India, with its rich ancient ethnic diversity that has flourished across an equally diverse landscape, is an amazing storehouse of famous archaeological sites that catalogues various stages of cultural evolution spanning a period of 10 millennium.


India - Archaeological Sites of India

Archaeological Sites of India

Visit to Indian Archaeological Sites

Archaeological Sites of India -Archaeology in India is a vast subject and this entire period is broadly classified as Stone Age, Indus Valley civilization, Neolithic-Chalcolithic Bronze Age, Megalithic-Early Historic and Late Historic periods.

The Stone Age the Stone Age in India begins with the Paleolithic (early Stone Age) and terminates after the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age). The Paleolithic dates back to the geological era of Middle Pleistocene. Paleolithic sites abound in Peninsular India, and are found more prominently at Pallavaram in Tamil Nadu, Hunsgi in Karnataka, Kuliana in Orissa, Didwana in Rajasthan, and Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh.

The Mesolithic sites far outnumber the Paleolithic ones, and are located all over the country. Synonymous with the advanced hunting, fishing, and food-gathering economy, Mesolithic usually corresponds to the immediate post-Pleistocene or early Holocene (about 10,000 years ago) period. The beginning of the disposal of dead, and the formation of band level society characterized this period. The early rock paintings depicting hunting and ritual scenes are the periodís most remarkable legacies.

The Neolithic-Chalcolithic Age- the Neolithic-Chalcolithic phase that followed the Mesolithic culture, was marked by remarkable progress in the techniques of agriculture, and domestication of animals, thus laying down a firm foundation for Indiaís rural life. Wattle-dab houses mushroomed over several village settlements during the 3rd and 2nd millennium B.C. Inamgaon and Walki in Maharashtra, Navdatoli in Madhya Pradesh, Ahar, Balathal and Gilund in eastern Rajasthan, Budhihal, Sangankalur, Maski and Brahmagiri in Karnataka, Utnur in western Andhra Pradesh, Golbai in Orissa, Pandu-Rajar-Dhibi in West Bengal, Chirand in Bihar and Burzoham in Kashmir have revealed a distinct Neolithic-Chalcolithic phase in India. The excavation at Balathal near Udaipur in Rajasthan has surprisingly yielded the earliest known village in India so far (radiocarbon-dated 4,000 B.C.).

Indus Valley Civilization-While the Neolithic-Chalcolithic sites of India were not matured enough to be labeled as civilizations, around the same time, over the Indus and Ghaggar river valleys in northwest India bordering Pakistan, and in Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat, flourished a civilization that is referred to today as the Indus Valley Civilization. It extended over an area that was much larger than any of the other civilizations that were its contemporaries. Some well-known Indus cities in India include Dholavira, Kalibangan, Lothal, Surkotda and Rakhigari.

Archaeological Sites In India - Marvelous Planning-The most outstanding feature of the Indus Valley Civilization was its unique town planning with well-regulated streets, oriented almost invariably along the cardinal directions. The houses were made of either mud bricks or kiln-fired bricks of regulated sizes. An average house consisted of a courtyard around which rooms were constructed to live in and carry out various household activities.

The Construction of Towns- An Indus town consisted of two parts, the citadel and the lower town, each with their respective fortifications. The citadel had monumental buildings like the Great Bath the Granary and the Assembly Hall.

Evidence of Civilized Economy-Agro-pastoralism (normads who pastured herds) was the mainstay of the civilizationís economy. Besides this coastal communities also exploited a wide range of marine life for their subsistence. Ample evidence to this effect has been found in Kuntasi in Gujarat. The Indus Valley Civilization was also very well versed in the crafts of bead making, ceramics and shell.

Itís Flourishing Trade- The Indus Valley Civilization was known for its trade, both domestic and foreign, its system of weights and measures, its written script and religious beliefs. The civilization declined by 1700 B.C., and led to the growth of several fragmented settlements in North India in the upper plains of the River Ganges. Collectively termed as the Painted Gray Ware Culture, some of its important settlements have been excavated at Ahichchatra, Hastinapura (both in western Uttar Pradesh) and Purana Quilas in Delhi. The excavations were aimed at identifying areas mentioned in the great Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

Megalithic Phase- At the time of the Painted Gray Ware settlements in the north, South India saw the predominance of the Megalithic Culture. Simple monoliths, a cluster of stone circles or dolmens usually characterize a megalithic site. Agro-pastoral communities erected these either to commemorate a burial or to depict an actual burial site. In Kerala, the megaliths used mushroom-shaped stone objects known as Topical or Kodekal. Excavations conducted in a number of megalithic sites have revealed substantial evidence of artifacts, indicative of a pastoral economy, warfare and rudimentary trade and exchange between settlements.

Some prominent megalithic sites of South India are found at Brahmagiri, Maski and Rajan Kalur in Karnataka, Bhagimari in Maharashtra and the north and south Arcot districts in Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, the Megalithic tradition has continued in certain tribal areas, especially among the Gadabas of Orissa, Gonds of Bastar, and the Bodos of northeast India, who still erect Ďmenhirsí (monoliths) as commemorative symbols for the deceased.

Second Urbanization Phase- Between the time of the Buddha (6th century B.C.) and the rule of the Guptas (4th century A.D.), for about 800 years, the whole of India for the first time underwent a most profound transformation.The changing social, political and economic framework (the period is termed as the Second Urbanization) that had first evolved in the plains of the Ganges in the north within the context of Buddhism, gradually shifted to the rest of the country. The shift opened up a network of internal and overseas trade routes with far reaching implications. These implications saw the introduction of currency, and witnessed a flourishing of numerous arts and crafts, including ceramics.

Excavations at Kosambi, Saranath, and Hastinapura in Uttar Pradesh, Vaishali, Rajagriha and Bodhgaya in Bihar, Chandraketugarh in Bengal, Sisupalgarh in Orissa, Dharanikota in Andhra Pradesh, Arikamedu near Pondicherry, Nevasa in Maharashtra and Vidisa in Madhya Pradesh have revealed fortified cities dating back to this period.

The Buddhist Phase- The early cities attempted to recreate the universe in a microcosmic manner, with large outsized ramparts that served the purpose of symbolic protection. Buddhism enjoyed wide patronage from urban dwellers, including kings and merchants, who constructed numerous shrines (Sanchi Saranath, Ajanta, Kaneheri, Amravati, Sanati and Lalitgiri). These monuments were constructed through popular and collective donations. Thanks to royal patronage, Jainism also found a foothold in certain areas. Examples to this being, Khandagiri-Udayagiri in Orissa and Mathura near Delhi are noted as splendid Jaina (Jain) monuments.

The Construction of Temples- Subsequent eras that followed marked the end of Buddhism as a religious force in India. The emphasis shifted to the construction of Brahmanical temples with distinct regional styles such as the Nagara and Kalinga in the north and the east, and the Dravida (Dravidian) and Besara in the south. Jainism continued to be popular in certain pockets, and some of its finest monuments can be found at Sravanabelagola in Karnataka, and Ellora in Maharashtra.

The Islamic Sites- The later part of Indian archaeological sites constitute a number of Islamic monuments, concentrated mainly in and around Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Hyderabad, northern Karnataka, Aurangabad and Bhopal. Alongside, the Rajputs of Rajasthan, the Marathas of Maharashtra and the rulers of Vijayanagara at Hampi, the Muslim rulers also built grand masonry forts, palaces and cities that continue to do India proud even today.

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