Srinagar: A fresh archaeological survey conducted in Kehribal and Wantrag area of Martand, south Kashmir .
This research was conducted by Dr Abdul Rashid Lone, who is an Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the Department of History, University of Kashmir and is teaching history and archaeology of ancient Kashmir. It was a training program on field surveying methods and four research students (Irfan, Subzar, Yasir and Rasik) participated in the training.
While providing archaeological field survey training to the research students of the Department of History, who are presently enrolled under my supervision for their Ph.D thesis and are working on various aspects of the history and archaeology of ancient Kashmir, I came across vast amounts of archaeological material culture which predates the antiquity of Kehribal area of Martand some 700 years early than previously thought.
As far the historical past of Martand is concerned, it is generally believed by the historians that the earliest known history of Martand starts with the construction of Sun Temple by Lalitaditya Muktapida of the Karkota dynasty of Kashmir, who built this structure during the 8th century CE. Its details are given in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (Tarang IV, verse 192), a unique work in the classical literature of early south Asia written in 1148-49 CE in verse in the Sanskrit kavya style and is divided into eight cantos (or tarangas), which number close to 8,000 verses.
However, a recent archaeological survey training program carried around this area claims that the earliest occupations at the Kehribal and its vicinity can be traced back to the 1st century CE when the valley was under the occupation of Kushanas, a mighty empire who ruled parts of south Asia in the first few centuries of the Christian era, and whose historical and archaeological evidences are visible at many places in the valley of Kashmir.
During the training sessions many unexplored villages of this area were surveyed for providing hands-on training to the students, where various aspects of the past material culture were observed including potteries of various historical dynasties, huge terracotta storage jars, pieces of old stone bowls, burnt bricks of various historical dynasties including Kushanas, rubble masonry bases of old structures, coins of some rulers of ancient Kashmir, cowries, grinding stones etc. The recovery of typical Kushana period burnt bricks and pottery along with other data suggests that this area was probably occupied by the humans much earlier than previously thought.
It was not immediately possible to fix the absolute chronology of these material remains and conclude to which dynasty or year these antiquities belonged. However, the presence of material remains in relation to the present ecological settings of the area lead us to believe that the earliest settlements in the area around Martand karewa perhaps started by the beginning of the Christian era.
It is pertinent to mention that some Kushana period settlements are located on top of the mountains in south Kashmir e.g., at Daradkut (Huthmura), Hoinar (Lidroo) and Kutbal etc. but the Kushana material culture at Kehribal and its surroundings was observed for the first time during the survey. Other important new discoveries include the sites at Ich Nar, Nag Narin and Chitirgul. Fresh explorations at Kutbal, Hoinar and Daradkut opened up new vistas related to the settlement patterning behavior of Kushanas in Kashmir.
The preliminary field observations around the area concluded that the people during the early historic period were sustained by large agricultural operations, craft activities and partially by trading and commerce. The irrigation facilities were provided to the karewa fields by means of a canal presently known as Shahkul or Ranbir Canal, whose ancient bed was probably dug during the Kushana period. The textual evidences from the Rajatarangini and archaeological evidences from terracotta tile pavements, a conspicuous feature of settlements of the Kushana period in Kashmir, at Daradkut, Huthmura suggest that extensive grape cultivation was done in these areas during the early historic period. Additionally, the location of a large number of settlements on top of the mountains in this area at same altitudes suggest commercial contacts and linkages between these settlements and even with outside communities at least during the early historic period.
The fresh material observed during the survey is subject to further curious scientific study and needs to be cross checked with the already existing knowledge on the subject, whose results shall be shared separately.