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2000BC chariots set to redefine Mahabharata age
Some 60 km drive from Delhi, at Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has stumbled upon “royal burials” with remains of chariots dating 2000BC-1800BC.
The first-of-its-kind findings in the Indian sub-continent dating back to the Bronze Age suggest that people of that era belonged to the warrior class and were living a highly sophisticated lifestyle.
Archaeologists involved in the excavation that started three months ago are excited about the findings. They said the recovery is set to give new dimension to our history and date of the Mahabharata period, and further into the origins of chariots and horses in the Harappan age.
SK Manjul, director of Institute of Archaeology under the ASI, and co-director Arvin Manjul, who led a team in excavating the site, said, “The new findings will shed light on India’s place in the ancient world history. Previously, chariots were found to be a part of Mesopotamia, Georgia, Greek civilisations. But, the Sanauli recovery shows we were on par with them.”
He said that though in the past, burial pits were excavated at Rakhigarhi, Kalibangan, and at Lothal, this is the first time that chariots have been discovered alongside the burial pits. “This is also for the first time in the Indian sub-continent that we got royal burial pits,” he added.
“It is confirmed that they were a warrior class. The swords have copper-covered hilts and a medial ridge making it strong enough for warfare. We have also found shields, a torch and daggers,” said Manjul, adding at least three burial pits have highly decorative coffin covers bearing floral designs and anthropological figures like horned and peepal leafed crown.
Some of the graves contained full skeletal remains while others have a few human bones along with pots (secondary burials); in yet others, only pots were found (symbolic burials that suggest that the person died elsewhere, and was symbolically brought here).
On being asked whether bull or horse was used in chariots, Manjul said, “This is debatable, it could be a bull or a horse, but having said that the preliminary understanding points to the horse. The chariot is a lookalike of the ones found in its contemporary cultures like Mesopotamia. It is a solid wheel with no spokes. In one of the pits, crown or helmet worn by the rider of the chariot has been recovered.
The other noteworthy finds were four copper antenna swords, two daggers, seven channel-like objects, shield, comb, mirror, torch, hundreds of small cylindrical paste beads, steatite beads and triangle and rectangular inlays, semiprecious and gold beads, etc.
The excavations at the Sadiqpur in Sanauli is the extension of the ASI’s excavation in 2005 when around 116 graves belonging to Indus Valley Civilisation were found. These graves, dated 2200-1800 BC, were a fairly recent addition to the list of Indus Valley Civilisation sites in India.
“We wanted to take the research and investigation in that region further and conducted excavations just 120 metres away from the earlier site, as a trial dig, and discoveries are also set to unravel entire new history,” Manjul added.
“This throws light on the lifestyle and cultures of the people who lived in the pre-Iron Age — there are mirrors with copper, the elaborate burials, all this show the society was technologically advanced, aesthetic and had the sense of art and craft. They were warrior clans, and had a sophisticated lifestyle,” he said.
While it was difficult to ascertain the exact race of the latest buried remains, the experts feel that the chariots and coffins did not belong to the Harappan civilisation.
But again this is the subject of further investigation, Manjul said.
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