Settlement in Early Historic Ganga Plain

by Chirantani Das | 143,447 words

This page relates “Pataliputra Circle” as it appears in the case study regarding the settlements in the Early Historic Ganga Plain made by Chirantani Das. The study examines this process in relation to Rajagriha and Varanasi (important nodal centres of the respective Mahajanapadas named Magadha and Kashi).

Part 6 - Urban centres in South Bihar (c): Pāṭaliputra Circle

One reason for the absence of later antiquities from Rājagṛha may be it ceased to be the Magadhan capital and the place was taken by Pāṭaliputra. From the archaeological evidences from the field and the account of Megasthenes it was taken to be built in the Maurya times between 320- 185 BCE. Various trade routes passed from Pāṭaliputra and it had an almost monopoly over these routes. The first one is the route from Barygaza to Pāṭaliputra via Kauśāmbī and Ujjain, the Vaiśālī and Śrāvastī bound northern trade route connected Pāṭaliputra to Nepal and the last and the longest route reaching Bactriana through Mathura and Indus valley provided Pāṭaliputra control over far and wide regions. It was also connected to Tāmralipta and to the south east Asia and even to China by a route starting from the Gaṅgā valley. The Pāṭaliputra-Tāmralipta route appears to be the modern G.T. Road connecting eastern and western ends of the country. Two shorter but important routes connected Gaya to Rajgir and Gaya to Pāṭaliputra via Hilsa and Fatwah.

In this whole settlement area the trade element is very prominent. All three major urban sites were engaged in brisk trade activities. Campā was a river port on the Gaṅgā, Rājagṛha controlled the minerals and resources and played important role in the regional and supra regional trade with the Deccan. But the most impressive long distance trade was organised by Pāṭaliputra. They were interconnected through elaborate trade routes and a number of middle range sites located at certain important points of the Campā -Rājagṛha -Pāṭaliputra axis. These sites helped in the management of resources and routes on a local level. Trade archaeology of the Magadha region may be seen in the rise of interlinked sites of Pāṭaliputra, Gaya, Rājagṛha, Arrah-Sasaram and Bhabua zones. A short survey of these sites may illustrate the case. Starting from the west at the Gaya sector there was the mud walled complex of Deo Umga adjoining the hills at the Gaya–Sasaram road. The precise date of the mud wall is unknown but discovery of bone tools and a few BRW pieces point to its Chalcolithic beginning. It is surrounded by a 20 m wide ditch and in the western sector a stretch of high ground probably marks a large structural complex. It covers an area of 60 acres. From the fairly large size and the wall around the site seems to be an important one of the sector.

Pāṭaliputra maintained an easy link to the Central India and Deccan through Sasaram and Kaimur area and the presence of the walled site of Deo Umga suggests its intermediary role in the Pāṭaliputra bound long distance trade. Detailed description of Maner’s location and role has already been furnished. Here it may only be put that located only at 32km west of Patna, ancient Pāṭaliputra at the juncture of the Gaṅgā and the Son at the Sasaram area Maner is a high mound with probably the same function. It may have served as a satellite site of Pāṭaliputra. Devangarh is another big site at the vicinity of Rājagṛha that cover an area of 85acres. The site may be approached from Kachua Mor on the Nawada-Kauakol road. A section of the site is fortified by a 4m high mud rampart. It is surrounded by a 15m wide ditch. Both BRW and NBPW sherds and iron slags were found inside the wall. It is located at modern Jharkhand[1] inside a U shaped valley on the northern side of a range that separates the area to the south of Rajgir from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.

In the early historic times a number of routes emanated from Gaya sector that led to the Hazaribagh plateau in Chotanagpur. One of them passed from the Rajauli belt via Devangarh.[2] Its position to the south of Rājagṛha suggests that it controlled the flow of minerals and timber from that direction. Moreover it could also have regulated the flow of these resources to the trade network of the Gaṅgā valley. So, no doubt it emerged as a regional trading point in the Nawada-Gaya-Rajgir-Chotanagpur area.[3] Moving even east wards the site of Indpe located in the intermediate zone of two great cities of Rājagṛha and Campā. It is a large walled city with structural remains and sculptural pieces though cannot be dated earlier than the Gupta period. Its location and urban character suggests its importance and might have served as middle range settlement supporting either Campā or Rājagṛha or both. There were several ferry points in the Aṅga sector that attached the old kingdom to the area north of the Gaṅgā. Patharghata was an important ferry crossing. Located at the hillside on the northern bank of the Gaṅgā it was known for religious establishments of the Pāla period, discovery of BRW sherds in the nearby region it suggests earlier legacy. Other important ferry points in the Aṅga sector were Sahibgunj, Bhagalpur and Munger.

Footnotes and references:


Kumkum Roy, Historical Dictionary of Ancient India, Rowman and Littlefield, USA, 2009, p.90)


Dilip K. Chakrabarti, op.cit.2001, p.189


Dilip K. Chakrabarti, Relating History to the Land: Urban Centres, Geographical Units and Trade Routes in Gangetic and Central India of circa 200 BCE in Patrick Olivelle ed. Between the Empires: Society in India from 300 BCE to 400 CE, Oxford, 2006, p.14.

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