manmalai.
“During the excavations led by Dr. Nagaswamy, a few antique objects were found from a couple of trenches dug close to my field,” he claimed.
Providing sheds to cover the quadrants at the excavated site to protect them from sun and rain and installing information and sign boards for the benefit of tourists are among the other demands of residents.