Hastinapur, located in present-day Uttar Pradesh, was the capital of Kauravas. It lies on the right bank of an old bed of the Ganga. The Pandavas ruled here for 36 long years after the Mahabharata war until the arrival of Kalyug. Hastinapur is also sacred to the Jain community as the 16th, 17th, and 18th Jaina Tirthankaras, Shantinatha, Kunthunatha, and Aranatha, were born in Hastinapura.
In the late 1950s, excavations were carried out at Hastinapur under the guidance of B.B. Lal, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Lal is known for his “discovery” of 12 temple pillars beneath the Babri Masjid that provided the interpretive framework for the court-appointed Ayodhya excavation team.
- Around 800 B.C.E., a heavy flood occurred in the holy river Ganga, washing away a considerable portion of the settlement. Evidence of this flood has been obtained from a very pronounced erosion on the river-side end.
- Ancient remains of painted grey pottery, copper coins, bones, etc., were found on the Pandava mound along with the ancient walls of bricks.
During the excavation of the Pandava mound, painted grey ware was discovered belonging to the Mahabharata period.
These antiquities are said to be 3500 years old. Archaeologist Dr. DB Ganayanayak says that animal bones have been found, confirming that the people carried out animal husbandry even in the Mahabharata period. The domesticated animals include cattle, sheep, buffalo, pigs, and horses. The economy was both agricultural and pastoral. Rice was the main cereal produced by them.
Prof. Lal said the polished grey ware is the earliest common pottery connecting all the Mahabharata sites such as Hastinapur, Mathura, Kurukshetra, and Kampilya.
ASI recovered a copper sword and a horse-driven war chariot during excavation in Baghpat district’s Sinauli village, 90km from Hastinapur. The discovery of the chariot has raised several questions about the Aryan Invasion Theory. The findings from the “Mahabharata period”- because the epic mentioned chariots- pushed back the period to 200 BCE.
- In the archaeological excavations around Hastinapur, about 135 iron objects, including arrows and spearheads, shafts, tongs, hooks, axes, and knives, were found, which indicate the existence of vibrant iron industry.
- 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).
Houses were made of mud brick and kiln-burnt brick (size 44.5 x 25.5 x 7 cm). They were oriented along the cardinal directions. A sense of town-planning is thus in evidence. Punch-marked and copper coins testify to the developing economy, trade, and commerce, the former being silver, and copper, but the latter only of copper.
Five Periods (I-V) of occupation with a break between each have been identified.
- Period I: only a limited area belonging to this period was excavated. The typical pottery of this period is ochre-colored pottery (OCP). This ware was not well fired. This ware was possibly applied a wash in orange-red to deep red colour. After the end of this period, the site remained uninhabited for some time.
- Period II: An essential feature of this period is the presence of Painted Grey Ware (PGW). This pottery has painted decorations. This painting is usually in black over grey but sometimes it was executed in chocolate or reddish brown. The painted motifs consist of a band around the rim, a group of vertical and horizontal lines, dots, dashes, spirals, concentric circles, circles, semi-circles, sigmas, and svastikas. These paintings were executed either on the exterior or interior of the pots.
- Period III: After a gap, the site was again inhabited. The main pottery of this period is Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW). Besides, other black hues in NBPW were golden and mercury. The pottery types in NBPW were bowls and dishes. The associated pottery of NBPW was grey and red wares. Grey ware includes bowls, dishes, handis, and basins. The main types in red ware were pear-shaped vases, carinated handis, footed bowls, and basins.
- Period IV: After about one century, the site was again inhabited. The main pottery of this period is red ware, which was wheel-made, with black designs imprinted upon it. The main types are bowls with incurved rims, spouted basins, button-knobbed lids, and ink pot lids. There are stamped and incised designs on the potsherds. This includes fish, leaves, Triratna, flowers, loops, lozenges, and circles.
- Period V: After a long gap comes the next period, in which red ware (sometimes glazed), ruins of burnt bricks, iron utensils, and terracotta figurines have been found. The Period seems to have ended because of a conflagration, traces of which have been noticed all over the site.
This excavation provides archaeological backing to Hindu Itihas.
(Featured Image Source: Alamy)