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Beef was commonly eaten in Rishikesh-Haridwar till 5th century AD

Here's the full text of a report in Indian Archaeology 1973-74, a Review. This is pretty strong (I would argue conclusive) archaeological evidence of beef eating well after the Indus Valley Civisliation period.

By this time Buddhism had achieved over 900 years, including many centuries of dominance over Vedic Hinduism. The views of Buddhists were therefore adopted into mainstream Hinduism. Vedic Hinduism was supplanted by a vegetarian version of Hinduism.

62. EXCAVATION AT VIRABHADRA TEMPLE-SITE, RISHIKESH, DISTRICT DEHRA DUN.

The North-western Circle of the Survey under Shri N. C. Ghosh, assisted by Sarvashri R. P. Sharma, B. P. Saxena, A. S. Sariyal, M. M. Srivastava and Ashok Kumar conducted excavation at the site where the structures and antiquities of the early centuries of the Christian era had been noticed earlier (1963-64, p. 45). The excavation was conducted with a view to ascertaining the culture sequence of the site as also to reveal the nature of the structures. Two trenches, VBA-I and VBA-II, measuring 5×5 m and 20 x 10 m respectively, were taken up at north-western part and the mid-eastern edge of the mound. The occupational deposit (3.90 m in VBA-I and 3.70 m in VBA-II) lies over the sandy water borne virgin soil resting on a pebble bed. The entire period of occupation (circa second century A.D. to circa eighth century A.D.) is divided into Early, Middle and Late phases on the basis of pottery, coins, other antiquities and brick-sizes. The occupation at the site, however, was continuous. Five structural phases and two floor levels in VBA-I and seven structural and four floor levels in VBA-II were encountered.

The Early phase (circa first century to third century A.D.) was represented by sprinklers of red polished ware, bowls of dull red ware with a vertically sharpened rim and sides tapering to a flat thickened base, lid of dull red ware with ledged shoulders, black-on-red ware sherds having motifs like hatched triangles, simple bands, etc. The pottery from these levels shows marked similarity with that obtained from the early levels of Period IV at Hastinapur and Saka-Kushan period at Purana Qila, Delhi. To this evidence may be added a copper coin from the earliest strata, having on the obverse a king (diademed) standing with right hand over an altar, left hand out of flan, trident above altar, and on the reverse, two-armed Siva standing, holding noose (?) in right hand and trident (?) in left hand, behind him bull standing left, and Brahmi letter ma in the field. This example belongs to the Kushan copper coinage of circa first-second century A.D.

The Middle phase (circa fourth-fifth century A.D.) is distinguished by a mould-made bowl, kaolin sherds, sprinklers of inferior variety, cooking vessels with indentations and lug ears on their rims, sherds, bearing motifs in relief in imitation of jack fruit and ornamented bricks. Identical pottery and bricks were also recovered from excavations at Ahichch-hatra and Kashipur from the Gupta and post-Gupta levels.

In the Last phase (circa seventh-eighth century A.D.) most of the pottery types were a continuation of preceding phase. A marked decline in potting technique and stagnation in pottery shapes can be noticed. A silver coin, bearing a crude human figure (?) on the obverse and dots and lines on the reverse was recovered from the penultimate structural level. The coin is similar to Gadahiya issues and provides a date for the end of the occupation at the site. No precise reason, however, can be assigned for the desertion of the site. The occupation in the Early, Middle and Late phases flourished practically under political hegemony respectively of the Kushans, the Guptas and the Katuris (a local dynasty).

Structural remains from the Early phase of VBA-I were represented by a portion of a mud-brick structure built in two phases. The phase I of the structure was exposed to a length of 1 m with thirteen courses of mud-bricks (size: 36x24x7 cm) laid irregularly in mud mortar. The next phase of this structure was raised right on the top of the earlier phase. It was found damaged considerably by a later pit. The walls of this phase form an outer corner of a room, the north-south wall measuring 1-16 m, and the east-west 1.52 m. There was no change in brick-size or in mortar from the earlier phase. Associated with this structure was a rammed floor of earth and mud-lined circular hearth (dia. 44 cm). A number of unique handmade vases with pinched bottom and burnt patches were noteworthy finds from this phase. A bone tool, shaped out from a shaft piece, having secondary retouch and tempered tips and sides was also recovered from this level along with animal bones.

Structures from the Middle phase were jerry built. A wall of boulders and pebbles was exposed to a length of 3 m. Mud-bricks were also seen to have been used in this wall.

Structure belonging to the upper level was equally improvised and was represented by a portion of a room. Boulders and pebbles were used as building material. A wall built of baked brick robbed from nearby structure and pebbles was exposed below the north-south wall of the room.

Unlike in the cutting VBA-I, structural activities in VBA-II started with baked bricks.

The first of the four structural phases of the early phase (pl. XL) was represented by a wall measuring 0.90 m in length and 0.48 m in width, having two courses and laid in slaked lime-mortar. Lumps of lime were also found alongside the wall. To the next phase belong two walls and a brick-on-edge lined hearth with its opening towards north. The third phase was marked by a corner of a room. The east-west wall of this room runs to a length of 1.10 m, and the north-south to 1.36 m, the width of both the walls being 48 cm. To this phase also belongs a portion of brick floor of 1.05 m in area. The size of brick is 35x22x6 cm which roughly corresponds to the normal size of bricks from Period IV of Hastinapur. Brick-bats, however, are mostly used in construction.

Foundation of a temple with a linga, in Structure 1, (pl. XXXIX A) and a house adjacent to it was laid bare in the mid-phase. The structure was partially exposed. The southern edge of the structure running east-west was traced to a length of 5.70 m. The maximum available courses were twenty-two, including four of the foundation. Two sizes of bricks, viz., 33x22x7 cm and 36x24x6 cm were found to have been used. The former, however, were used in the foundation. The plinth is embellished with two off-sets. The facade is plain but exhibits neat and careful treatment in laying bricks. A large number of ornamented bricks were recovered from the debris.

In the late phase the Structure 1 remained under use. To this was added another structure referred to hereafter as Structure 2. The remains of the structure were exposed about 20 m south of Structure 1. Structure 2 (pl. XXXIX B) was oriented east-west and follows the same alignment as that of Structure 1. It is rectangular on plan with an approach from the east. It had a paved floor and was relaid at least for a second time in its life span. A l.65 m wide platform could be traced only on two sides of the floor. Apart of the platform probably supported the superstructure. Bricks of 28 x 22 x 7 cm size used here follow the standard size of bricks in north India during the Gupta and late Gupta periods.

A house adjacent to Structure 1 with six rooms and a corridor was laid bare. The house had two independent sets. The eastern set comprised a long room (3.60 x2.26 m) inter-connected with an adjacent room by a 0.80 m wide door. The door-frame was fixed in an inset angle of the wall. In the western set there were at least four rooms. The rooms were on average 2.20 m square and were interlinked by doors having varying widths of 60 cm and 70 cm. All the rooms were paved with bricks except the corridor. Access to this set from the river side was through a corridor (3.66 m long and 1.32 m wide). There was no indication of cooking inside the rooms. It is interesting to note that iron spearheads, arrow-heads, plough-share and a sickle were recovered from inside and around the house.

Evidence regarding dietary habits of the people, as revealed by bones recovered from the excavation, deserves special mention. Nearly eighty per cent of the animal bones come from VBA-I while the remaining from VBA-II. It was seen that while only cattle bones have been recovered from the latter, the former yielded bones of both cattle and goat. The collection consists of fragments of long bone, ribs and vertebrals and some molars. It was observed that animal bones were confined to the early phase, the later phases being free from such remains. This change could be linked with the establishment of Structures 1 and 2 which may thus represent remains of temples. Probably the present emphasis on vegetarianism in Rishikesh-Hardwar could be traced back to circa sixth century A.D.

As a result of the operations in two selected areas of the mound, useful information was gathered on the settlement pattern of this ancient township. On the bank of the river (site VBA-II) structures were built of baked bricks right from the earliest phase. In the next two phases massive religious structures and vast complex of residential establishments attached to the above structures came up in the area. In the south-eastern part of the mound (VBA-I), however, houses were found to have been built of mud-bricks, boulders and pebbles. It would be reasonable to argue, therefore, that the former area was preferred by the elite and opulent, whereas laymen of the township dwelt further away. It is significant to note that settlement pattern has remained unaltered through the centuries.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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