Monday, May 8, 2017


It is impossible to understand the Hindu festivals of India without a knowledge of the lactate cultures of South Asia during the third millennium BC which developed the socio-religious systems that in the middle of the first millennium  with the Guptas and the first law-giver Manu created the Hindu worship as a religion, and infact the first Hindu temples only appeared in the eleventh century, great examples being the Hoysala temples of Karnataka. Cattle –keeping was the earliest base for these protohistoric lactate cultures and these had a profound effect on the development of Indian civilization  and in turn affected the civilizations of Egypt and West Asia upto the Mediterranean regions of Crete and Mycenae where bull cults developed, and influenced the lactate Danubian proto-cultures, and the development of earliest cultures in the basins and river valleys of central Europe. The first animals we find in Indian rock-art are deer and wild cattle. Later on around 4-3000 BCE we find domestic cattle in the rock paintings of India and this was the early period of agriculture and the beginning of river valley civilizationas. Agriculture with its food surpluses gave us the very first civilization in the Indus valley and its manifestation in the visual arts, of which the present tribal art of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand is a continuing example, although we are confused about the exact authenticity of dates for the similar wall murals of Catal-Huyuk to which European scholars have ascribed dates several thousand years earlier ?

I will give the description which I gave in my book Harvest Icons (1999) : “ The villagers of Jharkhand do not celebrate the Diwali or ‘Festival of Lights’as it is celebrated by the Hindus in the towns and cities of India. Here no rows and rows of fired clay oil-lamps with factory-made oil and commercial wick are used, and even candles lighting the housetops. Here instead the village folk make their own very different lamps which are in fact “everlasters” in that they are not cups containing oil but instead made with a kind of “wax substitute” as I will describe, and these lamps with a twined cloth wick of the simplest kind burn longer that oil lamps or candles, singly or in pairs over doorways and arches through which the courtyard of a house is entered, or in small , empty idol-less alcoves as tribute to the eternal who creates and keeps the creation going – of which the cattle are the greatest manifestation in a plough agriculture society. The night before the Hindu Diwali in the towns the Sohrai lamps are lit and will burn every night for three days. The Sohrai diyas or lights are made separately for each of the three nights. For this first night on the eve of the Hindu Diwali clay mixed with cowdung and Ghee ( clarified butter-fat) is lit, the braided cloth wick burning steadily for several hours until the oil-lamp itself is consumed. The second night (Diwali in towns) clay mixed with rice flour and Ghee  diya is made and lit. Finally on the third night, the night of the Sohrai harvest festival in the village the third diya, made with opnly rice flour and Ghee is lit. This is the light of the Sohrai.  The Sohrai is a day after the Hindu Diwali. “

And wherever we find a Hindu festival we shall find its earlier village counterpart celebration taking place the day after. For those who have discovered this the two Indias come out in clear perspective. The word Sohrai itself is a Mundaric word for the stick which is used to drive cattle as well as close the gate of the cattle pen  (Soro). In the ancient Indian evidences of this festival we find in the Ramayana of Valmiki the reference that the Diwali or festival of lights was first celebrated when Lord Ram returned from his fourteen year forest exile to his capital of Ayodhya with his wife Sita and his brother Laxman. On the day of his return with his army of vanaras or forest tribes the night was celebrated with a display of lights. The story is the first mention in a text. But in the villages of India the festival of lights has a different meaning as it is strictly associated with the harvest of rice in November and the celebration of the cattle which have brought food to the village, and so far as to the point of a “bull-fight” which is called Khuta Bandhana the day after Sohrai, which means “tying to the stake” that is symbolic of the domestication of cattle and not as simple as the British ethnographers thought as being a replacement of the human sacrifice called Meriah. Here the bulls are tied to stakes in a large field where groups of men go to them and “play” with them, throwing clothes at them or exciting them wit the skin of a jackal. Three men usually play mandar drums singing to the bull about what a nice animal it is. This custom was the origin of the Spanish bullfight when the gypsies carried these traditions to Europe. How different is this from the Hindu Diwali!!

In the Hindu calendar the festival of Diwali begins with a festival called Dhanteras in which the Hindu financial year starts. This is five  days before Diwali.The second day is NarakaChaturdani) marking the slaying of the demon by Lord Krishna. The third day (as in ancient Egyptian bull cults) is the moonless night of Amasya
Aqnd marks the worship of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi who is often symbolized by the cow. The fourth day is marking Vishnu’s banishment of Bali to the patala (underworld). All this is heavy Hindu mythology which has little to do with existing village traditions. On the fifth day sisters invite brothers to eat sweets in a display of affection and the hindus say mountains of sweets are necessary to represent Mount Meru of the Krishna legend.

However, we see that in the archaic traditions of the village the word Diwali comes from the simple word for an oil light called diya. In its sanskritized form it begins to change its meaning in Deepawali which in Sanskrit means “a row of lights”, which is substantially different in meaning seen in context. Sanskritization etymologically means the change of cultural traditions. Its mythology is different and old significances are dressed up to fit a new form of worship. It is thus a weapon of colonial conquest.

As we have seen the simple origins of this festival in the villages of India, and here specifically referring to the forest villages of which Jharkhand has perhaps the largest remaining share in India, the festival is celebrated among the Scheduled Castes which are described officially as “Semi-Hinduized Aborigines”. These people are exactly the same as the tribals (Adivasi first settlers) who are indigenous peoples of a similar lactate forest culture, and in this festival we find the ancient root-culture being practiced in its proto-historic form. It is of interest that on the moonless night called Amasya  (the third day of the Hindu Diwali) the Santal tribals of Jharkhand mark the day by cleaning the cowsheds, washing the cattle, putting oil on the hooves and horns of their cattle, and some vermilion is put on the oiled horns and foreheads of the animals. This is called their Bandhana Porob which is similar to the Bandhan or staking of cattle referred to practiced by their Scheduled Caste neighbours such as the Kurmis.  The Kurmis also on the Sohrai day wash the cattle and anoint them with oil and vermilion, and tie a sheaf of green rice on their foreheads between the horns. They also put “spots” on the cattle which are produced by dipping the clay cups of Diwali in red blue or other colors. It is of note that in the rockart of Hazaribagh such circles on the body of a wheeled animal have been found (Isco rock-art, Panel 3, 3500 BCE)Similar forms found in the village mural paintings in the Hazaribagh villages lend credence to a continuing tradition, and such continuity of a cattle cult have been brought to light between the rock-art of Bhimbetka (a World Heritage site near Bhopal) and the villages of Smardha near them. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that the village tradition of lighting oil lamps in cattle sheds continues in rural Bengal and Bangladesh on this festival. Another important fact is that firecrackers are never used during Diwali or Sohrai in the villages nor have I noted any such tradition. They would obviously also frighten the cattle. Firecrackers are obviously a modern urban custom.

Among the Kurmis of Hazaribagh the cattle are taken to the nearby forest for grazing on the morning of the Sohrai dayand brought home before noon when they come into the houses over a special welcome path called an aripan which is made by dripping rice-flour gruel into a string of circles which resemble cattle hooves at the head of which a bunch of a forest grass (Latlatiya) is placed in a clay cone. Such strings of circles are commonly found in the rock paintings associated with cattle and it is an old tradition of five thousand years or more. The mud houses of our forest villages have been repaired after the rainy monsoon season and their walls are now readied for painting with large murals covering almost all the wall spaces bothg inside and outside, displaying the fantastic art of Sohrai done by the village women in a continuing matriarchal tradition handed down from mother to daughter and called Ma-Beti Parampara. Among the Kurmis, Ganjus and Oraons of certain villages it is a painted art, among others it is a comb cut sgraffito art.  In the painted Sohrai red, black and white earth colors are used mixed with water and painted on the walls using a crushed stem called datwan. In the comb cut version first a black surface is laid on with black manganese color found in the fields near the jungle, then a white layer of kaolin or brilliant white earth dug out from chalk deposits in the jungle, are laid over this. When the white is cut with combs by the women the black underground appears in  exquite forms.  The painted Sohrai is either cattle forms with the figure of the animal creator deity Pashupati (Lord of Animals) standing on the back, or intersecting circles making a lotus (Kamalban) so common in the Indus valley painted pottery, or the anthropomorphic Pipal (Ficus religiosa) and other zoomorphic forms, but no Hindu deity is ever found. The comb cut art is called Khovar (for its association withy the decoration of bridal rooms)which is largely decorative plant motifs in the valley villages and wild animal forms in the hill villages, while the Ganju tribals in the forests paint the Sohrai with wild animal forms and the Oraons paint huge floral forms on their mud houses.

The day after the cattle welcome on Sohrai Puja is the day devoted especially to the Bulls. The bulls are staked in  different places in a big field and groups of men go and tease them by waving cloths or skins of jackals, and a few men carrying drums approach them singing special songs in their praise. The Khuta means the post to which the bull is tied, and Bandhan means “to tie”. This is the remnant of a five thousand year old event when the first cattle were domesticated! One is reminded that the bull cults of Europe, in Crete and Mycenae, were since earliest times similar in their worship of cattle.

When all is said and done we are painfully aware of how ancient traditions are destroyed by dominant cultures to propagate a new faith and new way of life in the interests of a dominant culture. Here in Jharkhand we have been witness to the destruction of the tribal way of life – especially in the forest villages – to make way for huge opencast coal and iron ore mining projects, big dams, railways and highways to export mine produce, and the systematic dispossession and brutalization of tribes to give economic benefits of which the tribals are not themselves the beneficiaries because the wealth is appropriated by the state and its middle-men and the big corporations. In Jharkhand we see the obliteration of cultures which are the last flowering of an ancient world, and such places are increasingly rare in our modern industrialized world. We are replacing these self-sufficient systems with no sustainable options and which languish as the agricultural fields and forests are mined and watch helplessly as the cattle and agricultural way of life which Sohrai represents is cruelly and mercilessly destroyed forever and then they will be homeless migrants who will have to go in search of sustenance to the towns and big cities…

                                                                   Bulu Imam
Sanskriti, Dipugarha

Saturday, May 6, 2017



I am presenting in the following essay my own thoughts on “palaeolithic man in Chotanagpur”, and before I proceed with the paper itself I would like to acquaint the reader who is not familiar with palaearchaeology about some of the important things to know, and without which the full import of the essay will not be conceivable. 

Therefore, the following points may be noted,
  1. India of certain typical stone formations or layers formed during the earth’s own formation during the Pre-Cambrian period hundreds of millions of years ago when life did not exist on the earth.
  2. 2.That these stone formations were of different types each subsequently being pertinent to the evolution of palaeolithic man and the stone tools he made out of these rock strata and which in turn formed his evolution since man is the produce of his environment. These strata are the Archaean, theChronockite, thethe Dharwar and the Cambrian.
  3. It must be remembered that due to plate tectonics, or movement of the earth’s crust (much like the scales on a pangolin’s body) the present peninsular India was originally a part of Gondwanaland and connected with Africa and the European land-mass in the super-continent called Panagea.
  4. That the different techniques of making stone tools (for example Levallois flaking technique) will appear highly technical and irrelevant to the non academic reader, but it is but one kind of technique iun the stone tools assemblage of palaeolithic man whether found in the valley of Seine in France, or in the valley of Damodar in Jharkhand (which is the new name of the state created from the Chotanagpur plateau). Similarly the basins and valleys of Seine and Damodar have much in common with the basins and valleys of Seine in France, Sone and Narmada in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, or Vaal or Danube in central-eastern Europe.  Man in all the river basins emerged as a bipedal  tool making creature with fair amount of creative intelligence and aesthetic appreciation from more than thirty thousand years ago !
  5. 5. We are therefore to bear in mind that the  basins and valleys of all rivers flowing through forests are places that evidence the habitation of Early Man whether in Europe or in India. This is because man was the product of these places and as Jared Diamond has reminded us “ Geography and biogeography, not race, moulded the contrasting fates of Europeans, Asians, Native Americans, sub-Saharan Africans, and Aboriginal Australians.” Thus emerges a palaeolithic stone tool tapestry of remarkably individual identity and yet a common  form in the river basins and valleys of our Indian rivers  such as the remarkable stone tool repositories of Early Man in the Krishna and Upper Krishna basins in Tamilnadu; the Subarmukhi   and Pennar basins in Andhra Pradesh; the Tungabhadra basin and the Malaprabha basin in Belgaum district of Mysore; the Nagarjunakonda valley of Guntur district of Madhya Pradesh; the Wainganga, Godavari , and in particular the Nevasa  basin in Maharashtra which was studied in such detail by one of the doyens of Indian palaeoarchaeology, Professor H.D.Sankalia, and where for the first time the Middle Palaeolithgic period in India was recognized. The list is seemingly endless as we cover the hidden nooks and crannies where palaeolithic man emerged in the crevices of valley and along the eroded scarps of plateau and scarps of rift valleys, emerging into the modern investigations of archaeologists eager to understand the enigma of evolution and the scalpel of change upon the physique and mind of modern man.  Thousands of palaeolithic sites lie scattered across the sub-continent.
  6. Having thus established the importance of river basins and upper river valleys as the emergent habitation sites of palaeolithic societies of humans it is necessary that the importance of these environments  from a cultural standpoint as national heritage, even world heritage, is appreciated by administrators and politicians and that their destruction is prevented in the present age of economic and industrial development which first of all destroy such areas for development . Since India’s independence in 1947 such regions have been systematically targeted in the valleys and basins of the most pristine environments of hundreds of rivers across the sub-continent including some of the most important palae-archaeological  sites including the Mahanadi, Damodar, Godavari, Narmada, Sone, Sutlej, Beas  etcetera which have faced series of big dams and reservoirs submerging the ancient sites, mines and industrialized power generation that has completely vandalized them, and displaced thousands of settlements of indigenous peoples living in these areas.
  7. The process of power generation upon which the industrialization of modern India was planned consisted in big dams for hydro-electric power, huge coal mine complexes like Singrauli, on the  river Sutlej and the Govindsagar Dam, on the Damodar river in Jharkhand through the big dams of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), and countless other pristine habitats across the country. Most of the hydel power projects failed due to the siltation of dams and were converted to water reserves for coal-fired thermal power stations, and now they will come in useful for new nuclear power stations… The surface of India was dammed, mined , deforested, and the villages faced untold traumas through complete destruction while forests were completely denuded. The ecology of India underwent a drastic change. Despite glaring evidence of what such destruction constitutes the five year plans of development and power generation continued and within the last couple of decades the upper basin of the Damodar valley was attacked by the North Karanpura Coalfields Project where over three dozen vast open- cast mines are being made.
  8. The importance of the upper Damodar basin and Karanpura valley lies in the fact it represents all three phases of palaeo-archaeology in human evolution from the Lower Palaeolithic (150,000 BP) through the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic (50,000-15000 BP) closing at the end of the Late Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene about 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Modern geologists are of the view that during the last five centuries we entered a new geologic age caused by the impact of human activity  which they term Anthropocene (which is an informal geologic chronological term that serves to mark the evidence and extent of comparatively recent human activities on the planet, vastly aggravated by the industrial revolution , caused by  industrial pollution of the Earth’s land, water and atmosphere). The long period from the Lower Palaeolithic to the beginning of the Holocene evidenced  in the river valleys and basins of India  is the longest continuous record of human evolution and an invaluable source of information of how the world changed over time. It was challenged by a changing  world in the Holocene period from the domestication of animals, farming, clearing of forests over thousands of years, but during the last few centuries of colonization and introduced industrialization, the building of big dams, and vast mines, mega cities and new townships  began a rapid change in the landscape, its land, water and atmosphere , not only locally but on a global scale altering the planet itself at an ever accelerating rate.  Human dominance of the biological, chemical and geological processes of the remaining natural world are gravely threatened to the extent we can not even consider human survival in the coming centuries. This has international scientific consensus.
  9. Amidst this scenario of modern industrial evolution we have to consider the importance of how people lived in an unpolluted pre industrial world.  For this we turn to the pre historic  rock paintings of the hunters and cave dwellers  who have left their entire stone tools record in the scarps of the hillsides and the shelters of the painted caves which are among  the earliest rock paintings found in India. In these painted caves overlooking the Damodar valley the art of the pre-historic hunters  is seen  and down in the valley it continues in the art of the first settled societies who worshipped the cave paintings, a tradition still in continuance in Karanpura, and here we find the oldest living artistic tradition in the world--- the great mural painting traditions on the  walls of the village houses in the valley painted by the tribal women during the advent of spring and  marriage season (Khovar), and in the harvest festival  with the onset of the winter (Sohrai). This is the oldest and longest continuing artistic tradition in the world. The NKCP aims at annihilating this entire civilizational and evolutionary record. The last phase of the pre-historic rock paintings is found in the spectacular painted cave of Isko at the easternmost end of the Karanpura valley which represents the geometric and script like drawings of the Neo-Chalcolithic period ( 3500-1500 B.C.) This site has received much attention from the Jharkhand government and its cultural and archaeological significance may well be overlooked in turning it into a popular tourist site – or modern worship site which will cause the destruction of the site and its surroundings which require careful preservation from an academic standpoint which is beyond the understanding of the promoters. I any foreign country such sites are revered as sacred relics of scientific and cultural sanctity and protected as such. In India such sophisticated approaches may well be impossible and the whole site may well become a ravaged tourist mess if not properly handled because the defacement of the rock art through visitor graffiti is bound to start unless adequate means are taken to stop it.
  10. Isco was where my work in the rock paintings and anthropo-archaeology of the Karanpura valley began in 1991 and it was (and much of the region still is) pristine. The pebble stone tool deposits were found both within and around the immediate cave and even older  bi-face pebble tools and worked flakes were found lying around the surrounding surface areas. The cave floor emanded excavation but despite decades of negligence on the part of the authorities who were formed of this discovery in 1992 neither the Archaeological Survey of India nor the Bihar Archaeology Department do anything about it. About five years back the over-zealous administration cast concrete over the cave floor sealing a treasure of surface tools including neoliths and microliths. I managed to stop further work as soon as I became aware of this disfigurement.
  11. It must be noted that pebble tool deposits have been found in the immediate vicinity of the Isco cave, and they do exist in painted rock shelters which was drawn  attention by the doyen of Indian rock painting study , Vishnu Wakankar whose name will be for ever associated with Bhimbetka.  Wakankar held that the pebble tools found in the Bhimbetka rock painting site near Bhopal  belonged to the same level as the Lower Palaeolithic and Achaeulian provenance fifty thousand years old although the rock paintings themselves might have been of more recent provenance. This inferred that humans had been living in the caves for tens of thousands of years before the paintings were made in them. Conversely, perhaps many of the earliest markings may have eroded as the sandstone walls are friable and subject to erosion by wind and rain. Wakankar held that the pebble tools found in Bhimbetka were connected with Lower Palaeolithic and Achaeulian deposits of this area . This would mean that the earliest humans – who might not have as yet been fully human in the modern sense  - occupied these caves for those tens of thousands of years during which they reached what in Europe was the Neanderthal phase 30,000 years ago, and only  thousands of years later began to paint the caves.  Rock art in Europe may well have begun earlier than in  India since Europe was covered with a heavy ice sheet and the cave-men had more time inside their caves to think of making markings that grew eventually into rock art. On the other hand man in India experienced  little of the great ice age and spent his time more in the open in the temperate climate. The rock art might be attributed to the more recent pebble stone tool makers.
  12. The Damodar suite of pebble stone tools is strikingly similar to the Sone basin Palaeolithic stone tools, and the Sone tools are  very similar to the Narmada pebble stone tools.  The stone tools found at Riwat in the Soan Valley of the Potwar plateau in western Punjab (now in Pakistan) belong to the earliest stone tool makers (Homo habilis/Homo erectus) of two million years ago(Irfan Habib, Prehistory of India, 2001. P.25) and bear a striking similarity to the Palaeolithic stone tools found in the upper Damodar valley in Karanpura. It was the opinion of the famed Jesuit palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin when he visited the Narmada in1935 with De Terra that  “Above the immense alluvial plain emerges a platform of  nummulitic  limestones rich in flints. The whole platform is nothing but a fabulous workshop… millions of points and implements.(27 November, 1935), and again  “The Narmada ranks as the classic Pleistocene of India –and only a single Palaeolithic implement had yet been found in situ…(about 1850). Nothing else has been done there during the subsequent eight decades! ... Great was our surprise to find there vastly rich deposits of  ancient industry  -- as rich perhaps as Madras, and with fauna.” (18 December, 1935).  It is important to understand  that the Palaeolithic stone tool industry of Pleistocene  man two million years ago ( 2 mybp) in this Sone –Narmada region of Central India is connected with the adjoining hill tracts and plateau of Chotanagpur including the Karanpaura Valley , where they have been  brought to light by me ,  and in neighbouring Orissa and Chhatisgarh . These were among the  birth-places of palaeolithic man  in Asia. Obviously these three hilly regions divided by three major rivers, and connected by the Kaimur and Bundelkhand ranges had close associations between the primitive peoples living in them who during the hunting period (7000-4000 BC) would have been ranging long distances.  On the other hand these typical stone tools of similar form are distinct from many other parts of India in independent form.  H.D.Sankalia the famous palaeo-archaeologist had observed,   “In a vast country like India there are bound to be regional variations in the Middle Stone Age culture.” The Damodar-Sone-Narmada represents a unique stone tool and rock art culture which spans the regions of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh representing Early Man in what Verrier Elwin called “Middle India”. Their contemporary tribal arts and crafts are also strikingly similar.

Palaeolithic man in the Chotanagpur plateau

The Chotanagpur plateau in east central India was more or less completely  the portion carved from the old state of Bihar in 2000  to constitute the new state of Jharkhand which was even then heavily forested and mostly populated by ancient ethnic tribal groups.  After its formation it felt the marginalizing  of its tribal communities and the government policy of increased industrialization and mining of its vast mineral deposits which has been a growing phenomenon all over India since its independence from British rule in 1947. India has followed the outmoded and decadent model of  development of the Industrial Revolution and Enlightenment which is no longer fashionable in western countries which long back had destroyed their natural environments and native cultures and attempting to farm them back to prominence. Our understanding of the palaeolithic in Jharkhand is at best dependant upon inadequate research or collection of stone tools or excavation of sites ( as in Chaibasa which uptil recently said to be sterile of flake- blade industry).Gua, Ghatsila and Sini were on the other hand considered “rich” in such industry on the basis of particular finds. I would say that all the plateau areas of Jharkhand are rich in palaeolithic deposits but the proper attempts have not been made to find and document them. The other thing to be realized is that the past thirty thousand years of the archaeological record is confined to the surface and subsoil and since the plateau has a conglomerate crust and frequent heavy rains there are adequate eroded areas to find evidence of early man without need for excavation except in specific instances. The lithic (or stone)phase is represented in these sediments of mottled clay and early conglomerate largely revealed through erosion  apart from the gorges of river valleys and rift formation scarps such as the edges of Hazaribagh plateau above Damodar caused by tectonic shifting. This example may be applied in principle to the entire Chotanagpur plateau and in particular in the basins and upper valleys of streams and rivers. One of the major drawbacks of palaeo-archaeology is the attempt to construct sequences occurring millions of years ago through study of few select finds. Obviously, the larger the quantity of  finds the better the archaeological reconstruction possible. Stone tools are not merely curiosities in a museum but tools for understanding the human past, and from our understanding of it to help us to understand – even shape constructively – our human future on this planet.

I have pointed out that Palaeolithic man world wide has to be found predominantly in the forested basins of rivers which were also the sources of water and food, wild animals and birds, and the large and small pebble stones required for early stone-age cultures. Certain  basins and river valleys saw the rise of man  such as along the Nile and Zambesi in Africa, along the Danube and Neckar in Europe, and in the middle eastern part of India in the Narmada and Sone basins, and in the Damodar river basin and valley in Jharkhand. In the upper parts of the Nile in Ethiopia  have been found the older large bi-face  choppers ,cleavers and hand- axes and as one comes down to Egypt the tools assemblage changes. Similarly, in the upper basin of the Damodar in Jharkhand this suite of  larger stone tools appear, and in both rivers as we go down into the broader river valley a smaller more crafted suite of stone tools appear. The stone tools found in the Damodar basin and valley are similar to the stone tool types of the Sone and Narmada rivers to the west.

The Sone rises in Sone-mund in the highlands of the Amarkantak hills in Madhya Pradesh, flowing northeast  into Bihar in the Rohtas district where it is met by the North Koel river at Kabrakala an important archaeological site near Japla in Jharkhand. Other important tributaries of the Sone are the Johilla, Banas, Gopat. The upper and middle parts of the river and its tributaries have yielded vast remains of palaeolithic man not far from the sources of the North Koel and Damodar in the Chotanagpur plateau in Palamau district. Thus the continuation of the stone tool types is understood.

The Upper Sone includes the Jabalpur district in Katni sub-division , Shahdol, Siddhi and Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh. These were half a century ago  heavily forested river valleys but after Independence they fell victim to the  curse of industrialism, mining and big dams. Today these areas have  been already devastated thoroughly. The Pleistocene deposits of the Upper Sone (35,000-12,000 BP) are otherwise having the general order of stone tools common to peninsular India, apart from their stylistic identity.(Oldham, Foote, 1961; Wakankar, IAR- 1956-57; Joshi, IAR-1957-58; Sengupta,IAR-1961-62: 8-9;and Nisar Ahmed) The lower levels are of conglomerate yielding  early stone age tools, above which is the sandy loess of the tertiary age tens of thousands of years old on which are found other layers of stone tools brought to light by Ahmed in sixty-five places (Ahmed 1966:3-7). The blade-burin industry is similar to the Poona types. The whole is representative of an Acheulian phase with pebble tools and flakes, scrapers, hand-axes, borers, points and blades.

The Upper Sone includes Singrauli where heavy coal mining has been going on for sixty odd years the massive opencast coal mines made to feed power generation  which operations have completely destroyed the palaeo-archaeological beds. Jharkhand is now following the same model in Karanpura. The Sone basin at Singrauli contained a lower palaeolithic treasure of stone tools which was mined out as well as submerged under the waters of the Rihand Dam reservoir and now forever lost. All over India hundreds of such hydel and  mineral-rich river basins have suffered similar fates in the process of industrial development. Tens of millions of forest dwellers have been displaced and thousands of villages destroyed. What are left to posterity are deep scars evidencing Anthropocene man.

The Rihand Dam is drained by the rivers Sone, Dudhi , Rihand,  and tributaries of the Sone rising in the hills. Geologically the northern part is of Gangetic alluvium, the middle part of Vindhyan sandstone, and southern part of the Cuddapah formation (Krishnaswami, S.Rajan, 1951:42). Researchers in the past who figure prominently for their work in this region are Cockburn, 188; Oldham; De Teron; Peterson, 1939; Bruce Foote;Zuener). Unfortunately the only major report on this important area is  a research paper by Krishnaswami and Soundara Rajan of 1951. They noted,

“ …prevalence of a large series of Abbevilian-Acheulian bi-facial hand-axes, pebble and chopping tools… Bi-face tools include cleavers of many types.  There are numerous flakes both used as tools, and waste; among the useful flakes there being a prominent  proto-Levallois flakes “. Krishnaswami had suggested that this area represented a meeting of the Soan valley(in thePotwar plateau of western Punjab in  Pakistan)and Madrassian types. The Soan  tools belong to the earliest stone tool makers (Homo habilis/Homo erectus) two million years ago.(Irfan Habib, Prejistory of India, 2001. P.25) It is important to understand  that this region of central and east India and the adjoining hill tracts and plateau of Chotanagpur –Orissa-Chhatisgarh was the birth-place of palaeolithic man . To the north the sprawling Indo-Gangetic plain  is entirely devoid of any palaeolithic remains which shows these first humans were explicitly forest-dwellers. Chotanagpur forms part of the Assam geological formation  and is separated by the Malda Plain of East Bengal, now Bangladesh , which was carved in the most ancient times by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. In the middle of the Chotanagpur plateau x the thick alluvium crust is cut through by numerous river valleys  revealing an ancient lower palaeolithic level with attendant middle and upper palaeolithic stratas. This is most evident in the sandstone scarps of the Hazaribagh plateau north of Isco which have been identified as sites of early man, and this series will be found in the scarps on either side of the Karanpura valley and the hill ranges which bifurcate the valley which contain the most notable rock art caves of Eastern India. The entire areas involved in the valley are inhabited by primitive tribal societies and their kinsmen  some of whom may have migrated from adjacent regions, while their art and culture reflect the traditions of their ancestors  from the chalcolithic and Neolithic ages as well as the earlier hunters and gatherers who left their painted art on the cave walls in the hills. The same may be said of the larger region of Chotanagpur plateau x beyond the immediate confines of the Damodar valley and in the valleys of all the other rivers flowing from the plateaux. Chotanagpur has evidenced across its entire extent the remains of Lower, middle and upper palaeolithic stone tools in Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Khunti, Singhbhum, Gumla, Chatra, Giridih ,Lohardagga, Santal Parganas, Godda, Palamau, and other districts. Hazaribagh has been highlighted due to my objective analyses and continued searches which have revealed the extent of its prehistoric archaeology and art. But similar work in other districts is bound to show similar results. As to the southern parts of the plateau similar searches and studies have been made in the past by  by Sarat Chandra Roy in Ranchi, Khunti, Gumla, Lohardagga, and Singhbhum. In the eastern region  below the plateau in the river valleys of Damodar and Suvarnarekha and in Purulia in 1949 P.R.Sarkar made a series of important discoveries of palaeolithic remains in what he called Western Rarh.The first notice of discovery of a palaeolithic stone tool was by Hughes in the Bokaro coal-field (Vincent Ball,Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal,1865, pages 127-128) and a boucher made from micaceous quartzite now in the Indian Museum, Calcutta. The first evidence of the chalcolithic  was  in the finding of a flat copper celt and a copper amulet by  Bruce Foote at Bargunda (B.Foote, The Foote Collection of Indian Pre-historic and Proto-historic antiquities, 1914, page 248 )now in the Madras Government Museum. Pachamba in Giridih district yielded a few copper celts, now also in the Indian Museum, Calcutta (J.Goggin Brown, Catalogue of Pre-historic Antiquities in the Indian Museum, page 140). The District Gazetteer for Hazaribagh (1957) noted “Large dolmens or flat stones planted upright abound in the district..” (P.C.Roy Choudhury,Hazaribagh District Gazetteer, 1957, p.82)
It was in this backround I brought to light in 1991 the rock art site of Isco in the Karanpura valley, and the palaeolithic remains of the Damodar basin and valley. Later the number of rock art sites was increased to include over a dozen painted caves in the hills and escarpments surrounding the valley, and the palaeo-archological sites  close to or not distant from them, as also the iron age sites on which the tribal hamlets were built as well as the megaliths in these areas. From this small beginning grew a giant tree of research which has drawn serious specialists from every continent to Hazaribagh and included hundreds of academic studies in international universities. Out of these grew the tribal art work I began with the village women which has been exhibited in  many European countries, UK, Canada, USA, Australia, etc. The full stone tool suites from the Lower, Middle and Upper palaeolithic (Achaeulian, Levallois flaking) and including microliths,  stone mother goddess figurines etc. have been catalogued and presented in my Sanskriti museum in Hazaribagh.The Damodar basin has been shown to be one of the most important archaeological sites not only of India but of the world because it not only offers the whole palaeolithic story but the emerging rise of man from the palaeolithic and his evolution into the people who inhabit the valley today. It is an “Avatar” kind of story. It has been written about, filmed, and its story displayed to millions around the world. It is gravely unfortunate that the Karanpura valley has been chosen by the government to be completely mined for coal by opencast method.

After bringing to light the valuable archaeological and cultural heritage of this rich agricultural and fertile valley with its vast forests and hilly ranges I pointed out its nature of being a rift valley akin to Olduvai gorge in Tanzaniya. The rift formation of the Karanpura valley evidenced by the vertical scarp of the Hazaribagh plateau to its north and Ranchi plateau to its south upon examination by experts evidenced a pebbled shoreline at a height of about 150 vertical feet showing it was in the deep past a vast lake contained by the eastern range of Sati Hills which formed the trap, and left a pebbled  shoreline along the vertical scarps. The Hazaribagh plateau is set on a very ancient bed going back millions of years  and tectonic movement has loosened the rubble in the vertical scarps above the  valley revealing in  their  lower portions over a hundred and fifty feet below the plateau  the oldest chopping tools of Homo habilis in the Karanpura valley. Additionally, the oldest stone tools have been exposed in the vertical scarps and gorges cut by streams like Dudhi Nala in Chapri above Isco as well as more recent stone tools along the stream. With regard to the lake I believe it must have melted after the last ice age and that the deep caves which were formed by erosion were later to be painted by the hunters…

As the years progressed I began studying the relations between the Karanpura valley and known migration patterns both of the tribes which inhabit the valley today and the  nomadic hunting-gathering forest autochthones who pass in and out and were in all probability the direct descendants of the earliest hunters. In fact these people claim the rock paintings in the caves that surround the valley were painted by their ancestors. I found convincing reasons for believing that the old migration trails were later become pilgrim routes facilitating travelers going from Benares to Orissa. I also found deep connections through the various primitive mural art forms in the valley  with those practiced by villages on the Hazaribagh plateau. In a dating of flake tools from a megalithic site in the valley I found that these megalith builders had brought flakes from the neighbouring  Hazaribagh  plateau scarps at around 85,000BP and that the fresh chipping  was done around 5,500 BP. ! This deduction was made possible through a series of spectrometric  datings conducted at the Palaeolithic Research Institute in Dresden by my associate Dr Volkmar Geupel  in 2004. Much of the region’s pre-history has yielded many of its secrets to my researches. Its now famous mural painting traditions of Khovar and Sohrai have also yielded to continual searches and several thousand motifs both in the rock paintings as well as the village mural house wall painting traditions have been drawn and compared with motifs in other parts of India and the world. This project is currently being pursued by colleagues at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

The deeper connections between palaeolithic peoples and their descendants, and in turn handed down to our generations present a fascinating field for study and research. The living connection between the rock paintings in the hills and the village wall paintings by tribal women is a fascinating reflection of  forms when we realize that the traditions have evidenced themselves in Catal-hoyuk , a Neolithic settlement  on the plains of central Turkey on the Anatolian plateau over eight thousand years ago.  This ancient settlement in which matrilineal agricultural societies built the largest known Neolithic settlement, its architecture and building, and wall paintings by women, could not but have  come from places like the Karanpura valley in India. To me those traditions  could not have come to central or eastern India  from that side at that date. Conversely, we are informed by dedicated researchers like Sarat Chandra Roy that at a more recent date the Mundas and their kin came from northern India to Chotanagpur. They were a people with megalith raising traditions, but those traditions appeared in Chotanagpur thousands of years before and went to north India from the east. The ancient palaeolithic roots of Chotanagpur’s human evolution long predates anything found in northwestern India. Many tribes may have been driven back to these eastern forested fastnesses by invading  tribes from the north but long before this the north had been inhabited by eastern tribes either through the Satpuras, Gangetic valley, or the sub -montane Himalayan foothills from earliest times.

The megalithic culture began long before the iron age and evidenced its continuity in the Asura culture of South Ranchi among a people who were iron smelters of mundaric origin whose linguistic origins and physical identification place them among Southeast Asian and Turainian groups coming into India during the upper palaeolithic period via the Chin Hills and through the Brahmaputra valley. In my opinion we are witnessing in the archaeology of Jharkhand a profoundly important field for study and researches as we find the megalithic culture was using chipped flake tools and that the overlapping of the older palaeolithic period was through the neo-chalcolithic phase emerging in iron age times. A divide between the older and the newer period may be found, and this idea is reinforced by a distinct stylistic division appearing at about this time in the rock paintings. If the village mural tradition is indeed connected to the art of the hunters it must have been begun among the first sedentarized agricultural societies around 4,000B.C. That we have in Jharkhand ancient tribal art forms six thousand years old is a staggering thought when we realize that the art of the early hunters  in the caves is at least five thousand years older.

When I learned from the nomadic Birhors (who call themselves uthlu, which means”wanderer” that their ancestors painted the rock art in the highest hills I was able to understand how they still are able to draw similar forms in the soft dust of their settlements ! I spent decades studying their ethnobotany -- knowledge of food and medicinal plants—their hunting and folklore. It dawned upon me while I was thus employed that I was witnessing the living stone age although they can barter their catch with local villages for iron implements etc. Their knowledge of survival trapping and food-gathering was a source of profound inspiration when I realized they managed to live without destroying anything !!

In South Ranchi S.C.Roy’s researches of Asura sites as pointed out have established the connect between the palaeolithic and the megalithic just before the rapid evolution of wheel turned pottery, copper and  tin smelted bronze,  and discovery of iron, coupled with agriculture to create a new economic order. But the exchange economy which was slowly emerging between the self supporting forest peoples like the Birhor and the sedentarized villages dependent upon seasonal agriculture had not reached a stage that involved any sort of money. The artisan castes developed according to their crafts but exchange continued right uptil the imposition of outside rule( long pre-dating the British arrival). The bronze casting tradition  of the Malhars, the iron-smithy of the lohras, the pots of the Kumhars, the basketry of Turis, the oil extraction by Telis, the carpentry of Barhis etc. were forms of production hardly necessary for the hunter-gatherers who traded amongst themselves. The production of iron made the Asuras stronger than others and these and other tribes were feared by the Vedic entrants to forest India. As long as the villages had their own self rule system through councils, as long as they were in control of their own farmlands, forests, religious institutions, festivals and sacred places, and could practice their own customs they were strong and safe from intrusion by outsiders who would exploit them. But slowly the scythe of Time entered in the form of gift-offerers – those who come with promises of giving real development for the people but are in fact industrial wolves in the sheep’s clothing of development. 
In eastern central India in the Chotanagpur plateau  an area geographically identified with the young state of Jharkhand  in the Damodar and Suvarnarekha valleys – and even down into the Bengal plains through which the Damodar flows, and in other river valleys such as Kasai and Kamsavati –and adjoining Purulia  in Bengal, Simlipal in Orissa, and in East Singhbhum  we see the impacts of modern industrial development. The stone age sites in Chandil and Ghatsila have had to face industrial development. The series of big dams on the Damodar have completely destroyed  the lower  valley, and  similar dams  built on the Suvarnarekha which was rich in Acheulian and Abbevilian stone tool culture have wiped out a glorious region of ancient Jain heritage in over seventy temple sites, wiping out the forests and submerging palaeolithic as well as historic remains without the slightest remorse or twinge of conscience expressed by the government.  The local administration is powerless. Near Dhanbad,  twenty-five temples in a group once considered by British archaeologists (Block, Beglar, Cunningham, Marshall) as the finest example of early Jain architecture – at Telkupi , between 1957 and 1961 these lovely stone and brick temples of unknown provenance in their earliest phase since the whole area is associated with earliest Jain saints like Mahavira and Parasvanatha  twenty-five centuries ago – these temples were heartlessly submerged without salvage or documentation under the eye of the watchful eye of the state archaeology department and the appreciative gaze of the government even when the architect of modern India , Jawaharlal Nehru, was alive. Today one temple of this priceless cluster – Telkupi – stands proudly showing but its upper portion in the silted up foreshore of this dam. The dam long since lost its hydro-electricity potential. The Adivasis or tribals of the region – chiefly – Bhumias, disappeared half a century ago and the fabled forests of Manbhum are no more…Through the forests which remain  lie the remains of broken Jain statues in groups  like relics of an unknown past .This has been India’s crowning shame in the name of development . Having been aware of this the campaign to save Karanpura valley began with the residual archaeological remains of this once culturally vibrant are of Jharkhand, but it was to make the region distinctive in an almost unknown discipline: palaeo-archaeology. Today Anthropo-archaeology is an emerging discipline in Indian universities and it is about time the universities concentrated ground level studies in threatened river valleys and basins. Proper documentation of archaeological remains has not been done in Jharkhand let alone the discovery of new sites, or the protection and conservation of existing sites; and at the present rate of destruction of archaeological remains in the name of development soon nothing will be left to prove that these once existed at all. All over Jharkhand the picture that emerges is the same. The Rajmahal hills in the Santal Parganas area represent the most important fossil site in India. Massive state sponsored stone mining is all but completely destroying the region. At the same time a museum for the fossils has been built in a Jesuit school in Sahibgunj. This is the state of affairs in almost every major site. In a similar fashion stone mining is eating up the Kaimur range in the Rohtas district of the neighboring state of Bihar which is an extension of Chotanagpur in the Vindhyan formation of mountains. In the Santal Parganas area famous in an earlier age for the Santal Rebellions of 1857 there are a series of vast new opencast mines in Godda and Rajmahal. In Godda, Rajmahal, Sahibganj, Pakur,Paharpur   and Maluti there are palaeolithic remains and  these continue down through the chalcolithic and Neolithic period to the iron age. Environmental and now archaeological clearance for all big mines is guaranteed by the fact that huge  investments are made even before the  clearances are obtained , and afterwards the courts are unable to block the mining because of “sunk investments”. This is government policy in all development projects in the name of so called national interests.

Dr. Kalyan Chakrabarty, Not long ago Director General of the National Museum in Delhi , wrote in the Sanskriti Hazaribagh guest book, “The museum can only be an extension of a living landscape, not a mirror of its extinction.” (10th Feb.,2005)

Strong words indeed. If only the government could understand their significance. Wherever local museums may be found in India not far away is the extinction of the landscape, the remains of which have landed up in the museum. Destruction of the landscape through the ideology of development has destroyed archaeological India. Even as it has destroyed tribal India. Fortunately in the Karanpura valley in the Damodar basin the struggle to present ecological, archaeological and indigenous/human rights issues began long ago and built a firewall against total and sudden obliteration of the landscape.

In the southernmost part of the Chotanagpur in south Ranchi is a densely forested area with West Singhbhum in the eastwhere attention was first drawn to a palaeolithic series of stone tools and chert flakes near Chaibasa by Captain Beeching in 1868(A.K.Ghosh, 1970:4).This will be found to be connected with the similar remains of the Mahanadi valley in the south in the state of Orissa, and in the west with river valleys and rock art in Chhatisgarh state. The entire region from West Bengal and Orissa in the east to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in the west in the Saal forests areas will be found to be of an archaic level of human occupation stretching back from the most recent times to the Lower Palaeolithic. Man was evolving in Africa, Europe and India at similar periods and strikingly similar manifestations of this evidence which we can understand through the study of stone tools  they left behind. By 150,000 a n evolved form called Homo sapienshad evolved and spread from Africa through Asia and Europe and about thirty thousand years ago attained a stage called Neandertal in Europe (from remains found in a cave in the Neander valley in Germany), and  such a type and manifested itself in what is now the Middle East and was also surely manifesting itself in South Asia (i.e.India and Pakistan)These proto-humans were making large stone tools like hand-axes and cleavers.

Two of the prolific stone tool sites of early man are bordering the North Chotanagpur plateau overlooking the Ganges valley in the north. The sites are Jethian valley in Gaya district and Kharagpur range in Monghyr district which is an extension of the plateau. The Jethian  site is actually in the Gangetic plain where the Jamunia river has exposed a Pleistocene deposit  of conglomerate and mottled clay to a depth of several metres, revealing early stone age tools (12,000 BP)The area is also rich in quartzite hand-axes , cleavers, choppers, flakes and cores and evidencing the Levallois stone tool making technique. The site may representthe first advent of early man toward the Ganges valley. The Middle Palaeolithic finds from the Kharagpur range  in Monghyr district is rich in stone tools evidencing  early man. Not far away is the Middle Palaeolithic site in Jamalpur  , and similar Middle Palaeolithic industries continue along the edges of the North Chotanagpur plateau from Jharkhand state into West Bengal in Midnapur, Bankura,Birbhum, Burdwan,and Purulia where theey join up with the East Singhbhum Middle Palaeolithic series in East Singhbhum. From the observations made in this paper it will become abundantly clear that the Chotanagpur plateau not only represents Early Man ( i.e. from 150,000 years ago) but from as far back as two million years ago since Olduwan /Pleistocene type stone tools of the Sone and Soan (Pakistan)series made by Homo habilis have been found in the upper Damodar river in Karanpura valley.

It is important to remember that the earliest apes (from which our human species may or may not have directly evolved)have left remains in the Siwalik ranges north of Chandigarh many millions of years ago. Ramapithecus was an ape similar to Australopithecus in South Africa. In the Museum of Man at Chandigarh one can view the oldest stone tools in India and their evolving types. Modern humans are not supposed to have descended directly from Ramapithecus which existed over 15MYBP.  According to modern theory the apes from which  human bipeds evolved were Australopithecine (3.8 million-1.7 MYBP) in East and South Africa which were makings tone  tools around  1.7 million years back. Their stone tools were flakes formed by knocking two large pebbles together. However, in the Soan valley in the Potwar plateau of western Punjab similar  proto-humans were making  similar tools  known as Oldowan( after Olduvai) tools having several faces which were made perhaps earlier(2MYBP). (Irfan Habib,Prehistory of India,2001, pp.21-27)In the lowest levels found under the Hazaribagh plateau in Karanpura valley similar stone tools have been found and require deeper examination which  could make it one of the most important sites in the world.

It is theorized by modern experts that the human race is descended from proto-humans in East Africa. Their migrations have been described as “candelabra” or bifurcating, one migration coming south-eastward to South Asia and the other going north-westward to Europe. During the course of their long migration via the Horn of Africa to India they were obviously evolving and their journey was in fact an expansion due to population increases and exploiting new hunting grounds since they had no permanent home. These early men are believed to have been the first proper humans evolved around the time of Homo neandertalis  who was found in West Asia to have buried his dead with flowers , ornaments and food , and was already making complex flint tools. This early man obviously had spiritual beliefs and practices. An early stone mother goddess found in North Jharkhand – a small stone figurine resembling the Venus found in Willendorf in Austria on the Danube is dated about the same date – 20,000BP (B.K.Thapar,1996). The Neandertal’s descendants in Europe were painting caves  with images of bison and horses about the same time. These were societies that depended for their survival only on hunting and food-gathering. Europe was then completely an ice-bound continent, while India was in a tropical ice age period during which the sub-continent was not covered by a thick ice sheet.  We should expect the evolution of man in India to have been more advanced than Europe since  agriculture and metals were in evidence in Southeast Asia thousands of years earlier than in post-glacial Europe. Jharkhand would be an excellent field for the carrying out of such field researches. It could also bring a new focus on the importance of the state both for foreign interest in the region and tourism.

Today there is an important revolution taking place in the understanding of intelligence and its applications. The brain size of Neandertal man was the same as humans today despite the long  time span between them. The enlarging of the brain does not signify an increase in intelligence as it is understood (H.D.Sankalia,Prehistory of India, p.191; Alexis Carrel,Reflections on Life, 1972,p.71). Palaeolithic man had a very large brain because his skull was very big but he was not more intelligent according to our present understanding of what constitutes intelligence in action or behavior. The question that confronts us is “Have we evolved ?.”  Our destructiveness to our habitat, to other human societies, and the scale at which warfare and ecological degradation are increasing would point in the opposite direction !  Modern development has been equated with evolution, and we are to ask ourselves whether such  evolution is at the expense of human societies and their natural environment. Do our actions represent an evolving species ?

After completing this paper I have just received information that Reliance’s  Tilaiya ultra mega power project (UMPP) being promoted by the state government, is planned to be built at Tilaiya  fifty kilometers north of Hazaribagh town and will be receiving its coal from the new opencast coal mine planned by NTPC (National Thermal Power Corpn.) at Keridari between Barkagaon and Tandwa in the North Karanpura valley. I had seen this disaster coming (as I had seen the earlier mines at Piperwar destroy the living landscape).This area where the opencast mine will be made is a pristine forested region, once part of the elephant corridors which  I could not save, and watered by several streams and rivers including the  Salgah river which is a tributary of the Barki near Tandwa where a big dam is being built. It is also one of the major palaeolithic site in Karanpura. Thisregion contains several villages  and in the hills above it some of the most important rock art sites such as Nautangwa Pahar rock art caves. In the middle of what will become the  Keridari opencast mine are the Chunatari Caves which suppied the kaolin and white earth ( charak-matti)  for the surface plaster of village houses on which Khovar and Sohrai paintings are cut or drawn. I had seen this disaster coming for a long time, and now finally it has arrived. Tilaiya was India’s first big dam built during the mid 1950s. I was thirteen then, and saw its construction. Scores of villages were displaced and today a vast forest is a large expanse of water of which a third has silted up and is useless. The dam cease full power production decades ago. From a survey done by my colleague Ruchi Pant about a decade back in the Damodar Valley Corporation offices here in Hazaribagh I found that the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R)of the displaced villagers was never fully carried out. I have a DVC booklet of the times  showing little boys in white school uniforms then in fashion – wide shorts, shoes etc. This became the face of all further Indian power projects.

Goodbye Tilaiya, goodbye Salgah, goodbye Nautangwa…I think the reader can feel the pain in my heart. It is only such pain which can save our disappearing world.


Articles Published by Polycarp Journals, London between 2011-2015

Articles Published by Polycarp Journals, London between 2011-2015 and which are not available anywhere on the internet

1. Gandhi Peace Award Speech

2. Cultural Nationalism

3. Modern India and Development & Tribal in Modern India

4. India’s National Highway Widening Projects

5. Need to protect Social and Natural Environment

6. New Opencast coal mines Destroying Tigerland

7. The Art of the Hill Villages of Hazaribagh

8. Diwali and Sohrai

9. Palaeolithic Man in Chotanagpur

Friday, September 20, 2013

India Today

The India I see now is not the India I grey up in seven decades back. Of course, I've changed... from a child to a man to an old man. But some things remain pretty constant with ageing, for instance your cultural heritage, moral attitudes, instinctive feelings Etc. The Roman philosopher Cicero in his essay on Old Age said that as a man grew into old age he lost nothing of his memory or higher faculties, only he was given the privilege of "changing his opinions gracefully" !! Well, I haven't changed my opinions gracefully! I detest what is going on around us in India under the name of "dolopment". I simply LOATHE it. Much of the loathing is I suppose unjust because many of the gullible actors are plain uninformed, foolish, illiterate to realities.

In the past quarter century (1991 and Manmohan Singh's Finance Ministership) what had started as the post Rajiv Gandhi Liberalism rapidly became a world bank prescription for economic development. The country went fast-forward into industrializing the green zones of the nation and rampant extraction of minerals, vandalization of forests, and displacement of tibals... we havent forgotten the 740 villages of southern Chhatisgarh destroyed between June and December 2005. I would look at the scenery of land acquisition, GDP and the demand for national resources for increasing industrialization from a rather more rarefied psychological view-point. The problem increasingly lies in the high-jacking the mind of this nation and in particular its youth through our media, schooling, and job opportunities in the higher income sectors where toe youth are told to head.

Skewered television programmes, massive increase in sophisticated cellphones, advertisement marketing and Promises of a New Thing have given the vegetable woman down the road an inside view of everything and children able to use a mobile phone the opportunity to view pornography. That's some idea of development. I wonder what the Greeks of Athens let alone
Sparta would have said to all this ? The original genius of India like Greece and Rome after her lay in the combined evolved genius of milennia flowing freely through the poupulace. Today this genius and all it meant and still means is in the grip of a young post 1980s set of young corporates, bureaucrats and politicians. This first generation is out of our control and their offspring are the India of tomorrow who will not understand what we mean by "Indian Civilization". The medical profession calls such stage of a disease Terminal. The rural peoples of India which includes hundreds of tribes had with fortitude shared the self-produce of the national natural resources (lands, forests, rivers etc.) without any mucking-about in a thoroughly evolved EGALITARIAN democracy which nobody likes to talk about (it's an embarrassment to think we destroyed what Jawaharlal Nehru called 'The Discovery of India')-- the great so called mirage of the larger reality which Tagore and others have referred to as "the civilization of India". This was the civilizational wealth of five thousand years of steady religious, intellectual and cultural growth which Huen Tsang the Chinese pilgrim of the 6th cent. recounts with such poignancy in his 'Travels'. We replaced it immediately after 1947 with industrialism (and all that crap) whose burden like Prometheus' is increasing daily.

To go back to this civilizational heritage of India -- it was that residual cultural and experiential heritage of uncounted millennia going back to the stone-age when man first left his markings and drawings in rock caves, the spirit of self-dependence and altruism with which the nation as a body together rose in rags to face the wealth of British colonialism, its might of arms, and ruthlessness of exploitation of resources for industry. With Gandhi
India rose to a man, woman, child. The sheer MORAL strength of India was too much for British authority. They did not use the automatic gunfire which they used on Zulus in South Africa. After Jalianwala Bagh they accepted Tagore's return of his Knighthood (and which Knight would not ?). That civilization of India had moral bases and spiritual foundations deeper than the foundations of the island called England. Gandhi had challenged the industrial usage of our national resources to be exported to England for manufacture to be sold back to us and resulted in the Dandi March, Quit India, and the burning of British cloth from Lancashire and other mills. I don't think many 1980s born politico-bureaucrats or corporate sahibs of today can even digest these truths into their brains. For the brain too digests. Modern India won its freedom from colonialism on a MORAL premise. Where has that morality gone????

Today the selling of the Nation to the highest bidder is going on in the name of Development, GDP and Globalization. The ancient tillers of the soul are being hounded out of their lands being hastily sold to corporates by state governments without any form of local consent whatsoever, vast swathes of this Nation's land, forests, water resources and minerals have been exchanged on paper with big banks like the IMF and World Bank and the very meaning of Nationalism has been high-jacked into the discovery of a new India where the ownership will no longer be India's. Does this not amount to treason ?As industrialization increasingly enters the very innermost, least accessible heartlands of India, do we not feel a pain at what we are losing; have we lost the mental ability to DIGEST the enormity of abuse and suffering caused through heartless greed and selfish opportunism ? Is not the Conscience of the world at stake ? Do we not have brothers and sisters in every continent on this planet who understand our predicament of uncontrollable loss and would sympathize with us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves some hard questions ?

I’ve been reading the new book on the environment Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India, by Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari published by Penguin/Viking last year. For these past three decades I’ve been myself immersed in environmental campaigns, in particular against opencast coal mining in the Damodar valley. As the temperatures begin rising steeper each summer, the monsoons fail repeatedly, droughts and floods become increasingly frequent a lot of people have started taking an interest in the Other Side od Global Industrialism.

The greatest changes in society come from within an acceptance of particular value systems and their impact on food, water and human happiness as far as the natural environment is concerned. Up until the industrial revolution value systems were dependant on a basically survival environment. After the advent of industrialism and the economy dependant on minerals and non renewable resources the industrialized West moved into a new theatre of  industrial production  using machines powered from fossil fuels and left behind the good old egalitarian systems of farming and exchange  -- the food system that had held together the Old Order. This was armed colonialism which was backed by the newly available automatic firepower and brought its own militarized hierarchies and the policing of hitherto peaceful self-sufficient natural environments and their highly evolved societies which suddenly became backward savages sitting upon the raw materials useful for industrial production. This was the recent epoch we have witnessed and whose face is familiar in our new India where we have inflicted more damage on our natural environment and  rural and forest societies in the name of development than two centuries of British colonialism and three centuries of Mughal rule could achieve.

Throughout the five centuries of colonial expansion over the planet governments became more and more powerful especially after the nineteenth century, and it is estimated the natural heritage and species lost and being lost is something not witnessed in millions of years. European colonialism snatched more than half the planet’s richest continental resources in the name of Sovereignty and through what has been defined by Native American jurists as ‘Conquest by Law’. After the colonization of Meso-and-South America in the 16th century came the colonization of Africa, America , Australia and the Pacific, Southeast Asia and South Asia. Vast swathes of hitherto untouched natural environments became subjected to the scythe which is called development, farming the planet for industrial warlords.

Today I see no answers or solutions given to find the right direction. I keep reading pages after pages of radical new solutions, a ‘how to’ type of approach, but the solution to my mind lies not in building fairy castles but in identifying the sickness and tackling it at its source. Nobody fully seems to understand – maybe a few do – that the most urgent action is to stop the massive damage being done to nature and society while we keep on implementing ‘solutions’. Its what happened with Global Warming. Everybody was optimistic until the space for optimism ran out. Then these agencies started to tick faster but kept failing. Now we are aware Climate Change as its called, the result of anthropogenic global warming, cannot be any longer stopped. And I’m not joking. There are rays of hope like Niyamgiri in Odisha and several other successful activist campaigns against destructive development, but the problem will not go away. There has to be a national consciousness consensus that the state is headed in the wrong direction. We require to step back and analyse our own selves. No great change in society ever was possible without a change of self, a philosopher’s stone. Like Sparta or the presence of Socrates which helped develop the Roman state. Or after 300 AD the rise of the Roman Catholic in Europe. For better or worse it led to the Reformation, Renaissance, Age of Exploration, and finally, the Enlightenment. Then all the lights suddenly go out. The greatest wars the world has ever seen raged from end nineteenth century (Zulu and Boer Wars) to the two great World Wars in which an estimated eighty millions died.

The challenge for educational institutions in our own times bear the shadows of the past and the even longer shadows cast by the future. The schools, colleges and other educational institutions are today churning out the young citizens of tomorrow born into an uncertain, fragile and mechanistic environment  -- digital and cyberspace, neuro engineered and robotic  -- they are the citizens of tomorrow in a world with an evidently new moral order… When I look at the good schools (ands I am specifically looking at our Indian schools)I am greatly distressed because these high achieving young folk are being created precisely to become fodder for the Industrial Machine waiting to swallow them. The IM is the devil in disguise. I know the paychecks are good, and more’s the problem! It is these industries that will provide these youth what is today fashionably called by the nouveau riche  a’higher standard of life’.  It is precisely this double-speak which I am referring to. I know that all parents want their children to ‘do well’ in life, but what is ‘well’ may I ask ? Are we calculating the costs ?

It has been said that culture is the product of a sound education. What do we mean by a ‘sound education’ ? Does 99.8% in exams  sum up human life ? The human race is a long rigmarole of change but nowhere have robotic geniuses created El-Dorados except in the present times.  Are not the creations of our imagination – our own children – the most important investment in our common futures as a race ?  And with their superior knowledge and ability are they not the material needed to bring the  environment to nothing but rubble. This planet EARTH we stand on (always thinking we are standing upright!), this Blue Planet,  is a tiny fragment of an asteroid in the hostile emptiness of black space warmed by a slowly dying Sun. It is no longer Blue as in Armstrong’s 1969 photograph from the Eagle on his way to the moon. Recent NASA photos show it brown by day, and by night ablaze with electric lights. We have created a dying environment in the only home we have.

Education has been going on for millennia, and all great civilizations evolved their own great systems of education in their own languages and scripts from Mayan, Inca  and Toltec to Mesopotamian, Arab and Egyptian. Even Europe latterly after Greece had education. China and Asia have been great models for education. Highly civilized societies have presided over what we now possess. There have been the great Upanishadic schools of India, and even now the higher education of India is in her temple schools and ancient ethnic ways of life and culture having their own knowledge systems.

I am trying to say that we cannot have systems of education which celebrate the blowing up of the Earth and polluting its atmosphere to the point that it will be too hot to live in and climates will change destroying all traditional ecological produce from agriculture to forest gardens. We cannot to afford  to have a highly industrialized planet and a more highly polluted living space just because every body wants to live “ Western Style”. In his own inimitable way the Mahatma said  “If every one in India wants to live at the standard of the England then five continents will be required.” As ever, he was Spot-On.

The natural spaces are disappearing so fast that in a decade rivers, lakes, forests, and what is referred to as ‘the countryside’ will disappear under highways, parking lots and industrial developments. Europe and the UK have woken up to the world crisis faster than Indians and hit the brakes. Coal is out in Germany, UK, France. The  sky on an an April day in the countryside “under and English heaven” azure blue as a baby’s eyes, is still to be experienced. The ‘London Smog’ of old is no more.  The forests of Europe once ravaged by industry and war a full and flourishing, the rivers clean and brimful, same with the lakes.

We continue with fatalistic feudalism to the utter collapse of our last ecosystems, cities piled with stinking garbage, the poorest nation in the world with the highest malnutrition levels (worse than sub-Saharan Africa I’m told) – Here is a challenge for our educational institutions: Schools, Colleges, Centres of ‘Higher’ (whatever That means) learning’. Tomorrow is what we do today. If we do it wrong there may not be any Day After Tomorrow.

The higher educational institutions and the so called higher class English Medium schools (upto Plus Two) in India are churning out students for the higher income elite sector/industrial jobs which is directly responsible for the destruction of India's natural resources and massive displacement of land and forest dependent indigenous peoples. This high-end India is concerned with private and state consumption which reflects in GDP and is representative of less than a quarter of the Nation's population. It has been estimated recently that 200 million Indians enjoy a level of GDP equivalent to the economies of Great Britain, Germany, and France combined. But what about the rest of the Nation of 1.2 billion souls supposedly all created equal ? There is not and can not be equality for all and 40 percent of India's 1.2 billion live below the poverty line of a dollar a day, while 25% live in a state of chronic malnutrition and abject poverty and starvation. Most of this kind of malnutrition and starvation is linked with the eighty million displaced in the last sixty-five years through state sponsored destructive development projects. If education is to have a social purpose it must not be exclusive or hierarchical or create an exploitative class and has to be national in the best sense in the belief which Thomas Jefferson voiced in the words" We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal."(American Declaration of Independence 4th July 1776). In the modern Indian system such equality is not envisioned and even if envisioned cannot be applied due to racial, religious, and caste prejudices. We have created an increasingly industrialized India facing historical acceleration dependant upon economic hierarchies which are at the cost of the Nation's poorest and is dependent upon the natural resources and lands they have ancestrally lived upon. We are witnessing the social evolution run amok of modern India especially in the past two decades -- since Neo-Liberalisam was given full rein -- a situation similar to what the Spanish Conquistadores enacted in the Americas with the conquest of the Aztecs by Herman Cortes in their lake-encircled capital of Tenochtetlan in 1519 in Mexico, and the subsequent conquest of the Inca in Cuzco, Peru by Francesco Pizarro. In both events modern firearms, Spanish steel, horses and germs (smallpox) carried by the Spanish triumphed. The germs caused epidemics which almost wiped out the meso-American population. In our present context similar forces are at work only the weapons are Economic, Psychological, and State-empowered policy, and and the germ most powerfully active is a new technology for transforming traditional mindsets, i.e. Internet, Television, Advertizing/Media and Cellphone. India today is the film-set and landscape of the 2009 blockbuster film Avatar.


Sanskriti, Dipugarha
Hazaribagh, Jharkhand

16th September, 2013

Written specially for the Mt.Carmel (St.Joseph’s School) 50th Jubilee Annual 2013