New find in Purana Qila pushes Delhi history back by centuriesThe present
citadel at Purana Qila is believed to have been built under Sher Shah Suri.
But according to ASI's Vasant Swarnkar, the excavations — the last one was
in 2013-14 — point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan
period.
[image: Purana Qila, delhi history, archaeology news, purana qila
excavations, old fort delhi, delhi archaeological finds, sher shah suri,
asi, archaeological survey of india, Indian Express]Excavation at Purana
Qila unearths traces of Iron Age. (Express Photo/Divya A)
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The final round of excavations at Purana Qila in the heart of New Delhi has
unearthed traces of painted grey ware, which is believed by experts to
represent the Iron Age culture of the western Gangetic plain and the
Ghaggar-Hakra valley, roughly corresponding to the period between 600 BC
and 1200 BC.

Confirming the find, Vasant Swarnkar, Project Director, told The Indian
Express: “We have found traces of painted grey ware or PGW but not yet in
the stratified layer, which technically establishes the presence of a
culture. We shall be able to ascertain with surety once the digging is
complete, probably by the end of this financial year.”

The current round of digging, the fourth and final round, has reached 11
metres below the ground level, and the ASI team expects to reach the final
earth layer, a couple of metres deeper, within the next one month. Once the
excavation is complete, the plan is to turn the monument into a world-class
tourist destination to showcase the “cultural continuity” of Delhi.

The present citadel at Purana Qila is believed to have been built under
Sher Shah Suri, who established the Sur empire before his death in 1545.
But according to ASI’s Swarnkar, the excavations — the last one was in
2013-14 — point to traces from the 3rd century BC, the pre-Mauryan period.

“Owing to its location by the Yamuna, the Purana Qila has been an important
site for trade and industrial activity in all periods, be it the Mauryan,
Shunga, Kushana, Rajput or Mughal eras. During the current excavation, we
have also found terracota, beads, figurines and coins belonging to these
dynasties,” he said.

Swarnkar said the site is the only place in Delhi, which has cultural
deposits of the last 2,500 years in its various layers, from the
pre-Mauryan to the modern era. On the ASI website, the description for
Purana Qila says, “Sher Shah Suri seems to have razed to the ground the
city of Dinpanah built by Humayun, and on the same site, which was also
perhaps the site of Indraprastha, believed to be the capital of the
Pandavas, he raised the citadel of Purana-Qal’a with an extensive city-area
sprawling around it.”

The first two rounds of excavations — in 1954-55 and 1969-72 — by then ASI
director, BB Lal, had unearthed traces of PGW under the mound. At the time,
Lal had embarked on a mission to excavate various sites mentioned in the
Mahabharata text and claimed to have found such traces as a common feature
at all those sites.

On the basis of PGW, which archaeologically belongs to the 6th-12th century
BC, Lal had claimed that Purana Qila is the Pandava kingdom of
Indraprastha, estimating 900 BCE as the period of the war recounted in the
epic.

Swarnkar said that post excavations, the site will be covered with a
transparent roof and exposed to the public with proper signages and maps,
according to a detailed plan. Additionally, an interpretation centre will
be set up for visitors, which will tell them about the history and context
of the site.

In 2014, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) notified 800 acres of the
Purana Qila area, with nearly 100 monuments and forest, as the Dinpanah
Archaeological Park. But the ASI and the Ministry of Culture have written
to the DDA saying it would be in the “fitness of things” to name the site
as Indraprastha Archaeological Park. Sources in the DDA said a notification
in this regard is expected soon.

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With best wishes

S Chander

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