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Once there was Junnar
Maharashtra's earliest kings ruled from here, just an hour from Pune.
Archaeologists at the Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute have since 2005 immersed themselves in the exploration of a site at Junnar, about 100 km from Pune, that has hoisted up a range of evidences tracing a trade link between the Romans and the Satavahanas, the earliest rulers of Maharashtra (230 BC).
"Junnar, along with Paithan in Marathwada region, and Amaravati in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, was an important seat of power for the Satavahanas, whose reign of over four centuries covered parts of western, southern and central India, " says team leader Vasant Shinde.
The trade link was mainly through the sea route as the Romans would take a circuitous way to travel around Africa and reach the Persian Gulf coast between Iran and the Arabian peninsula in south-west Asia. Further, they would arrive at the coast of Makran that stretches along south Balochistan, Iran and Pakistan, and would head for Bharuch, which was then among the biggest ocean-going ports on the Arabian sea coast in India.
From Bharuch, the Roman traders would spread out to smaller ports like Kalyan in the Konkan coast, Nala Sopara in Thane and Chaul in Raigad district. "Kalyan was a major loading and offloading centre from where the traders would proceed by road to Junnar via Naneghat, " says Shreekant Jadhav, who's helping Shinde in the ambitious endeavour.
Archaeological remains like clayware, utensils, farm and industrial implements, ornaments and shells found at the site provide sufficient evidence of influence over the Junnar region of not just the Romans but also dynasties like the Mauryans from northern India and the Kshatrapas from neighbouring Gujarat.
Interestingly, Junnar has one of the largest concentration of Buddhist caves (around 200) commissioned by the Satavahana rulers. Similarly, the caves at Naneghat, 20 km from Junnar, provide a sufficient number of ancient inscriptions.
BC Deotare, another archaeologist at the institute, started an excavation at Kholapur village in Amravati district in 2007. The excavation, part of a UGCsponsored project on the late Holocene environment and agriculture practices in the Purna basin of Vidarbha, suggested the site was thriving during the 6th century and, extent-wise, it seemed to be one of the largest early historic settlements in central India.
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