Chandraketugarh




Check out the following book published by Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training, Eastern India:

ARCHAEOLOGY of EASTERN INDIA: NEW PERSPECTIVES

Edited by Gautam Sengupta and Sheena Panja
2002



ARCHAEOLOGY of EASTERN INDIA: NEW PERSPECTIVES attempts to deal with some of the questions and problems in the archaeology of the region and highlights empirical work currently in progress in diverse areas of eastern India. Archaeology in eastern India is fraught with numerous problems. There have been very few systematic field surveys or excavations alongwith a complete lack of multidisciplinary work in this area. We are yet to gain any comprehensive insight into the culture-history of the region. Moreover scholars have rarely critically questioned many concepts, ideas and assumptions which are basic to the understanding of the discipline itself. This book deals with a few of such theoretical problems, the notion of a "site", the debate on style and chronology as well as the importance of tools like ethnoarchaeology and the use of natural sciences in archaeological understanding alongwith a review of currrent research. This book is a beginning to a more critical and holistic archaeology which seeks to fathom the many dimensions of past human behaviour and culture.
CONTENTS:

  • Introduction
    Gautam Sengupta and Sheena Panja



  • I. The Question of Chronology and Style
  • Sima Roychowdhury

  • Style and Chronology: Problems in Evolving a Temporal Framework for the Early Historical Terracottas from Bengal
  • Durga Basu

  • The Question of Chronology and Style in Connection with Early HIstoric Pottery of West Bengal
  • Sandrine Gill

  • Two Notes on Chronology and Style: Evidence from Mahasthan


    II. The Notion of a "Site"
  • Bishnupriya Basak

  • The Notion of Site: Rethinking the Microlithic of Western Plateau Land
  • Sukanya Sharma

  • The Prehistoric Sites of Western Garo Hills, Meghalaya
  • Monica L. Smith

  • Systematic Survey at the Early Historic Urban Site of Sisupalgarh, Orissa
  • Suchira Roy Chowdhury

  • Understanding Archaeological Settlements in the Dynamic Landscapes of Ajay River Valley
  • Sharmi Chakraborty

  • Chandraketugarh -- A Site in Lower Bengal
  • Jitu Misra

  • Early Historic Archaeology of Chilka Lake, Orissa: An Ecological Perspective
  • Shah Sufi Mustafizur Rahman

  • The Early Historic and Early Medieval Archaeology of Bogra District, Bangladesh
  • Sheena Panja

  • Understanding Early Medieval Sites of North Bengal
  • Pratip Kumar Mitra

  • Source Material on the Medieval Cities of Gaur and Pandua (West Bengal, India) in the British Public Collections
  • Sutapa Sinha

  • Archaeology of the Medieval City of Gaur


    III. The Role of Ethnographic Work and its Relevance to the Archaeology of Eastern India
  • Potshangbam Binodini Devi

  • Living Megalithic Traditions among the Poumais of Manipur
  • Kaushik Gangopadhyay

  • Terracotta Objects in Archaeology: An Ethnoarchaeological Study


    IV. Some Current Work in Archaeological Science
  • Gautam Sengupta and Sambhu Chakraborty

  • Locale: Material and Monuments: Beguma Group of Temples, Barakar, West Bengal
  • Anjan Kumar Das, Sheena Panja, Tapas Kumar Mukhopadhyaya and Sachchidananda Chakrabarti

  • Pottery Technology and Provenance Studies from the Site of Chandraketugarh in Lower Bengal
  • Pranab K. Chattopadhyay

  • Metal Finds from Chandraketugarh, West Bengal: Archaeotechnical Studies


    V. Current Review of Archaeological Explorations and Excavations
  • Asok Datta

  • Ecology and Cultural Behaviour of the Early Man in Bengal - A Case Study at Gandheswari and Tarafeni River VAlleys
  • Pradeep Mohanty and Baba Misra

  • Archaeology of Kalahandi District, Orissa
  • P. K. Behera

  • Khameswaripali: A Protohistoric Site in the Middle Mahanadi Valley, Orissa: Results of First Season's (1996-97) Excavation
  • Sadashiv Pradhan

  • Recent Excavations at Chalcolithic Sites in Orissa
  • Jean-Francois Salles, Marie Francoise Boussac and Jean-Yves Breuil

  • Mahasthangarh (Bangladesh) and the Ganges Valley in the Mauryan period
  • Amal Roy

  • A Newly Discovered Buddhist Monastery at Jagajjivanpur, West Bengaql
  • Abu Imam

  • Samatata, Mainamati: Some Observations



    For further information, please write to:
    Secretary
    Centre for Archaeological Studies & Training, Eastern India,
    43, Shakespeare Sarani
    Kolkata 700 017
    Ph. : 33-2281-6029/5553 700 017
    e-mail: castei@vsnl.net



    Check out the following book just published by Marg Publications (India’s premier publisher on the Arts):

    BENGAL: SITES AND SIGHTS

    Edited by Pratapaditya Pal and Enamul Haque
    Marg Publications, 2003
    CONTENTS:

  • INTRODUCTION

  • MANGALKOT AND BURDWAN: Antiquity and Antiquities
    Samir Kumar Mukherjee

  • CHANDRAKETUGARH: Enigmatic Entrepot of Ancient Bengal
    Enamul Haque

  • PAHARPUR: Buddhist Complex of Ancient Bengal
    Dilip K. Chakrabarti

  • MAINAMATI: City on the Red Hills
    Gouriswar Bhattacharya

  • MAHASTHANGARH: Great Citadel
    Enamul Haque

  • GAUR AND PANDUA: Capitals of the Bengal Sultans
    Naseem Banerji

  • BISHNUPUR: Capital of the Land of Wrestlers
    Asok K. Bhattacharya

  • HOOGHLY: The Common Emporium
    Gautam Sengupta

  • MURSHIDABAD: Capital of Fleeting Glory
    Pratapaditya Pal


  • Theme:

    The purpose of the book is to provide an overview of the material culture of undivided (pre-1947) Bengal through a selection of nine sites, three of which are now in Bangladesh and six in West Bengal. While some such as Chandraketugarh, Mahasthangarh, and Mangalkot are archaeological sites, others are still thriving and sprawling settlements nestling rich remains of their glorious heritage. Some such as Bishnupur, Mainamati, or Murshidabad are well known names that resonate with historical or romantic associations. It is hoped that this volume will result in a wider awareness of these heritage sites and sights among both the government and the public.

    For orders, please contact:
    MARG PUBLICATIONS
    Army and Navy Building
    3rd Floor
    148, M.G. Road
    Mumbai 400 001
    e-mail: margpub@tata.com
    Website: www.marg-art.org



    Check out the September 2002 issue of the Marg (India’s premier publisher on the Arts). It's a special issue on Indian Terracotta Sculpture and contains articles on Chandraketugarh.

    Marg, September 2002

    Special Issue on: Indian Terracotta Sculpture: The Early Period:

  • Introduction
    Pratapaditya Pal

  • Terracotta of the Harappan Civilization with Special Reference to Indian Sites
    Dilip K. Chakrabarti

  • Creative Legacy of the Nilgiri Hills: Terracotta Offerings from South Indian Megalithic Burials
    Corinna Wessels-Mevissen

  • Terracotta Sculpture from the Ancient Northwest: 300 BCE – 60 CE
    John Siudmak

  • Moulded Terracotta from the Indo-Gangetic Divide: Sugh, circa 200 BCE – 50 CE
    Naman P. Ahuja

  • Terracotta of Bengal: Shunga and Kushana
    Asok K. Bhattacharya

  • Terracotta Art in the Gangetic Valley under the Kushanas
    Samir Kumar Mukherjee

  • The Forgotten Terracottas of Padmavati: circa 5th Century CE
    Rekha Morris




  • Also, Prof. Enamul haque's book on Chandraketugarh was published last year, here's a link:

    Chandraketugarh : A Treasure House of Bengal Terracottas
    Enamul Haque
    Dhaka, The International Centre for Study of Bengal Art, 2001

    416 p., 678 illustrations including 400 in colour, figures, plates, maps, ISBN 984-814-002-6. [Studies in Bengal art series No. 4]

    Contributed articles to this website


    This page contains


    Courtesy: W.B. State Archeo. Museum

    Next page contains


    Discovery and brief history:

    Geography: Chandraketugarh is located in the district of 24 Parganas, only 38 Km north-east of Calcutta (Kolkata) in West Bengal, India. It falls under the Police Station of Deganga and covers the localities such as Berachampa, Deulia (Debalaya), Singer Ati, Shanpukur, Hadipur, Jhikra, Ranakhola, Ghorapota, Dhanpota, Chuprijhara, Mathbari, and Ghaziatala. A seven mile long and one mile wide stretch south of Berachampa is archaeologically the most significant.

    A port-city? Chandraketugarh is located in the dynamic alluvial delta of the mighty Ganges, where the rivers continuously change their courses. In general, due to new land formation, the well-known ancient coastal towns are now found far inside the mainland. It is therefore difficult to obtain any hard facts regarding the geography of ancient Chandraketugarh. Although not adjacent to any major navigable sea-bound water channel at present, Chandraketugarh lies only ten kilometers north of the dying stream of Vidyadhari river. Vidyadhari once used to be a strong navigable river opening up to the Adi Ganga, the ancient course of the Ganges. Through this route, the Chandraketugarh site probably had easy access to the sea.

    A depiction of the immediate surrounding of Chandraketugarh with the Vidyadhari river can be found in this map (in Bengali), courtesy: Dilip Maite.


    Discovery: The Archaeological significance of the Chandraketugarh area came to the attention in the early years of the last century when road-building activities exposed a brick structre. A. H. Longhurst first visited the site in 1907 on the urging of Tarak Nath Ghosh, a local resident. Despite the recovery of a large volume of bricks and potteries, Longhurst, unfortunatley, reported that "the ruins were of little or no interest". Rakhaldas Bandopadhyay (of Mohen-Jo-Daro fame) visited the site in 1909 and collected some artifacts. K. N. Dikshit, Superintendent of the Eastern Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), first published a report on the site in 1922-23. Kalidas Dutt, a well-known author of the archaeology of the lower Bengal, inspired Deva Prasad Ghosh, Kalyan Kumar Ganguly, and Kunja Govinda Goswami to take notice of this site. It was due to their persuation that the site was excavated by the Asutosh Museum of the Indian Art of the Calcutta University through 1955 to 1967. Their reports were published in the annual ASI Reviews. Finally, in 2000, there was a minor excavation at the site by ASI under Bimal Banerjee; however this effort has come to an abrupt stop (I do not know why).

    There are two formidable difficulties facing the scholars studying Chandraketugarh. First, the relatively small scale of excavation at Chandraketugarh (by Asutosh Museum) is not sufficient for a comprehensive understanding of the society and culture of such an extensive site. Except for last year's short-lived excavation, we do not know if ASI, under whose custody the site is presently preserved, ever planned or executed any excavation since Asutosh Museum suspended theirs in 1967. Second, no detailed report on Chandraketugarh has ever been published by the scholars involved in the excavation of the site. All we have are the annual articles of the ASI Review, which, though they are indeed very useful, do not have the scope to present an assimilative view of several years of exploration. We probably will never have such a report written by one of the original excavators.


    History: The history of Chandraketugarh dates back to almost the 3rd Century B.C., during the pre-Mauryan era. Artifacts suggest that the site was continuously inhabited and flourished through the Sunga-Kushana period, then the Gupta period and finally the Pala-Sena period. From all indications Chandraketugarh was an important urban center, and most probably a port city. It had a high encircled wall with a rampart and a moat. The people were engaged in various crafts and mercantile activities. Although the religious inclinations of the people are unclear, hints of the beginning of some future cults can be traced in the artifacts. Some of the potteries carry inscriptions in Kharoshthi and Brahmi scripts.

    Due to the inconsistencies in the ASI Review reports and lack of crucial data it is extremely difficult to draw a comprehensive and reliable stratigraphical picture of the site. Enamul Haque has presented an occupational sequence by studying the ASI Review reports and allowing for marginal adjustments. Let me reproduce it:

    Period I
    Pre-Maurya, 600-300 B.C.
    Period II
    Maurya, 300-200 B.C.
    Period III
    Sunga, 200 B.C. - 50 A.D.
    Period IV
    Kushan, 50-300 A.D.
    Period V
    Gupta, 300-500 A.D.
    Period VI
    Post-Gupta, 500-750 A.D.
    Period VII
    Pala-Chandra-Sena, 750-1250 A.D.

    Chandraketugarh excels in the beauty of its terracotta art. Even a cursory glance at one of its hundreds of terracotta plaques will astonish the viewer with its elegance and unusual precision of craftsmanship. For their artistic values these plaques are easily comparable to, if not surpassing, those found from relatively better known sites such as Kaushambi and Ahichhatra. In fact, terracotta plaques from these sites often carry similar motifs executed in nearly identical fashion. This points to an established communication link and common cultural heritage among these sites.

    A large number of silver punch-marked coins and a few gold coins have been unearthed from Chandraketugarh. A gold coin of Chandragupta-Kumardevi deserves special mention. A large number of semi-precious stone beads, materials of ivory and bone were also unearthed from here. Even a few wooden objects of remarkable sculpting have survived.

    Compiled from many sources including the exhibition leaflet of the (West Bengal) State Archaeological Museum and Enamul Haque's paper titled Chandraketugarh: A resume of excavation reports (1956-67) Journal of Bengal Art, Vol.1, 1996, pp.39-75

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    Close up of the "burz". Stop here for a moment and imagine standing here many centuries ago. You have already crossed the moat that surrounds the fortifications and are perhaps waiting for the sentry to let you in.

    You can walk on (literally) the ancient fortified ramparts, now a nice tree-lined path. Watch as you step, notice the pottery and brick shards lurking underneath the dusty cover.


    A neglected site under fast track of disintegration:

    Chandraketugarh can easily qualify as a major neglected site in the entire India. It's a pity that almost three-quarters of a century after the publication of the first article on Chandraketugarh (by Longhurst, in ASI-AR, 1922-23) and the continuous discovery of numerous art objects to this day, we know precious little about the history of the region.

    A full-scale excavation, as soon as possible, is certainly the ideal step to take at this point. (It was the ideal step to take 50 years ago!) Any self-respecting society inheriting such a priceless treasure would have done so. However, the pessimism among the researchers and the interested parties run so deep that even a serious official recognition of the importance of the site by ASI will be a welcome sign. Meanwhile artifacts decay and are lost forever. More importantly, the interest of art collectors are focused on Chandraketugarh and as a consequence a large number artifacts find their way to personal collectors and museums within and outside India, often to be permanently away from researchers' access.

    About the last point, it is interesting to consider the following argument successfully driven home by Dr. Dilip Chakrabarti (Department of Oriental Studies of Cambridge University. I quote from the minutes of Memorandum submitted by the Museums Association in the House of Commons, Culture Media and Sport (click here for a direct link). "He drew attention to three items in a Sotheby's catalogue for a sale of Asian antiquities, that were labelled "Probably Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, second and first century BC". Dr Chakrabarti explained that this site, north of Calcutta, has never been professionally excavated and was not discovered until the mid-1950s, by which time India's law forbidding the export of archaeological material was already in place. Therefore, any material from Chandraketugarh has by definition been illegally excavated and illegally exported from India."

    Despite this, it is public knowledge that Chandraketugarh artifacts are "owned" by several individual collectors and are sold in the international market by art dealers (Some such links can be found in these pages). So, we won't even know what we have lost.

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    Contributions of individual collectors:

    We owe an immense gratitude to the local collectors who have painstakingly collected and preserved artifacts from Chandraketugarh through the years. Without their diligent effort and passion we would probably have lost many of the valuable materials unearthed from the sites. Although it is true that they cannot provide any high level of scientific preservation techniques to these materials, and that is a concern for the long-term well-being of the artifacts, they are certainly doing their best. Very importantly, their collections, hosted in their respective residences, are open to public. This, I consider, is a very generous service to the interested people. Given that there is very little to "see" at the sites, without these collections we would be absolutely unable to form any picture of Chandraketugarh. So, if you are going to visit Chandraketugarh, visiting these personal collections is a must.

    The well-known individual collectors of Chandraketugarh-related materials are: Prabir Kumar Goswami (no relation to me), Abdul Jabbar, Asad-uj-Jaman and Dilip Kumar Maite. Abdul Jabbar has recently passed away and I have heard that his son-in-law currently oversees the collection. I haven't had the chance to visit this collection. Nor have I visited the collection of Prabir Kumar Goswami, although I have seen several items from his collection in the Exhibition on the life and art of Chandraketugarh organized by the (West Bengal) State Archaeological Museum.

    I have personally visited the mesmerizing collections of Dilip Kumar Maite and Asad-uj-Jaman and highly appreciated their hospitality (remember, the collections are in their residences and I arrived without notice!). What I especially liked was their friendliness and openness.

    They allowed me to take photographs of their collections without any hesitation. Why is this unusual? Because, and I do not know the actual reason, you cannot take any photograph in the single largest collection of Chandraketugarh materials at the Asutosh Museum of the Calcutta University. I have visited the museum and the collection is simply impressive, but I don't have any photo to show you. Also, going by their published catalog, there is another collection of Chandraketugarh materials at the venerable Indian Museum, Kolkata. But it is not even open to public, so forget about photo.

    Click on the following links to visit two photo albums:


    Collection of Dilip Kumar Maite

    Collection of Asad-uj-Jaman

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    An exhibition on Chandraketugarh:


    Courtesy: W.B. State Archeo. Museum
    The (West Bengal) State Archaeological Museum recently organized an exhibition titled "Exhibition on the life and art of Chandraketugarh" which I had the opportunity to visit. The impressive array of compiled artifacts in one place, their careful and harmonious organization, and meticulous attention to details made it a memorable exhibition. The organizers were enthusiastically interacting with the visitors. To my knowledge, this is the first exhibition entirely devoted to Chandraketugarh. I was allowed to take photographs and here they are for your enjoyment:

    Exhibition on the life and art of Chandraketugarh


    Courtesy: W.B. State Archeo. Museum
    I visited Rupasi Bangla, a temporary exhibition held at the Indian Museum, which contained some artifacts from Chandraketugarh. The embarrassing situation through which me and my friend Indrajit had to go through to obtain their permission to take photographs is a story I will tell some other time, but here are the photos.
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    Links in this site:

    Featured Articles Page

    Chandraketugarh - Next Page

    Back to Main Page

    State Archaeological Museum Exhibition

    Collection of Dilip Kumar Maite

    Collection of Asad-uj Jaman

    Photos from ASI Reviews

    Temporary Exhibition at Indian Museum

    My photos of Khana-Mihirer Dhipi

    My photos of Chandraketugarh area (trees, ricefields...)



    Courtesy: Asad-uj Jaman
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    Disclaimer, acknowledgements and comments:

    The opinions expressed in these pages are mine.

    I have tried to cite people concerned regarding the materials included in these pages. I will promptly rectify any omission brought to my notice. The photographs are all taken by me, except for the ones which are from the Reviews of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

    I wish to thank:
    • Asad-uj-Jaman and Dilip Maite for allowing me to visit and take photographs at their collections.
    • the organizers of the "Exhibition on the life and art of Chandraketugarh" at the (West Bengal) State Archaeological Museum for a superb exhibition and for allowing me to take photographs.
    • Dr. Dilip Chakrabarti of Univeristy of Cambridge provided me with significant feedback on my efforts, given me some of his paper preprints, and above all, written an article on Chandraketugarh for this website.
    • Dr. Sima Roy Chowdhury for maintaining an informative conversation with me regarding her work on Chandraketugarh and for providing me with short descriptions on the photos from the State Archaeological Museum.
    • Indrajit Chaudhuri, with whom I visited Chandraketugarh for the first time almost 20 years ago. He has given me a stack of papers on Chandraketugarh, provided me with most of the information and accompanied me to all the exhibitions.
    • Suvro Datta who virtually taught me photography (again, 20 years ago). He has been an immense help while I was going through the painful first steps of setting up this website. He is a sensitive photographer with an eye for composition and simple beauty in unusual places. You can visit his website at suvro.com to see mesmerizing pictures of India and other places.
    • Rochelle Kessler, Assisstant Curator of LACMA (South and Southeast Asian Art) for a reprint.
    Despite the appearance of Chandraketugarh objects in famous museums within and outside India, the existence of this site is little known, even to the people of Kolkata. I will derive immense pleasure and satisfaction when the children who play on the dusty mounds of the present-day Chandraketugarh and on the ruins of Khana-Mihirer Dhipi become conscious of their rich history and take justified pride in it.

    Finally, I will greatly appreciate information on any article, reference, photo, weblink or material of any kind related to Chandraketugarh from the visitors of this page. Also, if you locate any factual error, or simply have a comment, please mail me.

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    Ambarish Goswami
    Last Revised July 20, 2004