Sunet sits on archaeological goldmine,ASI slumbers on

Kesaro,a resident of Sunet village cherishes the rare idols and utensils,which she found when labourers were digging up a part of her house for construction purposes.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Published:February 10, 2012 12:20 am

26 years after it took possession of land which threw up ancient coins,utensils and artefacts,ASI seems uninterested in carrying out further excavation

Kesaro,a resident of Sunet village cherishes the rare idols and utensils,which she found when labourers were digging up a part of her house for construction purposes. She doesn’t know about their historical or material value. However,the octogenarian never forgets to take them out on special occasions as she believes the artefacts bring her luck.

One of her neighbours in the village,Nirbhay Singh,is a proud owner of three gold coins. He too,like Kesaro,had hit upon the ‘jackpot’ during excavations at his house some 50 years back. Nirbhay also possesses an ancient brick,which he chanced upon in a dugout at a depth of 6-8 feet. A painter by profession,Nirbhay keeps the coins locked in a safe and bring them out every Diwali while performing Lakshmi Pooja. One of the coins date backs to 1804,while the remaining two seemingly belong to the Mughal era.

Kesaro and Nirbhay are proud owners of archaeological finds and so is nearly every other resident of the village,which is surrounded by Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar,a posh colony Old timers talk about the pre-Independence era when people arrived with tools to dig up the mounds dotting the village. However,it was only in 1984 that the Archaeology Survey of India (ASI) decided to take up excavations here and hit the goldmine when its teams recovered thousands of coins and seals dating as old as first century AD.

The same year,the ASI took possession of nearly 8.5 acre of land from Ludhiana Improvement Trust to carry out more research work. The ASI got a boundary wall built to mark the land,dotted with a number of ancient earthen mounds. However,26 years on,the ASI is yet top commence work in the earmarked area even as the plot is slowly turning into a garbage dump.

Also,as per the norms,no construction work can be undertaken in the 100m radius of the area. In the next 200m area,construction work can be done but only after taking permission and as per the specifications ordered by the ASI. However,it has not stopped the villagers from going ahead with constructions.

Jaswant Singh,one of the three guards employed by the ASI after some slum dwellers encroached upon the land in the late 90s (the slum was demolished in 2001),said,“A few plots in the village have remained vacant for past many years,but people are slowly expanding their houses. They have commenced work despite being told about the ASI norms and notice. Even now construction work is on at one such plot in E Block of BRS Nagar.”

The ENS team came across many vacant plots in and around the ASI land,where construction work was stopped and now the owners are not even getting buyers for the land.

Seventy-year-old Surjit Singh recites the history of the place. “Before Independence,Britishers had put a big board near the village warning that no digging or construction was allowed here. But after country gained Independence,the board was uprooted. We went digging and I and most of my friends hundreds of gold coins,pearls and seals. We used to sell the artefacts to the foreigners for not more than Rs 100 each.”

Surjit is yet to understand the historical or cultural value of the artefacts that he sold.

Similar is the story told by Mukhtiar Singh (70). “About 50 years ago,villagers sold gold coins,idols,seals in heaps to foreigners at throw away prices. Even now,during construction,many villagers found coins,broken utensils. The villagers mostly hide the find as even the ASI does not show much interest in the artefacts.”

As per the reports,the labourers came across an ancient well during the construction of high-rise government apartments recently. However,the contractor didn’t inform the ASI about the find and went ahead with the construction work.

It’s worth mentioning that the digging carried out by archaeologists in 1984 brought out a large number of seals and thousands of coin moulds of the Yaudheeys,coins of Hermaeus,Gondopharnes,of Chandragupta and Samudragupta,thus throwing light on the pre-Harappan and late Harappan period.

A book published by the archaeology department claims that there used to a taksal (mint) at this place and which explains the abundance of coins found here. The digging revealed that Sunet was inhabited and had signs of Harappan civilisation from Ramayan and Mahabharat period,Kushana period and Arya period and even Gupt dynasty rule.

Keeping in view the history linked to Sunet village,Maha Sabha,a Ludhiana-based NGO had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting that a museum be built site to promote heritage tourism. The project was moved through Congress MP Manish Tiwari.

Col JS Brar,president,Maha Sabha,said,“The rich history of the village has been acknowledged even by the ASI. However,they are not taking any interest in exploring the area further or even recognising it as a heritage tourism spot.”

Sources in the archaeology department said that that there was need to take up excavation here and they are still waiting for the ASI’s nod to go ahead with the work.

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