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Lost and found: the tale of two cities

A view of Dwaraka excavation carried out in the past and the remnants recovered.

A view of Dwaraka excavation carried out in the past and the remnants recovered. | Photo Credit: Archaeological Survey of India

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is looking to send robotic vehicles into the sea near Dwaraka, Gujarat, and Puhar, Tamil Nadu, to look for submerged structures that may, according to a person aware of the project, point to evidence on the ancient cities.

The programme, still a preliminary proposal, is expected to involve organisations such as the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa. The former has indigenously built vehicles capable of plumbing 5,000 metres underwater and the NIO has previous experience in marine archaeology.

“Along with historical interest, this is also to test several technologies such as sophisticated imaging technology, being able to map the ocean floor with sonar and being able to date old stones and recoverable implements using the latest techniques,” a person at the DST told The Hindu. “A proposal has been cleared but funding should be clear in three months.”

Excavations at Dwaraka, a coastal town in Jamnagar district of Gujarat, have a long history. Nearly a decade ago, the Underwater Archaeology Wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) found copper coins and segments of granite structures. Mentioned in the Mahabharata as ‘Dvaraka’ or ‘Dvaravati,’ it is also linked to the god Krishna. Dwaraka, a port city, finds mention in ancient Greek texts from the 1st millennium and, according to legend, was a rich city that sank into the sea.

Last year, divers, geologists and archaeologists with the NIO, working off the coast of Tamil Nadu, reportedly found stone remains suggestive of an ancient port and temples, which were reportedly buried about 30 feet into the sea. Tamil and Buddhist literature have references to Poompuhar, or Puhar, as being the port capital of the Chola dynasty.

The first excavations at Dwaraka were done by the Deccan College, Pune, and the Department of Archaeology, the government of Gujarat, in 1963 under the direction of H.D. Sankalia. Over the years, it has thrown up pottery that suggest that the city could be over 3,000 years old.

This isn't the first attempt by the government to search for evidence of mythological entities.

In October, an expert committee of geologists, archaeologists and hydrologists said it had found evidence of the course of the Saraswati, a river mentioned in the Rig Veda and in Hindu mythology.

This was a study commissioned by the Water Resources Ministry and led by Professor K.S. Valdiya of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.

His report concluded that evidence from palaeochannels — remnants of defunct rivers — suggested that the Sarsuti-Markanda rivulets in Haryana were the water courses of the “eastern branch of a Himalayan river” and the Ghaggar-Patiali channels were the western branches.


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Printable version | Feb 20, 2022 2:18:45 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lost-and-found-the-tale-of-two-cities/article19192097.ece