Amphora, one of the important vessels used by the Greeks was used to transport olives, oil, fish and wine. Such amphoras were found in India in Arikkamedu and Kanchipuram, both in the South. But now the Underwater Archaeology Wing of the Archaeological Survey of India has found Roman amphorae, along with coins and pottery in Elephanta caves, located near Mumbai.
The Elephanta caves are built in the same style as Ellora and are famous for their sculptures, especially that of the Trimurti figure of Shiva. According to A. L. Basham the Elephanta was influenced by the Pallava school of sculpture and he writes that the three-headed bust of Siva, clam with the calmness of eternity is so impressive and so religiously inspired that it needs little comment.
Head of ASI’s Underwater Archaeology Wing Dr Alok Tripathi had been quietly exploring the island since 1988, but it’s only in the last two years that extensive explorations were done. The richest site turned out to be the area around village Mora Bandar on the island.
‘‘The discovery of a large variety of amphorae and other antiquities on the island may solve some of the historical riddles,’’ said Tripathi. In addition to indicating continuity of trade with the western world during 5th-7th century AD, the findings may also answer why Chalukya King Pulakesin II of Badami had invaded this small island with a tiny population and limited natural resources in 634 AD.
‘‘We probably know why he did it. Elephanta appears to have been a prosperous island with a thriving trade,’’ said the underwater archaeologist. It is all the more significant since around the same period, the cave temple on the island, enshrining Mahesmurti, was excavated. [ASI to fish out Elephanta island’s Roman links]