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Cover Story

Origin of Gujarat: Lost & Found?

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It was a mythical land of legendary warriors. But Anarthapura got lost in time. Recent findings bring hope, though. Can the 3rd century BC city be brought back to life?

The past is being dug up in chief minister Narendra Modi's backyard. Recently-discovered Anarthapura, near Vadnagar, Modi's hometown, was known for its warriors in the 2nd and 3rd century BC. Gujarat's historians are excited at the discovery of a four-km long fortification south-west of Taranga Hills, comprising Jogida, Samadia Sor and Dhagolia, in Mehsana district. They have all the reasons to believe that this could be the city of Anarthpura, the fabled land and the possible origin of Gujarat.

Early references to this city talk about Anartha, Anarthapura or the Giri Durga of Anartha. One of the first archaeological records of Anartha is found in a rock inscription in Junagadh (150 AD) of Mahakshatrapa Rudradaman. In this inscription, present day north Gujarat has been referred to as Anartha.

Another reference is in the records by Maitraka rulers of Valabhi, between 505 AD and 648 AD, especially those relating to land grants for Brahmins of Anarthapura and Anandapura. Most scholars believe both these terms were used for Vadnagar. James Campbell in 1896 asserted that the oldest Puranic legend regarding Gujarat appears to be that of the holy king Anartha. The Mahabharata frequently refers to Anartha and Anartaka. But by the middle of the 7th century, Anarthpura was a forgotten name.

This fact is supported by the records of Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang), who visited Anandapura (Onan-to-pu-lo ) in 641 AD. "Vadnagar then could have been an ancillary settlement of it, " says director of state archaeology department, YS Rawat.

With the development of agriculture, trade and commerce, the small settlement of Vadnagar prospered rapidly and ultimately was transformed into a centre of greater socio-economic activities due to its geographical setting that was more suitable to meet the requirements of an increased population. Anarthapura, though, was lost. Has it been found again?

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