Friday, August 8, 2014

Wari Bateshwar- 2500 Years Oldest Buddhist City in Bangladesh (Latest Excavation)

Wari Bateshwar- 2500 Years Oldest Buddhist City in Bangladesh (Latest Excavation)
ANNEX Travel & Consulting Group organized 1st Media & Student FAM Trip to Wari Bateshwar, Noshingdhi to explore new incoming Tourist destination.
1st FAM Trip to Wari Batashar (1400 Year old Buddhist City-Under Excavated). To focus on the natural and archaeological attractions, increasing awareness among the civilians to support sustainable tourism and eco tourism, organizing seminar and symposiums on tourism development of Bangladesh are the prime concerns of ANNEX Travel & Consulting Group besides satisfying the travel and tour needs.
To continue this process an Excursion was organized by ANNEX Travels and Consulting Group in Wari-Bateshwar as a leading tour and travel operator and supportive logistics provider.  
The educational partner for the program was Victoria Ubiversity of Bangladesh and media partner was Ekushey Television limited. Dr. Mohammed Nasimul Azim, chairman & Associate prof. dept tourism & hospitality management, Wasiuddin al Mashud, CEO, ANNEX Travels and Consulting Group., N.A.S Iqbal Hussain, Media consultant of Ekushey Television (ETV) and also Iqbal, Executive and P.S to the chairman of ETV and chief archaeologist of the Wari-Bateshwar r. Sufi Mustafizur Rahman, Deen, Jahangir Nagar University were in the excursion team. Several other TV channels like Diganta TV, Islamic TV and ATN and local print media were also present there along with the students of Victoria University of Bangladesh. In the day long program several excavated places were viewed and their historical importance was explained to the guests.
An inauguration program was also held for opening the Lotus Temple to the general tourists. 
After refreshment a seminar on Wari- Bateshwar Circuit house was held to relay the inherited knowledge of archaeology of Bangladesh specially Wari- Bateshwar to the others who are yet to be informed. Scholarly speeches were given by the organizer and experts present there. Many unanswered and interesting questions were cleared to the attendees in the seminar. After successful completion of the excursion and familiarization program the group came back to their drop out point riding through ANNEX Travel & Consulting Group’s luxury A.C. tourist coach.
Newspaper Report & TV News Coverage:a. ETV- Broadcast on three prime news with speech.
b. Diganta TV- Broadcast on five prime news with speech (CEO-ANNEX, Chair-Wari Bateshear, President-BTF)
c. ATN Bangla- Booadcast on news and special program two times with speech (CEO-ANNEX, Chairman-Tourism Depart, Nasimul Azim-Vixtoria University)
d. The Daily Jugantar- News published with Picture
e. The daily Star- English News with picture
f. The Daily Protham Alo- News with Picture
g. The Financial Mirror- English 4 page details news with three picture


Wari-Bateswar: A Brief History

Wari-Bateshwar a significant archaeological site in Bangladesh. Located three kilometres west of Belabo thana of Narshingdi district, Wari (Wari) and Bateshwar (Bateshvar) are two contiguous villages long known for being the find-spot of silver punch-marked coins in Bengal. The villages are situated on the Pleistocene flat surface of the eastern Madhupur tract. A small dried-up river, called Kayra, flows in an east west direction on the northern side of the villages. The landscape of the area suggests that during an early historic period the old Brahmaputra river used to flow near the village. The river has now shifted a few kilometres eastward. The Meghna flows only a few kms to the south of this area and the Arial Khan flows into it. The location of the two villages on a comparatively high, flood-free ground; their proximity to the old Brahmaputra, and access to the Meghna add significance to the site.
Md Hanif Pathan, a schoolteacher, first brought the archaeological importance of the villages to light in 1933. Later his son Md Habibullah Pathan, an amateur archaeologist took initiative to collect antiquities and study them. Sporadic explorations had revealed that the major part of Wari and Bateshwar villages was occupied in the ancient period. Signs of ancient settlements are noticed in the surrounding villages namely, Raingertek, Sonarutala, Kandua, Monjal, Chandipara, Patuli, Jaymangal, Harisangan, Jessore, Kundapara, Gotashia, and Abdullanagar. Hundreds and thousands of semi-precious stone beads, glass beads, Iron artifacts, silver punch-marked coins and many minor artifacts have been reported from the region from time to time. Unfortunately, all the artifacts were chance finds. They came out during ploughing of fields, digging ponds and other domestic activities and during rainy season when rainwater washes away the topsoil.

Recently important discoveries were made during a small-scale excavation at Wari. Among the discoveries a sherd of Rouletted Ware, a piece of Knobbed Ware, good number of Northern Black Polish Ware, Black-slipped Ware, common ceramics, a few semi-precious stone beads, chips, flakes and cores of semi-precious stone beads, melted pieces of iron, sign of fallen mud-wall and signs of some sort of burning activity are very significant.

The discovery of tiny parts like chips and flakes of semi-precious stones clearly prove the existence of semi-precious stone bead manufacturing centre at Wari. The flakes are produced out of primary chipping or dressing cores. The exotic beads at Wari-Bateshwar region are objects of a bye-gone art and bear silent but eloquent testimony to the marvelous artistic skill attained by the Wari-Bateshwar people. The raw materials are not available within present Bangladesh; possibly it had to be collected from outside.

A large number of iron artifacts, eg iron blooms/ handaxes (?), spearheads, knives, nails and slugs were reported earlier. Recently nails, slugs, melted tiny missing parts and unidentified iron objects were discovered from the excavation. Although furnace has not been encountered in the small-scale excavation but some signs of firing activity could be noticed. Burnt bricks like clay lumps, result of a high temperature burning, were discovered. It is likely that there was an iron smelting industry in and around the site. Iron objects were found at Wari in NBPW level also. The time bracket of NBPW from different sites of the subcontinent varies from c 700 to 100 BC or 50 AD.

A part of fallen mud-wall has been found in NBPW level. The discovery is very significant because it reveals the long tradition of mud-wall architecture in the region in particular and in Bengal in general. This mud-wall is possibly the earliest evidence of architecture in Bangladesh. However, brick structures (brick size, 32 x 30 x 6 cm) are also found in the region. The religious nature of Wari-Bateshwar habitation is not very clear. The discovery of a Knobbed Ware at Wari hints at the existence of Buddhist practice in the region.

Considering the geographical location of Wari-Bateshwar, Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti predicted that the region had Southeast Asiatic and Roman contacts. The discovery of Rouletted Ware and Knobbed Ware from excavation and the chance finds of high-tin Bronze Knobbed Ware, sandwiched glass beads, gold-foil glass beads and Indo-Pacific monochrome glass beads provide support in favour of Chakrabarti's assumption. Chakrabarti went one step further and tried to identify Wari-Bateshwar with Ptolemy's Sounagoura. Peter Francis Jr reports Indo-Pacific Monochrome glass beads from Arikamedu (India), Mantai (Sri Lanka), Kion Thom (Tailand) and Oc-Eo (Vietnam) - each of these sites was the first urban centre in their respective regions. They were each major ports, all have been identified as emporia listed in Ptolemy' Geugraphia. The location of Wari-Bateshwar carries all the characteristics of Ptolemy's sites. Indo Pacific Monochrome glass beads were found here, it was possibly the first urban centre in the region, it was a port city and it might have had trade relations with many other cities.

It has been inferred that Wani-Bateshwar was the eastern most limit of the Mauryan Empire. The recent discovery of NBPW from excavation has provided positive support in favour of this hypothesis. It has been argued by scholars that the wide distribution of NBPW is concomitant with Mauryan imperialism. The discovery of NBPW is significant for the understanding of Buddhism and trade routes also.
The excavation has placed Wari-Bateshwar in the early historic period. The C 14 dates have pushed back the chronology of Wari to 450 BC. The Northern Black Polished Ware, Rouletted Ware and Knobbed Ware are chronology markers of the Early Historic period. The numerous NBPW sites of the Subcontinent are placed between circa 700 to 100 BC or 50 AD, Rouletted Wares to circa 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD and Knobbed Ware to 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. [MM Hoque and SS Mostafizur Rahman]

Bibliography H Pathan, Pratnatattvik Nidarshan - Wari-Bateshwar, Dhaka, 1989; DK Chakrabarti, Ancient Bangladesh, Ancient Bangladesh, Dhaka 1992; S Pawankar, MM Hoque, SMK Ahsan and SSM Rahman, 'Semi-precious Stone Beads from Wari and Bateshwar', Journal of Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1998; E Haque, SSM Rahman and SMK Ashan, 'A Preliminary Report on Wari-Bateshwar Trial Excavation by ICSBA', Journal of Bengal Art, 5, Dhaka, 2000.

Book About Wari-Bateshwar:Excavation At Wari-Bateshwar: A Preliminary Study

Series: Studies in Bengal Art Series No. 5
Place of Publication: Dhaka
Publisher: The International Centre for Study of Bengal Art
Edition: 1st ed.
Year of Publication: 2001
Physical Description: 92p.
Book Format: Hardcover
Language: English

For nearly seventy years scholars had been aware of the surface finds of silver punch-marked coins, semi-precious stone beads, iron slags, pottery etc. from the twin villages of Wari-Bateshwar, Narsingdi district, Bangladesh. As no systematic archaeological investigation had been carried out so far in the region, The International Centre for Study of Bengal Art (ICSBA) undertook, with permission from the Government, a small scale trial excavation which was carried out in 2000. The exercise offered significant result. It placed Wari in the Early Historic period. NBPW, Rouletted Ware and Knobbed Ware were found in this remote eastern part of Bangladesh. A large number of chips, flakes and cores from excavation and a few pieces of raw material finds of jasper and quartz from earlier exploration absolutely proved the existence of a semi-precious stone bead manufacturing center. Iron slags and smelted tiny parts of iron have also been found.The small-scale investigation leading to discovery of Rouletted Ware, Knobbed Ware, stone beads etc., particularly in the context of the geo-location of Wari-Beteshwar, inevitably indicates to southeast Asiatic and Roman contacts.

I. A preliminary report on Wari-Bateshwar trial excavation by ICSBA/Enamul Haque, S.S. Mostafizur Rahman and S. M. Kamrul Ahsan.
II. Addendum:
1. Wari-Bateshwar and the associated evidence from the Padma-Meghna deltaic region/Dilip K. Chakrabarti.
2. Two examples of Mauryan art from Bengal/Dilip K. Chakrabarty.
3. Maritime activities and the indigenous traditions of Boat-Building in ancient and mediaeval Bengal/Enamul Haque.
4. Bronze knobbed bowls from Wari, Bangladesh: implications for trade/Kishore K. Basa and S.S. M. Rahman.
5. Wari-Bateshwar: an important centre of maritime activities in ancient Bengal/Shahanaj Husne Jahan.
6. A few Wari-Bateshwar antiquities/Enamul Haque.
III. Index.

Enamul Haque (ed.)
Professor Dr. Enamul Haque (b. 1937) had his M.A. in History (Archaeology Group) from Dhaka (1960), Diploma in Museology from London (1964) and Doctorate in South Asian Art from Oxford (1973). For three decades since 1962 he served the Dhaka Museum and rose to be the Founder Director General of the Bangladesh National Museum, developing it to be the largest Museum in the Third World. He was for a year (1990) Secretary-in-charge of the Ministry of Culture, Government of Bangladesh. He also taught Art History, Museology and National Heritage in the universities of Dhaka and Jahangirnagar, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, the Independent University and BRAC University at Dhaka. An organizer of exceptional ability, he is the Founder Chairman (since 1995) and Academic Director of the International Centre for Study of Bengal Art (ICSBA) at Dhaka, convened six International Congresses on Bengal Art (1976, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 & 2005) and edits the Journal of Bengal Art (so far eight volumes). He was honoured by the Asiatic Society of Calcutta with the award of the Rama Prasad Chanda Birth Centenary Medal (1993) for his “conspicuous contribution in art and archaeology of Bengal”. Earlier, the Asia Society of New York honoured him by electing as their Honorary International Councilor (1986-92). He served as the President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Asia Pacific Organization (1983-86). Among his publications, notables are Islamic Art Heritage of Bangladesh (1983), Bengal Sculptures: Hindu Iconography (1992) and Chandraketugarh: A Treasure-House of Bengal Terracottas (2001).

Wari-Bateshwar one of earliest kingdoms of the World:

The discovery of silver punch-marked coins of the pre-Mauryan period dating back to 600 BC to 400 BC in Wari-Bateshwar reveals that the place was a Mahajanapada, one of the earliest kingdoms or states in the Indian subcontinent.
The silver coins and artefacts unearthed and collected so far and geographical positioning of the place both are apparently leading archaeologists to an astonishing discovery.
Wari-Bateshwar could be a part of Gangaridae, which was described as a rich place of trade in the estuary of the river Ganges in Greek and Latin literature and was also mentioned by Ptolemy, Virgil, Strabo, Deodorus, Kartius and Plutarch, archaeologists claim.
The punch-marked coins are of two series –Janapada, a coin series used during pre-Mauryan period dating back to 600 BC to 400 BC when 16 Mahajanapadas were flourished in the Indian subcontinent, and Imperial, another series used during Mauryan period dating back to 400 BC to 200 BC.
"The coins unearthed in Wari-Bateshwar were of imperial and Janapada series. On the basis of the silver punch-marked coins it can be said that it was a Mahajanapada," said Prof Sufi Mustafizur Rahman.
"This means it was the earliest state in Bangladesh and in the Indian subcontinent as well," the archaeologist added.
"Geographical importance and findings of Wari-Bateshwar interestingly match the description and identity given in Greek and Latin literature about Gangaridae and indicates that Wari-Bateshwar was a part of it," he added.
Prof Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti, noted Indian archaeologist and faculty member of Cambridge University, in an essay published on the Archaeological Heritage by Asiatic Society said: "If Wari-Bateshwar is considered as a main and fortified city, it can be considered that it was the capital or main centre of an ancient Janapada."
"But the main problem is to determine the name of the Janapada," he added.
A study on 150 coins, unearthed and collected from Wari-Bateshwar and its adjoining areas, by the excavation group led by Prof Sufi Mustafizur Rahman of the Department of Archaeology at Jahangirnagar University (JU) found existence of both Janapada and imperial series coins. This indicates the earliest money-based economy contemporary to the subcontinent and the world as well.
Back in 1942, following discovery of some coins on the bank of the Arialkha, a place seven kilometres south off Wari-Bateshwar, Nalini Kanto Bhattyashali, founder curator of Bangladesh National Museum, said those were of Mauryan and pre-Mauryan period and shown the early nature of the settlement.
It was thought earlier that use of coins was not existed in Bangla before 300 BC. Earlier, silver punch-marked coins of only Imperial series were found in Mahasthangarh.
The discovery of coins provides substantial and significant information about a well-established urban civilisation as part of the second urbanisation on the context of Indian subcontinent.
The existence of coins found in Wari-Bateshwar also suggests trade, banking system and administration besides bearing sociocultural and sociopolitical condition prevalent at that time, archaeologists explain.
Study also reveals that punch-mark found on the faces of the silver-coins of Wari-Bateshwar is distinctive in symbols, shapes and forms that reveal that the Mahajanapada was a distinctive one in addition to the 16 Mahajanapadas so far unearthed in the subcontinent by archaeologists and described in Jain and Buddhist literature.
Earlier, another Janapada was found in Pundranagarh in Bangladesh.
Archaeologists who say Wari-Bateshwar might be a part of Gangaridae explain that the wide range of areas through which the Ganges downstream flowed is known as the Ganges delta.
Though Wari-Bateshwar is nearer to the old Brahmaputra river the area is geographically known as the Ganges delta in a wider sense, they add.
The discovery of Rouletted Ware (RW), Knobbed Ware, sandwich glass bids and other artefacts indicates that the place had relations and trade with the Mediterranean and Southeast Asian countries, the archaeologists describe.
Moreover, according to the statement of Ptolemy all the estuaries in the river Ganges are in the states owned by people called Gangaridae.
Archaeologists, however, say till now it couldn't be confirmed specifically which place in the subcontinent was Gangaridae. It is widely believed that south part of the West Bengal was occupied by Gangaridae.

They also add that radiocarbon date of the charcoal samples tested by the Netherlands' Centrum Voor Isotopen Onderzoek has confirmed that there were habitation and industry in the area in 500 BC.
Prof BN Mukherjee of Calcutta University earlier in the book Banga, Bangla and Bharat said the present West Bengal and North 24 Parganas, Hugly, Haora and Medinipur, some parts of Bardhaman and till the mouth of the Padma (the adjoining point of the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna) in present Bangladesh was on the border of the ancient country named Ganga or Banga. He said the seaside areas of Bangladesh were occupied by Gangaridae.
The coins of Wari-Bateshwar weigh from 1.7gm to 1.9gm. The symbols found punched on the faces of the coins include boat, sun and fish. The silver coins are found usually in round and square shapes.

Though the silver punch-marked coins were first discovered in 1933 in Wari-Bateshwar and reported to National Museum authorities immediately, the government did not take any initiative to conduct research or protect those.
As a result, a huge number of coins were lost, destroyed or used by individuals till the year 2000. In many cases discovery of coins remained unreported as individuals sold those secretly or made ornaments out of the silver coins.
Hanif Pathan, father of local researcher and teacher Habibullah Pathan, collected 20/30 coins for the first time in 1933 after labourers unearthed a hoard containing punch-marked coins while digging earth.
The father and son wrote several essays on different newspapers in an attempt to attract the attention of the government and archaeologists in vain.
The largest hoard of coins was found in 1956 in the area. A man named Janru found around 4,000 silver punch-marked coins weighing over nine kilograms in a terracotta hoard. The man sold the coins at Tk 720.
"At least 99 percent of the coins unearthed so far from 10 points since 1933 have been lost," said Habibullah Pathan.
"The coins prove that the place was a rich trade centre," he added.
The latest terracotta coin hoard was discovered in 2004 by the excavation team led by Prof Sufi Mustafizur Rahman and handed over to the Department of Archaeology.
"The hoard unearthed during excavation is the only piece of hoard in the country that was unearthed in its complete shape and unimpaired. People never saw even a broken hoard of coins in the country," said Sufi Mustafizur Rahman.
The excavation that digs into the ancient archaeological site now awaits cancellation due to severe fund crisis.
The excavators earlier managed funds from different private organisations but this year they have failed to manage any and fear cancellation of the work anytime.

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