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Excavations – Important – Madhya Pradesh


Besnagar (230 32’; 770 48′), Dt Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh
Besnagar is identified with ancient Vidisa (Nagara), is renowned in ancient literature as the capital of Akara and Dasawa and as a centre of cultural activities, with trade routes passing through it.

Cunningham discovered the famous pillar as the Heliodoros pillar. The pillar with inscription. More systematic excavations in 1963-5 by M.D.Khare (IAR 1963-4, p. 16; 1964-5, p. 19) brought to light the following sequence of cultures: Period I A, with pre-pottery non-geometric microliths; Period IB, with pre- pottery geometric microliths; Period II A, Chalcolithic; Period IIB, Chalcolithic but with the PGW; Period III A, pre-NBPW; Period III B, NBPW; Period III C, Sunga-Satavahana;PeriodI VA, Naga-Kushan;PeriodIVB, Ksatrapa,.Gupta; Period V, late historical; and Period VI, medieval and modem. On the analogy of either Mesolithic sites, the period may be dated to c. 5000 B.C.

The dates of the lower and upper limits of the Chalcolithic deposit may be worked out as c. 1800 to 900 B.C. based on the analogy of Kayatha and other Chalcolithic sites of central India and the upper Deccan. While Period Ill A is marked by the continuity of the black-and-red ware and by the presence of a negligible quantity of iron, the 14 C dates being 2420 + 105, 2350 + l00 and 2260 + I40 B.P., Period Ill B has punch-marked and Vidisa city-state coins, terracotta mother goddesses, a large number of iron objects and the NBPW.

Sanchi (230 28′; 770 48’) Dt. Raisen, Madhya Pradesh
With impressive Buddhist remains ranging in date from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D.,situated on a low hill-top, anciently known as Vedisa-giri (due to its proximity to Vidisa, Besnagar) Cetiya-giri. Kakanada-bota and Bota-sri-parvata. The main stupa, Stupa 1, the outstanding monument on the hill, is believed to have been built by Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and one of his queens is said to have built a monastery here. Asoka set up one of his pillars near his stupa, surmounted it by a four-lioned capital and had his anti-schism edict in scribed on it.

Attention to the ruins was first drawn in 1818, and for a long time since then they suffered depredation at the hands of amateur archaeologists and treasure-hunters. In 1851 A. Cunningham and F.C. Maisey excavated Stupas 2 and 3 and recovered relics there from, but shaft in the centre of Stupa 1 failed to reveal any’ (perhaps they had disappeared in one of the previous operations). Preservation of the stupas was done in 1881 and the following years by H.H. Cole. But to expose the other structures, preserve them meticulously and build up a proper history of the monuments was left to John Marshall of the ASI between 1912 and 1919.

A vessel contained 41 base silver coins all of the W. Ksatrapas–Rudrasena I, Rudrasena II, Bhatradaman, Rudrasimha II, Rudrasena III and other unidentified ones-bespeaking an early 4th century burial of the pot. Of pottery no specific information in present-day terminology is available, but an on the spot examination may reveal some recognizable wares. Mention is made of ‘early glazed pottery’, about the 3rd century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. (Hamid et al., 1922, p. 52), but while the early glazed Kushan pottery is invariably green-blue in colour, all the specimens here are red. Perhaps they are pieces of what would not be called the Red Polished Ware of the early centuries A.D.a guess supported by the mention of surahi: spouts, etc., all characteristics of that Ware. There are potter’s darers and spindle whorls. Said to be of ‘Gupta and medieval periods’ are the handi, water jar, jug, mica-dusted saucer, lid, some with a ‘boss at the centre to serve as a handle’, cup, lamp, inkpot, etc. A comparatively recent count of the distribution of NBPW includes Sanchi.

Uijain (23°12′; 75°48′), Madhya Pradesh:
headquarters of the Dt. of the same name, Madhya Pradesh situated on the eastern bank of the Sipra and well-known as the capital of Avanti, one of the 16 mahajanapadas in die 6th century B.C. and as the seat of a viceroy (kumara) of the Mauryan empire during the rule of Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., as mentioned in his Dhauli separate Rock-edict I. It is hallowed traditionally by its association with the jyotir-Linga of Mahakala and as one of seven holy cities of India, and remembered through later history and literature, especially the Meghaduta of Kalidasa.

The first excavation in the site was conducted by Garde in 1938-9. This brought to light quite a large miscellany of ooins, terracottas, beads and pottery, etc. which amply indicated the archaeological potentiality of the site and indicated the need of sustained and systematic work to establish the sequence of cultural equipments and chronology as well as structural remains. The site was therefore subjected to extensive excavations again from 1955 to 1958 by N.R. Banerjee, and limitedly again in 1964 by K.M. Srivastava, on behalf of the ASI (IAR 1955-6, p. 19; 1956-7, p. 20; 1957-8, p. 32; 1964-5, p. 18), revealing four successive Periods of occupation called Periods I to IV.

Period II, represented by the next succeeding deposits, 4.27 m thick, is characterized by the Black-slipped Ware, black-and-red ware and the Vesiculated Ware, indicating an overlap with the previous Period and by the NBPW and its associates of thick grey ware and unslipped red ware.

Period III, represented by the next supervening 2.44 m thick deposit, had three phases, called respectively A, B, an,d C and correspondingly dated to 200B.C. to A.D. 500 (Sunga, Satavahana, Kushan and Gupta) A.D. 500 to 900 (late Gupta, early Paramara) and A.D. 900 to 1300 (Paramara to early Muslim).

Period IV, represented by an average deposit of 2.13 to 2.74 m and characterized by signs of abandonment of the mound such as debris, as by that time the main habitation had shifted to the n. of the mound as the ground level had risen very high and the ramparts did not afford much protection, is dated to c. 1300 to 1500. Soapstone caskets, beads of terracotta, flimsy ornaments of gold, terracotta animal figurines, bangles and miscellaneous objects of iron comprise the rather unimpressive and dwindling cultural equipment. The pottery types consist of vessels of a dull-red ware and mica-dusted unslipped ware, knife-edged bowls in unslipped red ware, finial-shaped lids, spouted water vessels, flattish pans, and basins with nail-head rims, all in red ware, besides glazed sherds. A few coins of Aurangzeb, Shah AIam, Daulat Rao Scindia and Jankoji Rao Scindia found in the deposits of this Period do not indicate occupation or the real horizon, but periodical visits of the townfolk to the once glorious city of ancient Ujjain. Sherds of grey ware and PGW, were picked up from the Sandipani area of the town.

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