By Anil Dhir, Bhubaneswar:
The Prachi river valley is known for its archaeological richness, several Odia scholars claim that the tributary of the Mahanadi river system is older than the Ganga.
Prachi valley was known for archaeological remains in form of temples and sculptures starting from early historic to medieval period. It has witnessed the blending of various religious cults, which included Jainism, Buddhism, Tantrism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Reference to Prachi is found in Puranic literature such as Markandeya Purana, Kapilasamhita, Prachi Mahatmya and the Odia Mahabharata.
It was a vibrant navigable river till the early 1940s. However the reckless crisscrossing of roads, the national highway, and rampant construction on its flood plain choked the river and it was reduced to a rivulet. Today the Prachi is a dried up river, which is only visible during the monsoons.
I have always been drawn to place since my student days. Many surface finds were regularly reported and remains of temples and prehistoric paraphernalia was found during activities of digging wells, canals and road building. There are hundreds of temples in this short stretch of around 70 kms.
INTACH had realised the relevance of the rich civilisational remains and we had launched the Prachi Valley Project three months ago. The entire stretch of this ancient river is being surveyed and every monument, remains, edifices and heritage is being documented and listed. As the project head, I have been in the field since the last couple of months and we have made many important tangible and intangible heritage vestiges.
The Archaeological Survey of India has been conducting excavations at Bharatihuda near Jallarpur village. Rich finds dating back to the Chalcolithic period have been unearthed. The discovery of four thousand-year-old weapons made from bones and animal fossils has caused a lot of excitement. Besides bone weapons, several black and red earthen pots, stone axe, deer horns, fossils of fish, sharks and turtles were discovered from the excavation site.
The excavation is spread over 12 acres and the diggings have revealed a rural settlement of the Chalcolithic period (3,500 to 4,000 years). The people who lived there used to hunt and fish; and also knew agriculture. Along with bone tools and ceramics rice and moong dal grains were found.
A team from INTACH led by the State Convener A.B.Tripathy visited the site recently and inspected the site and held discussions with the ASI Superintending Archaeologist. Sanjib Hota, Batakrushna Tripathy and Dr. Biswajit Mohanty along with me spent the day at the site.
In my opinion, the excavation has revealed new facts about the ancient and rich civilisation, which predates both the Mohen-jo-Daro and Harrapan sites. History will have to be rewritten, the Prachi Mahatmya will find its right place in history.
The INTACH project will be completed in three months. We are scouring every inch of this ancient and sacred river from its origin to the place where it meets the sea. More than 400 monuments will be listed and it will be the first complete listing of this great historical place.