The book deals about the excavations conducted in mound MNS-1 at Mansar. The mound is located at the east of the protected area and is generally known as the Mahavihara Tekdi.
The excavations have yield the palace complex built by Pravarasena II as he shifted his capital to this area. It is from here that Prabhavati Gupta used to go to Ramtek to worship her god Nrsimha, whose temple was also built at this place when she became too old.
The palace was surrounded by military barracks and smaller temples and temple shops. To the south of the palace an octagonal Siva people has been found over looking Ramtek.
After the fall of the eastern vakatakas and after the palace was burnt down by Nala King Bhavadattavarman, a stupa was built on top by Buddhists under the influence of Vishnu Kundins of Andhra Pradesh.
A. K. Sharma is worldwide known for his inventive contributions in the field ofArchaeology. During his 33 years of active career in ASI, he explored and excavated in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttaranchal, North-East India, Madhya Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Goa, Haryana, Chbattisgarh and other remote areas. After retirement from ASI he was appointed as OSD in IGNCA to excavate Jhiri with French team. His all excavation reports (22 Books) have been published. He has edited Purasatana, Puraprakash, Purajagat and is editor of Puramanthan, yearly magazine on recent advances in Archaeology. He has established Archaeological Museums at Mansar and Maa Anandmayee smriti Museum at Kankhal (Haridwar). At present he is advisor to the Government of Chhattisgarh and Member of Standing Committee of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology. He is directing excavations at Rajim in Chhattisgarh.
It was in July, 1997 when Arya Nagarjuna Surai Sarai, Preident of Nagpur based Bodhisattva Nagarjuna Smarak Sanstha approached me with a proposal to conduct archaeological me with a proposal to conduct archaeological excavations at Mansar. I agreed, but advised him to include Shri Jagat Pati Joshi in this ambitious project. We along with Shri Pawan Sillare, treasure of the Sanstha met at Joshi's resident in New Delhi-Joshi ji agreed to work as advisor. I suggested in order to get the permission to excavate at Mansar, a centrally protected site, myself and Joshi ji have to be made members of the Executive Council of the Sanstha and the name of the organisation has to be changed to Bodhisatva Nagarjuna Smarak Sanstha Va Anusandhan Kendra, as a purely religious body cannot be given licence for excavation and conservation. It was agreed upon and the constitution of the organisation was changed and got approved by Registrar of Societies, Nagpur.
Application for permission to excavate at Mansar was given to the Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi. The proposal was approved by the Standing Committee of the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology.
After getting license and after making all preparations, and acquiring tools and plants along with necessary trained staff, we choose Hidimba Tekadi for the dig. The first pick fell almost in the centre of the hill on 8th January, 2000 to unearth the archaeological evidences for the epigraphical, literary and Sruti evidences mostly about Eastern Vakatakas who first ruled from Nandivardhan, 6 km. South-east of Mansar and made Mansar's Hidimba Tekadi their Devakula sthanam and later shifted their capital from Nandivardhan to Mansar to be nearer to their Kuladevta.
We excavated at Mansar for nine seasons and archaeological evidences unearthed proved all the above mentioned sources of evidence to be true.
We also thought it proper to scientifically conserve all the archaeological remains and antiquities so that the present and future generations could physically see and feel the prosperity, richness of architectural, educational and social life from 2nd century B.C. to first quarter of 6th century A.D. south of Vindhyas in general and in Vidarbha in particular. We unearthed and conserved : now it is up to the Central and State Governments to preserve them and develop Mansar as a World Heritage eco friendly archaeological site as very few ancient capital cities have been excavated in India.
I am grateful to the organization "Bodhisattva Nagarjuna Smarak Sanstha and Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur" and particularly to its president Arya Nagarjuna Surai Sasai and treasure Sir Pawan Sillare for financial and other required support to make the whole project a smooth operation.
I am also grateful to the labourers we employed who in few months time caught the point and learnt as to what we want and delivered the results. I am grateful to the Director General, and Director (E.E.) for grating us permission to excavate at Mansar for nine long seasons. I am thankful to our young colleagues, S/Sri Julfikar Ali, Reema Sobti, Dhirendra Sharma, Ms. Archana Asthana, J.S. Dubey, R.S. Rajput, Shobhan Chatterjee for their work in their field of specialization and lastly to the workers for their sincerity and honesty.
Though the selected finds were displayed in a museum created on the first floor of Buddha-Vihar at Mansar, after the excavations were over, due to persistent demand of Archaeological Survey of India all the antiquities were handed over to them. The honourable High Court of Bombay, Nagpur Bench has specifically stated that the antiquities should be displayed properly at the old High Court Building, Nagpur, but it is degusting that after taking over from us they have been dumped in dark room.
On our part for the students and scholars we have published Vol. I of the report last year and now volume II is before you. Mansar with a huge lake, surrounding hills and such an extensive excavated archaeological site could easily be converted into a heritage tourist destination. But both, Centre and State have failed in their duty. This leads me to think would it not have been better to allow the structures and antiquities to lie buried in the earth and wait for better days, for people to emerge who really love their heritage.
During fourth and fifth century A.D. Guptas ruling north of Vindhyas and Vakatakas ruling south or Vindhyas were almost always in constant touch with each other, either in conflict or through matrimonial alliance. Majority of Vakataka kings were Mahesvaras or devotees of Saiva-Rudra. All the temples except one exposed by us in the excavations, belong to Saiva or Pasupata faith. The exception located to the west of palace complex belonged to Kevala-Nrsimha, which was built by Pravarasena II for his mother Prabhavati Gupta when she became too old to travel to Ramateka. She was the daughter of Gupta emperor Chandragupta or Vikramaditya II who was worshipper of Visnu-Vasudeva. Even after her marriage to Rudrasena II, she continued to follow Bhagavata faith. This is attested by an inscription of Rudrasena II and that of Pravarasena II1, when the Vakatakas for a short period conceived their rule (Prthvisena II and after his early demise Prabhavati) as being established by the Lord, Bhagavata, Unlike at Mandhal where iconic forms of Siva was being worshipped, at Mansar most of the temples belonged to an iniconic linga or phallus except the main temple on top of Hidimba Tekada (MNS-3) where the presiding deity was in iconic form, the Siva-Varnana in red sand stone. This temple was richly embellished with various iconic forms of Siva which has come to light through our excavation. Thus the contention of Hans Bakker2 that "Aniconic linga or phallus" worship is not attested in the Vakataka layers and this confirms to the impression we get from the literature of the elite of this period, the Sanskrit texts, in which linga worship is only reluctantly acknowledged, is totally misconceived as from the excavations at Mansar replicas of Dwadasa (twelve) Jyotirlingas of India have came to light at Hidimba Tekadi apart from the beautiful star shaped Siva temple exposed at MNS-2, overlooking the Rarnteka hills.
Pravarasena I returned to the faith of his ancestors as evidenced by six inscriptions pertaining to the period he styled himself as a paramamahesvara, who by Siva's grace carried the lance (sula) instead of the discus (cakra)3.
This was not objected to by his mother as she had three cornered relationship with Guptas, vakatakas and the Nagas. Her mother was the daughter of Naga king married to Vikramaditya II (Guptas), whereas she was married in Vakataka family. Pravarasena II during the life time of his mother shifted his capital from Nandivardhan (Nandivardyam as per the sealing recovered by us from one of the star shaped Siva temple) to Pravarapura (i.e., Mansar) named after his great grandfather Pravarasena I who made Hidimba Tekdi their Devakulasthdnam and built the first iconic temple on top of it and named the presiding deity (Hrsva-vamana) after himself as evidenced by recovery of scores of semi-baked sealings incribed with Pravaresvarasya. So the place of Pravaresvara become Pravarapura, as per a sealing in soap stone recovered from palace area (MNS-1) inscribed with Pravarasya where Pravarasena II built at least a two story palace right over the ruins of earlier palace built by Satavahanas, probably during the reign of GautamIputra Satakarnl as in one of the inscriptions he is called Benakatakasvami, who made Mansar their military capital.
Even after Pravarasena II had moved to Pravarapura, Prabhavati continued to wield some authority as we recovered a sealing in soap-stone inscribed Prabha ku. First the name was engraved on flat-side and later, due to its poor quality, on the holding side above the hole.
Epigraphical evidences also show that during the reign of Pravarasena II, when he was ruling from Nandivardhyam, Pravaresvara temple existed at Hidimbd Tekadi, as in the eleventh year of Pravarasena II's rule a resident of the 26th vataka of Pravaresvara, Suryasvamin was the recipient of two grants."
Similar to Ramagiristhana which was the state sanctuary of Nandivardyam, Pravaresvara temple acquired the status and function of state sanctuary.
Hans Bakker's remarks in his papers, that Dr. Arnrendra Nath's conclusion (I.A.R.-1992-93) after his excavation at MNS-1, "That there was a temple complex seems to me premature" has proved true as after our excavations the mound (MNS-1) has revealed palace complex of two periods i. e., Satavahana and Vakataka, and no temple remains. Evidence tell us that after the end of Vakataka's rule and even much later, around twelfth century A.D. when the Buddhist's influence increased they levelled up the top floor rooms of the palace and surrounding area in front of the palace by filling lateritic soil (Murram) and constructed a stupa and on the first floor as well as along the eastern wing of the fortification wall, constructed small rooms, sufficient enough for one monk and was declared as Mahavihara.
With the discovery of textual evidence in the form of sealing in the excavations Hans Bakkers" doubt's have been cleared and the theory that Hidimba Tekdi was a full fledged Saiva counterpart of the Vaisnava Ramagiristhana has been proved conclusively.
As all the sculptural remains recovered from Hidimba Tekadi are badly mutilated specially the facial and breast parts, they carry the massage of human vandalism. Since there is no history of Muslim vandalism in this part of the area, as no temple at Ramateka fell prey to such vandalism, it seems more likely to be the job of Buddhists around 12th century A.D. This theory is also supported by amount of thick deposition and growth of flora at the site, which can only be the result of several centuries and not of few hundred years.
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