Indraprastha's hoary past is tucked here

The Old Fort Archaeological Museum houses interesting artefacts recovered from its precincts

Delhi is well-known for its long, rich Mughal history, testaments to which are scattered all over the city in the form of tombs and monuments. But if you carry an interest in the city’s past preceding even the Mughals, the Old Fort Archaeological Museum is the right place to visit.

This museum, tucked within the Old Fort precincts and just next to the main gate, houses several interesting artefacts recovered from the area. Old Fort, historians say, is not just the oldest fort in the city but was also the site for the oldest habitation of the region - Indraprastha – the kingdom of the Pandavs from Mahabharata.

Until the beginning of the present century, a village named Indarpat, derived from Indraprastha, lay within the Purana Qila itself. As per popular tradition, the present towns Baghpat, Tilpat, Sonepat and Panipat were four of the five villages demanded by Pandavs from their cousins Kauravas.

After their victory over the latter in the battle of Mahabharata, the Pandavs gave away Indraprastha to the Yadavs and moved to Hastinapur; though Yadavs also relinquished it for Mathura soon after.

Later, it became the Capital for successive dynasties ruling northern India such as the Maurya, Sunga, Saka-Kushan, Gupta, Rajput, Sultanate and ultimately Mughals – Humayun built this Old Fort and Sher Shah Suri added some structures later on.

Excavations carried out by Archaeological Survey of India at the qila in 1954-55 and again from 1969-73 unearthed relics belonging to all these dynasties confirming the antiquity of the fort. The museum was an afterthought to exhibit all these relics for history enthusiasts.

The first thing to catch the eye here are the large well-lit photographs of sites under-excavation from 1954-55 and 1969-73. Several levels of brick houses neatly marked by experts as Maurya I, Sunga II, Gupta IV etc can be seen. Then there are large glass showcases displaying pottery, ornaments, coins, toys, statues of deities, human figurines etc from each of the eras.

They are also accompanied by detailed information boards.

Curators have also taken care to include some artefacts which were not exhumed at Purana Qila, but form an important evidential link in Delhi’s history. Some of these are Palaeolithic-age stone tools recovered at the Anangpur archaeological site, sandstone sculptures of deities from the Qutub complex, rock edits, engravings etc. Also, likely to interest visitors are maps which depict the expanse of each dynasty that ruled over Delhi.
Do visit this museum to know more about your city.       

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