1,200-Year-Old Sculpture Unearthed in Southern India
The Hindu reports that an eighth-century A.D. sculpture of Lord Vishnu, one of the principal Hindu deities.
M. Maruthu Pandiyan of the Madurai Government Museum said the style of the sculpture corresponds to the Pandya dynasty, a Tamil-speaking group that ruled in South India and Sri Lanka as early as the fourth century B.C.
An eight century Common Era (CE) sculpture of Lord Vishnu, belonging to the Pandya period, was found at the western bank of the Gundaru river at Ulagani village of Kallikudi block in southern India by a team of researchers from Madurai Kamaraj University.
Madurai Government Museum Curator M. Maruthu Pandiyan and Udhayakumar, a researcher, checked the sculpture based on the information provided by Kannan, a Tamil student of a college affiliated to Madurai Kamaraj University, and Sangaiah, a professor from the college.
Mr. Maruthu Pandiyan said the features of the sculpture indicated that it belongs to the Pandya period. “Mainly, the sacred thread of the sculpture goes above the right forearm and a broad ‘kanthi’ (necklet) studded with big gems adorns the neck.
Similar sculptures of the Pandya period have been found in various places such as Thirumalapuram, Tirupparankundram, and Sevalpatti,” he said.
The sculpture has four hands. Among them, two arms are held up vertically. The right arm has a broken chakra and in the left arm a conch. “The chakra and conch are the main features of the Pandya period,” said Mr. Maruthu Pandiyan.
The village has also been mentioned in a book about the inscriptions of the Madurai district, which was released by the State Archaeology Department.
The book mentions that this village had an old name, ‘Kulasegara chathurvethimangalam or Ulagunimangalam.”
Also, a 13th-century Pandya inscription mentioned that the local village administrators had levied a special tax called ‘pasipaattam’ tax (a tax on fishing) for the renovation of the tank.
An Ancient society is 2,500 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids
Ancient Egypt may appear as the epitome of an advanced early civilisation to many by its impressive pyramids and complex rules. However, recent research reveals the civilization of the Indus Valley in India and Pakistan, known for its well-planned settlements and outstanding art, before Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Experts now assume that it is 8,000 years old – 2,500 years older than commonly believed – and still considered one of the oldest cultures in the world. Their study also sheds new light on why the seemingly flourishing civilization collapsed.
A team of researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Institute of Archaeology, Deccan College Pune, and IIT Kharagpur, have analyzed pottery fragments and animal bones from the Bhirrana in the north of the country using carbon-dating methods.
‘Based on radiocarbon ages from different trenches and levels the settlement at Bhirrana has been inferred to be the oldest (>9 ka BP) in the Indian sub-continent,’ the experts wrote in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal.
They used also used ‘optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) method’ to check the dating and investigate whether the climate changed when the civilization was thriving, to fill ‘a critical gap in information … [about] the Harappan [Indus Valley] civilization.’
While more tests are required, the study suggests the Indus Valley Civilisation pre-dates those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which are also famed for their impressive ability to build organized cities.
It’s thought the civilization spread across parts of what is now Pakistan and northwest India in the Bronze Age and at its peak, some five million people lived in one million square miles along citadels built near the basins of the Indus River.
Pottery and metals discovered at various ancient sites in the region indicate the people were skilled craftsmen and metallurgists, able to work copper, bronze, lead, and tin, as well as bake bricks and control the supply and drainage of water.
Anindya Sarkar, a professor at the department of geology and geophysics at IIT Kharagpur, told International Business Times: ‘Our study pushes back the antiquity to as old as 8th millennium before present and will have major implications to the evolution of human settlements in Indian sub-continent.’
The archaeological sites at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, show the ancient people were adept town planners and farmers.
Discovered in the 1920s, the Unesco site of Mohenjo-Daro is one of the largest and most advanced settlements of the Indus Valley Civilisation, with streets arranged round rectangular brick houses, two large assembly halls, a market place, public baths, and a central well.
Individual households got their water from smaller wells and wastewater was channelled into main streets, with some more lavish properties boasting their own bath and a second storey.
Experts have previously suggested the seemingly successful and advanced civilization was gradually wiped out when the Indus River dried up as the result of climate change. There are many other theories too, including an Aryan invasion, catastrophic floods, changing sea levels, societal violence, and the spread of infectious diseases.
But the team has come up with a new theory.
‘Our study suggests that the climate was probably not the cause of Harappan decline,’ they wrote.
While the ancient people relied upon heavy and regular monsoons between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago to water their crops, after this period, evidence at Bhirrana shows people continued to survive despite changing weather patterns.
‘Increasing evidence suggests that these people shifted their crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley during the early part of intensified monsoon to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice in the later part of declining monsoon and thereby changed their subsistence strategy,’ they continued.
However, changing the crops they grew and harvested resulted in the ‘de-urbanization’ of cities and no need for large food storage facilities. Instead, the people swapped to personal storage spaces to look after their families.
‘Because these later crops generally have a much lower yield, the organized large storage system of mature Harappan period was abandoned giving rise to smaller more individual household-based crop processing and storage system and could act as a catalyst for the de-urbanization of the Harappan civilization rather than an abrupt collapse,’ the team wrote.
8th-Century A.D. Rock-Cut Temple Revealed in India
On the banks of the Arjuna River at Sivakasi ‘s M Pudhupatti village in India, a three-chambered rock-covered temple, believed to be 1,200 years old, has been identified.
The building, cut in the side of a limestone rock, was riddled with thickets and debris until a week ago when residents in the locality chanced upon it.
While archaeologists have identified the structure as a rock-cut temple,no idol, statue, or relief of gods or goddesses has so far been identified inside the temple’s three chambers — the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), ardhamandapam, and maha mandapam. A 20-feet long limestone mound marks the entrance to it. There are traces of cement on the walls and in the ceiling.
Archeologists believe these might have been part of the repair carried out by devotees around 100 years ago.
At several places inside the structure, the limestone is falling apart; there is a massive hole in the ceiling of the maha mandapam. Retired assistant director of the State Archeology Department Dr C Santhalingam said, “The temple is unique in three aspects.
First: It is a Sandhara-type of temple. There is no identified Sandhara-type rock-cut temple in India”. These temples have a circumambulatory passage (pradakshinapath) around the shrine.
Not all temples have these passages, said sources. “Second: The temple has two circumambulatory passages; this is very rare. While one passage moves in a clockwise direction from the ardhamandapam, the second one is adjacent to the mahamandapam,” he added.
“Third: The temple is carved entirely out of limestone,” he said. The stone is considered an inferior type owing to its features. “This is the reason why there is no artistic design, sculpture, or carving in the temple. However, there are niches on both the sides of the entrance to the garbagriha.
Moreover, there is a stone naga statue in the garbagriha,” said Santhalingam. The residents might have placed it there over a century ago to offer worship. The interior of the structure and the surrounding riverbank were cleaned by the local body.
‘From the Pandian Era’
The temple belongs to the early-Pandian era, around 8th century CE. It is similar to the Valli cave temple in Tiruchendur, which is carved out of sandstone, a rock similar in features to limestone, Santhalingam said.
India: Archaeologists found 9,000 years old city beneath the surface of modern-day Dwarka.
The discovery of the legendary city of Dvaraka which is said to have been founded by Sri Krishna is an important landmark in the validation of historical relevance of Mahabharata. It has set at rest the doubts expressed by historians about the historicity of Mahabharata and the very existence of Dvaraka city.
It has greatly narrowed the gap of Indian history by establishing the continuity of the Indian civilization from the Vedic age to the present day. The discovery has also shed welcome light on second urbanization in the so-called ‘Dark age’, on the resuscitation of dharma, on the resumption of maritime trade, and use of Sanskrit language and modified Indus script.
Incidentally, scientific data useful for a study of sea-level changes and effects of the marine environment on metals and wood over long periods has also been generated by underwater exploration. All this was possible because of the dedicated and daring efforts of marine archaeologists, scientists and technicians of the Marine Archaeology Centre of the National Institute of Oceanography
Dwaraka is a coastal town in Jamnagar district of Gujarat. Traditionally, modern Dwaraka is identified with Dvaraka, mentioned in the Mahabharata as Krishna’s city. Dwaraka was a port, and some scholars have identified it with the island of Barka mentioned in the Periplus of Erythrean Sea.
Ancient Dwaraka sank in the sea and hence is an important archaeological site. The first clear historical record of the lost city is dated 574 A.D. and occurs in the Palitana Plates of Samanta Simhaditya. This inscription refers to Dwaraka as the capital of the western coast of Saurashtra and still more important, states that Sri Krishna lived here.
The first archaeological excavations at Dwaraka were done by the Deccan College, Pune and the Department of Archaeology, Government of Gujarat, in 1963 under the direction of H.D. Sankalia. It revealed artefacts many centuries old.
The Marine Archaeological Unit (MAU) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted a second round of excavations in 1979 under the supervision of Dr S. R. Rao (one of the most respected archaeologists of India). An emeritus scientist at the marine archaeology unit of the National Institute of Oceanography, Rao has excavated a large number of Harappan sites including the port city of Lothal in Gujarat. He found distinct pottery known as lustrous red ware, which could be more than 3,000 years old. Based on the results of these excavations, the search for the sunken city in the Arabian Sea began in 1981. Scientists and archaeologists have continually worked on the site for 20 years.
The project for underwater exploration was sanctioned in 1984, directly by the then Prime Minister for three years. Excavation under the sea is a hard and strenuous task. The sea offers too much resistance. Excavation is possible only between November and February, during low tide. The sea has to be smooth and there should be bright sunshine. All these requirements effectively reduce the number of diving days to 40 to 45 in one season. In order to make the maximum use of the time available, divers use echo sounder to get a fairly accurate idea of the location and the depth of the object underwater.
The side-scan sonar offers a view of the seafloor. The sonar signals sent inside the water return the signals. Reading of the signals reveals the broad nature of the object underwater. Underwater scooters, besides the usual diving equipment like scuba, were also pressed into service. Between 1983 and 1990, S.R.Rao’s team came across discoveries that cemented the existence of a submerged city.
In January 2007, the Underwater Archaeology Wing (UAW) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavations at Dwaraka again. Alok Tripathi, Superintending Archaeologist, UAW, said the ancient underwater structures found in the Arabian Sea were yet to be identified. “We have to find out what they are. They are fragments. I would not like to call them a wall or a temple. They are part of some structure,” said Dr Tripathi, himself a trained diver. Dr Tripathi had said: “To study the antiquity of the site in a holistic manner, excavations are being conducted simultaneously both on land [close to the Dwarakadhish temple] and undersea so that finds from both the places can be co-related and analysed scientifically.”
The objective of the excavation was to know the antiquity of the site, based on material evidence. In the offshore excavation, the ASI’s trained underwater archaeologists and the divers of the Navy searched the sunken structural remains. The finds were studied, dated and documented. On land, the excavation was done in the forecourt of the Dwarakadhish temple. Students from Gwalior, Lucknow, Pune, Vadodara, Varanasi and Bikaner joined in to help the ASI archaeologists.
In 2001, the students of National Institute of Oceanography were commissioned by the Indian Government to do a survey on pollution in Gulf of Khambat, seven miles from the shore. During the survey, they found buildings made of stones covered in mud and sand covering five square miles. Divers have collected blocks, samples, artefacts, and coppers coins, which scientists believe is the evidence from an age that is about 3,600 years old. Some of the samples were sent to Manipur and oxford university for carbon dating, and the results created more suspicion since some of the objects were found to be 9,000 years old.
It is indeed overwhelming to find that what had been discovered underwater at the bay of Combat is an archaeological site, dating back to 7,500 BC and older than any previously claimed oldest sites of civilization.
Findings at the Dwarka excavation site
Marine archaeological explorations off Dwarka have brought to light a large number of stone structures. They are semicircular, rectangular and square in shape and are in water depth ranging from the intertidal zone to 6 m. They are randomly scattered over a vast area. Besides these structures, a large number of varieties of stone anchors have been noticed along with the structures as well as beyond 6 m water depth.
These findings suggest that Dwarka was one of the busiest port centres during the past on the west coast of India. The comparative study of surrounding sites indicates that the date of the structures of Dwarka may be between the Historical period and late medieval period. The ruins have been proclaimed the remains of the legendary lost city of Dwarka which, according to ancient Hindu texts, was the dwelling place of Krishna.
The underwater excavations revealed structures and ridge-like features. Other antiquities were also found. All the objects were photographed and documented with drawings – both underwater. While underwater cameras are used for photography, drawings are done on boards – a transparent polyester film of 75 microns fixed with a graph sheet below. The graph sheet acts as a scale.
One or two divers take the dimensions and the third draws the pictures. The Public Works Department routinely conducts dredging in these waters to keep the Gomati channel open. This throws up a lot of sediments, which settle on underwater structures. Brushes are used to clear these sediments to expose the structures.
Until recently the very existence of the city of Dwarka was a matter of legends. Now, that the remains have been discovered underwater, and with many clues seeming to suggest that this, indeed, is the legendary Dwarka, the dwelling place of Lord Krishna.
A 2,200-year-old inscription discovered in Southern India
In unveiling the forgotten but glorious history of India’s Telangana state which was a part of Asmaka Mahajanapada, the predecessor to an Empire, researchers found an inscription on a rock in Maltumeda village in Nagireddipet Mandal in Kamareddy district written in Ashokan Brahmi script from the 2nd century BC.
This is believed to be older than Dulikatta, Kotilingala, and other inscriptions, which belong to 1st century AD.
A team, comprising MA Srinivasan, a research scholar from Osmania University working on Buddhist archaeology in Telangana, Y Bhanu Murthy, former chief caretaker, Telangana Heritage Department, and B Shankar Reddy, an avid enthusiast of archaeology and surveyor by profession, discovered a label inscription (minor inscription) consisting of five letters in Brahmi script and Prakrit, the language of that period in the village.
The inscription, ‘Madhavachanda’, is on a big boulder on a small hillock on the south of the village, around 500 meters away from the Manjeera river. It was read and certified by the Director, Epigraphy, at the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in Mysore confirming that the latest finding could be the earliest inscription in Telangana to date.
Another significant aspect is that this strengthens the significance of archaeological sites like Bodhan and Kondapur, which are on the Manjeera-Godavari valley, through which the genesis and growth of the Satavahana Empire can be traced.
Mid-Godavari – The cradle of Telangana’s civilization
“Telangana is a part of Asmaka Mahajanapada that spread from north to south of Telangana, with mid-Godavari as its core area.
We have recorded evidence that kingdoms and civilizations flourished in those times from Asmaka Mahajanapada,” Srinivasan told ‘Telangana Today’. He pointed that no one bothered about the antiquity of Telangana after its merger with Andhra Pradesh and for decades, the concentration was more on Amaravati and Andhra Pradesh.
Rewriting of the Telangana history started only during the last one or two decades. Many researchers wrote about many areas and a lot of evidence was brought out, he added.
The team, which was scouting for early historic sites of ancient Telangana in the Manjeera valley, came to know that there were rock paintings in Maltummeda.
“This confirmed that there were habitations since the Neolithic period in that area. We hoped that we might find evidence of the Satavahana period such as bricks,” he said.
“Shankar Reddy found the rock inscription and informed us. We cleaned it suspecting that someone in the recent past may have made that carving on the rock.
We realized that there were five letters. We took the photographs and sent it to the ASI in Mysore and they confirmed that it was a 2nd century BC inscription,” Y Bhanu Murthy added. The team of enthusiasts frequently visited another site in Demikalam, 10 km from Maltummeda, where there is a cave temple.
What is more significant is that the ASI in Mysore has confirmed that the inscription was 2nd century Brahmi, Ashokan Brahmi to be more specific.
This is Brahmi of Ashoka times and the style is similar to that of rock carvings of Ashoka times. “We don’t understand much of what the inscription is trying to convey. Is Madhavachanda a name of a person or a location? Which religion did he belong to? Or is he saying it is my hillock? We don’t know, we must also search literary text to understand the context of Madhavachanda.
Definitely, it was the early Satavahana period. Satavahanas ruled between 220 BC and 225 AD for nearly 445 years.
The team members said the ASI must take care of the site to protect and estampage the inscriptions to make a replica of it to preserve and publish it. They hoped that the ASI would build a shed or fencing to protect the inscription from direct contact of visitors.
8th Century Jain Idol Found By Farmer While Ploughing Fields In Southern India
A significant discovery was made in India by a farmer working on his land. He uncovered a remarkable Jain statue dated back a thousand years. Traces of a temple are believed to have also been found. The discoveries contribute to the knowledge of the history of the region by researchers as it was an important Jainism center.
Oggu Anjaiah is a farmer from the village of Kotlanarsimhulapalli, in Karimnagar district, which is in the state of Telangana in the south of India. He was plowing his land before the monsoon when he came across something large.
Oggu had plowed up an ancient statue. He alerted other villagers and they immediately realized that it was something sacred. According to Telangana Today, local people “performed pujas to the statue”, meaning acts of worship.
Speculation Over the Identity of Jain Statue
The local authorities were alerted to the find and they visited the site of the discovery. According to The News Minute, experts believe the statue could represent the 24th Tirthankara, Vardhamaana Mahaveer.
He is an important figure, a saint, and a spiritual teacher in Jainism and was crucial in the development of the religion. He is regarded as one of the twenty-four saints of the faith and is still worshiped by Jains to this day. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that teaches that salvation can be achieved by a life of non-violence and renunciation.
“The idol is reportedly in a Dhyana Mudra (meditation posture)”, reports The News Minute. There is some debate as to the identity of the figure depicted.
Karimnagar Assistant Director of the Archaeology Department, Nagaraju, told The News Minute that “the statue could either be of Adinathudu (Vrushabanathudu) [also known as Rishabhanatha], the first Tirthankara (spiritual teacher) of Jain or the 24th Tirthankara, Vardhamaana Mahaveer.” What is clear, however, is that the statue is of great historic and religious importance.
Possible Remains of Jain Temple Found Nearby
State archaeologists “found the imprints of a structure (Jain temple) and decided to take up excavation in the half-acre area,” according to Telangana Today.
The structure was similar to modern Jain places of worship and was probably decorated with many reliefs and statues. It is likely that monks from the monastery buried the idol here, though the reasons remain unknown. Nagaraju, the Assistant Director of the Archaeology Department, told The News Minute that the site is some 11 miles (15 km) from a “hillock called Bommalagutta, where there was a Jain monastery.”
Some years ago an idol belonging to the 23rd Jain Theerthankara called Parshvanatha was found in the same fields”, reports The Hindu.
The find is believed to date from the 8 th and 9 th century AD when the Rastrakuta dynasty ruled this region. Their abandoned capital is located not far from the village.
The Rastrakutas adopted Jainism, becoming patrons of the religion, and sponsored the building of temples as part of their policy of promoting the faith. After the fall of this dynasty, Jainism went into decline and Hinduism grew in popularity. During Muslim rule, members of the religion were often discriminated against and there are few adherents of the religion in this part of India today.
Dispute Over Final Resting Place for Ancient Jain Sculpture
Assistant Director Nagaraju, told The Teleangan Times that “more sculptures and structure of Jains may be found at the spot.” The authorities want to move the statue to a regional museum, but the local villagers have so far prevented this.
They want to erect a shrine or temple in the village in order to house the statue. As a result of this stand-off, the idol is now being kept under a tree near where it was found.
The recent discovery has once again shed some light on the history of Jainism. It has also helped to revive interest in this ancient faith, which now has over 4 million followers in India. A Jain trust has also committed to building a temple in the area if they can secure land.
200-year-old temple buried in the sand, excavated in Southeastern India
The Hindu reports that a brick temple was revealed during sand mining in southeastern India’s Penna River. Estimated to be about 200 years old, the temple may have been submerged and buried as the river changed its course after flooding in 1850, according to Rama Subba Reddy of the Archaeological Survey of India.
The ancient temple of Nageswara Swamy, which was believed to have been buried in the sand for eight decades, was located on the banks of the Penna River in the Indian Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. Some local youth from the village of Perumallapadu under Chejerla Mandal (block) excavated the sand and discovered the temple of Siva, which it was said was consecrated by Lord Parasurama.
Archeology officials say that after 1850 floods in the Penna River the temple may have begun to bury by the sand. The floods had submerged the village and the people relocated away from the river banks.
Locals say their elders told them that sand dunes covered the entire structure about 80 years ago. They wanted to continue the sand excavation, the authorities stopped them saying this could damage the structure.
Archaeology Assistant Director Ramasubba Reddy said the higher officials would inspect the site soon and decide on the excavation and preservation works.
People from Perumallapadu and surrounding villages are thronging the place to see the temple and worship. A few policemen were deployed to guard the site.
The officials of the Archaeology and Endowments departments said they would work out a plan to restore the temple respecting the sentiments of the villagers.
It is believed that Sri Nageswara Swamy temple along with Kotiteertham temple and Sangam Sivalayam in the district were built 300 years ago. Some youth, who had returned home from various places due to the lockdown, took up sand excavation to unearth the temple.
“This has been the dream of the villagers. We had heard about the ancient temple from our elders and since we were sitting idle home, we decided to start digging work to find it. Our dream has come true,” said one of the youth.
The group of about 35 villagers said they had taken permission from the local officials before taking up the work. The villagers claimed that the temple had 110 acres of land in various villages under the Mandal.
Since the temple was buried in the sand, the revenue from the lands was being deposited in the Endowments department.
Stating that there are no accounts of the revenue earned from these lands, they demanded the authorities come out with all details and take up restoration of the temple.
A local official of Endowments department said Rs four lakh earned as rentals from the 68 acres of land was deposited in the bank. The Archaeology Department plans to hold talks with public representatives on the restoration of the temple.
Hindu religious leader Swamy Kamalananda Bharati also visited the temple on Wednesday.
Swamy, who heads the Hindu Temples Protection Committee, demanded that the authorities immediately take up works to restore the temple.
6th century Gold Coin Discovered in Southern India
The Times of India reports that a sixth-century gold coin measuring less than one-half inch in diameter was unearthed in the Agaram neighborhood of southern India’s city of Chennai.
One side of the coin bears a U-shaped symbol called a Naaman, a religious mark usually placed on the forehead, he explained. This side of the coin also bears an image that looks like the sun, with a figure of a lion below it, he added.
According to the leading Tamil weekly magazine, ‘Anantha Vikatan’, the gold coin found during the excavation seems to be 6th century AH coins.
In Keezhadi, the outskirts of Madurai and the border of Sivagangai district, now the 6th phase of excavation is going on, this was inaugurated by the state Chief Minister Edapadi Palanisami before lockdown on February 19, 2020.
During the lockdown period, the excavation work was halted which has been now started again.
Archeological activist Gemini Ramesh told the Tamil weekly that 6th Century Syrian Gold Coin was found under the earth at Elandhakkarai near Kalaiyar Koil, Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu.
The unearthing of the gold coin shows the advent of Islam very early in the Madurai area.
The Keeladi findings have led academics to describe the site as part of the Vaigai Valley Civilization. Pieces of evidence of civilization before 2300 years have been found here in Keezhadi a few years back. That is why the excavation has been going on since 2015.
Mohamed Yusuff, Madurai resident who is a lawyer by profession, told Times Now that Islam arrived in Madurai even before Malik Kafur’s invasion of Madurai in the 14th century.
Quoting History professor R Venkataraman, Yusuff said even before the advent of Islam, Arabs maintained trade links with South India, especially for the pearls the Madurai Pandya Kingdom was famous for.
“Sufis, Muslim saints, started coming to Tamil Nadu by 900 AD. The entry of Islam to the region was peaceful as Sufis conceived God as love,” he said.
According to Venkataraman, the short-lived Madurai Sultanate and Islamic influence did have their impact on the city, especially on warfare and town planning.
“Muslim rulers introduced arch construction they learned from the Romans. It changed the style of architecture here in a significant way.”
Yusuff further said that his home is situated at the riverbank of Vaigai and the excavation sites his not far away from his locality.
Meanwhile, the excavation work has been revived after the lockdown was lifted in the area. He hoped that many things related to Islam’s early presence would be uncovered during the excavation.