The Lost Cities of India – Their Story

There are cities mentioned in ancient literature that are believed to have existed hundreds of years ago. These cities were real; they breathed life and prosperity. Yet, today, there is almost no trace that they ever actually existed.

On the eastern shore of Tamil Nadu, in the Nagapattinam district, lies the quaint town of Poompugar. The town dates back to the fourth century BC, when it was a bustling harbour city known as Kaveri Poompattinam. Soon, the town became the seat of the Chola dynasty in Tamilakam. Poompugarcrowns the narrowest tip of the Kaveri coastline; ironically, unbeknownst to its inhabitants, this would prove to be their biggest threat. As fate would have it, the city became engulfed in several floods and progressively eroded until it washed away entirely, according to research conducted by the National Institute of Marine Archaeology. From the architecture of the ancient town, it appears that the people of Poompugar were advanced and progressive. The town had two districts, separated by rows of gardens and orchards. By day, the gardens were transformed into busy daily markets, which were organised under the shade of large trees. By night, these gardens would return to their peaceful existence. In recent years, stretches of pier walls and submerged wharves have been excavated from the area, which validate the various references to the city in literature. In addition to the exhumed masonry, pottery belonging to the Poompugar civilisation has also been discovered.

    

Vijayanagara was the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, whose reach extended across South India, around 1500 AD. Today, the ruins of the medieval city rest around the modern-day town of Hampi. During its zenith, the town was home to 5,00,000 people, making it the second most populous city in the world after Beijing, according to population estimates of those times. Vijayanagara thrived between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, but it was also during this time that tensions between the empire and the neighbouring Muslim kingdoms intensified. The neighbouring rulers, who had established a foothold in the Northern Deccan, were known together as the Deccan Sultanates. It was in 1565 that the Vijayanagara kingdom was seized by the Sultanates after a long and laborious fight. They proceeded to annihilate the city and its people. Though the dynasty lived on post this colossal blow, the town was abandoned and never re-built. Several artefacts have been found at the present day Vijayanagara, which indicate that the city had become a dense settlement well before an empire was established. Amongst the artefacts are ash mounds, megalithic cemeteries, rock art and temples. 

    

Two of the oldest lost cities in India date back to the Indus Valley Civilsation. Situated in the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan, lies the small town of Kalibangan, whose excavation began in 1969. According to the full excavation report published in 2003, it appears that Kalibangan was a major regional capital of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The ancient town is noted for its unique fire alters as well as the earliest ploughed fields in the world.

    

Like Kalibangan, the tiny town of Lothal, located in Bhal, Gujarat came into existence around 3,700 BC, during the Indus Valley Civilisation. A surprising discovery made by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1960 was that Lothal contained the first ever dock in the world, which connected the city to the Sabarmati River, to trade routes between Harappan cities and the Saurashtra belt. The city was the linchpin for the trade of ornaments, beads and gems between India and West Asia and Africa, and the region was famous for its exquisite bead-making techniques. 

    

Scientists have unfolded myriad clues over the years about the civilisations that these lost cities once held. They have found that some cities, still alive in legends and myths, have been lost in the sands of time and the location today, is untraceable. Other cities, whose locations are known, are abandoned, dilapidated and uninhabited. Yet, whatever the status of these cities today, they provide us a tiny, much-needed window to delve deeper into the lives of our ancestors. 

Image References: www.trodly.com, www.tourism-of-india.com, creative.sulekha.com, ramanan50.wordpress.com, niobioinformatics.in, www.deccanheritagefoundation.org, www.gizmodo.in, furn.wonderenergybar.com,  www.harappa.com, kalyan98.wordpress.com, en.wikipedia.org.
 

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