Settlement in Early Historic Ganga Plain

by Chirantani Das | 143,447 words

This page relates “Lithic industry of the Varanasi region” 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).

Sites like Mahagara, Chopani Mando, Koldihwa and many other have shown direct evidences of local stone working and availability. The nearby kaimur range was a rich deposit of semi-precious stones. Ordinary and semi-precious stones both occurred in Mirzapur district, lying close to Vārāṇasī. Mainly Vindhyan raw materials of chert, chalcedony were processed at Susipar or Baragaon of Vārāṇasīproximity. An orbit of lithic industry grew in the Vindhya-Allahabad and Sarayupar area. Later this was developed and elaborated. Many more BRW, BSW sites joined this orbit. Among them Narhan, Banimilia-Bahera and Patharaha of Mirzapur district, Manjhi and Chirand at Saran district, Kakoria, Masaon and Joharganj I, II of Varanasi district were noted. A commercial circuit was created by the riverine route. From Mirzapur located almost in the Vindhyas, via the Gaṅgā the traffic reached Allahabad and Vārāṇasī. From Vārāṇasī, the cargo sometimes reached Ghazipur through the Gaṅgā and the Gomti. This riverine transport was most skilfully utilised in case of transport of Chunar sandstone to various sites. Chunar quarry area was the most important lithic resource area of Vārāṇasī–Sārnāth region and was on the peak of its operation in the early historical times. More than 450 ancient quarries were located in this region.

From the Aśokan time to the medieval times of 13th/ 14th centuries they were continuously on use. Quarried blocks of Chunar area are mostly of cylindrical shape with the intention of rolling them down the hills and hence to provide an easy transport through the gradual slopes of hills and nala beds. The blocks were then transported through the river Gaṅgāup to Vārāṇasīwith the help of wooden rafts. Here the blocks were dumped. Finally they were distributed to various customer areas like Sārnāth by various smaller streams like Rajapur nala, a tributary of the Gaṅgā. Sārnāth was a chief client site of Chunar sandstone. They were profusely used for building purposes, for making architecture, icon, votive stūpas etc. since the Aśokan to early medieval times most of Sārnāth archaeological remains were made of Chunar sandstone. It has been found though the stone quarrying was done at Chunar, crafting was done locally.

Most stone crafting workshops were small settlements located along the navigational route between Vārāṇasī and Sārnāth.[1] So, in the whole of Chunar-Vārāṇasī-Sārnāth a complete and foolproof system of stone quarrying and crafting grew. While Vārāṇasī or Sārnāth were the major consumer centres the stone quarrying and carving settlements were all located close to them and employed a lot of people in this industry. Stone quarrying, carving, transport were different segments of the lithic industry which was one of the prime industries grown in the Vārāṇasī region. Small objects like balls, pestles, bowls, sharpener, disc, point and lid made of sandstone, soapstone, opal and shale found at Rajghat suggest presence of a professional class which was described in the Babbu Jātaka also.[2]

Footnotes and references:


Dr. Shitala Prasad Singh-Neolithic–Chalcolithic Potteries in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, American International Journal of Research and Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences,4 (2) September-November 2013, USA, pp.148-52.


Vidula Jayaswal, From Stone Quarry to Sculpturing Workshop, A Report On the Archaeological Investigations around Chunar, Varanasi & Sarnath, Delhi, Agam kala Prakashan, 1998, pp.212-25.

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