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New find in Purana Qila pushes Delhi history back by centuries

The present citadel at Purana Qila is believed to have been built under Sher Shah Suri. But according to ASI's Vasant Swarnkar, the excavations — the last one was in 2013-14 — point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan period.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi | Updated: January 27, 2018 6:53 am
Purana Qila, delhi history, archaeology news, purana qila excavations, old fort delhi, delhi archaeological finds, sher shah suri, asi, archaeological survey of india, Indian Express Excavation at Purana Qila unearths traces of Iron Age. (Express Photo/Divya A)

The final round of excavations at Purana Qila in the heart of New Delhi has unearthed traces of painted grey ware, which is believed by experts to represent the Iron Age culture of the western Gangetic plain and the Ghaggar-Hakra valley, roughly corresponding to the period between 600 BC and 1200 BC.

Confirming the find, Vasant Swarnkar, Project Director, told The Indian Express: “We have found traces of painted grey ware or PGW but not yet in the stratified layer, which technically establishes the presence of a culture. We shall be able to ascertain with surety once the digging is complete, probably by the end of this financial year.”

The current round of digging, the fourth and final round, has reached 11 metres below the ground level, and the ASI team expects to reach the final earth layer, a couple of metres deeper, within the next one month. Once the excavation is complete, the plan is to turn the monument into a world-class tourist destination to showcase the “cultural continuity” of Delhi.

The present citadel at Purana Qila is believed to have been built under Sher Shah Suri, who established the Sur empire before his death in 1545. But according to ASI’s Swarnkar, the excavations — the last one was in 2013-14 — point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan period.

“Owing to its location by the Yamuna, the Purana Qila has been an important site for trade and industrial activity in all periods, be it the Mauryan, Shunga, Kushana, Rajput or Mughal eras. During the current excavation, we have also found terracota, beads, figurines and coins belonging to these dynasties,” he said.

Swarnkar said the site is the only place in Delhi, which has cultural deposits of the last 2,500 years in its various layers, from the pre-Mauryan to the modern era. On the ASI website, the description for Purana Qila says, “Sher Shah Suri seems to have razed to the ground the city of Dinpanah built by Humayun, and on the same site, which was also perhaps the site of Indraprastha, believed to be the capital of the Pandavas, he raised the citadel of Purana-Qal’a with an extensive city-area sprawling around it.”

The first two rounds of excavations — in 1954-55 and 1969-72 — by then ASI director, BB Lal, had unearthed traces of PGW under the mound. At the time, Lal had embarked on a mission to excavate various sites mentioned in the Mahabharata text and claimed to have found such traces as a common feature at all those sites.

On the basis of PGW, which archaeologically belongs to the 6th-12th century BC, Lal had claimed that Purana Qila is the Pandava kingdom of Indraprastha, estimating 900 BCE as the period of the war recounted in the epic.

Swarnkar said that post excavations, the site will be covered with a transparent roof and exposed to the public with proper signages and maps, according to a detailed plan. Additionally, an interpretation centre will be set up for visitors, which will tell them about the history and context of the site.

In 2014, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) notified 800 acres of the Purana Qila area, with nearly 100 monuments and forest, as the Dinpanah Archaeological Park. But the ASI and the Ministry of Culture have written to the DDA saying it would be in the “fitness of things” to name the site as Indraprastha Archaeological Park. Sources in the DDA said a notification in this regard is expected soon.

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  1. S
    Jan 28, 2018 at 1:51 am
    I think all the Muslim monuments including the Taj Mahal, Old Fort, Red Fort etc, which are so despised by the Hindu Taliban should be relocated to Pakistan. Near Islamabad and the Murree foothills, there is plenty of land and no pollution. It is the where the ruins of Taxila and the Gandhara civilization are found and it will be a perfect location to visit these wonderful pieces of history. No worrying about the slums of Agra and the congestion on Old Delhi..people can appreciate the sheer g eur of these structures and the brilliant architects and builders that constructed them without letting them fall into disrepair as the UP government is doing to the Taj and digging around for some fragments of Iron Age cultures which are represented by some shards of pottery! Infact I plan to write to UNESCO to help transfer these amazing structures so that they are not destroyed by the bigots.
    1. Ashok Patel
      Jan 28, 2018 at 12:15 am
      Jawaheeruddin Motiurooddin Giyasuddin Gazi ensured that Muslim Era Monuments were preserved and given prominence but Older Hindu era monuments were deliberately quietly ignored
      1. Satindra Paul Singh
        Jan 27, 2018 at 9:19 am
        Research must be based on scientific basis and not political motivated.Past shall remain static.Present may try to distort the past for the time being.
        1. Avinash Rangra
          Jan 27, 2018 at 9:06 am
          Lot more to be discovered about the past, and the process to pierce through the veil ought to be done on a war footing. It is imperative for the future generations that the past be described from the ‘native’ perspective.
          1. S
            Jan 28, 2018 at 2:00 am
            I think all the wonderful Muslim era buildings should be relocated to Pakistan where they will be appreciated. The Hindu Taliban will end up destroying either actively or by neglect the heritage that they have the good fortune to have obtained. Need to send the buildings to Pakistan where there is lots of beautiful land near Islamabad in the Muree foothills where people will admire and respect the creations of our forefathers!
          2. The Void
            Jan 27, 2018 at 8:37 am
            HOW POOR AND DEFENSELESS HINDUS WERE brutalized by terrorists like khilji from turkey, taimur from mongo lia and akbar aurangjeb from uzbekistan ancestory to convert them to islamic cult is a historical fact.......... But you know whats ""THE MOST MISERABLE FACT?"" its this, that even after islamic terrorist rule is over, these converts STILL call themselves muslims, they STILL follow arabic culture, read their literature, and STILL praise and defend rapists, murders of their own family ancestors!......... they even name their children after those tormentors! What a pity!!........ Its called doing MENTAL SLAVERY, and this HABIT of mental slavery is due to inter-generational PHYSICAL SLAVERY for almost 1000 years....... But converts need to show right understanding and courage and break free themselves from this vicious cycle of mental slavery.
            1. P
              Jan 27, 2018 at 11:14 am
              Mental slavery includes devotion to cricket, fair skin, English medium, wearing a big tilak on their foreheads to be wiped-clean when outside their mohalla and so on. It is in the DNA and not something that can be handled easily with a few comments. It is the same problem that the garbage is to be thrown on the road over the compound wall of your house and mindless violence that we witness over "sentiments". Yes, you are right. You can pity all you want but the DNA wins.
              1. S
                Jan 28, 2018 at 2:10 am
                I think you need to study the history of conversion to Islam in the Indian subcontinent to understand that force alone could not have achieved it. The British were unsuccessful in converting many Indians to Christianity. The Indian Christians are mostly Catholic and this was due to the charitable work done by the Roman Catholic Church in India and not the Anglican Church which was the British religion. Similarly with Muslims. We were converted by the examples set by the great sufi pirs like Niazamuddin Aulia in the UP area and Shah Jalal etc in East Bengal. There was no Muslim control over Bengal..mostly Hindu rajas were there but people became Muslims because they believed in the messages of the pirs. Then there is the issue of casteism. The way Hindus treated lower castes, was dehumanizing and lower caste people to escape from the tyranny of the Brahmins which would not let them touch anything and treated them like subhumans became Muslims. Time to examine your own history .
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