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There are not many blogs on Indian history and so it gives us great happiness to see yet another software engineer on this low-visitor-count market. Also, this new blog Indian Sculpture is inspired by The Palm Leaf

Indian temples are a great source of cultural information and goal of this new blog is to glean information of dress, weapons or anything else of that time period.

I am fascinated by the detail in these sculptures. It’s almost like they were 3-D photographs of their day. Many of the sculptures that I saw had different faces and had different accesories. They were clearly meant to represent different people. Whether or not it was real people or the sculptor’s fancy is anyone’s guess. It’s pretty amazing how many details spring to your eye once you actually start looking for this sort of thing though.

Ponniyin Selvan by “Kalki” Krishnamurthy, Macmillan India, ~1800 pages.

Who should be the king? This was the question that members and enemies of the Chozha dynasty were asking each other in 10th century Tamil Nadu and the incidents around this episode forms the plot for R. Krishnamurthy’s (pen name: Kalki) epic novel Ponniyin Selvan. This novel was first published in serial form in the Tamil weekly magazine Kalki from 1950 – 1954. Though Krishnamurthy wrote a large number of short stories, it was as a novelist that he got fame. He was also the first significant historical novelist in Tamil and his other works include Parthiban Kanavu and Sivagamiyin Sabatham.

Parantaka Chozha was succeeded by his second son Kandaraditha as the first son Rajaditha had died in a battle. On the death of Kandaraditha, his son Maduranthaka was a child and hence Kandaraditha’s brother Arinjaya ascended the throne. After Arinjaya’s death, his son Parantaka II, Sundara Choza was coronated. He had two sons, Aditha Karikalan and Arulmozhi Varman and a daughter Kundavai.

When the story starts, the emperor Sundara Chola is ill and bedridden. Aditha Karikalan is the general of the Northen Command and lived in Kanchi and Arulmozhi Varman (who would be famous later as Rajaraja Chola I) is in Sri Lanka in battle and their sister Kundavai Piratti lived in Chola royal household at Pazhayari.

The story is set in motion, when rumor starts that there is a conspiracy against Sundara Chozhar and his sons. One person who gets a glimpse of the Pandya conspirators is a warrior of the Vana clan Vallavarayan Vandiyathevan. Even though the book is titled Ponniyin Selvan, the hero of the book is Vandiyathevan, a friend of Adhitha Karikalan.

It is through Vandiyathevan that we meet most of the characters in the novel such as Arulmozhi Varman, the prince whom all the people loved and Periya Pazhavetturayar, the chancellor who married Nandini when he was sixty. During his youth Aditha Karikalan had fallen in love with Nandini, but she turned vengeful after Aditha Karikalan killed Veerapadyan (who was either Nandini’s father or brother) and vowed to destroy the Chozha dynasty. We also meet Kundavai Devi, who after hearing the news of the conspiracy sends Vandiyathevan to Sri Lanka to give a message to Arulmozhi Varman to come back immediately.
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Buddhist Art at Amaravati

In the period between the Mauryas and Guptas lot of wealth and energy were spent on Buddhist architecture and one of their major symbol was the stupa. The main sites of Buddhist stupas are Bharhut and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh.

The stupa in Amaravati, which is larger than the more famous one in Sanchi, was originally built during the time of Emperor Asoka. It was completed in 200 A.D and is decorated with carved panels which tell the story of Buddha’s life. This region between Krishna and Godavari was an important place for Buddhism from the 2nd century B.C and some ancient sculpture in low relief has been found here. During the Satavahana period (2nd – 3rd century A.D), Dharanikota near Amaravati was chosen as the capital. The stupa was then adorned with limestone reliefs and free standing Buddha figures. [13]

During the period of the decline of Buddhism, this stupa was also neglected and it was burried under rubble. There is a 14th century inscription in Sri Lanka which mentions repairs made to the stupa and after that it was forgotten.

If the early history of Amaravati and its stupa is dramatic and intriguing, its chance re-discovery by the archaeologists is more so. Around the year 1796, an enterprising zamindar shifted his residence from crowded Chintapalli to deserted Amaravati. He soon invited other people to settle in Amaravati. This led to the construction of roads and houses in the area. In the course of construction, the workers often found large bricks and carved limestone slabs below the ground. The news soon reached the ears of Colonel Colin Mackenzie, who visited the site twice (in 1787 and 1818) and prepared drawings and sketches of the relics in the area. Eventually, several European scholars like Sir Walter Smith, Robert Sewell, James Burgess and Alexander Rea excavated the site and unearthed many sculptures that once adorned the stupa. In recent decades, the Archaeological Survey of India has conducted further excavations in the area.

Art historians regard the Amaravati art as one of the three major styles or schools of ancient Indian art, the other two being the Gandhara style and the Mathura style. Some of the Buddhist sculptures of Amaravati betray a Greco-Roman influence that was the direct result of the close trade and diplomatic contacts between South India and the ancient Romans. Indeed, Amaravati has itself yielded a few Roman coins[History in stone]

The Amravati school of art had great influence on art in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia as products from here were carried to those countries. It also had influence over South Indian sculpture. The Government Museum at Egmore (Madras Museum), one of the oldest and largest museums in Asia hosts the “Amaravati Gallery”.

Biased against millets

Historians who do not believe the Aryan Invasion Theory say that folks who believe in it are biased towards Europeans. Folks who believe in Aryan Invasion Theory think that others are biased towards Indians. But in this biased word of history, have you heard of people who are biased against millets? Who can be so stone-hearted to be biased against those small-seeded species of cereal grown around the world for food and fodder?

Such evil people do exist and the people who do this are rice and wheat lovers. In fact, if you look at the history of millet farming you may be able to identify the period and place of the first farmer according to Steve Weber of Washington State University.

‘These are the facts. In Southern India, millets were being cultivated as old as 3000 BC to 2500 BC, while rice came into existence only by 500 BC. and in North India, millet cultivation was even there before it made an entry in South India” said Fuller. Weber added, “There have been sites in Gujarat, India, and even a few Harappan sites, which have been primarily millet-dominant.”

Weber says that since millets were more nutritious and were even drought- resistant, perhaps more and more people started cultivating them before anything else. “In India, China and South Africa, millets were the staple diet. And surprisingly, the so very Indian millets like ragi, jowar and bajra actually come from South Africa.”

“The British started researching with rice and wheat and even today, organisations like the UN and FAO concentrate on that. This may have been because rice and wheat are bigger grains and easier to identify, whereas millets were smaller and more time-consuming to find,” they opined. [Millets older than wheat, rice: Archaeologists]

A recent discovery of a grain of rice in India may prove Weber to be wrong. Excavations in Lahuradeva in Uttar Pradesh have shown that people of this region took to farming and domestication of animals about 10,000 years back.

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Found: A missing State

Usually archaeologists find artifcats like terracota idols, amphorae or the first labelled portaiture of Emperor Asoka. They also find old temples, forts, boats, and sometimes even skeletons. But it is only once in a blue moon that they find an entire state and this is what happened in China.

The existence of this 3000 year old state, Peng, was never recorded in any historical documents, but only in some inscriptions in bronzeware excavated from two Western Zhou Dynasty tombs

Li Boqian, director of the archaeological research center of the prestigious Beijing University, said at an archaeological forum recently in Beijing that the discovery of the Western Zhou graves in Hengshui is the most important archaeological discovery since the excavation of the graves of the Marquis of Jin, another state of the Western Zhou Dynasty, in Quwo County of Shanxi Province.

The newly found ancient state will help archaeologists and historians better understand the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty and its jurisdiction, Li said.

More than 80 tombs have been excavated at the site in Hengshui, with the tombs of Pengbo and his wife the largest ones. The couple were buried side by side with lots of funeral objects such as bronze ware, carriages and jade, said Song Jianzhong, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province.

One of the most important findings in the graves is the remains of a pall covering the coffins. The remains of the pall, already blended with earth after several thousand years, are still a vivid red color. Phoenix patterns can be seen on the pall, said Song.[3,000-year-old ancient state found in Shanxi]

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Stegodons in India

The stegodon was a elephant like animal that lived in Asia about 5.3 million to 1.8 million years before present. These animals were about 13 feet high, 26 feet long and had 10 feet long tusks. Stegodons were earlier considered to the ancestor of elephants and mammoths, but now they are considered to be the sister group of the mammoth and the Indian and African elephant. Recently archaeologists from the ASI (where else?) found some tools in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum which resemble the stegodon.

The deep elephant-shapped furrows stunningly resembled ‘stegodon’, the first of the true elephants that had probably roamed in this part of the world during the ‘pleistocene’ period, the official said. Chauhan said the length of the ‘elongated’ truck is very long and the about four-inch imprint point to a primitive species. “This unusual figure of an elephant on the stone at Basadera takes one back to a primitive period,” he said.

“The technique ‘block-on-anvil’ and ‘block-on-block’ adopted to shape and size the tools found by us and their striking similarity with the tools discovered in the river valley indicate the age of human habitation which could be older than the one discovered near Jamshola by the anthropologists from Kolkata,” he said. The discoveries should be enough pointer to the perception that East Singhbhum might have seen transformation of primitive men, he said. [Vital clues about primitive human beings]

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In 2004, there was a spectacular archaeological discovery in Adichanallur, near Tirunelveli when 2800 years old human skeletons were found in urns. These urns also contained writing resembing early Tamil Brahmi. Later a three-tier burrial system was discovered in which earlier generations were burried in urns at 10 ft depth and recent ones above them. Soon the habitational site of the people who were burried was also discovered.

Analyzing the habitational site, it was understood that people lived in a fortified town and it had a separate potters quarters. There was also evidence of industrial activity and archaeologists think that it was a crowded busy town. The analysis of these skeletons have revealed some new facts.

  1. These people were tall, contradicting an earlier hypothesis that pre-historic Indians were short
  2. People consumed refined food, though there is no description of what constitutes refined food
  3. They had Southern Mongoloid features indicating sea trade between east coast of India and south east Asia in 800 B.C.

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