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Excavations – Important – Uttar Pradesh


Ahichchhatra, Dt. Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh
Ahichchhatra which is identified by Alexander Cunningham as Ahicchatra of ancient literature is about 11 km north of Aonla, the tehsil headquarter. This site was first excavated by Cunningham and then by K.N. Dikshit assisted by A. Gosh and others in 1940-44. They identified Nine periods of occupation called ‘strata’ starting from pre mauryan period ( pre 300 BC) up to1100 AD. Besides other things the excavation also reveled number of coins which includes caste coins from the earliest starta followed by panchala coins ( I st C. BC), Kusana coins, coins of Acyu, who is identified with Acyuta, the king who was defeated and the territory annexed by Samudragupta etc. The dates of the various stratums have been arrived based on the coin finds, viz., Stratum IX, before 300 BC; Stratum VIII, 300 to 200 BC; Stratum VII, 200 to 100 BC; Strata VI and V, 100 BC to AD 100; Stratum N, AD 100 to 350; Stratum III, AD 350 to 750; Stratum II, AD 750 to 850; and Stratum I AD 850 to 1100.

Ahicchatra was excavated again by N.R. Banerjee of the ASI in 1963-4 and 1964-5 which brought to light four cultural periods named as Period I to IVstarting from OCP. PGW followed by NBPW up to Kusana Gupta period.

The presence of PGW and NBPW in the core of the rampart indicates that it was built during Period IV. Four phases of expansion and repair of the rampart was brought to light.

Hastinapura, (29°9′; 78°3′), Dt Meerut ,Uttar Pradesh

Located on the right bank of an old bed of the Ganga, known in literature and tradition as the capital of the Kauravas of the Mahabharata fame. On the bank of the Budhi Ganga, two places known as Draupadi Ghat and Kama Ghat remind one of the Mahabharata personages. Three Jaina tirthankaras, Sailtinatha, Kunthunatha and Aranatha, are believed to have been associated with Hastinapura.

Excavations were conducted at Hastinapura in 1950-52 by B.B.Lal on behalf of the ASI. Five Periods (I -V) of occupation with a break between each have been identified. Period I is represented by the sproadic occurrence of sherds of the OCW in a deposit of brown clay which imperceptibly merges into the natural soil underneath, with no other sign of habitation. Because of its likely association with the Mahabharata, times it is Period II that brings Hastinapura into the limelight. Archaeologically the material culture of this Period is known as the PGW culture after the very distinctive ceramic industry of the times.

The people were in an agricultural-cum-pastoral stage of economy. Among the cereals produced by them particular mention may be made of rice. The domesticated animals include the cattle, sheep, buffalo and pig, besides the horse .

Since the excavation has been essentially vertical, no house-plans have been obtained, but there is evidence of walls of wattle-and-daub, mud and even mud brick (size indeterminate). A fragment snggests the knowledge of burnt brick. The other objects of the Period include: beads of carnelian, agate, jasper and bone; bangles of glass (the earliest. so far in India); and terracotta animal figurines, representing the cattle and more particularly the horse. A heavy flood occurred in the river washing away a considerable portion of the settlement. Evidence of this flood has been obtained in the form of a very pronounced erosion on the river-side edge .

Houses are now made not only of mud brick but also of kiln-burnt brick (size 44.5 x 25.5 x 7 cm) and are oriented along the cardinal directions. A sense of town- planning is thu.s in evidence. Both punch-marked and copper coins testify to the developing economy, trade and commerce, the former being both of silver and copper, but the latter only of copper. The other finds of the Period include: terracotta human and animal figurines: beads of semiprecious stones and glass; bangles and rings of copper; and the like. The Period seems to have come to an end on account of a conflagration, traces of which have been noticed allover the site.

The fourth occupation, Period IV, began some time in the 2nd century B.C. The pottery is now all red, sometimes stamped. The houses, of which seven structural Sub-Periods have been noted, are of kiln-burnt brick (size 37 x 23 x 6.5 cm). A terracotta ring-well in a house have also been noticed. The middle and late levels of the Period have yielded respectely Yaudheya coins (beginning of the Christian era) and those imitating the coins of the Kushan king Vasudeva (ascribable to the other finds of the Period mention may be made of rotary querns,terracotta figure of Bodhisattva Maitreya its counterparts in the contemporary Mathura sculpture. How the Period came to an end is not known, but Period V began after a considerable lapse of time, late in the 11th century.

The dating at at Hastinapura thus seem to be re-affirmed as follows: Site Period I: first half of 2nd millenniuin B.C.; Period: early 11th to early 8th century B.C.; Period III : early 6th B.C. to 3rd century B.C.; Period IV: early 2nd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D., and Period V: late 11th to early 15th century A.D.

Kanauj, (Kannauj, Kanoj); (27°3′; 79°59′), Dt Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh
The ancient city, variously known as Kanyakubja, Kanyakubja, Mahodaya, Mahodaya, Gadhirura, Gadhinagara, Kusasthala, Kausa, Kausika and Kusumapura (the last according to Hiuen Tsang), situated on the s. bank of the Bhagirathi near the confluence of the Ganga and Kali. The ASI conducted a small scale excavation at the mound known as Qila in 1955 (IAR 1955-6, p. 19); Prior to that a few stone sculptures-chaturmukha lingas, Varaha retrieving the Earth, Kalyansundara murti, standing Surya and Visvarupa standing with Sndevi and Bhudevi, all belonging to the 7th-8th centuries (Ghosh, 1953), and a later dancing Ganesha had been recovered from the neighbouring regions. Explorations in the early years of. this decade have brought to light a treasure of archaeological wealth. The pottery includes the PGW represented by the bowl and dish, Black-slipped Ware, fine as well as coarse red ware and the NBPW. Several stone sculptures have been found the prominent of them being those of Parvati, Karttikeya, Surya, Vishnu, Siva, Ganesa and some Jaina figures datable from the 4th century A.D. to the medieval times.

The place has yielded variety of terracotta figurines and plaque both human and animal are datable from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. notable among them are a handmade torso of the mother-goddess Gaja-Lakshmi plaque in typical Sujiga style, standing Mithuna Naigamesha figures, both male and female, Mother-and-child (ankadhatri) figurines, Dampati figurines are also made from a shallow mould etc.

Some of them show traces of red slip and one specimen bears black slip. These present diverse hair styles, the lenticular eyes have round pupils, the elongated ears are applied and the stwnpy arms and legs indicate fingers and toes by incised lines.

The other terracotta objects are animal figurines of the horse, bull, birds and rider with cap; skin rubbers spindle whorls with decorated edges; beads of areca-nut shape; and moulds of the Sunga and Gupta periods for producing human figurines. An ivory die and several bone points have also been recovered. All the terracotta figurines and other objects except the stone sculptures recall similar finds from Ahichchhtra. Period I may be dated to c. 100 B.C. on the basis of PGW, Black –slipped Wareand other pottery. Period II is characterized by the find of the NBPW and is hence dated to 600-200 B.C.

Period IV has seven Sub-Periods based on the structures built of lakhauri, some of them in lime mortar and a few also plastered with the same material. Glazed pottery and coarse red and black wares confirm that the levels belong to the late medieval times.

Mathura (27O31’’; 77°14′),Dt. Headquarters Uttar Pradesh
Situated on the Yamuna, a city with a long history as a political centre from early times till at least the early centuries of the Christian era. With the discovery in 1836 of a scupture labeled as ‘Silenus’ the rich antiquarian remains of Mathura attracted art-collectors and archaeologists. Various localities in the city and its neighbourhood were subjectede to digging from about the middle of the last century by Cunningham, Growse, Burgess, Hardinge,Fuhrer, Vogel, Radha Krishna and others..

It was only in 1954-5 that M. Venkataramayya and B. Saran of the ASI obtained a cultural sequence of the Katra mound, an extensive habitation site, ranging in date between 600 B.C. and A.D 600, according to their estimate (IAR 1954-5, p. 15): Further excavations were conducted by M.C. Joshi on behalf of the ASI at about 14 sites from 1973-4 to 1976-7 with the principal objective of examining the antiquity, growth and character of historical Mathura. As a result a sequence of the following cultural Periods has been obtained: Period I, from c. 6th to the closing decades of the 4th century B.C.; Period II, from the closing decades of the 4th century to c. 200 B.C.; Period III, from c. 200 to about the end of the 1st century B.C.;Period IV, from the beginning of the 1st to about the 3rd century; and Period V, from c. the 4th to about the close of the 6th century. Others believing in an earlier origin of the PGW, present in Period I, if Hastinapura, would ascribe an earlier date to the beginning of Period I.

Period I is marked by the presence ofthoPGW and associated pottery, beginning right on the natural soil, is characterized by two structural phases the earlier repesented by a mud floor with post-holes and the latter by a partially extant mud platform. Besides the PGW the ceramic industry is represented by the red ware, some sherds of the Black-slipped Ware and a few fragments of an inferior variety of the black-and-red ware, besides some plain grey ware.

Period- II is distinguished by the use of the NBPW and associated pottery, including plain grey ware. The chief structural feature of the Period is the construction of mud fortifications around the settlement. In a cutting across Dhulkot two distinct phases of fortification have been encountered. The construction of fortification may be ascribed to the early part of Period II. Originally with a height of about 6.50 m the mud defence wall is built of several compact fillings of earth and kankar over the undulating ground.

The important antiquities of the period comprise: a few punch-marked coins of copper; terracotta human and animal figurines; toy wheels; gamesmen; decorated discs; bangles and beads of semiprecious stones and bone; and bone arrowheads. Another significant find is a miniature pot containing 24 beads perhaps of amethyst and topaz.

Period III marks the last phase of the NBPW and shows a greater popularity qf utilitarian forms. Other ceramics consist of both the plain grey of the earlier tradition and red wares. The structural remains, available mostly only on plan, are built of both mud and baked and unbaked brick. The early levels of the Period show constructional activity in mud medium, represented by mud platforms and rammed floors, in some cases finished with a layer of surkhi. It is only in the middle and upper levels of this Period that baked brick (39 to 40 x 24 x 5 cm) is freely used in constructions.

The important finds of the Period include: terracotta plaques depicting females, a flut player and an amorous couple; a terracotta bullock toy-cart frames seals and sealings tribal coins ; beads of terracotta and semiprecious stones; shell and terracotta bangles; copper objects, including thin and short rods with thickened ends; and a forepart of a lion figure in stone. Period IV witnessed a major constructional activity, as indicated by the construction of a huge water-reservoir complex, an inner fortification wall, remains of walls of mud and baked brick, mud. floors with ovens and a baked-brick drain. The mud fortification of Period II was not only revived but enlarged.

At Kankali-tila. the site of an ancient Jaina stupa (Mitra, 1974, pp. 49-68), another impressive water reservevior complex with four phases of construction has been exposed: of the 1st phase only a few basal courses of brick are extant, the major portion of the super structure, indicating an almost wholesale reconstruction, belonging to the second phase. A ramp was constructed in the third phase and some irregUlar structures in the fo urth. Made of baked brick of various sizes (40 x25 x 5 cm, 30 x 26 x 4 cm and 30 x 17 x 5 cm), the reservoir is dug into the natural soil to a depth of 3.96 m. On plan a rectangle, it has a ramp in the e. side and irregularly oblong ancillary compartments along its n. and s. sides. On top of its n. wall a stone channel is provided as an inlet for filling it up with water.

The ceramic industry of this Period is characterized by the presence of the sprinker incense-burner; basin; bowl; jar with plain and decorated spouts; a handle decked with a female figure; pot with plain and decorated exterior, showing painted and stamped designs; and a stamped amphora handle. Amongst other notable antiquities mention may be made of: terracotta votive tanks; seals and sealings; coins;animal-headed gamesmen; spindle whorls; and human and anim al terracotta figurines, prepared out of single or double moulds, including that of a yakshi in the typical athura art tradition.

Two stone inscriptions, one of the 5th year of Kaniska I, referring to a gift of a lady named Visakhamitra, and another of Huviska of the 5Oth(?) year recording probably a donation to the Dhanyavarma-vihara, are among the significant discoveries of this Period.

Period V is characterized by the presence of mud platforms with traces of structures on the top and floors of mud and surkhi.

Piprahwa (27°26′; 83°7′), Dt Basti, Uttar Pradesh

Near the border of Nepal, well-known for having yielded one of the earliest relic caskets with Brahmi inscription in the excavation by Peppe, an English zamindar of the areaThe site is generally identified as Kapilvastu.

In 1972 another relic caskets contained in two burnt-brick chambers at a depth of 6 m, was found. The two soapstone-caskets contained charred bones. The casket were contempraneous with the NBPW.

Piprahwa remained under occupation approximately from the 5th century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D., when the site was engulfed in a fire and abandoned. The limited antiquities from the site include copper bowls and thali, stone weight, iron pan, hook, nail and sockets,copper Kushan and Ayodhya coins, punch-marked coins both in copper and silver, copper antimony rod and a borer, stone head, terracotta and carnelian beads, a terracotta mask and fragments of the NBPW.

Sankisa, Dt Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh
On the Kalinadi, lying mid-way between Atranjikhera and Kanauj, 40 km from either, called Sankasya in the Ramayanla and other Sanskrit texts, Sankisa in Pali texts and Song-kia-she or Kia-pi-tha by the Chinese travellers, where Buddha accompanied with Brahma and Indra is said to have descended from the Trayastrimsa heaven by a ladder of gold or gem, thus making the place a centre of Buddhist pilgrimage.

The site has yielded the PGW and NBPW and its associated red wares (IAR 1955-6. p. 71). The other finds include punch-marked coins with small symbols, cast copper coins and coins of the Satraps of Mathura, Indo-Scythian rulers and Indo-Sassanians. An inscription engraved with sculpture representing a ladder with the figure of bhikshuni Utpala at the base and a plaque of soapstone, terracotta figures, a black-stone carving representing the nirvtlIJa of Buddha, moulds of figures and stone dishes have also been found.

Sarnath, Dt Varanasi ,Uttar Pradesh
5 km to the n. of Varanasi city, where Buddha preached his First Sermon and which thus became one of the four holiest places to the Buddhist world. The centre, known in late historical times as Sad-dharma-cakra-maha-vihara, is one of the richest in Buddhist antiquities ranging in date from the times to Ashoka down to the 12th century. Ashoka built here one of his Dharmarajika stupas and near it erected a pillar surmounted by a magnificent capital of four addorsed lions and inscribed on it an edict threatening dissenting monks and nuns with excommunication. For centuries thereafter the place continued to be a focus of structural and sculptural activity.

From 1907 and sporadically thereafter J. Marshall and other officers of the ASI continued excavations at Sarnath (ASI AR 1906-7, p. 68; 1907-8, p. 43; 1914-5, p. 97; 1919-20, p. 26; 1921-22; p. 42). The Dharmarajika Stupa was found to have a circular base made of wedge shaped bricks and to have undergone enlargements several times afterwards, the last integument being of the 12th century. Among other structures was a brick temple the main shrine probably representing the ruins of the 60 m high Mula-gandha-kuti, raised on the spot where Buddha had resided and which had been seen by HiuenTsang. It dated from Gupta times and had rectangular chapels on three sides of the square base, the fourth having steps leading to the shrine. The long passage leading to the shrine from the gate has rows of votive stupas. The monasteries, ranging in date from the 4th -5th to the 12th centuries, conform to the general plan of this class of buildings, but unlike Nalanda they are not arranged in a row. A remarkable structure of Samath is the Dhamekh Stupa is probably of Gupta origin.

Sarnath has yielded an extremely rich crop of sculptures. Apart from the capital of Asoka, which is now the State Emblem of India, and a colossal Bodhisattva image of the reign of Kaniska from Mathura, an immense number of sculptures of Buddha and Buddhist deities, many of them of Gupta date, from a notable series. In fact the Gupta sculptures from Sarnath have been primarily responsible for raising Gupta art to the place of honour that it now occupies in the art history of India.

Sravasti (27°31′; 82°2′), Dt. Gonda-Bahraich,Uttar Pradesh
The capital of ancient Kosala, and intimately associated with the lives of Buddha and Mahavira when Prasenajit was the ruler. The ruins consist of two distinct units, Sahet- the Buddhist establishment and Mahet –fortified city to the n.e. of Sahet separated from each other by a low-lying land probably an ancient bed of the Rapti, ancient Achiravati, on the bank of which Sravasti was situated. During the life-time of Buddha his disciple Sudatta raised a monastery, the Jetavana-vihara, for the residence of Buddha and that became the nucleus of the Buddhist establishment of the place. Asoka is said to have put up two capitaled pillars near the e. gate of the Jetavana-vihara.

The site has attracted the attention of archaeologists right from the days of A. Cunningham (ASI-AR, 1. p. 330; 11, p. 78). Early this century excavations were conducted here by J. Ph. Vogel, J. Marshall and D .R. Sahni between 1907-8 and 1910-1 (ASI-AR 1907-8. p. 81; 1910-1, p. 1), as a result of which numerous stupas,monasteries and temples, consistent with its sacredness to the Buddhists, have been exposed at Saheh within an irregular compound-wall. Resumed excavation at Maheth in 1959 by the ASI under K.K. Sinha has yielded significant evidence on the antiquity of the city (Sinha, 1967).

Period II which witnessed the construction of the defences seems to have followed shortly after the end of Period I and is divisible into three phases: early, with the first construction of the defences in the fonn of a mud rampart afterwards towed by fortification walls of burnt brick at regular intervals. Subsequently but still within the Period the height of the rampart wall was raised and the brick fortification was rebuilt.

The deposits of Period III have been noticed only in a; limited excavated area. The fortification fell into disuse but the town must have remained inhabited as the structures found in the previous excavations would indicate. The pottery is utilitarian and plain but for some incised decorations. The Periods have been dated as follows mainly on the basis of coins and other finds: Period I, 6th century to 300 B.C.; Period II, early phase, 275 to 200 B.C., middle phase, 200 to 125 B.C., and late phase, 125 to 50B.C. and PeriodIII, early centuries of the Christian era.

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