With nimble fingers and immense concentration, Neelima Vasudevan from Kerala, Hage Sonia from Arunachal Pradesh and Shubhobrata from West Bengal are unravelling antiquities from the all-important excavation site at Purana Quila.

It has been an extraordinary experience for them and 15 other final year students of the Institute of Archaeology, who have been visiting this ancient site from March 1 to put their textbook-acquired knowledge to practical use.

For the uninitiated it may seem all fun and games but the students have a different perspective.

For them working with a dedicated team of labourers at the excavation site, part of their two-year course, means that they have an important mandate from the Archaeological Survey of India to fulfil by this month end.

“On the first day I was clueless about how I would handle such a complex world because the ASI’s mandate was to locate the Mahabharata site,” said Neelima Vasudevan.

The students have till now excavated a series of potteries, coins and other artefacts which are of immense archaeological significance as they shed light into the history, cultural heritage of the bygone era and the economic wealth of that period.

“As the ASI seeks to establish the existence of Indraprastha and show evidence of the Mahabharat period at the ongoing excavation site at Purana Qila, this excavation is not only a learning process but also an act of responsibility,” she said.

“So far, we have not been able to discover painted grey ware and our training is concluding on March 31. We have evidence of Mauryan artefacts in the area and till now, we have discovered pottery relating to the Kushan period.”

But Neelima and other students are confident that if they dig deeper they would certainly stumble upon painted grey ware and prove the existence of Indraprastha, the kingdom of the Pandavas.

Gleaming with delight, Hage Sonia, who was bid a tearful farewell by her family at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, said her discovery of 18 coins has given her the necessary confidence to pursue Archaeology as a career.

“Only a few students from Arunachal or the North East take up archaeology. The reason being that in our region there is demand for engineers and doctors. I know that every day spent here would help me when I become a professional archaeologist,” she adds.

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