Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Excavations at Chandore 2012

The Ancient Temple complex at Chandore (18 09’ 52” N; 73 11’ 02” S) is situated near the hamlet of Chambharpada at Chandhore Village, Tal Mangaon, Dist Raigad, Maharashtra. The site was discovered in 2011 by a joint team of members from the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (CEMS), University of Mumbai and the India Study Centre (INSTUCEN), Mumbai. These explorations were carried out in March 2011 (Dalal 2012). (See earlier post fromMay 2011)

After explorations it was decided to apply for permission to the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct archaeological investigations (both excavations and clearance) at the site in the 2011-2012 Season. The CEMS applied in conjunction with the India Study Centre Trust (INSTUCEN), Mumbai.  Permission was granted and the excavations carried out under the direction of the author along with the past and present students of the CEMS.

The Site

The ancient site of Chandore is located less than half a kilometer to the east of the modern village of Chandhore opposite (and to the west of) the hamlet of Chambharpada. This site is essentially a cluster of Temples/Temple Plinths and lies close to the medieval coastal port site of Mhasla and the other medieval port sites on the Rajapur Creek.

It is also located along the very road that leads from the interiors of Maharashtra to the Rajapur creek and eventually the coast. It is equidistant from Goregaon and Mangaon and would have been the convergence centre for the routes from the north (via Mangaon) and south (via Goregaon) flow of traffic of goods from the interior to the ports of the Konkan. It thus lies on a critical node of one the most viable trade routes in this region.

The ancient site itself is made up of a complex of temples/temple plinths and assorted structural and sculptural members. The plinths in turn can be divided into 2 sub complexes – divided by the Chandore-Govele road - the first opposite the Chambharpada and the second about 100m to the west of the Chambharpada. The first group/complex of temples includes a single large disturbed plinth with an adjacent tank/step well with a smaller temple and nandimandapa. The second group/complex (north of the first group and west of Chambharpada) consists of at least two more temple plinths (one intact and exposed and the other buried and only partially exposed) and a host of smaller structure bases and scattered sculptural members.

The Excavations
The excavations per se were carried out on the eastern side of Complex1 - Plinth 1. Two quadrants each measuring 2.5 x 2.5m were taken up for excavations. The reason for the location of the trench was the slope and the possible accumulation of debris due to the obstruction of the natural flow of rain borne soil and artefacts by Plinth 1. 

The excavations revealed a very small deposit between 30 and 70cm. the soil excavated was uniform and no real layers with the exception of humus discolouration were visible. The bedrock (laterite) locally known as kaatal was exposed in both quadrants. A large number of potsherds of coarse Red and Grey wares, bangle fragments of glass, a broken wound (black) glass bead, a fragment of Monochrome Glazed Ware – a West Asian import (a second example was found whilst clearing the debris on the steps of the tank), a silver Gadhaiya coin (Maheshwari 2010: 83, Cat No. 204-244) and a large number of retouched stone tools (microliths) and tool making debris were recovered from the trench.

The bangles are mainly opaque black with a few green and fewer blue/bichrome blue examples. Amongst the large number of bangle fragments are few with coloured appliqué glass dots reminiscent of similar bangles found at Sanjan (Gupta et. al. 2003; 2004) and dated between the 9th and 12th c AD.

The microliths are a separate and unique ‘problem’. To the best of the authors knowledge these are the first microliths excavated in a stratified context in the Konkan. They require a serious and dedicated study and will be dealt with separately and in detail at a later stage.

Suffice to say that the microliths take back the antiquity of human occupation at Chandhore to at least the 2nd millennium BC.

In conclusion, the sculptural material, the hero/sati stones, the pillars and the Gadhaiya coin all point out to a 10th to 13th c AD period for the site. The Monochrome Glazed Ware and a few very specific types of decorated glass bangles point to a slightly later terminal date of approximately the 15th c AD.

All these conclusions are preliminary and much more work is needed to ascertain the facts.

The excavation at Chandhore was carried out by the Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai in partnership with the India Study Centre Trust (INSTUCEN), Mumbai.

I am very grateful to the Archaeological Survey of India; the Vice-Chancellor, University of Mumbai; the Director of the Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai; Mr. Samuel Nazareth, Dr Aravind Jamkhedkar, Dr Suraj Pandit and Dr Abhijit Dandekar.

Special mention must also be made of Dr B. Vaidyanathan who almost single-handedly created the detailed site plan for the first season of excavations.

I am also indebted to the staff at the department, all of my students past and present who participated in the excavations and the labourers and villagers of Chandhore for all their help and patience.

And finally, my sincerest thanks to Siddharth Kale, Tukaram Kadam and Andre Baptista for being the pillars on whom I could lean with effrontery.


  1. This is so wonderful to read about!! Wish we could come and see this place sometime!

    1. Thank you. We were in field from the 28th of May to the 8th of June and would have loved to have you guys over. We'll be back there after Divali and you folks are most welcome.