Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Year by year excavation has uncovered the archaeological evidence that has pushed back the dating of the ruined city of Mahasthangarh in North Bengal, some 3 or 4 hours drive from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

In a country where the annual inundation of summer flooding in the deltaic estuary of the two great rivers of the Indian subcontinent, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra leaves alluvial deposits there is, no doubt, even more evidence of ancient occupation in this ,as in other more recently discovered and yet to be discovered sites.

At the present time, recent excavation activity offers evidence of dating pushed back to 2,500 to 3,000 BCE. This can put Mahasthangarh as roughly contemporary with the cities of the Indus valley, some 1,500 miles to the west, about which debate still rages as to whether, the earliest known cities in human history, they derived from the Dravidian, or Aryan cultures. Any such debate has yet to ignite around Mahasthangarh, but it may well be that the continuing excavation of the large site could yet fuel such debate. What is certain is that the city is amongst the earliest in the urban development of human life.

Much of the world continues to be uncertain, even, about the geographical location of Bangladesh, and whether it has much of interest to offer the curious beyond regular floods and cyclonic disasters or threats of inundation as the result of climate change. Somehow, it is hard to connect such early evidence of flourishing civilisation with the poverty stricken nation of today. But that poverty is of a recent date, attributable more to the genocidal Liberation War of 1971, and such notable supporters of the murderous oppressors as Pakistan as Henry Kissinger and the US Govt than to a people who, throughout most of their history, supported a flourishing commercial culture.

There is a tendency, even in Bangladesh itself, and certainly in a wider world, to fail to look back beyond such key dates as the 1971 Liberation War, or the 1947 Partition of India into East and West Pakistan of which Bangladesh formed the eastern part, and even the 1757 Battle of Plessey in which Britain replaced the French as the major European influence in the area and which set the stage for the growth of The Honourable East India Company’s domination of Bengal and formed the genesis of the Raj.

Bengal has a long and rich history, much of the evidence of which lie, in great part, in ruins, or beneath the soil, across the modern land of Bangladesh.

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