Ten Mystery Cities of Historical India
India is a land of long and complex history with a large share of its own lost cities. Many of its historic sites have been abandoned and lost, while some have been subjected to early modern occupations and reconstructions. Here are ten such mysterious historically lost cities of India before the Current Era.
1. Bimbetka caves,
Bhimedka caves are located in central India in Madhya Pradesh. These cave shelters are especially noted for the prehistoric evidence preserved in the caves, and stone age paintings dated to be the earliest in the world, for which reason, this site is included in the UNESCO list of world Heritage sites (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/925). The paintings in the caves are dated to about 50000 years ago and represent the first civilizational cultural activity in India. However, lost to the outside world, information about these caves was brought into light through a series of excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 19th century. Initially, these caves were attributed to be Buddhist meditation shelters akin to the others found in Northern India. However, further excavations have shown prehistoric occupations dating between Upper Paleolithic to the late Mesolithic period.
2. Saraswati River
The lost river of India currently said to have flown in Northwest India and its traces are left under Gaggar-Hakra river in Northwern Gujarat-Rajastan. More than 1000 cities have existed in in its course, including the well known and excavated city of Kalibangan. However, the largest city in its riverine valley is Dholavira, which is surrounded by large water tanks to contain and preserve flood waters of the river. Recent stellite explorations mapped the geographical extent of the river along which path archaeologists under the guidance of Dr. Bisht of Archaeological Survey of India have conducted excavations here. It is postulated that the river dried up due to an earthquake four thousand years ago, that blocked the supply to the river from the Himalayas (http://www.ancientindia.co.uk/staff/resources/background/bg9/bg9pdf.pdf and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2073159.stm). Earthquakes are still frequent in this region and changing the course of rivers is also not an unusual occurrence.
3. Indus Cities:
Several Indus cities are found in the area stretching from Baluchistan to Northwest of India upto Maharashtra are several cities identified as forming part of Indus valley civilization, since the core of this culture is concentrated on the banks of Indus river. Wellknown cities such as Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal and Dholavira were excavated extensively, while less known cities such as ---- are excavated sparsely. However, questions still remain concerning the residents, their political, religious and social systems.
4. Bethamcherla caves:
Bethamcherla caves are located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Prehistoric hand axe using upper Palaeolithic culture up to the upper Mesolithic period is noted to have inhabited these caves. This is a unique cave site with characteristic prehistoric implements, tools, and cultural remains such as paintings. However, this site is also known to have used bone tools, which is unique in Indian prehistory. These caves have been explored by renowned archaeologists and anthropologists including Foote, and Newbold etc., during the 1850. However, owing to the perishable nature of the bone tools used by the early residents of these caves, their life style could not be deduced. However, several of the caves in this area also contain rock paintings on the cave walls, which are recently explored and lead to further understanding of the cultural life of the prehistoric residents of the caves.
5. Megalithic Cities:
A number of Megalithic cities have been abandoned and lost. However, archaeological explorations and excavations have brought in to light a number of such cities in ruins.
A variety of Megalithic monuments are as such explored and excavated in India, from Northwest India (Rajasthan), Northeast India (Assam) South India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu), and Central India (Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh). A recent discovery of more than a thousand free standing Megaliths in Hire Bekegal Near Vijayanagara in Karnataka was appreciated for its appearance, since a free standing tall granite slabs looks like a forest of stone. Menhirs are also common across South India. A large Menhir as tall as a three-story building stands near the entrance of University of Hyderabad in Hyderabad. Megalithic culture thrived across India contemporaneous with the Neolithic culture. It is difficult to know if Megalithic people were cattle herders or nomadic hunter gathers, who marked the burials of their ancestors (Megaliths). Their classification as herders was most favored by historians, since this may have allowed them a semi-nomadic life style which was necessary for any large groups of people, since large groups cannot survive by hunting, gathering alone. Hence the Megalithic people might have lived a semi-nomadic pastoralist life with herding as major occupation with some farming. Usage of iron, pottery, and artistic styles indicate a sophisticated life of abundance. They might have traded with Neolithic farmers who were their neighbors. The Megalithic cultures survives until 500 B.C.E., and there does not seem to be a violent ending to the culture as Megalithic settlements continued into later phases, but only the construction of such monuments stopped which indicates a transformation of culture around this period.
The present capital of India, Delhi is said to have been the place where the ancient capital city of Hastinapur is noted to exist by Archeologists such as B.B.Lal. Hastinapur was described extensively in the Mahabharata as the capital of Kurus and it also served as the Pandava capital after the Kurukshetra war. Excavations are impossible to conduct in this area since later occupations and constructions completely obliterate the earlier levels of construction.
Dvaraka, is an important historical city associated with Krishna, a major deity of Hinduism. References to Dvaraka abound in Classical Sanskrit texts including the Mahabharata and the puranas. The city exister before 3000 B.C.E., and have been submerged under the Indian Ocean due to Geographical changes that took place in Northwestern India between 3000-2000 B.C.E. However, any physical evidence of the city is only meager and discovered as a result of the under water explorations and excavations by the Archeological survey of India.
Pataliputra is known as the capital city of Mauryas, especially associated with its eminent rulers Chandragupta and Ashoka. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta lived in India for a number of years has praised Pataliputra as the best city in the world compared to other cities of that time such as Susa, and Persepolis. This city was a major metropolis during the 600-100 B.C.E India.
9. Puram or Kapatapuram
The second literary council (Sangam) is said to have taken place in this city, which was later drowned by the raising ocean in the East Cast of India near Madurai. A landmass known by the name ‘Lemuria,’ still submerged under the Indian Ocean contains this city. Descriptions of thes city abound in Tamil literature although no excavations have been carried out in this region.
10. Purushapura/ Peshawar
Kanishka’s capital city in the northwestern India, now part of Pakistan, created in 1947. The city is praised as the greatest city of Buddhist monuments, stupas, viharas and Chaitya by Buddhist pilgrims including Xuanzang and Faxian who visited India during the early part of the first millennium. However, none of the stupas or graves of the kings (now known as Shahji ki Dheri) are lost and the remaining ruins are used by local residents for their own construction.
All these ten cities discussed above have been noted for their contribution to culture, literature and arts. These cities thrived with bustling activity and creativity. Left only in ruins they still serve as evidence of great human achievement and inspire those that learn about them.