What are some of the most famous walls of history? There is, of course, the Great Wall of China. Then there’s the Berlin Wall. And Donald Trump’s fantasy of a US-Mexico border wall will be a legacy of our time.
But have you heard of the Inland Customs Line? AKA the Great Hedge of India?
If you haven’t, you’re not to blame – even history books and historical records give this wildly unique structure a miss.
Which is unfortunate. Because the Great Hedge is probably one of the strangest legacies of British rule in India.
A Little Bit of History...
It took the colonial rulers three decades to construct the Great Hedge. Most of the structure came up in the 19th century and it ran for 1,100 miles from Punjab to Odisha – long enough to stretch from Berlin to Moscow. (Here’s a map of the wall.)
The purpose of this “wall” was to prevent salt smuggling and collect the notorious Salt Tax.
A Little Bit of Specifics...
The Inland Customs Line was not your usual brick-and-mortar wall. It was predominantly comprised of vast green hedges, supplemented by natural barriers like hills and rivers. The hedgerow was peppered with hundreds of guard posts and patrolled by thousands of sentries.
At its most perfect sections, the Great Hedge was up to 14 feet high and 12 feet wide.
A Little Bit of Eulogy...
The Great Hedge fell to disuse by the end of the 19th century. Post-independence, most of it was either reclaimed by nature or overlaid with roads and railways. In 1996, when Roy Moxham, an English conservator, went looking for the Inland Customs Line, he couldn’t find a trace.
What used to run all the way across the Indian subcontinent, splitting it in two, lives now only in limited memory.
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