Ancient Varanasi: an archaeological perspective (excavations at Aktha)
Varanasi is not only one of the oldest living cities of the world, but is also a model reflecting a comprehensive picture of our rich cultural heritage. The undisrupted occupation of Kashi region since ancient times till this date, played a vital role in the make up of modern Varanasi. The unique qualities of this settlements raise a number of questions, like, how old is Varanasi? What are the factors which helped this city to continue till today, particularly when other old cities on the banks of the Ganga died out? Also, why did Lord Buddha select peripheral region of Varanasi, Sarnath, for delivering his first sermon, particularly when he attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya? It is on record that he was well conversant with Rajgriha, Pataliputra and other places of Bihar. And since when Saivism became an integral part of the Varanasi culture? All these questions are deeply rooted in the history of this holy city, which are attempted in this book on account of the archaeological findings. Ancient remains of Varanasi which were unearthed at Kashi-Rajghat about four decades ago, could demonstrate that this holy city was inhabited around ninth century BC, Sarnath, the place of the first sermon of Gautam Buddha, retains archaeological remains from the time of the Maurya king Asoka. But, excavations at Aktha reveal that this settlement had greater antiquity than has been obtained at Kashi-Rajghat. It also reveal the factors which helped make up of Sarnath as the first place for preaching the teachings of Lord Buddha. The first colonization of Kashi region, on account of the excavated findings could be pushed back to about four/five hundred years. this bridged the gap between the antiquity ascertained by ancient texts and earlier archaeological records of Varanasi. Besides the Risipattana concept attached with Sarnath in the Buddhist literature is also corroborated by Aktha. This book adds new chapter to the early history of Varanasi city and Sarnath.
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Aktha Altekar ancient Varanasi archaeological archaeological horizons bangle Basin bead Acc Black Polished Ware Black Slipped Ware Black-and-Red Ware Bowl bricks century bc Chalcolithic Chocolate slip circa cm diameter cm long cm thick Coarse fabric collared rim Convex sides Convex-topped culture Deep red slip Delhi deposit depth Dish featureless rim floor found from Layer Gaur grooved Hastinapur horizon ill-fired Janapada Jayaswal kapala Kashi Kashi-Rajghat Kausambi Kotwa Kumrahar Kushana Later Vedic Medium fabric Middle Ganga Plain Narain Narhan Singh Northern Black Polished obtained from Layer Out-turned Pale red core Period IA Period III pots potsherds Pottery of Period pottery-discs Rajghat Ramnagar red slip Cf Red Ware reported from Period retrieved from Layer S.R. Roy Sarnath settlement Similar specimen splayed-out Sravasti stone structure surface T.N. Roy Tapering sides Terracotta third century Tilmanpur Trench B'-1 Trench CC-18 Unslipped Cf Vaishali Varanasi Varanasi region Vase well-levigated clay yajna