KHARAGPUR: An archaeological study into the history of Bengal, being conducted by a team from IIT Kharagpur, has stumbled upon an exciting find: King Sandrocottus, mentioned by Greek explorer Megasthenes, was not Chandragupta Maurya, but Chandraketu, whose fort Chandraketugarh is in present-day North 24-Parganas, about 35km from Kolkata.
Megasthenes visited India in the third century BC, after Alexandar’s invasion of India, and gives a detailed account of what he saw in ‘Indica’.Here he mentions King Sandrocottus as one of the most powerful kings of Gangahriday , the Gangetic delta that spread over the five mouths of the river and was a continuum of a landmass comprising Anga, Banga and Kalinga.
The exploration, that has been underway for some months now, centres around Chandraketugarh. Interestingly, it is progressing in tan dem with the one that is being conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the leadership of P Mishra, the recently retired director-general of ASI. The IIT faculty members who have been exploring the site say they have been able to find a direct correlation to certain names and contexts mentioned by Megasthenes in `Indica’ to that related to Chandraketugarh. In fact, they claim to have proof that Sandrocottus was Chandraketu.
“The popular belief is that Chandraketu was Chandra gupta Maurya,” said Joy Sen, head of IIT Kgp’s architecture department, the principal investigator of the project being conducted under the institute’s Sandhi initiative, funded by the ministry of human resources development. “But we will disprove that. The Greek account mentions Xandramese, who is definitely not Nanda, predecessor of Chandragupta Maurya. Again, Sandrocyptus of the Greek account was not Bindusara of the Mauryan dynasty, ” he added. What this means is that Chandraketu was a far mo re powerful king of Anga desh towards the end of the 5th century or beginning of the 4th century -so powerful, that Alexander himself met him.
This has helped the faculty members to prove, they say, the very important point that it was not Magadha of Chandragupta Maurya but Angadesha that was the more important kingdom at that time. In fact, Magadha, which came a couple of centuries later, was smaller than Angadesh, which was what undivided Bengal looked like at that time. It was much later that this got divided into Anga, Banga and Kalinga, when the supremacy of the Bengal kings started waning.
“We have been able to trace the antiquity of Bengal to 2,000 BC, and have been able to show how, right from the time of the `Ramayana’ through the `Mahabharata’, and Jain and Buddhist texts like `Jaina Bhagabati Sukta’ and ` Anguttaranikaya’, there is a clear thread that shows how prosperous and powerful dynas ties ruled Angadesh and have always been held in high esteem by the rest of India,” said Joy Sen.
Sen added that Sandrocottus, according to Megasthenes, had a large empire and they will prove that its outlines were different from the Mauryan empire, which did not even include Kalinga. So Palibothra, identified as Pataliputra, was the capital of Sandrocottus and not the Mauryas, whose capital was Giribraja at that time. Even social customs like slavery, that characterized the Mauryan empire, was unknown in Sandrocottus, according to the Greek account. “The Mauryan dynasty was characterized by fast-spreading Buddhism, but Greeks do not mention Buddha or Ashoka, showing that the Eastern civilization was far older and flourished under the eastern Magadhan-Anga king Chandraketu,” Sen concluded.
The team of leading geo-technology faculty members like Abhijit Mukherjee, Probal Sengupta, Arindam Basu and William Mohanty is almost ready with its document that will be showcased at the India Habitat Centre this year in the presence of scholars from ASI, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts, ministry of culture, MHRD and Unesco. German Indologist Bettina Baumeur is also associated with the project.