Celebrating the ‘International Museum Day’
The museum movement in Jammu and Kashmir has, more or less, remained out of fashion and very less has been discussed for a long time now. There exist very few museums in public as well as in private sector and the state has not a single Archaeological Site museum till date. Today (18 May) we are celebrating the International Museum Day and functions are being held in our old and historic museums at Jammu and Srinagar cities.
During the last few decades, Archaeologists discovered several archaeological sites and recovered significant archaeological artifacts besides finding the tools used by the primitive man in his olden Stone Age’s period. There have been great advances when it comes to discovering archaeological sites of the medieval and early medieval periods. Unfortunately, even after having discovered a rich archaeological site treasure, there exists no site museum at the significant archaeological sites.
In fact, it is now a well established fact that, like many other places, Kashmir too has been proved to have been found as a suitable place for living by the early man. Earlier there was some confusion about its existence but the investigations carried by archaeologists to a greater extent have collected data to trace out the early living system of the man in Kashmir.
Earlier, archaeologists during their investigations of Manasbal valley, revealed the imprints of early man in the form of his habitation abodes which consisted of caves and some Paleolithic (early Stone Age) tools. The archaeologists then believed that these caves were used as shelters by the prehistoric man. The investigation report of Manasbal has been discussed in detail by the investigator of the site, Mr. Ajaz Ahmad Banday in his write up captioned, `Paleolithic Habitat ional Site at Manasbal’ which had appeared in the journal of Central Asian Studies 1997.
The task of discovering the evidences of pre-historic settlements in Kashmir had been initially taken up by the British and Indian archaeologists. The first investigation of this kind was initiated by Professor H D Sankalia when he explored the imprints of early man from Lidder Valley in as early as in 1969. He came across several ancient stone tools, which included a huge flake tool and hand axe.
These finds were later endorsed by similar finds form the upper Vishow and Rimbar valleys of Shopian and Kulgam districts, However, these finds could not throw any such light on the living styles of the early man, except that perhaps the early Kashmiri man had used these tools for hunting and also self protection from the attacks of wild beasts.
It was not known where these people took shelter until the excavations at Burzhama and Gufkral archaeological sites revealed few cave pits besides stone and bone tools. The results of observations of these sites got further endorsed by the discovery of stone tools and finding of caves which were located here at varying heights of the mountain of Manasbal.
The earlier excavation of 1960’s undertaken at Burzhama and Gufkral sites fairly yielded a good amount of information of prehistoric way of life. The findings of the cave pits revealed that the people of the age had lived in caves, and while the discovery of burials helped to believe that they used to bury their dead in graves either in crouching or in extended positions. Several burials are reported were encountered by archaeologists in Burzhama excavation. One of the drawings engraved on a rock here depicted a hunting scene.
Instead of exhibiting those artifacts in any museum of the state, it has been learned that such artifacts have been housed in other museums of India. In absence of these artifacts, the researchers and tourists who often visit these archaeological sites are unable to understand the significance of the sites and therefore miss the slice of history that such places offer.
It is therefore the responsibility of the concerned authorities to take necessary steps which would facilitate the concerned agency to acquire back the tools of pre-historic Kashmir. This would also enable researches to get an easy excess to the collections and their observations of these materials is definitely going to throw more lights on pre-historic culture of Kashmir.
Pertinent to mention that the state government had proposed to establish Site Museums at Burzhama, Parahaspora and in Lidder valley to house and showcase the archaeological artifacts’ of these sites there. Unfortunately no such plan has seen the light of the day and the best way to celebrate the Museum Day is to identify the sites and establish site museums storing artifacts for people to understand the significance of such great historical sites.