Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maya's kingdom goes back to 4000 BC

The BSP chief presides over Jajmau, associated with Yayati Nagari, a city founded by legendary king Yayati perhaps 6,000 years ago

As one travels from Lucknow to Kanpur, two huge mounds on both sides of the Ganga bridge leave one awestruck. These were no more than encroached barren lands till our Indiana Joneses discovered it for the world. Nearly five decades after the 'civilisation' of Jajmau — dating back to circa 1200-1300 BC — was first explored, it continues to throw up new surprises. Archaeologists have now found traces of an era that could go back to, hold your breath, 4000 BC. Not more than 25 km from this site, there is Sanchan Kot in Unnao district, rich with remains of the Mauryan and Kushan periods. And moving eastwards, if Sarnath needs no introduction, there are new sites discovered not very long ago — Anai in Varanasi and Agiabir in Mirzapur district. And a new light is all set to be thrown on Ghoshitarama, discovered with a giant monastery, in Kaushambi district.

In a stupendous feat of excavation, archaeologists of the UP State Archaelogical Department (UPSAD) dug out the Jajmau tila, calculated to be more than three millennia old, going back to the pre-Mauryan and pre-Northern Black Polished (Pre-NBP ) era. What is most startling is that this site had in one place the heritage of five periods — ancient India, the pre-Mauryan, Mauryan, Sunga and Kushana eras. And all within a radius of 20 metres.

Jajmau has been associated with Yayati Nagari, the city founded by legendary king Yayati. It was unearthed by chance during the construction of National Highway 25 in 1956. Excavations that began in 1956-58 started again in 1973 and went on till 1978. More recently, a salvage operation was launched in 2006 to protect the discoveries. Considering its significance, UP declared it a state-protected site.

"The complexes that were dug out clearly indicate the systematic and well-defined rural settlement of that period," says Rakesh Tewari, director, UPSAD.

It's fascinating what the discoveries add up to in terms of advances made in engineering in India so far back in history. A large portion of the earliest settlement in Jajmau was located towards the riverside, most of which is now covered by the Ganga. The structures here, built around the beginning of the 4th century BC, were made with wood and wattleand-daub. The ruins show how people used water channels to separate the river from their settlements.

Just two years ago, Ancient Indian History (AIH) archaeologists discovered a 2,000-year-old Shiva temple at Sanchan Kot, 80 km from present-day Lucknow. It is believed to be one of the earliest brick temples in India. Spread across 600 acres, the complex gives reason to believe that Shiva was popular as a deity even then. There are 17,000-odd archaic figurines, pointing to a large number of worshippers thronging the place. These are star shaped, about 2-2.5 inches in size and are in male, female and animal shapes.

Then there are the sites of Ghositarama in Kaushambi district (where Gautam Buddha is believed to have stayed in one of the monasteries), Anai (900 BC), Agiabir and the famous Sarnath, where Buddha is believed to have preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.

Kumar, Ravin. 2010. "Maya's kingdom goes back to 4000 BC". Times of India. Posted: August 7, 2010. Available online: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Mayas-kingdom-goes-back-to-4000-BC/articleshow/6270299.cms

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