Ancient Gateway of Bengal: Teliagadhi of Jharkhand

By: Brajesh Verma

Sahebganj (Jharkhand)

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) would renovate the ancient Teliagadhi fort, popularly known as the Gateway of Bengal, soon.

Once considered as the “Gateway of Bengal” since ancient time, the famous Teliagarhi fort situated about 475 kilometers east to Ranchi at Sahebganj district of Jharkhand in India is counting its days which are numbered: courtesy-stone mining, both legal and illegal.

The fort was built as a strategic point by the rulers of ancient period at the top of the famous Rajmahal hills. Earlier the river Ganga used to flow beside the fort where the railway line between Bhagalpur and Hawrah lies now as the river has changed its course long ago.

Recently the Union government has sanctioned Rs 4.40 crore for the renovation of Teliagadhi fort. “The amount has been sanctioned by the 13th finance commission. The work to renovate the historical fort would be down by Intec, a New Delhi based NGO under the guidance of the Archaeological Survey of India,” informed the Member of Parliament from Godda in Jharkhand, Nishikant Dubey.

Earlier the archaeological survey of India had declared Teliagadhi fort as national monument in 2007. About three years ago, the director of archaeological survey of India (Ranchi chapter), Dr TS Vaidhya had visited the place. He had suggested renovating the fort. The state government had sanctioned Rs one crore for the same.

Historical records suggest that this fort is the last ancient monument dated back to 7th century AD in the Santhal Parganas region. The Chinese traveler, Hiuen-Tsiang had visited the place.

The fort is witnessed of the historical events like battle between Humayun and Sher Saha, advance of the Marathas towards Bengal and war between the English and Nawab of Bengal. There were many travelers like Hiuen-Tsiang, Francis Buchanan and William Hodge who had visited here and had written many historical things about the fort.

Cunningham had attempted to identify Teliagadhi with the “Loft tower” mentioned by Hiuen-Tsiang; but no ancient ruins which can be dated to such an early age of 7th century AD, have so far been reported from the place. (Sources: The Antiquarian Remains in Bihar, By: DR Patil, edited by: Prof SH Askari).

Some time before 1940 a stone pillar with figures of the Buddha, covered on its four sides, was discovered at the south western corner of the fort and is now in worship by the local tribals.

According to the local tradition, the name Teliagardhi is derived from a Teli Zamindar who was forced to embrace Islam; but the district Gazetter would propose to derive the name from the Hindi “Telia” meaning “black” i.e., from the black colour of the stones largely used in the construction of the fort. It seems the origin of the fortification can be dated to pre-Muslim times and the name is equally ancient. In 1903 Bloch had seen each to eastern and western side walls was about 250 fit in the length with gates in the both side.

But rampant corruption in the mining department is said to be responsible for granting the hills for mining on lease which has damaged one of the ancient the heritages site of the Santhal Parganas. Surrounding parts to the contractors for mining of stones resulting in the fort, which was once the witnessed of the historical characters like Humayun, Sher Saha, the Marathas, the English and many travelers like Hiuen-Tsiang, Francis Buchanan and William Hodge, is taking last breath.
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