The Mystic Ruins of Roopnagar
Seema Anand Chopra
|I felt i was in 2000 BC and was trying to decide which Bangles, Beads and hair accessories , I would have preferred to wear ! Actually I was in the silent large red brick Ropar Museum in Punjab browsing through the exhibits of the Harappan Valley Civilization. Just half an hour back we had driven past the vast expanse of River Sutlej that unfailing enchants one and all. I was informed that I was at a pre-historic site which has been a favourite for Settlers for the past 4000 years! I was glimpsing the displays from 6 cultural periods of history- from the Harappan period till the Medieval times; all unearthed by the Archaeological Survey of India from the 3 Mounds around this area – Ropar or Roopnagar Mound, Bara Mound and Kotla Nihang Mound.|
|The Museum- a revelation
Writer at the Museum
We decided to see the entire exhilarating Museum before exiting it to explore the mystic ruins of the Roopnager Mound. From the Reception we walked past a large glass-cased stone sculpture, of Veena-Vadini- a lady playing Veena, to enter it. The Museum hall was lined with appealing Exhibits in large wood and glass cases chronicling the enchanting history of the Harappan, Mauryan, Sunga, Kushan, Gupt and Medieval times neatly labeled as Period 1, Period 2, Period 3, Period 4, Period 5, Period 6 with sub-labels to each exhibit.
Veena Vadini – The Woman with Veena at the Reception
The Staff at the Museum made us conversant regarding Ropar’s three Mounds of Civilization out of which most of the excavations were conducted on the North and West Mound and the latter disclosed a Harappan Cemetery ! The importance of this discovery is that it proves the custom of burial of bodies and not cremation. A Skeleton was displayed in the far corner of the museum ; along with the objects found from its grave for its Last-Journey ! The existing Ropar town is built over the South Mound and so the archaeology work is limited.
Several exhibits in the Museum are from the 21 meter high Ropar Mound next door which is part of the Shivalik range and was located in the 11th century kingdom of Raja Rokeshwar who named it after his son Rup Sen. It certainly had another name before this period too when the Harappan culture extended till here ; which i could not find out! Since 1952 excavations were carried out at all 3 Harappan civilization related Mounds- Ropar, Bara alongwith Kotla Nihang and all exhibits are displayed at the Museum, the first Mound being the only protected monument by ASI.
|The Ancient Mound
After surveying the Museum it is imperative to explore the Roopnagar Mound outside for comprehensive understanding and relate to the Exhibits. We began the climb past a Temple with an unusual signboard- Shiv Temple Baba Nav Gaz Peer Ropar; a red flag on the right and a green on the left ! We ascended the multiple stone steps up the completely riveting ancient Mound where one subsequent to the other 6 Civilizations flourished over thousands of years. We mused about the probable explanation for the Harappans to shift here so far from the original civilization. Could it be the Lost river Saraswati and following its other offshoot Sutluj (the ancient Sitadru) that they reached this Mound ?? It was fascinating to know that this could be the same river and town crossed by Bharat- Shree Ram’s brother in Ramayan !
The top of the Mound was a surprise for us- There were many evening walkers and a Cricket match was in full swing on one side. We reveled the sight of the setting sun on an old Fort fully restored in the center of the Mound , positioned in the captivating backdrop of green grass that extended all over the Mound. The Fort is known to be the Serai or Rest House of the present Nalagarh Royal family originating from the Chandella Rajputs. Besides its historic and pre-historic significance what makes the Mound compelling is its dramatic vistas – the town of Roopnager sprawling in the Plains below offering iconic views of the focal points of the town especially the Gurudwara.
The Restored Fort on the Hill Top
|Mound Top Period 1
We looked around and imagined the Mound speckled with the 4000 years old homes of the first Harappan settlers made of kanker-pather, river pebbles and sometimes sun dried bricks too. The Steatite-Seal is a proof of commercial activity in the town. The antiquities found at Roopnagar Mound are analogous to those found in Harappa which are proofs of it being an extension of the latter ! Also enthralling were the lower levels of digging that yielded pre-Harappan Pottery! Other vital exhibits that we saw previously in Period 1 Display Window related to this are the Terracotta figurines, Pottery , Tools , Ornaments, Toys, Copper razor, Balance & Weights and Bone Tools.
|Mound Top Period 2
We wondered what happened to the Settlement that perished and remained so for 3 whole centuries?? The next set of Settlers came to the Mound around 1100 BC to live in timber and grass homes and made the momentous introduction of Iron and Glass! We had earlier seen the special Grey- Black ware of this period found from the Mounds in Period 2 Exhibits of the Museum below . Such finds are associated with the Mahabharat Period.
The Mysterious Mound inhabited since pre Historic Times
|Mound Top Period 3
We strolled along the scenic edge of the Mound thinking about the time of Buddha and later Mahavira ; during the reign of Nanda and mighty Mauryan dynasty , when between 600-200 BC a third Civilization thrived here . The Indian silver and copper coins in Brahmi and Kharoshthi script made their first appearance then and were symbolic of business growth .
Additionally the Settlers created beautiful polished red, grey, black, blue ,golden and brown coloured superior Pottery !! We had viewed these exhibits earlier at the Museum’s Period 3 Display Window in conjunction with the Terracotta-figurines of humans , animals and birds, Dice games, Hopscotch( Gotian), Necklaces, Women Hair accessories, Toy cart , Wheels, variety of Beads in glass, shell, ivory, terracotta, bones and even semi precious stones.
|Mound Top Period 4
The time- game is strange when all this disintegrated and a fourth town came up again on the same Mound ! For the coming 800 years the Sunga, Kushan and Gupt dynasties ruled these regions and the mixed cultural effects were reflected on the Pottery, Seals, Coins and ornaments . We recalled the Period 4 exhibits in the Museum that comprise Indo-Greek coins and 660 Kushan coins collection , the highlight being the Chandragupt Gold-coin! Furthermore we remembered seeing the impressive original smaller Sunga period, Veena Vadini, in the Period 4 Display window whose large replica we had earlier seen at the Museum’s Reception . With the fall of the Mauryas by 600 AD the Mound-town was yet again destroyed by the Huns tribe.
|Mound Top Period 5 & 6
As we prepared to move down the Mound our discussion reverted to the few displays of the Medieval periods in the Display Windows of Period 5 and Period 6. For about 100 years the Mounds were abandoned . Around 700 AD the South Mound began to be occupied but today its mysteries lie buried beneath the modern Ropar town. Few excavations under people’s homes have revealed good quality burnt bricks of the 9-10th century. Similarly not many finds were made from the Period 6 that lasted between 1200-1700 AD except Coins, glazed Pottery and Lakhauri Bricks.
The Excavated site on the Ancient Mound where 6 Cultural Periods Civilisations were unearthed
As we drove back I wondered if the Sitadru-Sutluj river brought the first Settlers to Rupnagar and why did 6 subsequent Civilizations come up on the same spot repeatedly where they completely perished before each one superseded the other !