Chirand, Saran

Chirand, Saran

Chirand is situated 10 Km. south-east of Chapra, the district headquarters of the Saran district and same distance south off the Sonepur-Chapra road. The village with an extensive mound is situated on the northern bank of the Ganga, and the confluence of the Ganga, and the Ghagra is just some distance away in the west near Revalganj. The Ganga also meet the Sone few kelometer away from the site. 2½ Km. north of the site there is a dried up bed, possibly, a loop of the Gandaki, So, four rivers converge on or near the site. This must have provided it a very fertile soil for the development of pre-historic and historical cultures. It is very likely that in ancient times the confluence was actually at Chirand. Carlyle in 1879-80 says that it was situated just at the junction of an old river channel (old bed of the Ghogra river) with the Ganges. The mound has been being cut by the Ganga since long, but the face of the mound overlooking the river shows jutting bricks of ancient times and potsherds. There is a mosque on the top of the mound, which was erected by Sultan Abul Muzaffar Hussain Shah of Bengal in A.D. 1503. The mosque contains remains of Hindu pilasters, and show parts of an earlier Hindu temple and its materials were used in the construction of the mosque. Chirand has given a continuous cultural sequence beginning from the Neolithic to the Pala period. The discovery of the Neolithic culture in 1970 in the Ganga valley was very significant as till then no Neolithic strata was exposed in course of archaeological excavations in northern India.

The Chirand Neolithic community practiced agriculture and evidence for wheat, rice, mung, masur, peas has been found. The agricultural tools must have been of stone, bone or wood.

It appears that agriculture was not on a large scale, because hunting tools and bones of animals, fish and mollusces and birds suggest popularity of non-vegetarian diet. People lived in huts, circular in plan, made of mud and reeds. Some post-holes were noticed. The walls could have been of reed-frame and plastered with mud. Some burnt daubs indicate reed-impressions. Such construction is common in villages in North Bihar even today. The roof was made of thatch of paddy-pools (straw bundles)-tied to the reed-frame. Food was cooked in ovens. Clusters of longish ovens were found for roasting of meat and fish.

The tool-kit of Chirand Neolithic shows an amazing variety. Both stone and bone-tools were found, though the latter were more in abundance and variety. Polished and ground Celts were met with, though no stone vessel has been found. Hammers, millers, pestles, querns and balls have been picked up. Besides the ground and pecked-tools we found quite a number of microliths, which as in Neolithic sites of South India, constituted an integral part of the Neolithic Chirand. Parallel-sided blades, scrapers, arrow-heads, points, lunates, borers and some geometric microliths are principal microlith objects.

Pottery was decorated in many ways. We have both appliqué, incised and punctured designs. A lid decorated with punctured design was noticed at Tekkalkota in Neolithic strata. Knobbed vessels have been found here; one has seven holes like one reported from Piklihal, pots with holes on shoulders were probably suspended-jars hanging from the roof. Burnished ware is common here as well as at other Neolithic sites.

One of the distinguishing features of Chirand Neolithic pottery first noticed at Chirand was post-firing painting in ochre colour mainly on grey ware, but sometimes on red-ware also. Though some stray examples of such post-firing ochre painting appear on rims or spouts of some pots at Piklihal, Utnoor. Brahmagiri IA, and Sangankallu, at Chirand we have it in much larger number and in diverse designs. An ochre piece was also found at Chirand, the material of which the painting was made. Some pots with rusticated base may have served as cooking vessels. One of the uncaliberated 14c date from the top Neolithic strata is 1845-+110. The latest 14c date for Neolithic is 1050-+110. One of the date is 1755+155 B.C. If we take into account the thicknes of the stratified deposit and uncaliberated 14c dates, it would be reasonable to put the beginning of the Neolithic earlier than 2500 B.C., may be cir. 3000 B.C.

A luxuriant chalcolithic culture with the distinctive black and red ware was discovered in Chirand. The cultural period has two phase, A and B. 'A' phase is without iron but with evidence of copper. 'B' phase has iron in upper strata but without N.B.P. it is safe to conclude that iron appears to have come into use before the N.B.P. ware was invented. Except for this significant difference, the cultural traits in phase A and phase B are almost identical. The total chalcolithic deposit is 5.50m thick. "Like their predecessors the chalcolithic community lived in houses made of reeds and bamboos with mud plaster, their dwellings being comparatively larger in dimension (than of the Neolithic predecessors having floors of burnt earth. The earliest level of this pd. has revealed a circular hearth and a few post-holes. A post-cremation burial has been suspected on the level of the pd."

The Chalcolithic black and red ware, and with white paintings is almost indistinguishable from Alan specimens of Rajasthan. Lipped bowl found in Chirand are similar to those found in other Neolithic sites and this vessel later evolved into the chalcolithic channel spout. At Paimpalli, the burnished grey were, as found in chirand, is available. According to S.R. Rao, this type of lipped bowl and burnished grey ware shows affinity or contract with Paimpalli, and Chirand will be extremely important for the development of Neolithic into chalcolithic. This statement actually proved prophetic as later Neolithic was exposed in Chirand.

It is really intriguing that certain Harappan triats are met with in Neolithic-Chalcolithic Ceramics in Chirand. The black and red ware is met in early Harappan levels in Lothal. This is further borne out by the fact that except for rich pottery, the chalcolithic chirand is poor in other civilization-marks. The settlement pattern is primitive, showing development from Neolithic. But while in the preceding Neolithic we have rich haul of stone-beeds of fine quality and variety, chalcolithic Chirand which has some Harappan like pottery types, is very-very poor in this artistic activity. Even copper appears to have been sparingly used. Iron slag's appear on the top layers and also a number of socketed-hoes on the first three top layers or black and red ware.

Among interesting finds from the chalcolithic strata, mention may be made of a immature sarcophagus in cream-slipped ware. The piece is slightly damaged. It bears painting in dots in cream pigment, showing the outline of a bull and deer. Terracotta's are very poor and few. Terracotta beads, mostly pear and ghata shaped are found. A headless flattish bird with punctured decoration all over the body is all that we have for a terracotta figurine from chalcolithic Chirand. Bone and stone arrow-heads, points and other microlithic tools like blades have been found, including socketed bone arrow-heads, a few Neolithic celts, styli of bone and ivory-pins, stone beads of steatite and chalcedony, saddle querns, balls and pestles.

Exposed animal burials have been noticed in the upper layers of Period IIB with iron.

The earliest C14 date for the Chalcolithic Chirand is 1600 B.C., which is just in line with dates of Chalcolithic Ahar and Navada Toli.

Period III starts with the emergence of the N.B.P. The total thickness of the deposit is 2.45 representing N.B.P.W. culture. N.B.P. shreds of fine quality and in different shapes and shades appear. Some have paintings. Associated wares are black and red grey, black and red. Some painted black and red and red ware in white or cream colour ware found.

Iron implements are represented by sickles, axes, ploughshares, daggers, lances, knife-blades etc. Terracotta figurines of human and serpent are found. Toy-carts in terracotta have been met with. One of the rare find in mid N.B.P.W. level, assigned to the Mauryan period, is a terracotta mask, (length 35 cm, breadth 32.5 cm), of a human figure on both faces of the mask, a female and male on either face. It must have been used at a pantomime. The double-face is difficult to explain. On the upper levels of the period there are remains of brick structures though evidence of mud walls also is there.

Period IV is represented by 100 B.C. to 30 A.D. structural remains of well burnt bricks of both monastic and secular character have been exposed. The Buddhist monastery was built in blocks; each block containing three cells with a verandah in front of the residential structures; one of the blocks shows two small interconnecting rooms with a drain passing through a circular hole, and a raised floor to keep water vessel have been found. These may represent a bathroom and lavatory. The drain emptied into a square cistern outside the main building. A kitchen about 100 steps to the west of the monastic establishment has been unearthed. It is constructed of a mud wall and has a rammed surkhi floor with the evidence of an oven with charcoal in it in a corner. A torso of Hariti has been found in this kitchen area. The bricks measure 41x25x6 cm. These structural remains show 5 building stages.