Pre-Raj crown on Clive House - Abode of historical riches to be museum

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By SOUMITRA DAS in Calcutta
  • Published 14.01.03

Calcutta, Jan. 14: The recent discovery of 2200-year-old artefacts and potsherds under the Dum Dum mound on which Robert Clive built his chateau has proved that urban settlements existed in Greater Calcutta long before a colonial town came up in the triad of villages of Kalikata, Sutanuti and Gobindapur.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will, in all probability, open a museum in the dilapidated building after restoring it.

Bimal Bandyopadhyay, superintending archaeologist, ASI, Calcutta Circle, under whose supervision the mound was excavated, says: “All efforts are on to protect Clive’s house. The paperwork is over and the ASI director-general’s decision is awaited.” Even after partial restoration, a museum can be opened in Clive House and the materials discovered displayed there.

Although historian Bratin Mukherjee has not seen any of the recent finds in Dum Dum, he is not surprised that layer by layer, they belong to the Sunga Kusana period and the Gupta and post-Gupta periods as well.

“Chandraketugarh near Barasat is only 25-30 km away,” he says. Artefacts belonging to that period were discovered earlier at Chandraketugarh.

What lay beneath Clive House has far-reaching implications. To begin with, it disproves the claim that Calcutta was just a colonial settlement. Second, it disproves the claim that the soil of deltite Bengal is not stable. The discovery establishes the archaeological importance of this region.

“The archaeological evidence matches ancient literary accounts of deltite Bengal,” says Uttara Chakrabarty, who teaches history at Bethune College and has presented several papers on the past of this area.

She says that in the 1st century AD, both Ptolemy, the historian, and Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, written by an anonymous Greek sailor who travelled down the Indian coastline, mention a port named Gange from where muslin, pearls and rice used to be exported. The location of Gange has been debated.

Archaeologist P.C. Dasgupta believes that Chandraketugarh and Gange are the same. Dilip Kumar Chakrabarty, who teaches archaeology at Cambridge University, asserts that Gange was in Midnapore. Some say it was in Diamond Harbour. But all agree that Gange was in southwest Bengal.

That there was a continuous settlement in southwest Bengal has also been corroborated by medieval traveller-writers.