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The strongest archaeological support comes from the structures discovered under the sea-bed off the coast of Dwaraka in Gujarat by the pioneering team led by Dr S.R. Rao, one of India's most respected archaelogists. An emeritus scientist at the marine archaeology unit of the National Institute of Oceanography, Rao has excavated a large number of Harappan sites including the port city of Lothal in Gujarat. In his book The Lost City of Dwaraka (Aditya Prakashan, Rs 1500), published in 1999 he writes about his undersea finds: "The discovery is an important landmark in the history of India. It has set to rest the doubts expressed by historians about the historicity of Mahabharata and the very existence of Dwaraka city. It has greatly narrowed the gap in Indian history by establishing the continuity of the Indian civilisation from the Vedic Age to the present day. [article courtesy : Mahabharathaonline.com]

The underwater expeditions-which won Rao the first World Ship Trust Award for individual Achievement-were undertaken after extensive on-shore excavations had yielded incontrovertible evidence of a protohistoric settlement of 1600 BC destroyed by the sea. Conducting 12 expeditions during 1983-1990, Rao identified two underwater settlements, one near the present-day Dwaraka and the other in the nearby island of Bet Dwaraka. In the book The Lost City of Dwaraka describing his discoveries, Rao suggested that Krishna occupied these places around 1500 BC. In search of submerged human settlements: A diver inspecting the rocky ridge having man-made holes for securing boats

What Rao and his team discovered was a well-fortified township that extended more than half a mile from the shore. The sketch plan of Dwaraka, prepared on the basis of structural remains exposed in the sea-bed, suggests six different sectors of the town all fortified and some interconnected. Two major roads, each about 18m wide, connect a group of three buildings on the east which formed another designated enclosure, in which six bastions were found in a line. The foundation of boulders on which the city's walls were erected showed that the land had been reclaimed from the sea some 3,600 years back. The submerged township extended in the north up to Bet Dwaraka (Also known as Sankhodhara-said to have been the pleasure resort of Krishna and his consorts Satyabhama and Jambavati. The area is noted for its conch shell of good quality which was in great demand as a non-corrosive substitute for metal). It extended up to Okhamadhi in the south, and Pindara in the east. (A pearl fishing village for more than 3,000 years, Pindara is a holy place-Pinda Taraka is mentioned in the Mahabharata where sage Durvasa had his hermitage.)

The general layout of the city of Dwaraka described in ancient texts agrees with that of the submerged city and shows evidence of town planning. For example: "Land was reclaimed from the sea near the western shores of Saurashtra. A city was planned and built here. Dwaraka was a planned city, on the banks of the river Gomati. This beautiful city was also known as Dwaramati, Dwarawati and Kushastali. It had well-organised six sectors, residential and commercial zones, wide roads, plazas, palaces and many public utilities. A hall called Sudharma Sabha was built to hold public meetings. The city also boasted of a good harbour."

The excavations show that Dwaraka was an urban centre with certain specialised industries such as boat building and metal working as evidenced by this copper lota (left) found in the sea bed. Iron too was known to the smiths of Bet Dwaraka.

The Sabha Parva text of the Mahabharata describes houses, but none had survived the sea. A few paved paths, drains, etc. were traced. Some houses or public buildings had pillared halls. "An idea of the houses built of dressed and undressed stones in ancient Dwaraka can be had from the structures laid bare in the Harappan town of Surkotada in Kutch," said Rao.

Kushastali is the name given to a pre-Dwaraka (or Harappan) settlement that had been abandoned and reoccupied and rebuilt during the Mahabharata period, said Rao, who identifies Bet Dwaraka with Antardvipa of the epic. "The word dvipa as used in the Mahabharata often conveys the sense of any land between two rivers or two waters, although it is also used for a continent," said Rao. "The Harappan seal inscriptions mention happta dvappa (sapta dvipa-seven lands) and bhadrama dvappa (bhadrama dvipa-a seal found at Kalibanga meaning most auspicious land). Also, "the fort wall and submerged walls in the sea confirm the appellation varidurga, citadel in the water, given to Dwaraka in the Mahabharata."

Rao also finds confirmation of the reference to Dwaraka as nagara (city) in the epic. The high level of civilisation in ancient Dwaraka is borne out by the engineering skill, advanced technology and the high literacy of the people. "It was an urban centre with certain specialised industries such as boat building, shell working, pearl diving and perhaps metal working also," said Rao.

The stone mould found in the intertidal zone compares favourably with similar moulds found in Lothal and other Indus towns just as the tidal dock at Lothal built in 2300 BC is seen as the precursor of the port installation of Dwaraka. Iron was already known to the smiths of Bet Dwaraka as attested to by iron stakes, nails and other iron objects. Terracotta wheels of toy carts were also recovered.

By 1500 BC almost the entire township seems to have been destroyed. But while it existed, one later description of the city reads, "The yellow glitter of the golden fort of the city in the sea throwing yellow light all round looked as if the flames of vadavagni (volcano) came out tearing asunder the sea."

Among the objects recovered from the sea-bed that establish the submerged township's connection with the Dwaraka of the Maha-bharata was a seal (just 18mmx20mm) with the images of a bull, unicorn and goat engraved in an anticlockwise direction. "The motif is no doubt of Indus origin but the style shows considerable influence from Bahrain," writes Rao. "The bull, unicorn and goat motif on seals from mature Harappan levels of Kalibangan and Mohenjo Daro is distinct from that of Bet Dwaraka which belongs to the late Indus period." But the seal does corroborate the reference made in the ancient text, the Harivamsa, that every citizen of Dwaraka should carry a mudra as a mark of identifiction and none without a seal should enter it.

"When we got the seal we were really excited," said Dr. Rao. "Secondly, we got a stone mound in which they cast some spear heads. So some weapons were definitely locally manufactured. The Mahabharata mentions that when Dwaraka was attacked they inserted iron stakes. We got one of those. These are evidences which corroborate what the texts said. But the evidence that really clinched the issue was the mudra and the references to two Dwarakas at the place mentioned in the ancient texts like Sabha Parva."

Over 12 expeditions during 1983-1990, with funding for just 20 days in a year: Dr Rao and his pioneering team working off the coast of Dwaraka

The topography of the Okha region reveals seven parts interspersed by the Rann. They may be the seven islands that existed during the Mahabharata period and referred to in later texts. The occurrence of proto-historic (1600 BC) pottery on land suggests there were smaller towns between Dwaraka and Kushastali in ancient times. "With a large port town of Dwaraka, a shipyard in Bet Dwaraka and three other satellite towns at Aramda, Varwala and Nagewsar, the concept of the city state of Darukavana or Dwaravati must have been given a concrete shape," speculates Rao. If all these settlements are taken as one unit, Darukavana extended over 45 km from north to south and at least 25 km from east to west approximating to eight yojanas, if not more.

Also, the Dwaraka harbour provided the earliest clear evidence of modifying natural rock to serve the needs of a harbour. Two rock-cut slipways of varying width extending from the beach to the intertidal zone were discovered, which "could have been designed for launching boats of different sizes." This technique was adopted by the Phoenicians much later, around 900-800. The structures and the large stone anchors lying under the sea at Dwaraka are also seen as indicative of large ships being anchored out at sea while smaller boats carried men and cargo up the river.

Among artefacts reovered from Dwaraka and Bet Dwaraka were pottery carrying inscriptions in old Indo-Aryan (Vedic or archaic Sanskrit) script and were found to be 3,528 years old in thermoluminescence testing. Rao deciphers one of the potsherds recovered to read baga (God) in late Harappan characters and assignable to 1800-1600 BC and another as Mahakaccha sah pa, conveying the sense of "sea (or sea god) king (or ruler) protect"-an appeal to the sea god for protection. A similar appeal has been deciphered in a seal inscripion from Mohenjo Daro.

Triangular three-holed anchors weighing 120-150 kg, the biggest weighing 560 kg, found were similar to pre-Phoenician anchors found in Syria and Cyprus and were dated around 1500 BC. Another archaeologically significant find was a lunate shaped moonstone (chandrasila). This and a beam found in the vicinity suggested to Rao's team that there existed a temple here. Stone artefacts recovered from the sea-bed included a low footed stool of basalt, finely polished found along with brass arches, a pestle of granite and a grinder cum pounder of dolerite. Two single-holed spheroid stone objects, use unclear, datable to 1500-1400 BC were found, besides iron nails, brass objects, a copper bell, a highly corroded copper lota and a few bronze nails. Low zinc brass produced at Lothal in 2300-2000 BC is similar in composition to that found at Dwaraka.

Admittedly, there is not much dispute about the general area of Krishna's kingdom. "The dating of Rao's material was done, not by archaeologists, but by scientists at the Physical Research Lab, and that cannot be disbelieved. So it is definitely ancient Dwaraka," said Acharya. But in terms of time, Rao's explorations place Krishna and the Mahabharata in the post-Harappan period or after the break-up of the Harappan empire due to natural causes around 2200-1900 BC.

"Generally our findings have been accepted," said Rao. "There are a few who think that the date 1700-1800 BC that we have assigned is not in consonance with the traditional date of 3102 BC. But so far as the archaeological evidence from on shore and off-shore excavations and thermoluminescence dating is concerned Kushastali with its late Harappan relics where the first Dwaraka was built may be assigned to 1700 BC and the town on the mainland may be slightly later," Rao said. "Although traditional date of 3102 BC cannot be confirmed by avaiable evidence, it is better to explore deeper waters of Bet Dwaraka," said Rao. "There is one other possibility. In Bet Dwaraka there are the mudflats. We are not able to dig because you hit water at an early depth and neither diving nor excavations are possible." (Archaeological excavations show that modern Dwaraka is the seventh settlement of the name on this site. It is now generally accepted that the earlier cities have been, at various times, swallowed by the sea. Interestingly, the only ancient temple for Matsya, Vishnu's incarnation at the time of the great flood, is to be found at Sankhodhara in Bet Dwarak.

The structures and stone anchors lying under the sea indicate large ships being anchored out at sea while smaller boats carried men and cargo up the river as visualised in this artist's impression of the harbour of ancient Dwaraka.

Madhav Acharya too favours the later dates. "There is a difference in the geographic areas as well as the time frame of the Saraswati civilisation that is wholly Vedic, and the setting of the Mahabharata," he said. According to him, while the Saraswati-or the Harappan-civilisation centres on the Saptasindhu rivers (the Indus, the Saraswati and the five rivers that make up Punjab), the Mahabharata has the Ganga and the Yamuna, besides the Kurukshetra area in Haryana, as the backdrop. "The earliest habitation in the Ganga-Yamuna region does not go back beyond 1200-1100 BC, and in Mathura and the Mahabharata sites there is no evidence of earlier inhabitation."

The date arguments notwithstanding, there can be no denying the importance of Rao's findings. With Krishna consigned to mythology, the modernists of course insist that the undersea discoveries must have an explanation different from Rao's interpretation and correlation with the ancient texts, though they have yet to come up with one. Researchers like Rajaram view Rao's findings as confirmation of their theories that the Mahabharata belongs to a much earlier period.

Rajaram, in his yet to be published book Search for the Historical Krishna, cites three main reasons as to why the site discovered by Rao is actually a later Dwaraka than the one built by Krishna. First, considering the abundant Vedic symbolism found in Harappan archaeology, which Rao too says, the lack of any Vedic motifs in the artefacts found in the undersea excavations suggests that the settlement was a later one. Rajaram theorises that Krishna's Dwaraka most probably lies below the existing ruins at a further depth of around 2.5 to 5 metres based on his calculations on the likely rise in sea levels over the past 5,000 years.

Low zinc brass produced at Lothal in 2300-2000 BC is similar in composition to that found in artefacts like this bronze bell excavated at Dwaraka. Also, a stone mould compares favourably with similar mould found in Lothal and other Indus towns. The second reason cited is that Krishna of the Mahabharata and the archaeology of his Dwaraka must fit the picture of the region and society portrayed in the ancient texts. This, Rajaram says, better fits in the early Harappan (3100 BC) period than the post Harappan period favoured by Rao and some others. Especially since some of the artefacts recovered from the sea-bed show a strong affinity with West Asia, especially the Kassite empire of Babylon. The third reason is the mismatch between the political situation described in the Mahabharata and the picture given by post-Harappan archaeology. "There can be little doubt that Krishna was a Vedic figure," said Rajaram. According to the Mabhabharata, Krishna's links were with the Kurus, the Panchalas and Mathura, all in the Vedic heartland to the north. "Just as there is no denying the Kassite influences on Rao's Dwaraka, there is no denying the historic Vedic link between the Purus (or Kurus) and the Yadus along the Saraswati river, which should place them before the complete drying up the ancient river around 2200-1900 BC." This seal establishes the submerged township's connection with Dwaraka of Mahabharata. It corroborates the reference in the Harivamsa that says every citizen of Dwaraka should carry a mudra as a mark of identification. Further, Rajaram argues, the Mahabharata describes India as made up of established kingdoms, with good communications and a common elite language. "It was an age of large kingdoms and empires and imperial aspirations," he insists. In fact the geography as described in the epic is accepted by many scholars. Historian S.M. Ali is quoted in Rao's book: "The georgrapahical matter contained in the Mahabharata is immense. It is perhaps the only great work which deals with georgraphic details and not incidentally as other works." So Krishna's Dwaraka must fit into the geography and society described in the epic, which obviously corresponds far more to the early Harappan rather than the post-Harappan period which saw the rise of regional cultures, what Rao calls Janapadas, Rajaram argues in his book. (Rao gives the following chronology: Pre-Harappa 3400-3100 BC; mature Harappa 3100-1900 BC; late Harappa 1900-1500 BC.) The town was well-fortified with engineering skill, as seen in the hemispherical door-socket (left) and literacy as seen in the inscription in the earthern trough (right) in old Indo-Aryan script which Rao deciphers as Mahakaccha sah pa, conveying the sense of "sea (or sea god) king (or ruler) protect". Moreover, in looking at the historical basis for the Dwaraka legend, a key question is not just about Krishna but also whether the Mahabharata war and other participants in the war were historical also. One cannot have one without the other. And Rajaram and Jha, in their yet to be universally accepted decipherment of the Harappan seals, say there are many references to Krishna and other Mahabharata characters in the Indus Valley seals, some of which date back to 5000 years. For instance, one seal they have deciphered as Devapi, the elder brother of Bhishma's father, Shantanu. Among other names related to Krishna deciphered are Akrura (Krishna's friend), Yadu (Krishna's ancestor), and Sritirtha (old name for Dwaraka). Another seal they read as 'Murari Vrishni anga' meaning 'Murari of the Vrishnis,' and one more as 'Vrishni varpa,' implying he had a beautiful body. In fact, Jha and Rajaram say they have found the word 'Vrishni' appearing on numerous Harappan seals. Vrishni of course was Krishna's clan, living in a region where recent excavations have shown that the Harappan Civilisation was thriving.

The identification of Krishna's Dwaraka thus calls for devising methods of identifying sites and artefacts that belong to the Mahabharata period, though there is little consensus among historians and archeologists on dating this period. For this, it is necessary to get at the root of the main literary source of the period, the Mahabharata. "Recent research has shown that the epic is not a myth but a recreation of history. This is the consensus among most historians and archaeologists," Rao argues.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great discovery, certainly our history is true

Anonymous said...

Proud to be a Hindu ,proud to be a Indian and blessed to be his devotee !

Hare krishna hare Krishna ,krishna Krishna hare hare !

Anonymous said...

Proud to be an Indian ,a Hindu ,blessed to be his devotee!

Hare Krishna hare Krishna ,Krishna krishna hare hare!

Anonymous said...

Proud to be a hindu .

Kumar Vasan said...

When Facts are so evident its our history, its the Indus civilization from himalayas till the kanya kumari and Lanka.

Appreciate the Great work that you have carried out.
i'm very sadden to see the evacuation is stopped,
May i know what why ? is there any way i contribute my life for this cause.