In a recent article published at Indian Journal of Archaeology, findings have been published showing 2000 BC chariot buried at Sinauli, Bhagpat District, Uttar Pradesh. The remains were found by the team from Archaeological Survey of India, headed by S. K. Manjul and Arvin Manjul. The same site had been excavated earlier in 2003 and 2005 revealing a burial site.
There had been an old debate regarding the use of horses in India. It was believed that the horses came to India from Central Asia or Middle East. Also the time of arrival was not yet known. Based on the new findings, the usage of horse based chariots can be established during ancient times in India. we’ll take a look at the findings in detail below.
History of Chariots
Chariots are effective in carrying heavy payloads. Multiple animals can be attached to a single chariot, and animals ranging from horses to donkeys to elephants have been historically used to tow them. It is popularly believed that Egyptians were the first to make and use chariots.
One of the hints to usage of chariots were found in current Iraq, belonging to the Mesopotamian civilization. This dates back a millennia prior to their introduction in ancient Egyptian civilization. The chariot had solid filled wheels instead of the spoked variant, and was painted as being towed by donkeys. There were hints to its usage in war, suggested by animated weapon in the hands of rider and a human figure under the chariot.
Chariots have been used in war since 3000 BC as per historical evidence. Several other sites in the middle-east and Egypt contain paintings depicting the gradual evolution of chariots.
As these chariots were mainly constructed of wood / copper, decay is inevitable. The only remains that are found belong to well preserved sites, possibly enclosed. such as burial grounds.
Excavations at Sinauli
India has many temples with chariots carved onto. One famous example is the Khajuraho temple. The timeline is what interests one about the new findings. Most ancient carvings and monuments depicting chariots belong to 5-12th century AD.
The above carved panel is from Sanchi, MP, depicting a chariot, dated to 200-100 BC. This panel was one of the few oldest structures in India to feature a chariot, until the recent findings.
Findings at excavation site:
- Coffins covered with lid supported by 4 legs.
- Site also contains Pottery, Artistic Swords, Beads, etc
- Site believed to be of OCP culture
The site at Sinauli is said to belong to OCP culture because of many factors, such as:
- Pigment of the pottery
- Pottery similar to ones found at other OCP sites such as Barabanki, Bara, Sultanpur, Faizabad.
- Mature Harappan potteries are different in structure.
OCP sites and Geological area:
The coffins found at the site were intricately carved all around, especially at the top. They were layered with copper. The chariots were buried alongside the coffins towards the bottom, indicating a warrior/ritual burial. The chariot has triangular copper elements engraved onto the wheel, indicating that the chariot was not an usual labour/farm chariot.
Its body is believed to be made from light frame, possibly wood, that was curved towards the front. The paper explains the structure of chariot in detail. It seemed to be made to carry two persons. Artistic swords and daggers were also found at the site. The swords were heavy, well-build and had copper covered hilts. Helmet, shield and torch were also found on the site.
While the findings are themselves vital for historians and archaeologists alike, they have sparked a debate on whether to link these findings to Ancient Indian Epic Mahabharata. Whatever the case, the findings in themselves suggest a flourishing bronze age culture, and alternate trade routes for weapons and Calvary, possibly with ancient Tibet.
1. A note on Chariot Burials found at Sinauli district Baghpat U.P, Indian Journal of Archaeology: http://www.ijarch.org/Abstract.aspx?articleno=200