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The Demise of Angkor Wat

In the sixth century AD, a new kingdom emerged in mainland South-East Asia. Based in Cambodia, it absorbed the Funan kingdom established by the brahmin Kaundinya and emerged as the Khemer kingdom of Angkor. Their kings chose names ending in -varman like the Pallava kings of Kanchi and constructed one of the largest Hindu temples outside India.

bq. The temples of Angkor, built from 879 – 1191AD, when the Khmer civilization was at the height of its development, represent one of humankind’s most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From the great citadel of Angkor, the kings of the Khmer empire ruled over a vast domain that reached from what is now southern Vietnam to Yunan, China and from Vietnam westward to the Bay of Bengal. The structures one sees at Angkor today, more than 100 temples in all, are the surviving religious remains of a grand social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings – palaces, public buildings, and houses – were all built of wood and are long since decayed and gone.

The City of Angkor was also magnificient

bq. They learned the metropolitan area extended far beyond Angkor Thom, the 700-year-old walled city that houses Angkor Wat. Angkor was home to about 750,000 people and covered some 1,000 square kilometers (385 square miles) $(O m(Buch larger than any other preindustrial development and similar to the shape and size of modern cities, Fletcher said.

bq. “It’s like a Los Angeles. It’s not like Hong Kong,” he said. “Lots and lots of open space, big gaps around the houses, huge freeways, which are the canals in this case.” The city’s economy was based on rice, and rice paddies spread along dozens of canals, at least one up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) long. A network of reservoirs, canals, and bridges was created to move people and goods and to ensure there was enough water to grow rice. Angkor engineers even changed the direction that some rivers flowed in what essentially was “a human-built landscape for growing rice,” Fletcher said.

The general reason mentioned for the demise of this kingdom is an attack by the Thais in 1431. But now scientists think that the demise happened much before, due to the evils of urban societies, like ecological failure and infrastructure breakdown. They think it is important to study these reasons as it can provide lessons in dealing with problems many urban societies are facing today.

bq. Fletcher, a professor at the University of Sydney, theorizes that population pressures and water woes made it harder to trade and communicate. People began migrating south toward the area around what is now Phnom Penh, where subsequent capitals were set up.

bq. The growing population also forced people to venture into the nearby Kulen hills to cut down trees for fuel and to clear land for growing rice. That would have resulted in rain runoff carrying sediment down into the canal network, Evans said. “Anything that happened to that water management system would have had a great deal of consequence for all of the people,” he said. [“ENN”:http://www.enn.com/news/2004-06-10/s_24741.asp]

In another report from Cambodia, India has promised to donate $5.5 million for the restoration of the Ta Prohm temple at the Angkor Wat site.

bq. The Ta Prohm is a magnificent temple-monastery complex built in the South Indian architectural style that once housed nearly 13,000 monks and other attendants. Angkor Wat is the largest temple area in the world..

bq. Ta Prohm has been left by archaeologists in its original jungle-covered state, some of its walls cracked apart by tree roots, making it an exotic subject for photographers and a popular destination for tourists. It was built by one of the greatest Khmer Kings, Jayavarman VII, who also built Angkor Thom as his capital and the Bayon as his state temple where a mix of Buddhist and Hindu deities were worshipped. [“Big News Network”:http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/?sid=3224cf9b4b8c1049]

Srijith has “great photographs”:http://www.pbase.com/srijith/angkor of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm

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Saraswati Heritage Project: Scrapped ?

“The excavations at Adi Badri”:http://varnam.nationalinterest.in/archives/000195.html in Haryana revealed a 300 AD Kushan site. “Excavations in Dholavira”:http://varnam.nationalinterest.in/archives/000328.html in Kutch revealed one the world’s oldest stadiums and sign boards. These are two sites along the path of the mythical Saraswati river. These excavations would have revealed more about our past, and answered questions like: “Were the Harappans the Vedic people”:http://varnam.nationalinterest.in/archives/000291.html ? Some eminent historians had already “opposed these excavations”:http://varnam.nationalinterest.in/archives/000042.html as it was seen as an attempt to push the antiquity of Indian Civilization. But now there are indications that “The Saraswati Heritage Project” will be scrapped.

bq. A pet project of the then culture minister Jagmohan, officials now indicate that it would be certainly axed. Yet, those involved with the Rs 4.98-crore project feel if this is done, it would be grossly unfair and a setback to archaeology and academics. “The Saraswati Heritage Project was not part of any saffronisation progr-amme,” clarifies R S Bisht, project director and former joint DG of ASI.

bq. Instead, Bisht claims that the project is aimed at “settling the issues of different schools of thought” on the existence of the Saraswati. He says it is entirely based on scientific principles with stress on inter-disciplinary archaeological research in which the help of prestigious institutions like IITs and the Birbal Sahni Institution is being taken.

bq. So far, excavation has already been undertaken in 10 places � Adi Badri, Thanesar, Sandhauli, Bhirrana, Hansi (all in Haryana), Baror, Tarkhanwala Dhera, Chak 86 (all in Rajasthan), Dholavira and Juni Karan in Gujarat. The project’s action taken report claims that during the excavation, remains from the pre-Harappan, Harappan and even medieval times have been discovered. [“Times of India”:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/761548.cms]

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Parsi History

bq. In the seventh century, Arab armies invaded Persia. Some Zoroastrians were converted to Islam and some preferred to migrate to India, which they did from the early eighth century. They too came to western India where they already had trading contacts, and established large settlements to the north of Mumbai, such as the one at Sanjan. Their descendants founded a community later known as Parsi, reflecting the land of their origin and their language. Some settled in rural areas but close to centres of trade; others were more active in the trading circuits of the time. [from Early India by Romila Thapar]

Now an archaeological dig at Sanjan is providing more information about the first Parsi settlement in India.

bq. The find at Sanjan’s Varoli riverside dig includes six whole skeletons and a few partial ones, coins, pieces of pottery, glass and beads. After being analysed by paleo-anthropologist S.R. Walimbe of Pune’s Deccan College, the skeletons? which were found lying with their hands crossed and legs tied together?will be sent to Oxford University for carbon dating and DNA testing to find out if they are of Parsis.

bq. Knowledge of Parsi history is only from the quasi-historical document, the ‘Kissei-Sanjan’ and from oral tradition. “We know of Parsis living in Sanjan from the 7th century (under the patronage of the Hindu ruler Jadi Rana) to the late 14th century when the place was invaded by a general of Mahmud Tughlak,” said historian Homi Dhalla, who is the president of the WZCG.

bq. “But there has been little evidence to indicate when and how they had come and the events they lived through. We are excited because these finds may provide the proof we need.” Confirming this, Ms Gokhale said that five of the 32 Indian and Persian coins date back to the seventh and eighth centuries. She has also found allusions to a fire altar?the temple where a flame is kept burning as a symbol of the cycle of life and eternal recurrence?on the sole Sassanian coin, which is from the 7th century.

bq. “A one-foot turquoise-blue ceramic vase and a small china celadon dish have been pieced together. Blue pottery was manufactured at Siraf in Iran and at Basra in Iraq in the 7th and 8th centuries and was in use in many Asian countries until the 11th century, when the preference for blue was possibly replaced by the pale green of celadon pottery. But the remains unearthed at Sanjan reveal a continuity in the usage of blue pottery as well as celadon?which probably means that there was a flourishing trade between Iran, Iraq and South Gujarat,” he added. [“Times of India”:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/html/uncomp/articleshow?msid=43207293]

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Bactrian Gold

Bactria, located in Northern Afghanistan between the Hindu Kush mountains and Oxus river, was the eastern province of the Persians before it was conquered by the Greeks. Something that has survived even after the Soviet and Taliban rule is their gold. Now for the first time this ancient gold will be available for the whole world to see.

bq. While other important archaeological sites are plundered or have been ruined by war, the Bactrian gold, discovered by a Soviet team near the northern town of Shiberghan just before the Red Army invasion of 1979, has had a number of narrow escapes, adding to its allure and mystery.

bq. An Afghan official who viewed the Bactrian gold recently in an underground vault in the heavily guarded presidential palace in Kabul described the pieces he saw, including an intricately designed belt and a gold broach, as “priceless”. [“Al Jazeera”:http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D6A2AC7E-96D1-4CDF-8510-1FD7126CC672.htm]

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Rama's Bridge

Two years back there was a news about a satellite photo from NASA showing what looked like a bridge between India and Sri Lanka. The buzz was that we had discovered the bridge that Rama had built in the mythology Ramayana. The "Hindustan Times":http://www.rense.com/general30/nasa.htm had written

bq. The bridge’s unique curvature and composition by age reveals that it is man-made. Legend as well as Archeological studies reveal that the first signs of human inhabitants in Sri Lanka date back to the primitive age, about 1,750,000 years ago and the bridge’s age is also almost equivalent.

But according to the findings at the Centre for Remote Sensing (CRS) of Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi, the "bridge is only 3500 years old":http://www.gisdevelopment.net/news/viewn.asp?id=GIS:N_ytfseizr

bq. Carbon dating of ancient beaches found west of Uchichipuli in Ramanath puram district put their age at 3,500 years. These were clear examples that the sea had receded from Thiruthurai poondi and Kodiyakarai as well as from Ramanathapuram to the west of Unhchipuli, around 3,500 years ago. The sea may have receded to Pamban only during this period. Because of such divergent littoral currents, there remained a current shadow zone between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar and hence the sand brought by the currents had been dumped in a linear pattern in the current shadow zone. Corals might have accumulated over these linear sand bodies, later on Ramasamy said. So the land bridge is only the sand, which had begun accumulating in the current shadow zone 3,500 years back, and continues to the present day. Therefore, the age of the Adam’s bridge could only be 3,500 years old, he asserted.

Now "floating stones":http://www.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=39237&cat=India have been discovered in Rameshwaram.

bq. G. Mohan Das, a local historian and caretaker of the stones in the temple, said that these stones could have been the kind used to build the mythological bridge. "The history of these floating stones is that when Lord Rama made a bridge to trek to Lanka to bring back his consort Sita, these are the same stones used. But today’s educated people do not agree to it. They believe it is a coral which is in Australia, Chennai, in small islands. We believe there is no difference in these stones. Both the stones do not have air in them. The composition is the same and it has 40 kinds of chemicals," he said.

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