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Balancing Narratives: Need of the Mahidpur Fort Conservation Initiative

Situated on the banks of River Shipra are the remains of a medieval fort of the Marathas built on the site of the ancient settlement of Mahidpur. Mahidpur was once a prosperous trading town on the Dakshinapth trade route, and the fort marks the site of the decisive battle of the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–18) between the Marathas and British forces. This battle led to the fall of the Maratha Empire and the subjugation of central India by the British.

The ruinous walls, bastions, and gateways of the fort house a community of about 100 families in a serene environment punctuated by active ghats along the river. Excavations undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1990 led to the discovery of Chalcolithic remains from the Malwa region. The village community since has taken to treasure hunting in the river in the search of gold as a daily pastime. The serenity of the site is disrupted by the clatter of constant construction activity at the Jain temple. This mammoth structure seemingly emerges out of the ruins of the medieval fort and will gradually overwhelm the historic form of the fort.

The protection and conservation initiative of the government of Madhya Pradesh is therefore to balance conservation of the historic fabric and the needs of the community so as to make the historic edifice relevant to all.