Archaeologists Find Ancient Capital of the Vakataka Dynasty in India
It has been reported in the Indian Express, that local archaeologists have excavated the ancient city of Nandivardhan, in Vidarbha, Maharashtra in central India. The city was the capital of the powerful Vakataka dynasty and had been abandoned and lost to history for centuries. The discovery of the city is now providing insights into the Vakatakas and giving experts an opportunity to understand the period and the lives and culture of its inhabitants.
The Vakataka Dynasty
The Vakataka dynasty was a Deccan Royal House that originated in the 3th century BC and established an Empire that covered much of south-western India for several centuries (250 AD- 500 AD). The Vakataka’s were great generals and often allied with the mighty Gupta Dynasty. The Vakataka Dynasty became great patrons of the arts and built the world-renowned rock-cut Buddhist monuments in the Ajanta caves, reports Financial Express. The dynasty ended with the assassination of the last monarch of the line, in battle.
One of the magnificent sculpted caves at Ajanta. (Image: C. Shelare/ CC BY SA 3.0)
While much is known about the Vakataka dynasty’s history there are still gaps in our knowledge. The exact location of the capital was not known although there had been a tradition that said a monarch had moved his capital from Padmapura to Nandivardhan, near present day Nagardhan, a large village in Nagpur district in Vidibhara. This area has for centuries been associated with the dynasty but there was little archaeological evidence for this.
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Location of Vakataka Empire. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Discovery of Nandivardhan
A team from the Deccan College, led by Virag Sontakke from the Department of Archaeology and Museums, excavated the site in Vidarbha, at six locations in three campaigns between 2015 and 2018. During this time the team unearthed a great many remains and artifacts and these have been established to be from the era of Vakataka dynasty. The rich array of artifacts has astounded the team who has been studying each piece in order to date them and the settlement.
Among the items that were recovered were ceramics, bowls, pots, a votive shrine, ear studs, terracotta jewelry and tools. Of particular importance were some bangles and an engraved stone that have been definitively interpreted as belonging to the Vakataka dynasty era. The artifacts are important as they are supplementing the experts’ knowledge of the site as they only found a limited number of inscriptions.
The diversity of the artifacts that have been discovered at the site indicate that the city was connected to the Vakatakas for many decades. One of the most important finds is ‘a near-intact clay sealing of the Vakataka empress, Prabhavatigupta’ reports India Express. This would indicate that she became the ruler of the kingdom after the death of her husband and shows the status of women in the Deccan during this period.
Many terracotta objects were found, especially of gods and amulets and this indicates the importance of religion at this time. One of the most amazing discoveries was an intact idol of the elephant-headed deity Ganesh and this has been interpreted that he was commonly worshipped in the city. It is believed that the deity was worshipped in a private dwelling and illustrates something of the religious practices during the rule of the Vakataka dynasty.
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A terracotta toy bull and a Ganesh idol were found at Nagardhan. (Image: dnaindia)
The archaeologists are not only finding out about the members of the Vakataka dynasty but also about the lives of the ordinary people who lived at the site. The team has discovered a great many bones of domesticated animals including pigs, goat, sheep, horse, and fowl. This would indicate that many of the people were involved in animal husbandry and that animal rearing was central to the economy and society.
The number and the nature of the finds provide a strong body of evidence that the Vakataka Dynasty did establish their capital at Nandivardhan. The Indian Express, reports that the co-director of the excavation believes that the quantity and quality of the artifacts are ‘strong links confirming the presence of the Vakataka Dynasty capital’ in Vidarbha. According to Archaeology.org, the excavation confirms that the dynasty, ‘moved the capital to Nandivardhan from Padmapura’.
The excavation of the Vakataka capital has done much to add to what we know about that dynasty and its era. Not only have the archaeologists confirmed the location of the dynasty’s capital but they have allowed us an insight into the era.
Top image: Capital of Vakataka dynasty excavated in Nagpur Source: IE/Financial Express
By Ed Whelan