Archaeological Heritage of Uttarakhand

Himalaya affords an awe inspiring study of nature. Fossil remains from the rocks dated to from 18.3 to 0.6 million years BP show a variety of Stresirhine Primate genera. Cercopithecoid genera, and Hominoid genera, the last one being of special interest to hominid ancestry. Significantly, Kalagarh Basin (District Pauri, Uttarakhand) has also witnessed Hominoid activities some 11 to 10 million years ago. These include Sivapithecus indicus and Ramapithecus punjabicus. These hominoids form important links in the evolution of hominids.

Recent discoveries of Palaeolithic tools from Potwar (northern Pakistan) dated between 2.4 and 2.0 million years BP, and from Uttarbaini (Jammu and Kashmir, India) dated between 2.5n and 0-5 million years BP suggest that Himalayan region is equally potential as a cradle of earliest hominids in the earth. Chopper-chopping tool tradition, characteristic of Potwar (Pakistan), Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh, have also been found in Uttarakhand. The exact nature of the Palaeolithic assemblage of Uttarakhand needs to be situated in pan Indian context.

With this background we will present a summary of the archaeological heritage of Central Himalaya. The geographical area covering Central Himalaya extends from the western border of Nepal in the east of the river Tons, a tributary of the Jamuna, in the west; and from the Terai-Bhabhar region in the line from Dehradun to Khatima-Tanakpur in Nainital District in the south to the western Tibetan border (China) in the north. It is situated between 28° 44' and 31° 25' north latitude, and 77°45' and 81°1' east longitude. Archaeology of Central Himalaya unfolds successive technological stage of human evolution from Stone to respectively Copper, and Iron Ages during pre-and protohistoric periods. As for the historical period, literary numismatic, and epigraphic sources reveal that between circa second century BC and fifth century AD the Kunindas, the earliest known rulers of Central Himalaya, reigned over this region. In the fourth century AD it was known as Karttripura kingdom, a tributary of the Gupta Emperor Samudra Gupta as we learn from his Parayaga Prasasti. The two Talesvara Copper Plate Inscriptions inform that in the following centuries it was called Brahmapura under the rule of the Paurava-Varmans. Brahmapura is also mentioned in the Vrihatsamhita, and it was visited by the Chinese pilgrim Heiun Tsang (second quarter of the seventh century AD), who mentions it as Po-lo-hi-mo-pu-lo- (rendered is Sanskrit as Brahmapura) Central Himalaya was ruled by the Katyuris from seventh century AD to twelfth century AD. Inscriptions reveal that this region was occupied by the Mallas of western Nepal at least from AD 1191 to AD 1223. It resulted in the liquidation of the Katyuri kingdom. However, inscriptional evidence shows that the Later Katyuris continued to flourish as petty independent principalities in different parts of Central Himalaya, among whom the Raikas of Sira-Doti (western Nepal) were very powerful. Eventually subduing the petty principalities there emerge two independent principalities of Kumaon and Garhwal, respectively under the Chandras and the Pamvaras. In the fall of AD 1743 the Rohilas invaded Kumaon and captured its capital Almora for about six months. However, they left the hills after realizing indemnity. The Gorhkas of Nepal subjugated Kumaon in AD 1791, and Garwhal in AD 1804. In 1815 the British conquered the Gorkhas and occupied the Central Himalaya till 1947 when India achieved freedom.