Nagardhan excavations: Why are findings important to understand Vakataka dynasty
History & Culture
5th Feb, 2020
Recent archaeological excavations at Nagardhan in Ramtek taluka, near Nagpur, have provided concrete evidence on the life, religious affiliations and trade practices of the Vakataka dynasty that ruled parts of Central and South India between the third and fifth centuries.
- After a 1,500 year-old sealing was excavated for the first time; a new study in Numismatic Digest has tried to understand the Vakataka rule under Queen Prabhavatigupta.
- Nagardhan is a large village in Nagpur district, about 6 km south of Ramtek taluka headquarters.
- Archaeological remains were found on a surface spread over a 1 km × 1.5 km area.
- A Koteshwar temple dating back to the 15th-16th centuries stands on the banks of a stream.
- The existing village sits on top of the ancient habitation.
- The Nagardhan Fort stands south of present-day Nagardhan village.
- This was constructed during the Gond Raja period and later renovated and re-used by the Bhosales of Nagpur during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
- The area surrounding the fort is under cultivation and has archaeological remains.
Why is the excavation important?
- Very little was known about the Vakatakas, the Shaivite rulers of Central India between the third and fifth centuries.
- All that was known about the dynasty, believed to hail from the Vidarbha region, was largely through some literature and copperplates.
- There were assumptions that the excavated site of Nagardhan is the same as Nandhivardhan, the capital city of the eastern branch of the Vakatakas.
- It was after archaeological evidence from here that Nagardhan was understood to have served as a capital of the Vakataka kingdom.
- Besides, the scholars have traced archaeological evidence revealing the dynasty’s religious affiliations — the types of houses and palaces of the rulers, coins and sealings circulated during their reign, and their trade practices.
What is the significance of these finds?
- It is the first time clay sealings have been excavated from Nagardhan.
- The oval-shaped sealing belongs to the period when Prabhavatigupta was the queen of the Vakataka dynasty.
- It bears her name in the Brahmi script, along with the depiction of a conch.
- The 6.40-gram sealing, this is 1,500 years old, measures 35.71 mm by 24.20 mm, with a thickness of 9.50mm.
- The presence of the conch is a sign of the Vaishnava affiliation that the Guptas held.
- The sealing was traced on top of a mega wall that researchers now think could have been part of a royal structure at the capital city of the kingdom.
- So far, no archaeological evidence had emerged about the types of houses or palatial structures of the Vakataka people or rulers.
- These are strong indicators of Vaishnava signatures on the royal seals of the Vakatakas, reiterate that Queen Prabhavatigupta was indeed a powerful woman ruler.
- Since the Vakataka people traded with Iran and beyond through the Mediterranean Sea, scholars suggest that these sealings could have been used as an official royal permission issued from the capital city.
- Besides, these were used on documents that sought mandatory royal permissions.
What else has been excavated from Nagardhan so far?
- Earlier results from the excavations here had traced evidence in the form of ceramics, ear studs of glass, antiquities, bowls and pots, a votive shrine and tank, an iron chisel, a stone depicting a deer, and terracotta bangles.
- Some terracotta objects even depicted images of gods, animals and humans, along with amulets, scotches, wheels, skin rubbers and spindle whorls.
- An intact idol of Lord Ganesha, which had no ornaments adorned, too was found from the site.
- This confirmed that the elephant god was a commonly worshipped deity in those times.
- On the means of living of the Vakataka people, researchers found animal rearing to be one of the main occupations.
- Remains of seven species of domestic animals — cattle, goat, sheep, pig, cat, horse and fowl — were traced in an earlier study by the team.