Friday, January 30, 2009

Sutiambbe hill in Ranchi city of India is a treasure trove of ancient archaeological sites and geological weathering.

Sutiambe hill in Ranchi city is a treasure trove of ancient archaeological sites and geological weathering.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Sutiambe hill is an archeological site located near Kanke in Ranchi district of Jharkhand State of India.. Formerly, it was the capital of Nagvanshi Dynasty of Chota Nagpur in the first century AD.
There is a remains of the fort of Nagvanshi Dynasty on the hill.
Different Archaeological sites have been discovered like old structures of the Sun Temple, Shiv Temple, the fort of Nagvanshi Dynasty in Sutiambe area. The caves of the first king of the Munda tribe, Maharaja Madra Munda has also been discovered. There is one cave (as shown in the picture) where the rocks inside resembles Shiva Linga and the local villagers offer prayers to these rocks. There are also other mysterious caves in the hills.
This hill not only cradles ancient archaeological remains but it also covered with spectacular geological weathering on the granite gneiss rocks of the hills. This geological weathering resembles very much with the finger prints of some giant ancient animals or a umbrella like hood structure of a hindu mythological snake(cobra or Nagas). Even the caves formed in the hill is a good example of erosional features.
In the picture a small staircase like structure having pot hole filled with water is also seen on the top of the hill. According to the local people king Madra Munda used to use the water from the pot hole for his daily uses. This hole never dries up even during peak summer season. Source of underground water filling this hole is from the hill itself.

Regarding the origin of the Nagvanshi Dynasty a interesting story is told by the historians. It doesn’t have scientific proof but still this story is mentioned several times in the history books written by eminent historians like S.C. Roy and Mangobinda Banerjee.
Though I am a geologist, my purpose of mentioning this story is that during my survey and photography in the area I encountered many erosional and weathering structures which resembles the hood of the giant snakes. From the local people I came to know about the Nagwanshi rulers who ruled this area in the ancient times. Nagvanshi means those who came from the snake family. ‘Nag’ means “cobra snake” and ‘wanshi’ means ‘family’.
Like the Romulas-Remus origin of the Romans, the Chota Nagpur Raj family has preserved an interesting tradition as to origin from the snake, which not only takes us back to the Pauranic times, but seeks to account for the name, “Nagpur”. The story refers to the time of Raja Janmejaya, who in order to destroy the entire race of serpents, celebrated a sarpa-yajna. One of the serpents, Pundarika Nag by name, managed to make good his escape, and, having assumed a human form, traveled to Benares (now Varanasi) and there succeeded in wining the hand of Parvati, the daughter of the learned Brahman. Notwithstanding his otherwise human appearance Pundarika could not, however, get rid of the serpent’s forked tongue which, not long afterwards, attracted the notice of his wife. Parvati naturally became inquisitive about it, and asked her husband what this meant. Pundarika put off answering the inquiry to some future day. And to divert her mind from the subject, he took her on a pilgrimage to the holy temple of Jagannath at Puri in Orissa State. On their way back, they passed through Jharkhand State, as Chotanagpur was then called. Arriving near the hill of Sutiambe in present Ranchi district, Parvati was found to be in the throes of child-birth. And now once more she importuned her husband to tell her the secret of his forked tongue. The explanation could be put off no longer, and Pundarika now gave out his real history and forthwith disappeared in the proper form into a pool of water close by. Parvati in the great agony of mind now began to curse her own womanly inquisitiveness, and immediately after the birth of child, immolated herself on a funeral pyre as befitted a Sati. Just in the nick of time, there turned up a Brahman carrying an idol of Surya-devata, the sungod. The Brahmin was thirsty, and placing his idol by the side of the pool he began to quench his thirst with the pool water. How great was his wonder when, about to resume his journey, he found that the idol could not be moved! He was casting about for an explanation, when, to his astonishment, he noticed a huge cobra protecting a baby from the sun with its hood expanded over the baby’s head! And now the snake revealed himself to the Brahman as Pundarika Naga, and narrated his strange story. The snake went on to prophesy that the child was destined to be Raja (king) of the country. This, child said Pundarika, was to be named Phani Mukut Rai and the country Nagpur. These revelations over, the snake once more returned to the pool and was seen no more. Phani Mukut Rai became the first ruler of Nagvanshi Dynasty.
Purpose of writing this story is not to confuse the scientific world but only to understand whether such features is related to the rulers of the snake dynasty of early first century AD? Is this features are man made or they are the outcome of geological weathering.
Sometimes it becomes essential to correlate the rock structure or rock paintings with civilization, if present at that time.
Whatever the truth is, but seeing the structures on the rocks and different caves in the Sutiambe hill I am sure that this hill will definitely reveal more hidden ancient historical, archeological and even geological facts in coming future.


S.C. Roy, 2004. The Mundas and their country. Crown Publications, Ranchi, India.

B. Mangobinda, 1993. An historical outline of Pre-British Chotanagpur [From earliest times to 1765]. Educational Publications, Ranchi, India.

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