ARCHAEOLOGY of EASTERN INDIA: NEW PERSPECTIVES
Edited by Gautam Sengupta and Sheena Panja
|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.|
IntroductionGautam Sengupta and Sheena Panja
I. The Question of Chronology and Style
Style and Chronology: Problems in Evolving a Temporal Framework for the Early Historical Terracottas from Bengal
The Question of Chronology and Style in Connection with Early HIstoric Pottery of West Bengal
Two Notes on Chronology and Style: Evidence from Mahasthan
II. The Notion of a "Site"
The Notion of Site: Rethinking the Microlithic of Western Plateau Land
The Prehistoric Sites of Western Garo Hills, Meghalaya
Systematic Survey at the Early Historic Urban Site of Sisupalgarh, Orissa
Understanding Archaeological Settlements in the Dynamic Landscapes of Ajay River Valley
Chandraketugarh -- A Site in Lower Bengal
Early Historic Archaeology of Chilka Lake, Orissa: An Ecological Perspective
The Early Historic and Early Medieval Archaeology of Bogra District, Bangladesh
Understanding Early Medieval Sites of North Bengal
Source Material on the Medieval Cities of Gaur and Pandua (West Bengal, India) in the British Public Collections
Archaeology of the Medieval City of Gaur
III. The Role of Ethnographic Work and its Relevance to the Archaeology of Eastern India
Living Megalithic Traditions among the Poumais of Manipur
Terracotta Objects in Archaeology: An Ethnoarchaeological Study
IV. Some Current Work in Archaeological Science
Locale: Material and Monuments: Beguma Group of Temples, Barakar, West Bengal
Pottery Technology and Provenance Studies from the Site of Chandraketugarh in Lower Bengal
Metal Finds from Chandraketugarh, West Bengal: Archaeotechnical Studies
V. Current Review of Archaeological Explorations and Excavations
Ecology and Cultural Behaviour of the Early Man in Bengal - A Case Study at Gandheswari and Tarafeni River VAlleys
Archaeology of Kalahandi District, Orissa
Khameswaripali: A Protohistoric Site in the Middle Mahanadi Valley, Orissa: Results of First Season's (1996-97) Excavation
Recent Excavations at Chalcolithic Sites in Orissa
Mahasthangarh (Bangladesh) and the Ganges Valley in the Mauryan period
A Newly Discovered Buddhist Monastery at Jagajjivanpur, West Bengaql
Samatata, Mainamati: Some Observations
BENGAL: SITES AND SIGHTS
Edited by Pratapaditya Pal and Enamul Haque
Marg Publications, 2003
Samir Kumar Mukherjee
Dilip K. Chakrabarti
Asok K. Bhattacharya
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.
Marg, September 2002
Special Issue on: Indian Terracotta Sculpture: The Early Period:
Dilip K. Chakrabarti
Naman P. Ahuja
Asok K. Bhattacharya
Samir Kumar Mukherjee
Contributed articles to this website
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Courtesy: W.B. State Archeo. Museum
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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
(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:
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.
|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.|
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.
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:
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:
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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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
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:
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.
Last Revised July 20, 2004