Millennium Post

Ancient ponds and an iron sheet

By Brij Khandelwal

Workers excavating a holy pond in a village at the periphery of Mathura have discovered what is claimed as the first iron sheet used to prevent seepage of river water. Should the right moves be made, the area could well be a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During excavation of the ancient Ram Taal, they unearthed at a depth of 15 feet a two-inch thick 4.5 feet broad, 180 feet long and 120 feet wide iron sheet, at the base of the kund (holy pond).

This probably is the first ever iron sheet recovered from any water body in the country. Since the area lies adjacent to the Yamuna river, the sheet could have possibly used to prevent the seepage of water inland, says Vineet Narain, a well-known journalist and chairman of The Braj Foundation that is engaged in digging the
for restoration.

'We have restored over 40 ancient water bodies in the past five years. All these kunds are of Puranik importance and are believed to be associated with the transcendental pastimes of Sri Radha Krishna,' Narain told IANS, explaining why the area is known as Braj Bhoomi.

He said SK Dubey, the archeological officer of the Uttar Pradesh government, felt that finding an iron sheet from the foundation of a kund was definitely unprecedented.

Dubey feels that several experiments would have to be conducted before arriving at any conclusion.

Virendra Singh, a professor at the Government Degree College, Kushinagar, a resident of the Sunrakh village where the iron sheet was found and who has been studying the archaeology of Mathura for a long time, says: 'The discovery of a huge iron sheet from this
is definitely a major finding, which should be subjected to carbon-dating. It is important because even in the remotest areas of Mathura, there are no iron ore sources.' However, five highways passed through Mathura during the Kushan period.

Vineet Narain, who in the mid-1990s had first pointed to the scourge of money laundering to and from India, said that since the river Yamuna flows close to this site and commercial boats used to pass through this area, it is probable that iron was procured from a far-off place and the sheet was created through molding.

'This was done to avoid the possible damage caused by seepage of Yamuna water,' Narain said.

He that some archaeologists from Bangalore have taken samples of the finding for further study. They are of the opinion that this kund is 2,900 years old.

The residents of Sunrakh village are thrilled with the finding. It was on their repeated written requests that the Braj Foundation undertook this job and they now feel that once developed, this site, like Lothal, Harappa and Kalibangan, will become a World Heritage Site that will bring them both glory and generate employment through the visits of tourists.

Narain recounted the pitfalls that had been encountered before the Braj Foundation got access to the site.

'The site of this kund had become a flat agricultural field and was liberally encroached on by builders and other vested interests. It was a herculean task to reclaim this land, which we could do only with the help of villagers and the local administration. However, two acres of land of Ram Taal, according to the revenue records, is still under illegal possession, which needs to be reclaimed for us by the Mathura district administration for the complete development of the site.'

The Braj Foundation has been engaged for the last 10 years in the restoration of dozens of kunds, forests, heritage buildings and other sites in the area.

'Along with Ram Taal there are over 40 other kunds which have been excavated. This entire operation of de-silting the water bodies and conserving more than 300,000 cubic meters of water' is being done with the financial support of businessman Kamal Morarka, the chairman of the Mumbai-based Gannon Dunkerley Group and a minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office in the early 1990s, Narain said.  
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