Mumbai: 12th Century artifact found at Metro car shed site hushed up?

Updated: Sep 17, 2019, 07:10 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

With photos of a stele ostensibly discovered by workers two years ago emerging in the wake of recent protests, officials are tightlipped; experts give conflicting versions, leading to several unanswered questions

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Construction workers found archaeological remains at the Metro III car shed site in Aarey Colony two years ago, and the artifact was immediately shifted to Mumbai University's archaeology department, sources close to the development have told mid-day. The discovery is not to be confused with the 2016 excavations, which unearthed artifacts from various parts of the city, the sources added. mid-day is in possession of photographs of the artifact, which experts said dates back to between 12th and 14th Century.

Around two years ago, workers at the metro car shed site came across a small pillar-like structure," said the source. "This was safely removed. It appeared like some ancient archaeological structure and without wasting any time, MMRC officials and a team of experts from MU's Centre for Extra Mural Studies (CEMS) were informed. CEMS experts visited the site and took the structure to MU."

The artifact was photographed on site, after it was taken out, which sources said is on the car depot site, and later again photographed at the MU, where they are currently kept.

mid-day sent the photographs to an independent archaeology expert, who confirmed the structure to be a 'stele', which are ancient wooden or stone monuments. The pictures show that the Aarey has some inscriptions, which are not very clear. "When a king donated land to a subject, he also gave a four to five foot-high stele as proof of ownership," said the expert, who did not want to be named. "The photo shows carvings of the sun, moon and a kalash. This can be interpreted to mean that as long as there is the sun and the moon, the land will remain as a donation to the subject and is not to be taxed. From the photo, the stele could be from the 12th to the 14th Century, when Mumbai, then known as Bimbasthan, was ruled by King Hambirarao." The expert added that only the upper part of the stele has been excavated and the remaining structure might still be underground where it was found.

Rock
A script can faintly be seen on the stele, which shows the sun, moon and kalash and is believed to be from between the 12th Century and 14th Century

Complicity of silence

While Metro officials, as usual, remained tight-lipped, the archeological experts too refused to divulge much about the date and circumstances under which the stele was discovered. The experts also gave conflicting versions of where the stele was found.

Assistant Professor of Archaeology, CEMS, and Co-director of the Salcette Explorations Project Kurush Dalal said it was found from the MMRC plantation area, which is around 200 metres from the car shed site.

"We had found a broken stone stele from Aarey Milk Colony," he said. "But it was from the MMRC plantation area. Nothing was found inside the car shed site. It is a medieval stelle and had an inscription, which has been lost due to ritual cleaning and natural weathering. Barely two alphabets are visible on it today. It would have been an important testimonial to Mumbai's medieval history but sadly nothing much can gleaned from it today."

SteleThe stele that is currently at the Mumbai University

But another expert denied anything was found at the car shed site at all. Head at Sathaye College, Department of Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology and Buddhist Studies, Archaeologist Suraj Pandit who has also studied the Aarey Colony area, said, "Things that were found in Aarey Colony have been documented there on the spot and nothing has been brought to MU. And we have not found anything related to archaeology inside the car depot site."

In 2016, an earlier, unrelated excavation ('Now, an archaeological reason to save Aarey Colony') by CEMS and Sathaye College experts, yielded antiquities from several places in the city, including Marol, near Aarey Colony. mid-day also sent an email questionnaire to MMRC for their comment but they didn't respond.

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