I am sure the reader would like to know - in fact, he/she has every right to ask: Why is this Report on the excavations at Bharadvaja Asrama and exploration at Chitrakilta being published in 2011 whereas the field-work was carried out at the former site as far back as 1978 and 1983, and that at the latter in 1981? The sordid story, in brief, is as follows.
A project called' Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites' was taken up jointly by the Archaeological Survey of India and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, under my overall direction in 1975 and continued up to 1986. Under it three key-sites associated with the Ramayana story, viz. Ayodhya, Sririgaverapura and Bharadvaja Asrama, were excavated, while minor trenching was done at Rahet (believed, according to local tradition, to be ancient Nandigrama) and surface-exploration was carried out at Chitrakuta.
An extensive report, accompanied by a large number of illustrations, on the unique water-supply tank discovered at Sririgaverapura was prepared in 1991. It saw the light of the day in 1993. In its Preface, I had expressed a hope in these words: "The volume on Bharadvaja Asrama may be press-ready by the end of 1992. If all goes well, it is hoped that the remaining volumes in the series will be out by the time the country celebrates the Golden Jubilee of its Independence in August 1997."
But instead of 'all goes well', everything went wrong. The logistic support provided to me for the writing of the report on the Sringaverapura was withdrawn by the Survey and I was left high and dry. I kept on writing letter after letter to each successive Director General for over fifteen long years but all these - I am sorry to say - fell on deaf ears. There wasn't even an acknowledgment.
With each new Director General taking over the reins of the Survey I used to make a fresh attempt, in the hope that the gods may be pleased. Thus, on October 10, 2007, I wrote the following to the Ms Anshu Vaish:
1. Letter dated June 15, 2004, addressed to Shri R. C. Misra, the then ADG, 2. Letter dated April 4, 2006, addressed to Shri Babu Rajeev, the then DGA, and 3. Letter dated May 2, 2007, addressed to Shri Babu Rajeev, the then DGA. May I request you kindly to issue necessary orders at your end, as enunciated vide my letter dated April 4, 2006, so that the work may be started by me as early as possible?
Also, please have a look at my letter dated May 2, 2007. Thus, in case I do not get a positive reply from you by the end of November, 2007, I will have no option but to conclude that the Survey is no longer interested in my writing out the Ayodhya Report; and I will treat the matter as closed.
Thanking you and with the best of regards,
I have indeed no words to thank Ms Vaish who saw things through and provided the necessary logistic support to me. However, for some curious reason, I have been asked to take up the report on Bharadvaja Asrama and Chitrakiita, instead of Ayodhya as mentioned in my above-noted letter. Anyway, may it be hoped that Ayodhya's turn will also come one day.
In the context of the clearing up of the arrears of reports in general, there is one more aspect which deserves to be taken note of. Inordinate delay in making arrangements for report-writing invariably has certain adverse effects. This is particularly so in respect of the safe storage of the excavated material and of the drawings and other records. White ants often have their day. In such circumstances, the report-writer can do no better than to make the most of whatever is available to him. The situation has been no different in the case of Bharadvaja Asrama. Anyway, I have tried to make the best of the situation and am presenting as comprehensive a report as possible under the given circumstances.
At the end of this Report there is also a short Note on the exploration carried out at Chitrakuta, one of the sites included in the' Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites Project'.
A national project entitled "Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites" was inaugurated at Ayodhya in 1975 by Professor S. Nurul Hasan the then Minister of State of Education and Culture. Under the project five sites viz. Ayodhya, Sringaverapura, Bharadvaja Asrama, Chitraktita and Nandigrama were undertaken for excavation/exploration. Bharadvaja Asrama is one of the key sites associated with Ramayana story; Rama, Sita and Laksmana, halted for a night to pay their homage to sage Bharadvaja, before proceeding further south.
The Excavations in two field seasons i.e. 1978-79 and 1982-83 at Bharadvaja Asrama, Distt. Allahabad, U.P. and exploration in 1981 at Chitrakuta, Distt. Banda, U.P., were jointly carried out under the direction of Professor Lal on behalf of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla and Shri K.N. Dikshit of the Excavation Branch-II of Archaeological Survey of India. The excavations have revealed two distinctive Periods of occupation at Bharadvaja Asrama, in which Period I was characterized by early NBPW while Period II as Gupta Period. The exploration at Chitrakiita also presents a close association with early NBPW culture which was possibly associated with Ramayana story.
The mandatory reports on these excavations were published in Indian Archaeology A Review of the concerned years and one comprehensive report on Excavations at Sringaverapura, Vol. I on Tank, in MASI 88 of 1993. Now, I feel great pleasure while presenting another comprehensive report before scholars, on the Excavations at Bharadvaja Asrama, with a note on the Exploration at Chitrakuta, prepared by Professor Lal.
I am sure the reader would find the report most useful and interesting because of its significant contents namely the structures, pottery, antiquites, scientific analysis of metal samples and especially the analysis of data showing the importance of oral traditions through local ballads. I am thankful to Prof. Lal for producing such scholarly report and completing this task, which throws light on material culture of Early Historical Period as well as Historical Period, within a stipulated period of time.
I would like to place on record my appreciation of my colleagues in the Archaeological Survey of India for their co-operation in bringing out this publication. My special thanks are due to Dr. B.R. Mani, Addl. Director General, Dr. P.K. Trivedi, Director, Dr.ArundhatiBanerji, Superintending Archaeologist, Shri Hoshiar Singh,Production Officer, Dr. Piyush Bhatt and Dr. Vinay Kumar Gupta, Assistant Archaeologists of the Publication Section who have been working on this report with unflagging zeal and enthusiasm. Mis Chandu Press deserves thanks for publishing this volume.
Some sixty years ago when India got her Independence, two major lacunae stared in the face of Indian archaeologists: one was generated as a result of the Partition of the country and the other was due to scanty attention having been paid by Indian archaeologists themselves to the problem concerned, as indicated below.
To state briefly, the Partition took away all the sites of the well known Harappan Civilization to Pakistan, leaving hardly any within the Indian border. Indian archaeologists, however, took up the challenge; and one is pleased to state that today we have more sites of this civilization than has Pakistan. Further, it is not merely the number that matters. The Indian sites, such as Kalibangan, Banawali, Rakhigarhi, Kunal, Bhirrana, Farmana, Lothal, Surkotada and Dholavira, have added many new dimensions to our knowledge of this mighty civilization.
The other problem related to the yawning gap in our knowledge of ancient Indian history between the end of the Harappan Civilization (also known as the Indus or Indus- Sarasvati Civilization) which, in its Mature Stage, ranged in date from circa 2600 to 2000 BCE and the period of the Sodasa Mahajanapadas (Sixteen Big States) beginning around the sixth century BCE. Archaeologically, very little was known about this intermediary period and thus it was loosely termed as the 'Dark Age’, although there was nothing 'dark' about it. It was indeed the next big challenge for Indian archaeologists.
As Superintending Archaeologist in charge of the Excavations Branch of the Archaeological Survey of India, in late 1940s and early 1950s, I was privileged to accept this challenge. I lost no time and began exploring some ancient sites in western Uttar Pradesh, which had so far received scanty attention. At many of these sites I found a distinctive pottery, grey in color and painted in black pigment with a variety of geometric, linear and curvilinear designs. It was given a proper name, the Painted Grey Ware (PGW). In the exposed vertical sections of the mounds concerned it was also observed that this ware lay in almost the lowest levels, much below the material known to belong to the 6th-5th centuries BCE. Summarizing my discoveries, I published in 1950 a paper captioned 'The Painted Grey Ware of the Upper Gangetic Basin: An Approach to the Problems of the Dark Age', in Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, Bengal (Letters), Vol. 26, pp. 89-102.
Since many of the sites that yielded this particular kind of pottery were associated with the Mahabharata story, I decided to undertake excavation at Hastinapura, which was the capital of the Kauravas. Over there is a large mound, located on the right bank of the Ganga in Meerut District of Uttar Pradesh. Without going into details, it is relevant to state that the excavations revealed that a sizeable portion of the Painted Grey Ware settlement was washed away by a heavy flood in the Ganga. Further, a part of the washed-away material, including a few sherds of the PGW were also encountered in nearly 15-meter-deep bore-holes in the adjacent bed of the river. A comparison of this archaeological evidence, with that from literature was highly telling. The relevant part of the text runs as follows:
Gangaydpahrite tasmin nagare Nagasahvaye
Tyaktva Nichaksur nagaram Kausambyam sa nivatsyati
After the washing away of the site of Hastinapura by the Ganga, (the then ruler) Nichaksu will abandon it and move (the capital) to Kausambi.
Archaeologically, what is no less exciting is that the lowest levels of Kausambi began with the same kind of material culture as was there in existence at Hastinapura at the time when the flood destroyed it. The texts further mention the names of the rulers of Kausambi, according to which Udayana was twenty-fifth from Nichaksu. It is well known that Udayana was a contemporary of Buddha, whose commonly accepted date is 565-487 BCE. In other words, Udayana may have been ruling around 500 BCE. Though the average reign per ruler has been a matter of debate, an estimate worked out on the basis of known dynasties of ancient and mediaeval India places the average in round figures at 15 years. Thus, the approximate date of Nichaksu would be around 875 BCE. Further, since, according to the same texts, Nichaksu was the fifth ruler of Hastinapura, after the Mahabharata war, the war may broadly be placed in the 10th century BCE. Anyway, leaving aside for a while the exact date of the Mahabharata war, the more important point to remember is that literary and archaeological evidences have both converged to establish the historicity of the basic truth of the Mahabharata, though clearly it is nobody's claim that each and every detail mentioned there in is archaeologically verifiable. Further, let it not be forgotten that the Mahabharata is a prabandha-kavya (an epic) in the writing of which the poet enjoyed full freedom of imagination.
The reader will kindly forgive me for this seemingly unwanted and long introduction. But I thought it was necessary to let the reader know how, encouraged by the results (though by no means immense) of my excavations at Hastinapura, I embarked upon my next project, namely' Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites'. Though conceived while in the Survey, I could not undertake it since as the Director General almost all my time was taken up by administrative and other allied matters. It was only after my voluntary retirement from the Survey in 1972 that I could plan to take up this project - to begin with at the Jiwaji University, Gwalior, and later with full attention at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla. The Survey helped me in the field-work which ran from 1977 to 1986, by deputing the staff of its Excavations Branch which, for most of the time, was headed by Shri K.N. Dikshit.
Under this project, five sites were taken up for investigation: (i) Ayodhya, the capital of the Kosala kingdom, from where Rama hailed; (ii) Sringaverapura, where Rama, Sita and Laksmana crossed the Ganga in the first lap of their exile; (iii) Bharadvaja Asrama, where the trio stayed overnight to pay their homage to sage Bharadvaja; (iv) Chitrakuta, where they stayed for quite some time before proceeding southwards; and (v) Nandigrama from where Bharata carried on the governmental affairs in the absence of Rama (cf. the map, Fig. 1).
Located on the right bank of the Sarayu, in District Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, Ayodhya has a fairly large mound, covering an area of about a square kilometer and rising at places to a height of 10 meters. Excavations were carried out at fourteen spots, located in different parts of the site, in order to ensure that the lowest levels were not missed in case these existed in some areas and not in others. These included certain well known localities like the Janma-Bhumi, Hanumana-garhi, Kausilya Ghata, Nala- ka- Tila, etc.
The excavations revealed that the settlement at Ayodhya began with a phase when a very distinctive and deluxe pottery called the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) had come into being. It is a highly shining ware with surface-colour varying from jet black, indigo and silvery to golden. The shapes too are the ones that predominate in the early stage of the ware, such as convex-sided dishes and bowls with corrugated profile. Tools of iron, besides those of copper, also characterized the NBPW levels. In due course of time, weights of fine-grained stones made their appearance, as did a system of coinage. The NBPW-period weights are cylindrical, in marked contrast to those of the Harappan Civilization, which are cubical. The coins were the earliest to be produced in the country. These were made of silver or copper and bore on their surface punched marks.
The site, with shifts from one area to another, continued under occupation almost all through. Even today it is a small township, dotted with temples and bustling with pilgrims. When did the earliest occupation at Ayodhya begin? The charcoal samples collected by me were from the upper NBPW levels and these gave a date-range from the 6th to 3rd centuries BCE. But the lower levels still remained to be properly dated. This very important lacuna has since been filled up by putting to test the charcoal samples collected from the lower NBPW levels by the Archaeological Survey during its renewed excavations (2002-03) in the Janma-Bhumi area (short-named AYD-I). The dating was done by the laboratory of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow.
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