Photographs from ASI Reviews reports

The annual Reviews of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) (from 1956-57 to 1966-67, 11 volumes) contained then-fresh reports of excavation and findings of the preceding years. These are the only first hand reports written by the original excavators of Chandraketugarh. In all likelihood, this is all we are ever going to obtain from the original excavators. Below I reproduce some of the excerpts from these reports followed by a few selected photographs.
Year 1955-56:
The (Asutosh) Museum carried out explorations along the dying stream of Bidyadhari, once a large and important branch of the Bhagirathi. Khas Balanda, marked by the ruins of a recently discovered stone Gupta temple converted into a mosque, and Dhara, in its neighborhood, with several mounds, can, according to the curator, be identified with the Buddhist vihara Balanda mentioned in a Nepalese manuscript but unlocated so long. ... The mound known as Chandraketur-garh at Berachampa, 8 miles upstream from Bhangor and 23 miles north-east of Calcutta, proved, on exploration, to be rich in early historical material. Apart from the discovery of the Northern Black Polished ware, the antiquities recovered from the site by Shri P. C. Das Gupta included 15 silver punch-marked coins, some with new symbols, two terracotta seals, one with early Brahmi characters, the upper part of a terracotta plaque, almost a duplicate of the famous Oxford plaque, a large number of Sunga and Kushan terracottas of striking beauty, including toy-chariots of elephant, ram and horse, mithuna and moulds of Gupta age and a gold Gupta coin showing the marriage of Chandragupta I and Kumardevi -- all of which were removed to the museum.
Year 1956-57:
The University of Calcutta, under Shri K.G.Goswami, carried out a small-scale excavation at the mound of Chandraketugarh...The excavation revealed remains of a fortified township with five successive Periods, ranging possibly from Pre-Mauryan to Gupta times, each with its distinctive pottery. The remains of the pre-Gupta levels indicated that structures had been of mud, bamboos and timber with tiles for the roof. An interesting but partially exposed structure was a ramp of rammed concrete gradually sloping from east to west. Over it was subsequently erected a rampart of earth obtained from the neighborhood, the core of which yielded cast copper coins and stamped potsherds. A drain of pottery pipes fitted into each other was an interesting feature of Period II.
Year 1957-58:
... From Chandraketugarh, Shri P. Shome collected a terracotta seal, which, in its treatment of the figures, shows foreign affinities. Other noteworthy antiquities from the same site included terracotta figurines showing a headless warrior (Kushan), a royal couple on a caparisoned elephant lead by a mahout (Sunga), and Yakshis with elaborate head-dress (Mauryan), and poslished stone fragments inscribed in early Brahmi characters.
Year 1958-59:
Chandraketugarh yielded a large number of terracotta figurines of Sunga-Kushan period characterized by distinctive costumes and jewellery. The noteworthy among them were: A Yakshi with elaborate treatment, similar to the famous Tamluk terracotta at Oxford; a rare dampati plaque recalling cognate types from Ahichhatra; a toy-cart with a divine couple under a shrine; an unusual female figure holding a pair of fish; a plaque showing two warriors in Graeco-Roman cuirass throwing round and square coins; and a plaque with kinnaras and dik-palas.
Year 1959-60:
The destruction of the dwelling houses of different periods had been due mainly to huge conflagrations which left their mark everywhere. ... was an oblong area enclosed by vertical wooden planks supported by logs of wood with incised grooves for binding with cord. A reservoir, its sides of plank reinforced by logs of wood, was thus formed; probably the drain discharged itself into it. About 2ft. 6in. to the south of the structure was a long row of wooden posts thickly joined with each other. The construction was probably meant as a protective measure against soil-erosion, the soil at this level being extremely sandy. Chandraketugarh, explored by P.C. DasGupta, P.C. RoyChowdhury, M.K. Pal, and S. Mahapatra, yielded more than 300 early terracottas of interesting varieties and workmanship, besides seals and other antiquities. ... Shri M.K.Pal collected a damaged terracotta toy-cart attributable to the Sunga period, perhaps representing Agni flanked by a bearded male figure and a female riding a chariot drawn by a pair of rams, and a figurine representing a richly-bejewelled young damsel with a lively expression, besides early ivory comb-handles decorated with rosettes, vines and concentric circles. Of other important antiquities from Chandraketugarh, special mention may be made of a terracotta seal, found by Shri P.C. Das Gupta, with an elephant and a female divinity. It contained inscriptions both in Kharosthi and Brahmi, the legend in the latter reading "Dhanamitrena".
Year 1960-61:
Chandraketugarh again yielded a large number of antiquities datable from Maurya period down to the Gupta period. Noteworthy among them were some unique punch-marked coins of the dolphin type, exhibiting a ship. A terracotta sealing belonging to the early Kushan period also bore a ship motif with details. Another terracotta plaque showed an elegant female figure playing on a harp (Sarasvati?). Two fragments of a rare terracotta vase probably depicted the epic legend of Varuna abducting Bhadra on a winged Makara attended by apsaras, of about 200BC. Terracotta toy carts and figurines of of Indra and Kubera seated on a winged elephant, Agni riding a chariot drawn by a pair of rams, a ram-rider of the Sunga period and another terracotta chariot driven by a pair of bulls with a royal personage or a vedic deity of the kushan period were found.
Year 1961-62:
From Chandraketugarh came a small terracotta sealing, bearing a standing, almost nude human figure with an elaborate head-dress, suggesting an archaic character. Among other ... were a round seal of bone, showing a pair of lanky elephants with uplifted trunks, and a mutilated terracotta sealing with a circular Brahmi inscription containing the usual Buddhist formula, paleographically assignable to about the 3rd century AD. The following terracottas deserve mention: upper part of a terracotta plaque showing an exquisitely finished yakshi of the 2nd Century BC; a tablet with a cock and hens; two hollow sitting Kubera figures in the round; a plaque with the middle part of an elegant figure playing on harp; fragment showing an abduction-scene; lower part of a female figure bedecked with girdles and jewels on the waist; a peacock and an elephant toy-cart; a damaged plaque showing two winged lions, sitting back to back on either side of a pillar base; a pair of tablets showing a goddess striking a male figure after the fashion of Mahishamardini; a tablet depicting wrestlers; a mutilated terracotta plaque showing the upper part of a female figure, possibly Sri, of 2nd Century BC, holding in one of her hands a lotus-stalk.
Year 1962-63:
It may however be mentioned that the incidence of Periods in this season's excavation differs appreciably from that obtained last year. A correlation of the strata belonging to the various cuttings is, therefore, necessary for a proper understanding of the sequence at the site.
Year 1963-64:
Excavation at Itkhola was undertaken essentially to correlate the sequence of this area with that of Khana-Mihirer Dhipi. ... a mutilated sealing, with Gupta characters reading "ye dharma hetu" of the usual Buddhist creed, was also recovered from this period.
Year 1964-65:
Under Shri D.P. Ghosh and C.R. Roychoudhury, the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art, University of Calcutta, resumed excavation at Chandraketugarh. A cutting across the rampart near the Itkhola ... extended up to the supposedly dried up moat. Due to high water table, deep-diggings, however, did not reach down to the natural soil in any of the cuttings. Excavation revealed that the rampart, built of heaped-up earth, had two structural phases, the earlier of which was constructed in 1st century BC and the latter, being a reinforcement, in 1st century AD. ... Below the rampart proper was found a massive wooden structure built of vertical logs set on horizontal planks -- possibly a foundation connected with some house-complex of 2nd century BC -- and a soak pit of the same complex. A noteworthy find from these pre-rampart levels was a mutilated terracotta plaque, vividly portraying the capture of wild elephants.
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Please click on the small images below to view their full size versions

For now, these photographs are displayed simply as an album, without any specific description or identification. In the next few weeks, I will sort them out in different thematic categories and write small descriptions. The numbers in parentheses in figure captions represent the year of publication of the respective ASI review.

Terracotta Surya ('55-'56)

Female head (3.12") from Berachampa ('55-'56)

Terracotta objects ('56-'57)

Stamped pottery ('56-'57)

Trench with pottery drain pipes ('57-'58)

Terracotta Naga figure ('57-'58)

Mithuna plaque ('57-'58)

Stone Vishnu plaque at nearby Itakhola ('54-'65)

Terracotta figurines ('58-'59)

Miscellaneous antiquities ('59-'60)

Head of Yakshi ('61-'62)

Cock and hen ('61-'62)

Brick structure on wooden pole ('62-'63)

Saraswati, wife Brahma, the goddess of literature ('61-'62)

Elephant toy cart ('61-'62)

Terracotta plaque showing dancing male figure ('63-'64)

Ritualistic vase ('63-'64)

Links in this site:

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Chandraketugarh - First Page
Chandraketugarh - Second Page
State Archeological Museum Exhibition
Collection of Asad-uj Jaman
Collection of Dilip Maite
Temporary Exhibition at Indian Museum
My photos of Khana-Mihirer Dhipi
My photos of Chandraketugarh area (trees, ricefields...)

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Ambarish Goswami
Last Revised August 04, 2001