The history of Bengal goes long back archaeologically, wherein tools from the Stone Age era dating back to almost 20,000 years have been found from various sites. The Mahabharata talks of this area as divided into different kingdoms: Magadha, Banga, Pundra, Anga, and Suhma. Each part was ruled by different tribes, and the languages they spoke belonged to the non-Aryan group of languages (Nishadas or the Austro-Asiatic, Alpine-Dinaric, etc) still extant among some of the tribal communities, such as Kol, Khasi, Santhal, Bhil, and Shabara. The other adjoining janapadas of Bengal at that time were Kalinga (modern Odisha), Videha (now Nepal), and Assam which the Mahabharata mentions as Pragyajyotisha. Bengal also finds mention in the book Indica, written by Megasthenes, who referred to it as Gangaridai.
Some archaeological excavations in the 1960s-70s in the core area of Raarbhumi (Birbhum and Bardhaman) in West Bengal brought about revolutionary changes in the study of Bengal history. Among these the most important site is known as the “Pandu Rajar Dhibi,” in the valley of the river Ajay, near Bolpur, district Bardhaman. The Raarbhumi is fed by the seasonal Ajoy, Mayurakhhi, Kopai, Bakreshwar, Kunnur, and Damodar rivers, while the rivers Subornorekha and Kangsaboti feed the adjoining districts of Medinipur, Bankura, and Purulia. This entire area is the purabhumi or the original fertile tract of prehistoric and ancient Bengal, where settlements from the Stone Age era grew up beside the banks of these roaring monsoon-water-fed rivers, and agriculture started.
Near the Pandu Rajar dhibi is the village Bonkoti where excavations had revealed innumerable microlithic tools made of wood and crystal. Another village beside the Damodar river had produced similar archaeological artefacts of microlithic tools made of crystals and other crushed stones; it was thus clear that the place was most likely a factory for producing such tools. While such artifacts of Neolithic and Chalcolithic era are commonly seen across the Raarbhumi and the adjoining three districts, the excavations at the Pandu Rajar Dhibi changed the course of studies into the pre-proto historic and ancient Bengal.
The ASI reports of the excavations at Pandu Rajar Dhibi during 1962-65 have revealed that Bengal during the latter half of the 2nd millennium BCE had in place a well developed urban culture, with towns having well planned streets and pavements. The residents lived in citadels, and houses that were made of unfired clay reinforced with reeds, while the floors and walls were of plastered beaten laterite. The houses were rectangular to square or round, framed with thick wooden or bamboos posts, the roofs sometimes showed terracotta tiles, floors had lateritic pellets or rammed moorum or terracotta nodules, and the walls had reeds plastered with mud from both sides.
Use of copper was known, domesticated animals and livestock were kept, while agriculture (rice, sugarcane, and other crops) and commerce formed to be the backbone of their economy. Daily diet of the inhabitants seems to have been of rice, meat, and fish. Their potteries consisted of various kinds of bowls, basins, vases, storage jars, dishes, etc. The dead were buried in east-west orientation, while the worship of matrika figures (fertility figurines, mother goddesses) seemed to be popular.
The most interesting aspect of Pandu Rajar Dhibi, however, was the fact that the town seemed to be a trading settlement. Various artifacts proved that the people here carried on trade not only with other parts of India (Chalcolithic central India and Rajasthan), but also with foreign countries. A sea-faring group of people they would travel in ships built by themselves, and various discoveries at the Dhibi (of 2000 BCE) showed that they had close trade relations with Crete and other Mediterranean nations. The chief trading items with foreign countries were spices, cotton fabrics (likely fine cotton or muslin), silver, gold, ivory, copper, and also probably sugar (always a prominent commercial item in ancient Bengal trade). A seal and clay label with inscribed signs of Cretan A symbols found at the site shows the commercial links between the two places. Besides the Dhibi, other sites such as Tamluk, Midnapur, Harinarayanpur, and Chandraketugarh in West Bengal have also yielded vases of Egyptian and Cretan types, along with sealings and potteries showing distinct Egyptian and Cretan traits.
The 1962-65 ASI excavations at the Pandu Rajar Dhibi revealed four layers of varying periods, of which Period III belongs to around 1000 BCE; Period II is said to belong to the 1012+-120 timeline; while Period I belongs to the earlier times of around 2000 BCE (if not earlier). In the 1964 excavation various artefacts showed that the people living there knew the use of iron, and probably smelted at the site. A Seal and engraving revealed that a writing pattern of sharp linear pattern once existed in the 2nd millennium BCE in the area around the Ajay valley.
The ASI reports of 1962-65 and a later report on the site by M.K. Dhavalikar (1973) show the importance of the Pandu Rajar site in the studies of proto-historic era Bengal. Yet, it is quite unfortunate that the artefacts from the site were not taken up for further advanced studies and scientific analyses. Owing to a complete lack of attention and apathy, the site discoveries got removed from limelight and were soon relegated to the background by the late 70s. Today not many people (including those that live in the nearby districts) know the name of the site; leave aside being aware of its historical importance. Casting a veil over proto-historic and ancient Bengal had started from the late 70s, and has been so successful that today many Bengalis have either forgotten or are not even aware of their rich heritage that once ran parallel to the late Harappan era.
The author is a well-known travel, heritage and history writer. Views expressed are personal.
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OVER 5 CRORE TIRANGA SELFIES CLOCKED AS PART OF HAR GHAR TIRANGA CAMPAIGN
More than five crore Tiranga selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign website so far, the Ministry of Culture informed on Monday and termed it a “stupendous achievement”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a call on 22 July 2022, to join the Har Ghar Tiranga’ movement by hoisting or displaying the national flag at homes.
“In a stupendous achievement, more than five crore ‘Tiranga’ selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ website,” the ministry of Culture said in a statement.
As India embarks on its 76th year of Independence, wrapping up the 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, was the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ initiative of the government driven by the nodal ministry for ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ the Ministry of Culture.
The commemoration of 75 years of independence started on March 12, 2021, as a 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, and will continue till 15 August 2023.
Indian Missions under MEA screen short film on Sri Aurobindo
Indian Missions abroad under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), including the Embassy of India, Paris, India in UK, CGI Birmingham, Switzerland, Colombia and Ecuador, Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO and Bahrain, screened the short film titled ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ on 15th August 2022, which also marked the 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. Directed by award-winning Indian filmmaker Suraj Kumar, the short film is based on a screenplay by Manish Kumar Pran. The film stars Vikrant Chauhan in the titular role.
Based on Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s prison life (1908-1909), the short film was shot in Alipore Jail, Kolkata, from where Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual journey had started. Sri Aurobindo was arrested for conspiracy on 5th May 1908 and spent a full year in Alipore jail while the British government, in a protracted court trial, tried to implicate him in various revolutionary activities. It came to be known as the Alipore Bomb Case. He was finally acquitted and released on 6th May 1909.
‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey puts the spotlight on an important chapter of Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s journey that often gets overlooked when one talks about his exemplary life and work. Sri Aurobindo was also a renowned freedom fighter and was accused of bombing a series of British nationals as a leader of Anushilan Samity. However, in Alipore central jail, while being accused of the Alipore conspiracy, he had a change of mind and became a philosopher and spiritual guru till his death in 1950 in Puducherry.
“While Sri Aurbindo Ghose was lodged in jail, his spiritual transformation started just after 2-3 days of prison life. My short film ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ documents his beginning of spiritual journey in Alipore jail,” reveals Suraj Kumar. Speaking about the film’s conception, he adds, “The idea of making the short cropped up when one of my IIMC friends and prison reformer Dr. Vartika Nanda discussed it with me, back in early 2021. Subsequently, I visited the National Library of India in Kolkata to document and record the news articles published related to Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment. “
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was one of the first few leaders who demanded complete independence from the British Raj. He is said to have proposed the concept of ‘Purna Swaraj’, 20 years before the Indian National Congress. He advocated the use of Swadeshi products, non-cooperation, and passive resistance to achieve the goal. After being a part of the Independence movement from 1902 to 1910, he shifted to the French colony of Puducherry, where he set up an ashram and worked for the development of ‘internal Yoga.’ He authored several works, including The Synthesis of Yoga, The Life Divine, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Human Cycle, among others.
‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ will be screened in various schools and colleges all across the country over the next one year.
WHAT MAKES NAVROZ A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR PARSIS
Navroz, which is the Parsi New Year, was celebrated on 16th August this year . The day is dedicated to the beginning of spring and to promoting peace, solidarity, and friendship among people and different communities.
The Navroz celebration is believed to date back to the time when Prophet Zarathustra founded Zoroastrianism, one of the earliest known monotheistic religions in the world, in Persia (now Iran). It was one of the most important religions in the ancient world until the emergence of Islam in the seventh century.
During the Islamic invasion of Persia, several Persians fled to India and Pakistan. Since then, their festivals have become a part of Indian festivities and are celebrated by people from diverse cultures.
Navroz marks the first day of Farvardin, the first month in the Zoroastrian calendar, also known as the Shahenshahi calendar.
For followers of Zoroastrian philosophy, this day represents the time when everything in the universe is completely renewed. Jamshed, a monarch of the ancient Sasanian Empire, is credited with introducing the Parsi calendar. Hence, this holiday is also called Jamshed-i-Nouroz.
Across the world, Navroz is celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox, around 21 March. However, Parsis in India follow the Shahenshahi calendar, which does not recognise leap years. This is why the Parsi New Year in India is celebrated almost 200 days after it is celebrated across the world.
On this occasion, Parsi families across India, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat as they have a sizeable Parsi population, visit the holy temples to offer prayers.
They also prepare traditional Parsi dishes like Farcha, Berry Pulao, and Jardaloo Chicken, among several other things. Parsis also believe it to be a day of remittance of sins and a time for repentance.
The filched Indian Gems
Over time, theft of Indian antiquities and diamonds has robbed India of its demarcation as the “Golden Bird,” or Sone Ki Chidiya. Many ancient artefacts vanished when India was still a colony. Here are some of the listed items:
The renowned Mughal Peacock Throne of Allaudin Khalji was the owner of the Koh-i-Noor. Diamond experts from all around the world refer to it as the “Mountain of Light.” Following the establishment of the East India Company by the British in India in 1849, it was given to Queen Victoria. It is currently kept in the Tower of London’s Jewel House.
The Ring of Tipu Sultan
Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British in a fight in 1799, and after his death, the colonisers took his sword and ring. The ring, which Vijay Mallya had spent a lot of money on, was sold at auction by the British in 2014 for £145,000, while the sword was given back to India.
The wine cup of Shah Jahan
Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie stole the wine cup that belonged to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the early 19th century and sent it to Britain. The wine cup was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1962, where it is currently displayed.
The Peacock Throne
A well-known peacock throne has also been taken. According to legend, it served as the sear of the Mughal emperors who conquered North India. This throne was previously located in Delhi’s Red Fort. Shah Jahan, an emperor in the 17th century, constructed this throne specifically for him. This throne was removed by the Persian King Nader Shah in the year 1739.
The marble idol of Sarswati
The goddess’s marble statue was inscribed in the year 1034 AD. This was the most priceless statue in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhojshala Temple. The statue was eventually misplaced, and in 1886 it was mysteriously discovered in the British Museum.
The battle without the gun
The 5th Generation Warfare is a covert attempt to paralyse a nation and a battle not on the ground but of strategies to discredit and stymie its growth.The well-described Sun Tzu Strategy is unquestionably proving to be a great approach to debilitate the growth of any country, which lists down five agendas, i.e.,win all without fighting; avoid strength, attack weakness; deception and foreknowledge; speed and preparation; shape your opponent; and character-based leadership.
Daniel Abbot defines the 5th Generation Warfare as the war of “information and perception” which calls for tactics like social engineering, misinformation and cyber attacks, artificial intelligence and autonomous robots.
The tactic of psychological manipulation in order to decay the intellect, breach privacy, or fleece the people of a country is what can be called social engineering. In recent times, there have been instances where foreign powers have adopted certain methodologies, including baiting, scareware, pretexting, phishing, and spear phishing, to rob the nation.
Deliberately spreading deceptive and misleading information in order to influence actions and the entire persona in long run is a commendable tactic to vanquish the enemy nation. Be it fuelling political agenda or be it triggering extremism, misinformation has a vital role to play.
We need to outsmart the strives of the foreign nations to uproot the culture of our country with subtle poisoning of technology along with Cyber attacks and look beyond petty affairs to see the wider picture.
Indian Embassy in Madagascar decks up with tricolour lights
As India is celebrating Independence Day on Monday, the Indian Embassy building in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo was seen in the Indian tricolour lights. Meanwhile, Town Hall in Antananarivo also lit up in tricolour on the eve of the 76th anniversary of Independence Day of India.
To commemorate the spirit of Independence, the Embassy of India will organise a flag hoisting ceremony on Monday at the Embassy residence Villa Tanana Finaritra, Analamahintsy, Ivandry. “All members of the Indian community and friends of India are invited to join the celebrations,” the Indian Embassy tweeted.
India and Madagascar share a strong relationship. India is a key trade partner of Madagascar with bilateral trade reaching about 400 million USD in 2020-21.
The ties between the two Indian Ocean neighbours are growing in all spheres. The two countries share healthy and strong ties which are on an upswing and several MoUs in key areas such as health, education, culture, information, and travel have been signed between the two countries.
Meanwhile, in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the Indian national flag does not contain only three colours in it but is a reflection of the pride of our past, our commitment to the present, and our dreams of the future.
Addressing a tiranga rally in Surat via video conferencing, PM Modi recalled that in a few days’ time, India is completing 75 years of its independence and said that all of us are preparing for this historic Independence Day as the Tricolour is hoisted on every corner of the country.
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