The book The Central Narmada Valley: A Study in Quaternary Palaeontology and Allied Aspects is the first attempt at studying a small stretch of the valley from a multi-disciplinary point of view incorporating the results of archaeology, geology, palaeontology and taphonomy. New techniques and parameters have been applied to study and re-interpret these areas. This book also summarizes the morphology, distribution pattern and evolutionary history of certain extinct animals in relation to cultural development. With the help of modern analogies, the book attempts to build up a palaeoecological model for Narmada and its surrounding areas including some of the rock shelter sites.
The book extends the dimensions of understanding the life history of Narmada and its tributaries, not only by discovering and reinterpreting various biological and cultural events, but also by seeking to understand varied aspects like river behaviour, flood history and man-land relation-ship during the past.
The book should prove useful to students and researchers of river valley cultures in general and to those of Narmada Valley in particular.
Dr Gyani Lal Badam, a leading quaternary geologist and palaeontologist in India has got vast experience of excavating and studying various palaeontological sites through the length and breath of the country. After obtaining his PhD degree on the Siwaliks of N-W India from the Panjab University, Chandigarh, he moved on to establish the discipline of palaeontology at the renowned Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, Pune, where his academic interests got diversified to various river valleys in Central and Peninsular India.
Dr Badam's work is recognized both by the national and international scientific community. He has pioneered research on taphonomy in India in the last couple of decades. He was a Fullbright Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Oregon, USA in 1984 and a visiting fellow to many Institutions abroad.
After a tenure at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal, and the Dept. of Culture and Archaeology, Govt. of Chhattisgarh, Raipur, Dr Badam is presently assisting the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi to establish nexus between natural and social sciences and is providing scientific inputs in cultural informatics.
IN recent times, a great deal of literature has been published about the Narmada Valley. For several reasons, academic and religious, the Narmada Valley has been the subject of numerous expeditions, seminars, debates, publications (both scientific and popular) and discussions, sometimes even in the Parliament.
The Narmada originates from the western flank of the Maikala Range near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh, and flows through a rift valley (geologically known as Narmada lineament) across the middle of the Indian subcontinent. Almost 80 peg` cent of the total length of Narmada (1300 km) lies in Madhya Pradesh from where the Narmada flows through Gujarat on its way to the Arabian sea. Narmada has preserved some of the finest treasures of archaeological, geological, historical and religious importance. Like the Ganges, Narmada is believed to have descended to earth from Siva's jata (top knot). Hindus believe that while it requires a bath in the Ganges to wash away one's sins, the mere sight of Narmada is sufficient to achieve this goal. That may be the reason why thousands of devotees go on what is known as Narmada Parikrama, from the source at Amarkantak to the Gulf of Cambay and back.
It is generally believed that Narmada is not just a river, but a culture, as many mythical legends, folklore and folk songs are associated with it. Several tribes live along the banks of the Narmada and have been a subject of detailed study by anthropologists, sociologists and non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Geological and archaeological data have been collected by foreign and Indian explorers and scholars during the last 150 years or so. Interpretation of these data has thrown a flood of light on the river behaviour, mode of deposition of sediments, chronology, palaeo- environment, man-land relationship and other aspects of the past.
During the last two decades, Narmada came to be included in the Fossil Hominid map of the world because of the discovery of a partial cranium reportedly of Homo erectus narmadiensis by officers of the Geological Survey of India. Thousands of cultural and faunal material collected from the valley give clues to the presence of the enormous animal wealth and the traces of Early Man during the time span of 0.7 million years to 25,000 years ago. In recent years, Narmada has attracted worldwide attention due to construction of major Sardar Sarovar, Indira Sagar and other dams on the river system. Out of the 30 major, 300 medium and a few thousand minor irrigation and hydroelectric dam projects proposed, some have already been completed. The massive Sardar Sarovar dam, which could make a lot of water available to drought-prone areas of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, became a centre of controversy. Groups of people and NGOs opposed the proposal because it would submerge almost 300 villages, render several thousands homeless and destroy valuable forests. Much has been written on this problem especially on the rehabilitation of oustees.
The Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) (National Museum of Mankind) is dedicated to the depiction of the story of mankind evolving in time and space. Because of the close proximity of the Museum site to various water bodies like Narmada and Betwa rivers, one of the major projects undertaken by the Museum is on the history of waters and traditional water harvesting structures, in which the main emphasis has been laid on the revival of age-old water management systems and people's participation for their survival.
The IGRMS has undertaken this effort as part of its larger endeavour to depict the history of human interventions in the earth planet. This endeavour, in turn, is integral to the New Museum Movement, initiated by the IGRMS in the field, for treating floral, faunal and human communities as part of a living museum of biocultural landscape. The new Museum should act as a catalytic agent for the preservation and revitalization of the variety and complexity of this living museum against the engulfing tide of homogenization and technification.
The Narmada Valley, thus, provides a backdrop for the history of waters and associated biological and cultural history, for making an open-air and indoor exhibition on waters and of select musuem initiatives in the field for the preservation of life enhancing elements in the organic and inorganic communities that people the banks of Narmada. The book "The Central Narmada Valley: A Study in Quaternary Palaeontology and Allied Aspects," is the first in a series of volumes in connection with history and management of waters, planned by the IGRMS and is a result of extensive fieldwork and expeditions conducted along the Narmada Valley. In order to salvage the rich cultural heritage of the Narmada river valley, the IGRMS approved a project "Taphonomy and Palaeoecology of the Fossil Vertebrates from the Central Narmada Valley, Dist. Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh, India," which has resulted in the preparation of the present book.
The project was implemented by Dr G.L. Badam, a senior scholar and biostratigrapher (then based at Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, Pune), with a focus on the fossiliferous areas, lying between Jabalpur and Narsinghpur. In collaboration with the IGRMS, Dr Badam conducted surveys and excavations for three field seasons (1992-94) and collected valuable data, bearing upon various aspects of geology, palaeoecology and man-land relationship in the area. Apart from various antiquities, which include stone age tools, fossils, molluscan shells, Dr Badam's team also collected microvertebrate fossils, for the first time, in the entire valley. These are ecologically sensitive and chronologically reliable markers. Thus, the present work is multidisciplinary in nature, incorporating various branches of scientific archaeology. The study has extended the dimensions of understanding of the life of river Narmada, not only by discovering and reinterpreting various geological, biological and cultural events, but also by analysing the formation processes of the river in its entirety.
The present book is expected to throw considerable light on various aspects discussed above and will prove useful to the students and scholars of river valley cultures in general and to those of the Narmada Valley in particular. I hope that the sanctity of the river will be respected and the tangible and intangible heritage, geological, palaeontological and archaeological sites will be preserved along the banks of the Narmada for the benefit of humanity at large.
The Narmada, a west flowing river through the middle of the Indian sub-continent, is considered to be a sacred river in India. It has not only preserved rich archaeological, geological and palaeontological material but also important sites of historical and mediaeval ages. The valley has assumed much significance with the discovery of a partial skull of a hominid, Homo erectus narmadiensis at Hathnora (Hoshangabad Dist.) in 1984 by the officers of the Geological Survey of India. Though work on this valley has been carried out for more than 150 years by several foreign and Indian scholars including the present writer, the hominid discovery has infused renewed interest in the. study of various aspects of the valley. The recent discovery of microvertebrates is also expected to induce several microfaunal experts to bring this less known fauna to light. For the writer, the valley has been and will always remain a great source of academic satisfaction, because of the rich and varied palaeontological data that it has yielded from time to time.
As is well known, the work for the construction of the Narmada Sagar Dam on the Narmada river has met with several objections from a section of environmentalists and social activists. However, the dam, when completed will submerge some areas containing archaeological treasures. Though it will not directly affect the main fossiliferous areas under study, the zone of submergence falls partly in the neighbouring districts of Hoshangabad, Harda, Harsud, E. Nimar, W. Nimar, Dhar, Barwani, etc. This necessitated a proper documentation and investigation of the archaeological and palaeontological record in its original geological/ sedimentary context, lest the treasures should be lost to posterity for ever.
Thus, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Madhya Pradesh State Dept. of Archaeology and Museums surveyed numerous villages (about 300) and collected a lot of evidence of prehistoric, historic and mediaeval sites, temple sites, sculptures, iron smelting sites, etc. They also formulated plans for salvaging more areas before the region was fully submerged.
The Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal, took keen interest in the task of collecting and documenting the precious antiquities from the entire valley including parts of the areas in the zone of submergence. To achieve this end and to understand the Pleistocene biological environment and man-land relationship in the area, a project proposal, submitted by the writer, was sanctioned by the IGRMS. In this manner, a collaborative research programme was launched in 1992 between the Deccan College, Pune and the IGRMS, Bhopal. Another project was sanctioned by the IGRMS in favour of a colleague, who worked on an interesting aspect of archaeology (site formation process) of Mehtakheri in Dist. Nimar. It is hoped that, in future, more collaborative projects will be undertaken jointly by the two prestigious institutions, which would further help unravel the mysteries of the prehistoric Madhya Pradesh.
The present book is the outcome of the project entitled "Taphonomy and Palaeoecology of the Fossil Vertebrates from the Central Narmada Valley, Dist. Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh, India," which was undertaken under the overall supervision of the author, formerly of the Deccan College, Pune. The project has contributed immensely to an understanding of the geoarchaeology and man-land relationship in the Central Narmada Valley in a number of ways (see concluding remarks). Because of the importance of certain aspects of study, a few results of our research under the IGRMS project have already been published, for example Microvertebrates, Rock Art research, etc. and these are presented here in updated form.
The successful implementation and completion of the project is due to the efforts of various agencies and individuals who were involved in the project in one way or the other. The author extends his grateful thanks to Dr K.K. Chakravarty, IAS (Member-Secretary and Trustee, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi), for evincing keen interest in this work. Discussions with him from time to time have been very meaningful, illuminating and educative, and the author has benefited tremendously by continuous interaction with him, particularly on the broader perspective of museum movement and its role in environment and ecology, and various aspects of river valley cultures. It has been a great experience working with him on this and other projects. Dr Chakravarty offered all co-operation and help at every stage for the author's research, whether academic or administrative.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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