Dhosa & Tilpi

By Rangan Datta ( www.rangan-datta.info)
Dhosa and Tilpi are the latest additions in the archeological map of West Bengal. Excavation started there in January 2006 and yielded treasures far beyond the expectations of archeologists and historians. Although excavation has temporarily stopped because of the monsoon, it is all set to start in December 2006 and historians are looking forward for more treasures to be unearthed.

The famous Chinese traveler Fa Hien reported of a highly evolved Buddhist civilization that flourished in the Gangetic Bengal. The concentric square structure unearthed at Dhosa seemed to be the remains of a Bhuddist Stupa, one of the 22 reported by Fa Hien. It probably belongs to the Gupta period, dating back to the 2nd and 1st century BC. The findings at Dhosa are probably the first concrete evidence of popularity of Buddhism in lower Bengal. Archeologists also opine that the visible structure unearthed at Dhosa was built on another pre-existing structure.

Bird’s eye view of Dhosa site.

Pit at Tilpi with pieces of pottery sticking out of vertical walls.

Central part of the square structure at Dhosa.

Bird’s eye view of Dhosa site.

On the other hand Tilpi, the twin site of Dhosa, has yielded almost no archeological structure but the entire region is strewn with copper ore, iron slag, punched-marked and cast copper coin, fragments of pottery (including glazed pottery). Historians are of the opinion that the findings at Tipli are the remains of an ancient furnace, where ancient smiths smelted metals like silver and iron along with alloys like bronze and finally casted them into coins. Archeological evidence indicates that both smelting and casting were carried out at Tilpi simultaneously, probably the only place in Gangetic Bengal to do so.

Altogether 8 hearths measuring about 50cm by 80cm cross-section and 80cm high have been unearthed. Also small crucibles used for melting metals were found. A large clay jar, fixed to the ground, probably used for storing water was found near the hearths. Apart from the structure unearthed at Dhosa a number of interesting artifacts have been found from these sites. They range from parts of statues to copper coins and from decorated seals to pieces of glazed pottery. A shortlist is provided below:

  • Buddha head and a male torso, with typical features of early Gupta period.

  • Two terracotta plaques dating back to the early Sunga & Kushan Period. One plaque is particularly beautiful and interesting. It shows a plate of grain on a raised platform. On one side of this platform is a seated figure playing a harp and on the other are dancing women and a few monkeys. The fact that the figure’s feet rest on a stool suggests he was a royalty. Probably the plaque narrates the image of early harvesting festival, but historians are still not quiet sure.

  • A seal and a brick with Brahmi inscription. This shows that it was a literate society.

  • Copper ore, iron slag, punched-marked and cast copper coin, etc. have been found; this suggests that the society knew the use of currency. Also evidences show that Dhosa and Tilpi, like Chandraketugarh, were advanced urban centers of lower Bengal.

  • Note: The items described above are listed in The Telegraph (see reference) and are taken to the Archeological Museum in Behala. We didn’t have the opportunity to see any of them.

    Central part of the square structure at Dhosa.

    Side part of the square structure at Dhosa.

    Side part of the square structure at Dhosa.

    Artifacts collected by locals at Tilpi.

    Located on the Sealdah (south) – Namkhana line the twin sites of Dhosa and Tilpi are close enough to be visited in a single day from Calcutta. It is best to take the morning train and in little over an hour you will be in Gocharan.

    After getting down at Gocharan take an auto to Dhosa. The autos are over-crowded and the roads bumpy. Fortunately the journey last only 45 minutes and soon you will be at Dhosa Bazar. If you are there on a Sunday it will be the weekly market day. Make your way through the crowded market and walk a few yards on the right to reach the archeological site.

    The archeological site, roughly measuring 10 meters x 10 meters, is encroached by settlements on all sides. Historians say that there is no evidence of human settlement continuing in Dhosa and Tilpi from the Gupta period, but the settlement crowding these areas date roughly from the medieval period (16th and 17th century AD). So what made the people leave Dhosa and Tilpi? Is it some natural calamity or extreme salinity of the soil? Historians are not sure.

    If you are there when excavation is not in progress you will have the site all to yourself, apart from some ever-curious locals. The site includes concentric square structure and several other square structures scattered on all side. Even you can climb up the temporary observation tower, erected by the archeologists, to get a grand view of the entire site. The bird’s eye view offered a complex maze of structures.

    After bidding farewell to Dhosa head for Tilpi on a motor van and this too is a bumpy ride. As mentioned earlier the site at Tilpi did not yield much structural evidence, but the entire area is strewn with pieces of pottery, including glazed pottery, dating back to the 2nd and 1st century BC. The site measuring 10 meters by 6 meters is located beside a pond and is surrounded by bamboo trees. It contains several shallow and deep pits. The four deep pits are about 2m deep and have a cross-section of 2m x 2m. These pits have jagged pieces of pottery sticking out of its vertical walls. There are several shallow pits scattered al round the site.

    Here you are quiet likely to encounter a number of locals, who will show you a number of artifacts collected by them. These included terracotta seals, pottery of different shapes and sizes (some totally intact), crucibles, etc. the locals were friendly enough and may even let you photograph the items.

    Some of the artifacts viewed by us during our visits were:

  • A terracotta figure of a dog/fox’s head about 10 cm in height, similar to those found in Chandraketugarh region.
  • A terracotta seal, about 8 cm x 5 cm, showing a woman.
  • A small pot of glazed pottery.
  • A slightly elongated earthen jar, decorated with horizontal and vertical lines.
  • Earthen handles, probably broken away from jars.
  • Earthen crucibles used for smelting metals.
  • Fragments of pottery, including glazed pottery.
  • Necessary Information:

    Going: Sealdah (South) - Namkhana / Lakshmikantapur Local get down at Gocharan (Rs9). The journey takes about an hour. Trains are available at an interval of one hour.

    Getting Around: Autos are available from Gocharan to Dhosa (Rs. 7) and motor van (reserved) from Dhosa to Tilpi and back (Rs. 50 including waiting charge at Tilpi)

    Trip tips: A day trip is enough to cover both the places. Basic eateries are available at Dhosa.
    1. Treasure trove seals worth of site- Emerging, Holy Centre by Sebanti Sarkar The Telegraph dated 28/02/06.
    2. Twin sites of Mystery – Archeological Seminar by Sebanti Sarkar The Telegraph dated 11/03/06.
    3. 2200 – yr – old life in Bengal by a staff reporter The Telegraph dated 19/02/06.
    4. Furnace found near stupa site by Sebanti Sarkar The Telegraph dated 19/03/06.

    Photos by Rangan Datta
    Photos edited by Saroj Kr Mallick

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    Links in this site:

    Rangan Datta's Contributions

    Chandraketugarh - First Page

    Chandraketugarh - Second Page

    Exclusive Articles

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    State Archeological Museum Exhibition

    Collection of Dilip Kumar Maite

    Collection of Asad-uj Jaman

    Photos from ASI Reviews

    Temporary Exhibition at Indian Museum

    My photos of Khana-Mihirer Dhipi

    My photos of Chandraketugarh area (trees, ricefields...)

    Courtesy: Asad-uj Jaman
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    Ambarish Goswami
    Last Revised February 27, 2007