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Chandraketugarh at a Glance

Location

Coastal West Bengal, around 34 kilometres from Kolkata. Two sites are identifiable within the main site, the first is an excavated mound and the second is called Khana Mihirer Dhipi. It is near a village called Berachampa in the North 24 Parganas, on latitude 22.41’N and 88.42’E. The site can be reached by both train and car.

History

This early historic urban site, known since the early 20th century, has been identified as the capital of ancient Vanga and also the centre of the kingdom Gangaridai mentioned by Ptolemy. Site occupation begins from the pre-Mauryan and continues through the Kushana, Sunga, Gupta to the Pala period. This was a major entrepôt of the contemporary Indian Ocean trade, evident from ample archaeological evidence of not just indigenous but Roman antiquities and terracotta figurines not of the traditional Indian genre. It is also famous worldwide for being at the centre of the illegal trade in antiquities, which are recovered mostly through the unauthorised digging activities of the villagers. 

Etymology

Said to be named after a king called Chandraketu whom several authorities believe to be fictitious while others claim that he was none other than Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya dynasty. Khana Mihirer Dhipi is named after two popular characters in history: Khana was believed to be the daughter of the astrologer-mathematician Varahamihira, whose accuracy in prediction threatened even the authority of Varahamihira, who eventually conspired to cut her tongue off and silence her. ‘Khanar Vachan’ (the words of Khana) is still a popular expression for the inevitability of an occurrence.

Heritage Value

The site of Chandraketugarh has become relevant today, more because of its presence at the centre of a wide global illegal antiquities trade network than for its historical importance. Due to inefficient authorities responsible for protecting and preserving heritage sites and a lack of archaeological involvement in the site, several networks have been formed that benefit from the unsupervised excavations and diggings at the site. The artefacts recovered through such meass are sold to auctioning houses as big as Sotheby’s or Christie’s and private collectors who obtain them illegally.