History of Archaeology Around the Bengaluru with Special Reference to Iron Age Megalithic Culture

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End of 18th Century and Beginning Of 19th century

The study of historical and archaeological evidences in Bangalore can be trace back to end of eighteenth century, Mark wilks, a colonel (1759-1831) was a Manx soldier, historian and east India company administrator during the British period. The first Geographical and historical information documented by him in the Mysore including Bangalore region; the title of book is ‘Historical Sketches of The South India –In An Attempt to Trace The History of Mysore From The Origin of The Hindoo Government of That State to The Extinction of The Mohammedan Dynasty In 1799’ and Dr. Francis Buchanan (1762-1829) was a Geographer, Zoologist and botanist, who made of significant contributions while living in india, his one of the first survey in Mysore state in 1800, the details of the journey were published in the title of ‘A Journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar Vol-1, 1807.

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This report, is significant of detailed information which describes many new plants, history, topography, Fisheries, forest, agriculture, religion, arts, commerce etc.

After the British conquered Bangalore, many European and British artists have also made drawings of historical monuments around the Bangalore. However, all of these artworks are of historical monuments of under the tipu sultan, but all of these reports don’t have any archaeological information. Apart from Colonel Mackenzie (1754-1821), megalithic studies in India began by Colonel Mackenzie’s discovery in 1817. He noticed Megalithic burials in the peninsular region, comprising stone circles and dolmens at various place of Coimbatore, Chittore, Hydarabad and Amaravathi (Paddayya 1997). He had also documented the historical antiquities of south India through his collection of inscription and manuscripts, but in this great work he has not provided any pre and protohistoric evidences in the Bengaluru region.

19th Century to Beginning of 20th Century

The important / significant author on Bangalore geology was John Clark (1839), his important contribution is in Geological survey in the Bangalore region, who was concerned, includes other things, with the information of protohistoric evidences. Details of the survey were published in Vidwath paper from the Madras publication (Geology of Bangalore and some portion of Mysore 1839) such as this is the first source of about Bangalore geology. After this work, next 35 years don’t have any information on the archaeological investigations in Bangalore region.

Robert Cole

The evidence of megaliths first reported in Bangalore region by Robert Cole in 1873. Captain Robert Cole, was a Superintend of Coorg region (Under Madras Presidency in 1860’s). He discovered megaliths and also excavated them, they are Moribetta, Virajpete, and Koppa in the Coorg; Gudibande near Chikkaballapura in Bangalore (not excavated). This discovered sites have been published in a small article in journal of Indian antiquary volume 2 (Cole 1873). In this publication, presence of Iron Age megalithic burials in Gudibande and Kodagu region, he gives evidence of megaliths on the Chikkajala hill in Bangalore, this is the first publication of the prehistoric evidence in the Bangalore region. His most significant findings were of botanical remains in the form of paddy and Ragi in the legged jars from the cist burials. Discovery of botanical remains contributed tremendously towards the study of the diet of Iron Age subsistence economy in south India (Cole 1873; Sheshadri 1956; Subbayya 1975).

As early as the 1880’s full scale of archaeological studies were taking place throughout south India. Dr. J.M Fleet (1847-1917) and B.L Rice (1837-1927) were have given significant contribution to the Indian archaeology, which is considered as foundation for the Epigraphical studies in India. At the same time B.R Branfill was excavated megalithic burials at Ittigebailu in Savanadurga.

Branfill Major

B.R Branfill, (late 5th European lieutenant colonel) who was appointed (1st June 1865) as a Deputy-Superintendent of the Indian survey department (3rd grade In charge of the Madras party Bangalore). During his administration period with this department he carried out survey in Andrapradesh, Madras and Karnataka particularly in Bangalore region, and he discovered megalithic burials sites and one of them site was excavated which is Ittigebailu in Savanadurga, Bangalore. This is the first excavation for the study of prehistoric site in Bangalore region as well as one of the earliest excavated site in south India. Details of the excavation were published in the journal of the Indian Antiquery-10, 1881.

The site Savanadurga is the inselberg foot hill and in considers to be one of the largest monolith hills in Asia. From the excavation, bone fragments, pieces of human skull, black and red ware sherds, iron objects like arrowheads, knife, daggers, double-edged and pointed blades, chisel, black and red ware with Graffiti marks, and high-necked three-legged jars (urns) were recovered. B.L Rice (17 July 1837-10 July 1927) Great pioneer known as Benjamin Lewis Rice was British Historian, Archaeologist and educationist and with the establishment of the Mysore archeological department in 1885. In the beginning they were not given importance for the prehistoric investigations in the Bangalore region but their significant contribution is investigation of ancient inscriptions (about 9000 inscriptions) and temples documentation and them publications in old Mysore region. His researches were published in volumes of Epigraphia carnatica. A pot full of Roman coins was accidentally collected from Yashavantapura in Bangalore reported by Rice 1891, but this report is not available.

20th century: Pre Independent Establishment of the Mythic Society

Archaeological studies of the Bangalore region became increasingly important, with the establishment of the Mythic Society in 1909. The mythic society started with the intention of both European and Indian collaborators to take up studies. Greson (1909-10), a European scholar discovered Megaliths near Bhuatanahalli village in the Bannerghtta region, and this work have been published in quarterly journal of the Mythic society Vol-10 (Greson 1909-10; 152-153). R Narasimhachar In 1910’s R Narasimhachar became the Director of the Mysore archaeological department and played a major role in the initiation of the field research and contribution of small scale excavation of the two megalithic sites in the Bangalore region such as Bellandur (MAR 1915:17; 1916:26) and Managondanahalli (MAR 1917:62). At Bellandur megaliths were contained 5 burials of which four was partially excavated by Mr. Bush rest of the one was excavated by R Narasimhachar (MAR 1915:17).

M.H Krishna

After R Narasimhachar, M.H Krishna ((1929-1947) was appointed of Director to the Mysore archaeological department and was associated with the department for almost two decades. He studied Archaeological research at Oxford University and gave a new approach and perspective to the Department for the archaeological studies and research in the Mysore state. His significant contribution for the South Indian protohistoric and early historic studies, which are excavations of Chandravalli (1939) and Brahmagiri (1940).

He identified five different cultural periods called of Microlithic, Neolithic, Iron Age, Mouryan and Chalukya and Hoysala. M.H Krishna’s contribution to the Bangalore region If we considering Krishna’s contribution to the prehistoric studies in the Bangalore region, it is likely most of his exploration or excavation have not been carried out in his long decades. Perhaps the archaeological department was shifted to Mysore from Bangalore, and Krishna’s preferred more of the Mouryan studies in Brahmagiri and Chandravalli, therefore, the archaeological study of the Bangalore region was not getting more significant during this period (Aruni 2013:11). But M.H Krishna was with the assistance of Bangalore Government museum discovered an early historic materials at the site of Tadakanahalli in Devanahalli Taluk, and analyzed them with the Chandravalli cultural materials. Details of this work were published as a short note in Mysore Archaeological Report. One more very important megalithic site which is Lalbag in Bangalore urban, reported by M.H. Krishna and were published in Mysore Archaeological report (1932:1).

K.R.U. Todd

During middle of 19th centuries significant contribution to the study of Bangalore prehistory were made by K.R.U Todd is one such neglected personality in the history of Indian archaeology. Todd was a commander of the Indian navy, during World War II his significant works discovered Microliths at Bombay and Jaalahalli in Bangalore in 1932 and 1945 and excavated them. Details of this exaction were published in journal of prehistoric survey of east Anglia Vol-7 in 1932 (Bombay) and Man Vol 48 in 1948(Jaalahalli). Later on Sheshadri was studied Jalahalli Microliths (1956:33).

20th century: Post Independent

M. Sheshadri

In the post-independence period there was pursuit of comprehensive archaeological research in the Bangalore region. Dr. M Sheshadri (1956-1972) Professor, Director of Department of Archaeology, Museum and Heritage Mysore, who was dedicated to archaeological studies and excavated two significant prehistoric sites, namely, Jadigenahalli in Bangalore region and T Narasipura in the Mysore district. Jadigenahalli a megalithic site, contributed much to understanding of the megalithic cultural context of the region and revealed for the first time in the Mysore area, the occurrences of sarcophagus burial common to the chengalpet district of Tamilnadu. It comprised of graves which had a double and large stone circle filled with clay. The excavation handmade and wheel turned with hollow legs and covered with lids, having a set of three holes at each end. The pottery include high- necked red polished jars, invariably covered with concave lids etc. the pottery colored was often highly polished black-and-red ware and black ware (Sheshadri 1956). He has also reported some of the Archaeological sites in Bangalore, one site of iron age culture namely Kannuru near Devanahalli in 1960-61; three sites of early historic sites such as a new find a pot of 256 Denarii of Augustus and Tiberius unearthed in 1965 by laborers laying the runway of the HAL airport at Bangalore (Cosmo Rodewald 1976:117), Anekal town (IAR 1957-58:68) and Tabaranahalli (IAR 1960-61:64).

Archaeological Survey of India: Bangalore Circle

In 1975, the Indian Archaeological Survey Department established its new circle in name of the mid-south circle in Bangalore. After establishment of this circle, it has become important for Archaeological studies in the Bangalore region. Archaeologists like C Krishnamoorti, S.R Rao, K.P Poonachcha K Rajan have explored many archaeological sites by the department in the Bangalore region.

C Krishnamoorti was a director of Bangalore ASI circle discovered stone artifacts of upper Paleolithic period at Managondanahalli and two Neolithic sites along with polished axes, namely, Budikote and Banahalli on the river Dakshina Pinakini basin (IAR 1970-71: 27-28). In 1975, S.R Rao was appointed as director of the Bangalore circle, he discovered some Microlithic stone artifacts at Ragigudda, Basavanagudi, and other sites in the Bangalore central region in 1975-76. K.P Poonachcha was assistance with S.R Rao discovered Microlithic stone tools at near Devanahalli. M.V Vishveshvara discovered Neolithic axes at Matyalamadu area, in taluk Anekala in 1975. I.K Sharma was Discovered Neolithic Ash mounds at sites of Gangadanahalli and Jalagaradibba in District Tumakur in 1980-81. The two cultural phase site of the Megalithic- Early historic period have been reported in 1981-82 which is Heggunda in Taluk Nelamangala, by the director of Archaeological and museum government of Karnataka. L.K Shrinivas and a team (C Krishnamoorti and B Narasimhaiah) from the Archaeological survey of India, excavated a Neolithic, Chalcolithic?, Iron Age and early historic s site at Banahalli during 1986-87(Krishnamurthy 1990).

Scientific Excavation of this site is very significant as it is located outside of the Bangalore but also provide information for the prehistoric studies of the Bangalore region. The establishment of the Karnataka Itihasa Academy and their works in the Bangalore region. With the establishment of the Karnataka Itihasa Academy in 1985, played a major role in the initiation of the field Archaeological investigations, investigations of Coins and Inscription, the art and architecture of Karnataka and the study of ancient literature. Devarakondareddy (1993), H. S Gopal Rao (1994), M.G Manjunatha (1995), Smitareddy (1996), Mutturaju (1996 and 1998) Lokesh (1998), Jayaramayya (1998), J Vishvanatha (1999 and 2003) M Bhairegowda (2002), H Rajesh (2009 & 2016) K and Praveen Kumar K (2016 and 2017) conducted exploration in Bangalore Rural, Bangalore Urban, and Ramanagara region, and reported Neolithic, Iron Age/Megalithic and early Historic sites in regional journal of Itihasa Darshana , Itihasa Darpana (1993-2017).

Rajaghatta Excavation

In the Bangalore region no early historic remains have so for been found however the region has yielded Buddhist architectural remains found in the excavations at Rajaghatta near Doddaballapura (Krishnamurthy 2002). This is the earliest existing remains of Buddhist Vihara complex with the Buddhist votive tablets; ranging from 4-5th cent CE. This is the first discovery of Buddhist remains in the Southern Karnataka(Sundara 2010) excavated by M.S Krishnamurthy and Department of Archaeology government Karnataka during the period of 2001-2004.

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