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The discovery was made at Tarighat in Durg district and spans five acres of a sparsely inhabited region beside a river.  Photo: Chhattisgarh ministry of culture and archaeology (Chhattisgarh ministry of culture and archaeology)
The discovery was made at Tarighat in Durg district and spans five acres of a sparsely inhabited region beside a river. Photo: Chhattisgarh ministry of culture and archaeology
(Chhattisgarh ministry of culture and archaeology)

Exploring India’s urban past

There’s been a steady stream of evidence that Chhattisgarh may be an archaeological gold mine

Archaeologists from Chhattisgarh claim to have unearthed evidence of a 2,500-year-old planned city—complete with water reservoirs, roads, seals and coins—buried 20ft below the ground. This is a discovery that is being billed as India’s biggest archaeological find in recent memory. The discovery was made at Tarighat in Durg district and spans five acres of a sparsely inhabited region beside a river.

In itself, being able to peek back two millennia into India’s history does not appear to be terribly exciting. This period, after all, marked the beginning of the Mauryan dynasty, one of the largest empires that sprawled from modern Afghanistan to most of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. However, it is the tantalizing possibility of being able to unearth evidence of early patterns of urbanization—especially in modern-day Chhattisgarh—that makes this discovery interesting.

Today, this state, in spite of being blessed with bountiful natural resources, stands out for its appalling poverty and Maoist insurgency and not past urban achievements. Over the years, however, there’s been a steady stream of evidence that Chhattisgarh may be an archaeological gold mine and may potentially be among the few places in the world that may offer continuous evidence of pre-human and human habitation.

Were a region such as this to attract sufficient attention, it could offer immense economic opportunities for tourism as well as a parallel destination for research such as the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia. That might help somewhat in the general economic improvement of the region as well as a greater incentive for the government, if it needed anything more, to improve the security situation in the state.

These finds should also be incentive for India to dramatically boost the science of archaeology and paleo-anthropology in the country. There are only a smattering of colleges and students who are being trained in the discipline, mostly because there as so few opportunities for independent or university research aside from being part of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Studying our past and the way India’s civilizations have often waxed and waned from tribal communities to mega-urban agglomeration will always remain vital for us to make sense of our present and brace ourselves for the future.

Why did India cease to be an urban civilization? Tell us at views@livemint.com

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