« PreviousContinue »
As an instance of the way in which sustained enquiries may lead to the discovery of facts which would otherwise remain hidden, 1 may mention the relics of the copper age which have already been brought to light. In the observations which I offered at our inaugural meeting I said that accident had thrown into my hands a copper axe-head copper axe-head from the Palamau district, and said it was only reasonable to suppose that, if systematic search were made, similar implements might be discovered elsewhere. We have now unearthed those from various other places. In the Bassia thānā of Ranchi no less than 21 copper celts were dug up in one place, while my friend the Hon'ble and Rev. Dr. Campbell, on learning of this enquiry, said that for years past he has known of these celts, which are quite common in the Dhanbad subdivision of the Mānbhum district, but being ignorant of their true nature he had previously attached no importance to them. He says that in all 27 specimens have, to his knowledge, been found in the stretch of country between the Barakar river and the eastern spurs of the Paresnath range. Dr. Campbell sent us several of these specimens ; they have been examined by Mr. Coggin-Brown who reports that they belong to the same series as those found in Palamau and at Bassia. Mr. CogginBrown's notes on the Palamau and Bassia celts have been printed amongst the Miscellaneous Contributions in the first number our Journal, and a note by Dr. Campbell on his Manbhum finds will appear in the third number. Babu Sarat Chandra Roy has recently found copper axe-heads in two different places in the Khunti subdivision of the Ranchi district, and a third in a collection of mineral samples belonging to Mr. P. N. Bose, late of the Geological Survey, who picked it up some time ago near an old copper quarry at Kera in the Singhbhum district.
As you will no doubt be interested in these ancient relics I have brought a few specimens for your inspection. They will eventually find a place in the Patna Museum. The search for them will be continued; and I have no doubt that further
finds in other parts of the province will sooner or later come to light.
Another very interesting discovery, presumably of the same period, for which we are again indebted to Dr. Campbell, is the rough copper casting of a figure, apparently a monkey, which was found in the same place as several of the above celts. This also has been examined by Mr. Coggin-Brown who says :
"In workmanship and material it recalls what I have called the Hāzāribāgh celt type as exemplified by those rough unfinished copper celts which come from Pachamba. But I am not convinced that these things are really prehistoric, for they may be rough copies of true copper celts made at some later period. "
I hoped to have been able to exhibit this quaint figure, but unfortunately it has not yet been received back from Mr. Coggin-Brown.
Some copper ornaments, which may possibly belong to the same period, have been discovered in the prehistoric burial grounds which I shall now proceed to mention, but before doing so I may say that Mr. Coggin-Brown has promised to give us a paper on the remains of the copper age in India. He has been obliged to put off writing it for a time owing to his services being required in Burma in connection with matters which, though perhaps less interesting to our Society, are at this juncture of the greatest practical importance, and meanwhile perhaps we may be able to make further additions to the local finds dating from that age.
The attention of our energetic Secretary Babu Sarat Chandra Roy has been drawn to the occurrence in the Ranchi district of remains of the prehistoric people known to the Mundās as "C Asurs". You are all aware of the remarkable conclusions arrived at by Dr. Spooner on the basis of his discoveries at Kumrāhar, and of the mass of evidence which he has adduced to show, not only that the architects of the buildings at that place were Persians but also that Chandra
Gupta himself, and even Buddha, belonged to the same race, together with other dynasties including that of Narak and Bhagadatta, who ruled at distant Pragjyotisha, the modern Gauhati, in Assam. These far-reaching conclusions have been contested by many in this country, where they are unpalatable to patriotic Indians. European experts are taking time to examine the data and review the position, and no doubt we shall soon begin to hear what their views are. It is not for me to venture an opinion on the merits of this controversy. I may point out, however, that even if all the above-mentioned Asurs were Persians, it does not follow that other persons so designated belonged to the same race. Nomenclatnre is always a very uncertain guide. For instance, the word" Hiudu ", which as we all know was originally applied by the early Greek invaders to the people living on the east bank of the Indus, has now come to connote millions of people whose homes are far removed from that river, and who have never had the slightest connection with that part of the country. The word "Kirāt" again is used in Sanskrit literature to denote any hill tribe, and there is no necessary affinity between the various tribes so designated. So with the word "Asur". Even if it was originally the designation of people from Persia, it is, I venture to think, probable that it afterwards came to be applied to other non-Hindu dynasties irrespective of their race, There is in fact a small Dravidian tribe of iron smelters in the Ranchi district and the eastern part of the Sarguja State who even now bear the name Asur. It is thus by no means certain that the people known to the Mundās as Asurs are of the same race as those who ruled in ancient Pātaliputra. Nor indeed is it certain that all the remains ascribed to the " Asurs appertain to the same community. All that can at present be predicated is that they are memorials of the inhabitants of the Ránchi district before its Occupation by the Mundās. Information as to the identity of the people in question can only be ascertained gradually and laboriously, if at all, by an investigation of the remains which
they have left behind them in their graveyards and elsewhere. Some brief preliminary notes on the cinerary urns found in these prehistoric burial places will be found amongst the Miscellaneous Contributions to the first number of our Journal. Babu Sarat Chandra Roy has since made a detailed investigation of several of these burial places, and his account of them will be found in the second number of our Journal. Under massive stone slabs, lying flat on the ground, are found, at a depth of a foot or so, one or more earthenware urns or gharas containing human bones and, in many cases, copper ornaments and beads of copper stone or rock crystal, and sometimes a small earthenware lamp. The mouth of the urn is closed with a small earthenware bowl. Some broken fragments of one of these cinerary urns are on the table before me. You will observe that the pottery is of a superior quality, highly polished and ornamented with lines. Specimens of the copper ornaments found in them are also on the table, the most noteworthy being the scorpion shaped ear ornaments. In some of the graveyards Sarat Babu found stone celts and other relics of the stone age, from which it would seem that the sites in question were inhabited even before the age of copper, or perhaps that the stone and copper ages overlapped, and that stone implements were still in use by the people of the copper age.
It is interesting to note that the rock crystal beads found in these burial places are very similar to those often found after rain at a place near Dumka in the Santāl Parganas, which is known to the Santals as the Hat (market) of the Bongas (spirits). The comparatively recent settlement of the Santāls probably accounts for the absence of any traditions regarding an earlier race of settlers and their consequent attribution of these beads to spirits.
The second number of our Journal has only just been issued, and I think you will agree that it maintains the high standard set by the first number, but while the first number was mainly devoted to ethnographic subjects, the second contains more papers dealing with history and archæology. Apart
from Babu Sarat Chandra Roy's paper which I have just mentioned there is a paper by Professor Jadu Nath Sarkar on Assam and the Ahoms in 1660, which is of special interest to me personally as a student of Assam history, and another by Mr. Jayaswal on Republics in the Mahabharata. Principal Jackson describes two new inscriptions in the Barabar Hills, and Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Hara Prasad Shastri discusses the home of Kālidāsa.
We have not yet got all our material for the third number, but I may mention an account by Mr. B. C. Mazumdar of the old set of copper-plates which I hold in my hand and which have been presented to the Museum by the Mahārājā of the Sonpur State in Orissa. These plates were dug up in that State and Mr. Mazumdar attributes them to Yayati Gupta a scion of the family of the Gupta Kings of Bengal, who ruled in the 11th century and who, he thinks, had his capital at the junction of the Tel and Mahanadi rivers on the site now cccupied by the town of Sonpur. The same number will contain a paper by our Secretary on the occurrence of relics of the stone age in the Ranchi district, and also, I hope, the text and translation by Sir George Grierson, of the first of a collection of old dramas made by him many years ago, when he was Subdivisional Officer of Madhubani. The prose of these plays is usually in Sanskrit, and the songs are sometimes in Hindi and sometimes in the Maithili dialect. Sir George has written to me expressing his great satisfaction at the creation of our Society, and the paper just mentioned will, I hope, be followed by others from his accomplished pen.
In conclusion I would express the earnest hope that all members of the Society will do their utmost to further the objects with which it was established, and will not only endeavour to induce as many of their friends as possible to join the Society, but will also help to provide material for the Journal. There is an exceptionally wide field for research in Bihar and Orissa, owing to its diversity of races and languages, and its richness in sites of special historical and religious interest