Dhosa and Tilpi are the latest additions in the archeological
map of West Bengal. Excavation started there in January 2006
and yielded treasures far beyond the expectations of
archeologists and historians. Although excavation has
temporarily stopped because of the monsoon, it is all set
to start in December 2006 and historians are looking
forward for more treasures to be unearthed.
The famous Chinese traveler Fa Hien reported of a highly
evolved Buddhist civilization that flourished in the
Gangetic Bengal. The concentric square structure unearthed
at Dhosa seemed to be the remains of a Bhuddist Stupa,
one of the 22 reported by Fa Hien. It probably belongs
to the Gupta period, dating back to the 2nd and 1st
century BC. The findings at Dhosa are probably the first
concrete evidence of popularity of Buddhism in lower
Bengal. Archeologists also opine that the visible structure
unearthed at Dhosa was built on another pre-existing structure.
On the other hand Tilpi, the twin site of Dhosa, has
yielded almost no archeological structure but the entire
region is strewn with copper ore, iron slag,
punched-marked and cast copper coin, fragments of pottery
(including glazed pottery). Historians are of the
opinion that the findings at Tipli are the remains of
an ancient furnace, where ancient smiths smelted metals
like silver and iron along with alloys like bronze and
finally casted them into coins. Archeological evidence
indicates that both smelting and casting were carried
out at Tilpi simultaneously, probably the only place
in Gangetic Bengal to do so.
Altogether 8 hearths measuring about 50cm by 80cm
cross-section and 80cm high have been unearthed. Also
small crucibles used for melting metals were found.
A large clay jar, fixed to the ground, probably used
for storing water was found near the hearths.
Apart from the structure unearthed at Dhosa a number
of interesting artifacts have been found from these sites.
They range from parts of statues to copper coins and
from decorated seals to pieces of glazed pottery. A
shortlist is provided below:
Note: The items described above are listed in The
Telegraph (see reference) and are taken to the
Archeological Museum in Behala. We didn’t have
the opportunity to see any of them.
Buddha head and a male torso, with typical features
of early Gupta period.
Two terracotta plaques dating back to the early
Sunga & Kushan Period. One plaque is particularly
beautiful and interesting. It shows a plate of grain
on a raised platform. On one side of this platform
is a seated figure playing a harp and on the other
are dancing women and a few monkeys. The fact that
the figure’s feet rest on a stool suggests he was a
royalty. Probably the plaque narrates the image of
early harvesting festival, but historians are still
not quiet sure.
A seal and a brick with Brahmi inscription. This
shows that it was a literate society.
Copper ore, iron slag, punched-marked and cast
copper coin, etc. have been found; this suggests
that the society knew the use of currency. Also
evidences show that Dhosa and Tilpi, like
Chandraketugarh, were advanced urban centers
of lower Bengal.
Central part of the square structure
Side part of the square structure at Dhosa.
Side part of the square structure at Dhosa.
Artifacts collected by locals at Tilpi.
Located on the Sealdah (south) – Namkhana line the
twin sites of Dhosa and Tilpi are close enough to be
visited in a single day from Calcutta. It is best to
take the morning train and in little over an hour
you will be in Gocharan.
After getting down at Gocharan take an auto to Dhosa.
The autos are over-crowded and the roads bumpy.
Fortunately the journey last only 45 minutes and soon
you will be at Dhosa Bazar. If you are there on a Sunday
it will be the weekly market day. Make your way through
the crowded market and walk a few yards on the right to
reach the archeological site.
The archeological site, roughly measuring 10 meters x 10
meters, is encroached by settlements on all sides. Historians
say that there is no evidence of human settlement continuing
in Dhosa and Tilpi from the Gupta period, but the settlement
crowding these areas date roughly from the medieval period
(16th and 17th century AD). So what made the people leave
Dhosa and Tilpi? Is it some natural calamity or extreme
salinity of the soil? Historians are not sure.
If you are there when excavation is not in progress you
will have the site all to yourself, apart from some
ever-curious locals. The site includes concentric square
structure and several other square structures scattered
on all side. Even you can climb up the temporary
observation tower, erected by the archeologists, to get
a grand view of the entire site. The bird’s eye view
offered a complex maze of structures.
After bidding farewell to Dhosa head for Tilpi on a
motor van and this too is a bumpy ride. As mentioned
earlier the site at Tilpi did not yield much structural
evidence, but the entire area is strewn with pieces of
pottery, including glazed pottery, dating back to the
2nd and 1st century BC. The site measuring 10 meters by
6 meters is located beside a pond and is surrounded by
bamboo trees. It contains several shallow and deep pits.
The four deep pits are about 2m deep and have a
cross-section of 2m x 2m. These pits have jagged pieces
of pottery sticking out of its vertical walls. There are
several shallow pits scattered al round the site.
Here you are quiet likely to encounter a number of locals,
who will show you a number of artifacts collected by
them. These included terracotta seals, pottery of
different shapes and sizes (some totally intact),
crucibles, etc. the locals were friendly enough and
may even let you photograph the items.
Some of the artifacts viewed by us during our visits were:
A terracotta figure of a dog/fox’s head about 10 cm
in height, similar to those found in Chandraketugarh region.
A terracotta seal, about 8 cm x 5 cm, showing a woman.
A small pot of glazed pottery.
A slightly elongated earthen jar, decorated with
horizontal and vertical lines.
Earthen handles, probably broken away from jars.
Earthen crucibles used for smelting metals.
Fragments of pottery, including glazed pottery.
Going: Sealdah (South) - Namkhana / Lakshmikantapur Local
get down at Gocharan (Rs9). The journey takes about an hour.
Trains are available at an interval of one hour.
Getting Around: Autos are available from Gocharan to Dhosa
(Rs. 7) and motor van (reserved) from Dhosa to Tilpi
and back (Rs. 50 including waiting charge at Tilpi)
Trip tips: A day trip is enough to cover both the places.
Basic eateries are available at Dhosa.
1. Treasure trove seals worth of site- Emerging,
Holy Centre by Sebanti Sarkar The Telegraph dated 28/02/06.
2. Twin sites of Mystery – Archeological Seminar
by Sebanti Sarkar The Telegraph dated 11/03/06.
3. 2200 – yr – old life in Bengal by a staff
reporter The Telegraph dated 19/02/06.
4. Furnace found near stupa site by Sebanti
Sarkar The Telegraph dated 19/03/06.
Photos by Rangan Datta
Photos edited by Saroj Kr Mallick