Is the Indian epic Mahabharata real happenings or mere fiction? What were the civilisation and culture during that period of Kurukṣetra War? How would people be dressed at that time, around 3000-4000 years ago from today? Do Television dramas and books on the ancient Hindu epic give us an accurate idea of the time? The curtains may raise soon after the successful completion of the much talked-about excavation being carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Sinauli village of Baghpat district in Uttar Pradesh.
The excavation, which started back in 2005, has so far unveiled many a remains including wooden coffin burials, chariots, copper swords, helmets, skeletons and jewelery, which are said to be associated with the Mahabharata civilisation. The digging has also discovered eight burial sites and several artefacts, including three coffins, antenna swords, daggers, combs, and ornaments, among others. The three chariots found in burial pits indicate the possibility of "royal burials" while other findings confirm the population of a warrior class during the time.
Though archaeologists are yet to confirm that the findings are connected to that of Mahabharata culture, they made it clear that these are not from the Harappan Phase, a Bronze Age civilisation, parallel or before the Mahabharata age.
The site at Sinauli was accidentally discovered by people levelling agricultural land. The ASI began excavations at the site in September 2005, followed by the discovery of human skeleton and ancient pottery by the farmers.
2005-06 excavation at Sinauli:
In the 2005-06 excavation led by DV Sharma, ASI found more than a hundred burials that dates back to 2200–1800 BCE. The burials are all oriented in a NW-SE direction and most are identified as primary burials. Some of the burials are identified as secondary, multiple and symbolic burials. The age of the buried starts from 1–2 years and includes all age groups and both male and female.
Grave goods generally consisted of odd number of vases/bowls placed near the head, with dish-on-stand usually placed below the hip area as well as flask-shaped vessels, terracotta figurines, gold bracelets and copper bangles, beads of semi-precious stones (two necklaces of long barrel shape), steatite, faience, and glass.
The two antennae swords from Sinauli, one found in situ in a grave with a copper sheath, has similarities to the Copper Hoard Type in a Late Harappan context. A dish-on-stand and a violin-shaped flat copper container are included in other important grave goods from Sinauli. The survey found that a dish-on-stand was usually placed below the hip area, but in some cases was placed near the head or feet. The stand is holding the head of a goat in one case. Remains of a burnt brick wall with a finished inner surface ran along the eastern side of the burial.
Discovery of chariots in 2008 excavation:
Trial excavations conducted at Sinauli in March-May 2018 have yielded the remains of several coffin burials and three full-sized "chariots". According to ASI excavations director Sanjay Manjul the burials may belong to the period c. 2000 - 1800 BCE. Other discoveries include copper helmets, copper antenna swords, copper swords, a ladle made of copper, large terracotta pots, red vases with flaring rims, copper nails and beads. Wooden coffins were first discovered at Harappa in Punjab and then from Dholavira in Gujarat.
Local youths, after giving a basic training, were also enlisted into the excavation activities by the ASI. Seven human burials - including three coffin burials - have been excavated by the ASI at Sinauli in 2018. In all burials the head was found to be on the northern side, with pottery beyond the head and on the south after the feet. The copper objects are kept below the sarcophagi.