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HomeSpecialsExpert EditorialsSinauli: What's the 'SECRET'?

Sinauli: What’s the ‘SECRET’?

Sinauli located at the Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh at the Ganga-Yamuna Doab and is one of the most important archaeological sites of India, first excavated in 2005-06. The site is just 67 kms from the National Capital city- Delhi. The excavations at the site have found links to the early Vedic Age Civilizations, which may be linked to the Mahabharata or Ramayana. 

The 28.67-hectare site is recognised as a place of national significance and is protected by the Government of India. 

The site has had two major excavations- one in 2005-06 when it was discovered and the next in 2018.

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The 2005-06 Excavation:

During the 2005-06 excavation, the site had yielded 116 burials, thus making it the biggest burial site in entire Asia. For this reason, the site is even known as India’s one of the largest necropolis in the Chalcolithic period. Near the tombs systematically arranged vases, pots and bowls were even found. Some of the pots even had rice grains within them and showing probability of having ghee, curd and somarasa, as an offering to the God of Death-Yama. The pottery found is of the OCP (Ochre Coloured Pottery) culture, similar to Harrapan culture. 

What makes the linking of the site to the Vedic Civilization is the fact of the resemblance of the burials to that of the Vedic culture, and not the Indus valley culture. The burials had impressions of cloth wrapped around the body that suggests of the purification ceremony of the corpses- a practice in the Hindu customs. 

However afterwards the excavation was suspended due to reasons unknown.

The 2018 Excavation

It gained attention for the recent discoveries in 2018. Some farmers had reported to have found artefacts while ploughing, and hearing this ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) came into action.

On digging they found three Bronze Age solid disk wheel carts. This excavation created lot of hustle-bustle in the archaeological world and excited the history enthusiasts.

The carts that were discovered were 4000 years old (2500-1900 BCE) and were interpreted as horse pulled chariots by some archaeologists. This was so, since the chariots had a fixed ankle linked through long pole to a small yoke- which showed similarities to the modern chariots which are drawn by animals and mostly horses. 

Why were the chariots so important to the archaeological talks? There were two reasons: Firstly, it was the first time that the chariots contemporary to the Mesopotamian and Sumerian culture were discovered in India. Secondly, the discovery predated the arrival of the horse centered Indo-Aryans, wherein falsifying the Indo-Aryan migration theory. It questioned the theory that horses were introduced to us from western and central Asia invaders. 

Along with the chariots some other interesting artifacts were even found like the copper engraved shields and antenna swords with copper wired wooden hilts.

Another interesting fact assumed after this excavation was of the female warrior class. This was implied due to the findings of weapons from the burials that had skeletons also of women. It was the first time any archaeological evidence regarding women warriors was found. The weapons even showed high quality and advanced technology from that of Harappa and other sites.

Another interesting discovery was that of shields. Our literatures have always described of shields but never a shield was excavated before Sinauli. 

The excavations have even led to think of the land being fertile and suitable of agriculture, which further hints of it being the home to a large kingdom. 

The ASI, after the excavation of 2018 took the site under its protection and then it fell under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. All the unearthed items are kept with the ASI at its institute. 

Religious importance of Sinauli

The findings of the Sinauli excavations have been closely associated with the Hindu Epics. The carts found have been linked to the chariots mentioned in the Epic narratives. Some of the local legends have even told that Sinauli is one of the five villages that god Krishna had successfully negotiated with the Kaurava princes so as to evade the crucial war at Kurukshetra. 

Also, the Sinauli excavation is sought to unveil the facts regarding the real happenings of the Mahabharata period. Also it may tell whether the Hindu Epic is true or just a fiction? 

Carbon Dating

The process of carbon dating of objects by the technique of C-14, was carried out in the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow. 

The dating process revealed it to be some 3800 years old, thus implying that the civilization was live in 1800 BC. 

The human remains were examined by the Deccan College, Pune and a lab in Hyderabad did the DNA research. 

Why Sinauli the talk of the town now?

Another event that made Sinauli crack the headlines is a documentary by Discovery Plus on the site. Manoj Bajpayee and Neeraj Pandey’s “Secrets of Sinauli” is a 55-minute historic documentary that shows and examines the archaeological findings of Sinauli very closely. It displays to its viewers the clips recorded during the time of the 2018 excavation. 

What makes Sinauli an important archaeological site is: firstly, that it was the first site that presented some of the artifacts that were not found in India before, quite baffling for the archaeologists.  Also, the excavations have helped question the western hegemonic narratives of things being introduced by foreign land to Indians.  

Also, archaeologists predict that the objects and clues from the site could untangle mystery of the decline of the Indus Valley civilization and even give information of the Vedic age. Its findings may even prove that the Harappans were even a part of the Vedic culture and followed the Vedic practices. 

Lots of questions are seeking their answers from the excavations of Sinauli. 

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Khushi Jain
I am a word nerd and a culture vulture. I've always been an aficionado of social work and women's activism. You'll find me talking about the failing democracies, economic slowdowns, inter-state tensions, and so on, almost all the time.

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