Karela Fry

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Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam

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A post in 3QD explores a piece of lost history:

A coup by a Brahmin commander-in-chief who in all likelihood could not tolerate the ascendance of Buddhism brought down the Mauryan Empire. In the aftermath Patliputra could no longer exercise control over the unwieldy empire, the cities soon went their own way. One of the most important of these was Mahismati. Despite several references that crop up in classical Sanskrit literature, today it is difficult to pin down its exact location. This has given rise to a host of claimants along the Narmada, residents of modern day towns such as Mandla and Maheshwar still wage a fevered battle – leaving nothing aside, myths, fanciful notions, borrowings from questionable sources, notions that historians of repute would never touch.

There remains one authentic source for delving into the history of these cities. Coins dating back as far as the third century BC have been recovered in such abundance from the Narmada valley that the subject now forms a separate field of study. Borrowing symbols used on coins once struck at the Ujjain mint, we can guess at the existence of cities such as Bhagila, Kurara and Madavika only through the markings on their coins.

The coins do not differ much in size from the modern coin, though square shapes seemed to have been preferred. They are often crowded with symbols. A single square coin, no larger than the modern 25 paisa coin, could accommodate as many as five symbols on each face. Some of these symbols were in use across the subcontinent, such as the swastika; others such as the Ujjain symbol resembling the iron cross demarcated a region.

The village of Nadner may well be settled over the remains of one such city. An old fort wall surrounds the village and on its outskirts large earthen mounds overlook the river. Brick shards stick out from the eroded mudbanks of the mounds. Along the path leading to the top of the mounds each footstep dislodges broken pieces of pottery. The son of the village headman who is showing me around doesn’t even bother to look down, for him these shards are a commonplace.

Just a teaser; read the blog.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

February 8, 2012 at 5:07 am

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