Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Heads from Akhnoor

Many old timers like me shall remember the 1965 attack of Pakistan Army on Akhnoor town. Pakistan Army had drawn up plan; code named Grand slam; in May 1965, to attack the vital bridge near Akhanoor town, located on the banks of the Chenab River, at a distance of 28 km from Jammu, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The bridge was believed to be the lifeline of an entire infantry division in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistanis hopes that with the capture of this bridge, they could also capture Jammu, an important logistical station for Indian Army.  Its different matter that the attack failed miserably, and Pakistani armoured vehicles and other units were forced back by Indians.

Akhnoor might have become known to us, because of this skirmish in 1965. However, it can be said that Akhnoor was one of the last bastion of the Harappan Civilization that occupied this area five millenniums ago. Akhnoor’s past however does not end with extinguishing of this civilization.  Excavations at Ambaran site have proved that this region was a prominent abode of Buddhism during the Kushan period (first century) and Gupta (third to fifth centuries). An ancient an eight-spoke Stupa, consisting of a mound with Buddhist relics, built from  baked bricks and surrounded by stone pathways, meditation cells and rooms has been excavated here and is believed to have been from this period. We have no idea whether this Stupa survived the wrath of Hephthalite (White Hunas) king “Mihircula”, who ruled north India in sixth century and who was bent upon destructing Buddhist monuments and slaughtering Budddhist monks. Archaeologists have also unearthed from this site, Buddhist relics from the Pre-Kushan reign, besides silver caskets, gold and silver leaves, pearls, corals, and copper coins of the Gupta period.

A rare find from Akhanoor is displayed in Mumbai’s “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum”. This consists of Terracotta heads of local gentry or people from different professions and strata.  Arcaheologists believe that these heads were created by artists sometime in sixth century CE.
According to the museum display, these heads must have once existed in a Buddhist monastery. The heads are a classic example of achievement of aesthetic feeling in art of terracotta modeling and bear clear traces of Graeco-Roman art of Gandhara period.

The hairstyles, curly hair, are clearly done in ancient Greek style. Mustaches seem to be in vogue for men. Both men and women seem to grow long hair, which were tied in pony tail and style and then tied up on top of the head. The unbelievably expressive eyes are something that must be seen personally. While watching the heads, one gets a feeling that these men, women and the baby are not from Mars or Venus, they are the people we see everyday around us. Their faces so typically Indian.

Next time you are in Mumbai, please make a point to visit the museum and see these ancient heads. I am sure; Your effort will be well awarded.


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