India’s account of the past is divided into two time periods. The first is called historic period, which starts somewhere from the time Shakyamuni Siddharth Goutam Buddha was born in the sixth century BCE. The other or pre-historic period is the one previous to that. The most insurmountable task that a historian faces, studying India’s history even in historic period, is lack of any written documents except for few rock inscriptions and terracotta cealings. Any new archaeological find is therefore most welcome and throws more light on the dark period.
India’s central region has always remained comparatively undeveloped with its dense forests area. Chhattisgarh state located in this region is actually 10th largest state in India, with an area of52,200 sq miles). It is an imortant electricity and steel-producing state of India with India’s 15% steel prduction coming from the state. About 30 Km from the state capital “Raipur,” and near the town of Tarighat, new excavations carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have brought to light remnants of an ancient city believed to be 2,500 year old city with a rich haul of not only gold and silver coins but also ornaments and means of amusement- indicating a rich and affluent lifestyle of several dynasties.
The excavation site at Tarighat, in Patan tehsil of Durg district of Chhattisgarh, is located on the banks of “Kharun river.” Mr. J.R.Bhagat, Deputy director of ASI in charge of the excavation work says: “ Itwas a chance discovery during my personal visit to Tarighat in 2008, when I found some old coins, beads, pottery items, bones and some structural features on the banks of Kharun River. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has now approved excavation of the area, based on the initial findings.” He adds further: “The ancient city located 30km away from the capital was found buried in 2008 in Patan tehsil of Durg district. Its remains indicate that it was a well-planned settlement dating back to 2nd and 3rd century BCE. But, there may be possibility of retrieving settlements dating back as far as sixth century BCE when we go further deep.”
It is generally assumed that Tarighat finds date from 5th and 3rd century BCE. This was the period when the region was ruled by the Kushan and Satavahana dynasties in central India. An archaeologist from the Deccan College, Pune, says “It was the end of the period of the 16 Mahajanapadas (loosely translated to great kingdoms) when the Mahabharata was supposedly set, and when the Maurya empire had just began.”
There are four 15ft high mounds on the river bank around which existance of coins and some terracotta figures have been found. State archaeological department believes that the area seems to have been divided into blocks which appear like a market. Many structures were found to be facing the main road which is clearly visible between the blocks. About six to eight rooms were found on both sides of the road. Explorers claim that they have evidence of a 2,500-year-old planned city, complete with water reservoirs, roads, seals and coins, buried in the city. This remarkable discovery is being called as Kharun valley civilization.
The objects that have been found so far include besides coins, means of amusement like dice made of ivory and terracotta, three fishing nets, sling balls and hub scotch also called ‘billas’, few pendant seals made of ivory and stone inscribed in Brahmi script from Pre-Kushan era. Three gold coins belonging of 5th century AD, pots full of copper coins soiled in clay, terracotta figurines, gold and copper beads, utensils made of clay including bowls and basins.
The discovery of such a major urban conglomerate is of great importance as existance of such human settlements was discovered only in the Ganga basin in north India so far at places such as “ Ahichhatra.” There has been very little information known about any urban structures of this period in regions of central India where modern-day Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are located.
A member of the excavation team says that four huge mounds of about 15 feet height from ground level have been found. A portion of one of the mounds located in the east was washed away by a river exposing around 15 layers of soils in different forms indicating existence of structures buried inside. In the sixth layer, a patch of burnt clay circled around one of the mounds. This indicates the ancient city might have been completely burnt and later revived. All four mounds are still intact. Impressions of a courtyard and common road inside the city are clearly visible.
There was a mini gold rush, when villagers around the excavation site learned about the discovery of gold coins. The archaeology department had to take police help to strengthen security measures in the site to prevent heist of the treasure trove.
(First published in Akshardhool on 5th June 2013)