Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Gateway of India

The nature has very effectively barricaded and isolated the peninsula of the Indian subcontinent peninsula.. Towards North, towering heights of the Himalayan peaks, towards North-West, Hindukush ranges and on the West side, the ranges of Suleiman and Toba Kakar mountains have always dissuaded intruders from taking up any misadventures. Yet many aspiring men, lured by the wealth of India, have tried over the years and have succeeded to break through these barricades and invade India. From Alexander in 326 B.C. to Ahmad shah Abdali in 1759, men from Europe, Central Asia and Iran, Afghanistan have launched campaigns to Indian subcontinent, to loot and plunder the riches of India. Some of these highly ambitious men even managed to establish their Kingdoms and Empires on the Indian soil for a period of time. I was puzzled by these facts and always wondered as to how these men actually managed to reach India in spite of such overbearing natural obstacles. 

These invaders had two gateways available to them to enter India. First of the two, Khyber Pass, is very well known and documented. However there exists another gateway towards south, to enter the Indian Subcontinent. I was unaware of the existence of this gateway and read about it only very recently. I found it very interesting, as this gateway has been in extensive use from even before 7500 BC and right up to the Nineteenth century. The hunter gatherers of pre-historic period, have used it. Nomads in search of better pastures, have used it. Invading armies have used it to enter or exit India. Kandahar is one of the major cities in Afghanistan. About 200 KM east of this city, Quetta city in present day Pakistan, is located. The terrain between these two cities is however mostly of flat nature presenting no difficulty to any traveling individual or an army. However about 70 KM east of Quetta, a traveler would face not so easily surmountable mountain ranges of Toba Kakar or Central Brahui in Baluchistan. Unless these mountain ranges are crossed, it is almost impossible to enter the Indian Peninsula.

Bolan river flows through a series of narrow gorges and valleys through this mountain range. A route along the narrow gorges of Bolan river is known as the Bolan Pass because of the name of the river. This route is probably the easiest way of entering India. In eleventh century, Muhammad of Ghazani used this route to carry home the loot, which he had plundered from the Somanath temple on Gujrat Coast. In the year 1759, Ahmad Shah Abdali with his 40000 strong army and heavy field guns had entered India to fight Maratha armies through this pass. In 1838-38 about 21000 strong British forces had passed through this pass to fight Afghanistan.

After making sustained efforts between years 1876 and 1898, the colonial British Government had succeeded in establishing a railway line through this pass. This railway used to run between Sibi town in Pakistan to Quetta. It has been recorded that elephants were brought to Bolan Pass to carry engines and other heavy stuff for the railways. 

The Bolan pass consists of a series of long and narrow valleys or gorges extending for 55 miles (89 km) from Rindli in the south to Darwāza near Kolpur in the north. Its widest point (16 miles [26 km]) is in the Laleji Plain, south of Mach town. A route along the banks of the Bolan River, has been used for thousands of years by traders, invaders, and nomadic tribes between India and higher Asia.
It is however for a totally different reason, that the Bolan pass has become so well known internationally. In the pre-historic India, entire human habitation here was wiped out, around 74000 thousand years ago, when a super giant volcano erupted at Toba, located on Sumatra island of Indonesia. About 6 meter high layer of ash and volcanic tephra, from this eruption, was deposited on the entire Indian subcontinent, killing entire human habitation. It was much later, i.e. about 15000 BC, that the human migration again started towards India. One route that was followed was from Malaysia and Myanmar. The second route of human migration was from Iran and Afghanistan. This route was found to pass through Bolan pass. 

The humans that migrated to India prior to 7500 BC were hunter-gatherers and except for few stone tools did not leave any reminiscent traces behind. The human migrants that arrived at Bolan pass after 7500 BC were essentially humans living in villages; They knew art of agriculture and pottery making. They had domesticated animals like sheep. They used to worship fertility and had a fertility Goddess.

Goddess of Fertility


Bolan river, as it flows out of Toba Kakar ranges, drains out of the highlands of Baluchistan into Kachi plains. A major discovery was made in 1976 when the site of Mehrgarh, on the Kachi Plain of the Indus Valley in Pakistan (29°25′ N, 67°35′ E) was discovered. Mehrgarh site, located on the banks of Bolan river, is a major archaeological discovery covering an area of over 495 acres (200 ha). A range of objects such as human skeletons, artifacts, partially burnt grains, animal bones and house structures were discovered in this area. After carbon dating, it was found that the remains were from the period 7500 BC to 3500 BC , which established that the Mehrgarh settlement was the earliest human settlement ever found in Indian subcontinent and humans lived at this site for a period of about 4000 years.

Photograph Taken on site

Colonial British rules had erected a, now well known, structure, called Gateway of India in the Mumbai harbour in the year 1911 to commemorate the visit to India by British king George V and the Queen Mary. However, the true and original Gateway of India can be found farther north, in the Balochistan highlands. Bolan pass is the real and original Gateway of India without any doubt.

16 May 2010