May 29, 2024

Secrets of Sanauli

  • Carbon dating tests have confirmed that India’s largest known necropolis in UP’s Sanauli — where 126 burials have been discovered until now — is 3,800 years old.
  • Excavations in Sanauli, 68 km from Delhi in UP’s Baghpat district, started first in 2005 and resumed in 2018, paving the way for discovery of horse-drawn chariots, burials, four-legged wooden coffins, pottery, a copper antenna sword, war shields.

Important Features of Sanauli Archaeological Site:

  • Largest known necropolis: Between 2005 and 2006, 116 burials were found while 10 more were discovered in the last two years, making it India’s largest known necropolis. The coffin stands on four legs and was made of wood. The entire coffin, including the legs, was sheathed with copper on all sides. The lid had eight motifs carved on it (close-up at left). Later stages of the excavation revealed two full-sized chariots, helmets, a copper ladle, big pots and beads as funerary objects. The excavators have found rice and urad dal in pots, cattle bones, wild pig and mongoose buried along with bodies. The Sanauli site is indeed unique, with no parallel. No other site in the Indian subcontinent, even in the broad Chalcolithic context, has a necropolis of this nature and certainly nowhere else have we found life-size chariots like the three found here.
  • Presence of Chariot and horses: Three chariots found at the site “have a fixed axle linked by a long pole to the small yoke” and were run by a pair of animals. The size and shape of the chariots indicate they were pulled by horses. The axle, chassis and wheels show similarities to contemporary chariots. Discovery of chariots reveal indigenous warrior tribe in Sanauli. . The swords, daggers, copper-chest shields and helmets confirm the presence of a warrior population in the Gangetic plain—these also challenge the theory of an easy invasion by Aryans from Central Asia.
  • Religion: Anthropomorphic figures on coffin indicate religious belief. Gold, copper anthropomorphic figure associated with Vedic gods.
  • Challenge to Aryan Invasion theory: For, the discovery of a horse chariot, dated back to 2000 BC, would challenge some of the basic premises of the construct of the ancient Indian history. Historians who support the Aryan invasion theory claim that horses were brought in by the invading Aryan army around 1500 to 1000 BC. Chariots pulled by horses had given the Aryans the edge over the Dravidians and the power to conquer the North Indian plains by pushing them to south of the peninsula. According to these historians, the Vedic culture was brought into India by the invading Aryans from central Asia. The Rig Veda, for instance, carries references to horses, they point out about the ancient Hindu text said to be composed during the same period (1500-1100 BC) when the Harappan civilisation was on its decline. There was hardly any evidence to show the presence of horses in the Harappan civilisation. Clay seals of different shapes and sizes with figures of bulls and dancing girls had been unearthed in large numbers at the Harappan sites, but none with the figure of a horse. This is one of the prime arguments that support the Aryan invasion theory. However, there is a fundamental difference between the chariots of Indo-European history and the ones found in Sanauli – the type of wheel. The former is typified by a spoked wheel while the one found in Uttar Pradesh has a solid wheel with no spokes.
  • Global Recognition: Globally, excavations have unearthed chariots dating back to 2000 BC, near the burial sites of Mesopotamia and Greek civilisations, but such a discovery is pioneering for the Indian subcontinent. These chariots have many similarities with those unearthed in Mesopotamia.
  • Religious angle: Locally, many people believe that Sanauli is one of the five villages that the mythological Krishna unsuccessfully negotiated with the Kauravas to avoid the epic war of Kurukshetra. The Mahabharata carries many references of horse-ridden chariots.
  • Presence of Royal: The nature of these burials, especially the one with eight anthropomorphic figures on the coffin cover, suggested that the deceased may have been important and probably even ‘royal’. However, this assumption is strictly based on the outer appearance of the coffin and chariots since they were heavily decorated with copper inlays.
  • Women Warrior: Besides these, the skeletal remains of a female were also found placed on a wooden coffin. What is fascinating here is the presence of a miniature copper dagger at the base of the coffin, suggesting that a prominent warrior class perhaps inclusive of women existed at Sanauli.
  • Pottery: Remnants of the Ochre Coloured Pottery and Copper Hoards.

Types of Burial:

  • Extended burials – intact skeleton in lying position.
  • Symbolic burials – in the absence of the body, the personal belongings of the dead are buried.
  • Secondary burials – in which only a few bones of the dead were found, indicating that they probably died in a battle or an accident.

Existing Historical notions which are challenged by this theory:

  • No warrior class during Harappa Period.
  • No Evidence of Horses.
  • Absence of Chariots.
  • Aryan Invasion Theory.
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