Did Indraprastha, the capital of the kingdom of Pandavas, as mentioned in the Mahabharata epic, exist around what we today known as Purana Qila ( Old Fort) in Delhi? Historians and archaeologists have long believed so, even though could not be ascertained.
Now, an excavation that is underway at the site can possibly bring out the truth and shed light on that era.
Earlier, there have been indications that this site was related to the era of Mahabharata.
So there is a possibility that once we excavate further will find some evidence,” said Vasant Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India ASI), Delhi circle.
The clue that ASI members are looking for to establish the link is painted grey ware PGW). ” PGW is a pottery type that archeologists associate with the Mahabharata period. It is grey pottery painted with geometric patterns in black. Excavating 1.5 metres more is expected to expose the lowest cultural
settlement that was there,” Swarnkar said. This also means that it would take one more month of excavation to find any such evidence.
Though the earlier excavations at Purana Qila had failed find any link to Indraprastha, this time the ASI is hopeful of making a breakthrough.
The ongoing excavation at site began in mid- January and in the last three months, ASI team has found a rare 12th century sculpture of Vishnu, a seal in terracotta from the Gupta period, pottery typical of the Kushan and Gupta periods, terracotta human figurines, ivory pendants, human figurines, a Gajalakshmi tablet and structures from the Mauryan period and copper coins.
So far, the ASI has excavated an overall cultural deposit of 10 metres in the complete area of 30X30 metres.
Calling it a ” life- time opportunity” for anyone interested in witnessing excavation, Swarnkar said he saw a huge response with people coming from places as far as Chandigarh and Bhopal to see the site. ” It was a pleasure to see that a place that is a hub for couples was flocked by children and families in the last two days,” he said.
The ASI has dug in a slopping surface behind Sher Mandal, located at the right extremity of the Qila, and found a history spanning 2300 years.
” I had never been to Purana Qila before. However, this time it was the excavation that got me interested. I enjoy History and this will give me a lot more understanding of different dynasties,” said 13- year- old Monya Krishna, a student of Class 8.
About the excavation at Purana Qila
This was the third excavation in Purana Qila after the one ASI did in 1955 and in 1969- 73.
This excavation has been one of the largest excavations where we found presence of artefacts from all the eras in the same area, dating back from 4th century BC to 16th century AD.
On opening the site for public
We wanted Delhiites to witness an excavation site where they could get an opportunity to see the history being unearthed in front of their eyes. The response has been huge and in just two days, we saw over 17,000 people visit the site. However, our team had to slow down the work and we could not do much work for two days.
But this was for the public.
On an open excavated site
So far, there is no open excavated site in Delhi. We are planning to make a glass pathway over the excavated structure and open the site for public round the year which the public can view at any given point in time. However, this will take over an year to be implemented.
On upcoming excavation
Next excavation will be at the Red Fort for the Mehtab Bagh.
Excavation will be carried out in an area measuring more than 70X70 metre ( 4,900 sq m). The excavation site might bring out the original layout of the Mughal Garden, water channels, system of the fountains and the water channel.