Perfect window to outer world

Ter in Marathwada region was a flourishing trade centre

Perfect window to outer world
Articles of historical importance are found even now

Ter is a tiny village on the banks of the Terna river in Osmanabad district of Marathwada region in Maharashtra. The village offers a window to India's trade with Rome in Europe several centuries ago. Its trade relations date back to as early as early the Christian era. It has been mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea as Tagara and described as the most prosperous trading centre in the Dakshinapatha.

Ter was one of the flourishing trade centres – giving boost to architectural and religious activities. In Ter village, there are several mounds and people still find old artefacts like pottery, combs, terracotta  toys, beads, figurines and toys. The Ramalingappa Lamature Museum, maintained by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, offers an insight into the rich history and heritage of the past.

“The range is very big...right from first century to the modern period. Whether it is Mauryans, Shunghas, Satavahanas, Wakatakas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas, Kalyani Chalukyans, Bahmanis, Adil Shahis, Moguls, Marathas, Nizams and the advent of the Europeans...it is a great piece of heritage and a site of extreme archaeological importance,” said Dr Kurush Dalal, Assistant Professor (Archaeology), Coordinator (Archaeology, Advanced Archaeology and Ancient Indian Arts, Crafts & Sciences), Centre for Archaeology (CfA), Centre for Extra Mural Studies (CEMS) at University of Mumbai.

Studies have helped in understanding cultural relations between other contemporary sites like Paitan, Kolhapur, Nashik and Nevasa in Maharashtra. Besides, they enable archaeologists and historians to know the process of urbanisation of the Deccan.

Early brick temples, water tanks, Buddhist remains and archaeological remains indicate the importance of Ter as a religious, artistic and commercial centre in the early historical period.

“In fact, when we look at Ter, more than the village where still materials of archaeological importance are found and the museum, one has to look at several other things to understand the heritage in totality. We have to keep on exploring,” said Dalal. Indigo-dyed Muslin, which was produced in the area,  was high in demand in Europe.

Today’s Paithan (then Prathisthan) was the capital of Satavahana empire. The trade route with Rome was established after researchers in Italy found similar terracotta figurines found in Ter.  Because of disagreement between Romans and Parthians, the Silk Route was cut off. Barygaza (now Bharuch) was a major port and then the Satavahanas started ports in several places along the west coast, including Shurparaka (Sopara or Nalasopara), Kaliyana (Kalyan), Sristhanaka (Thane), Chaul  (in Raigad),  Muziris (Kerala). “The goods were moved to the ports from there Arab sailors took it to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Mediterranean Sea and then Rome,” he said.

The story of Roman trade with India is associated with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. On the other hand, the rise and fall of Satavahana dynasty can be linked with the rise and fall in the Roman trade. It is not a mere coincidence that well-known saint poet of Maharashtra, Gora Kumbhar (also known as Goroba-kaka), a contemporary of Saint Jnyaneswar, was a resident of Ter and that it witnessed frequent gatherings of saintly personages. Ter had its own share in the propagation of Bhagvat dharma.

There is a temple dedicated to the saint and several relics are inside the temple complex. Ter has a number of structural temples of early historical period. In fact, the Trivikrama temple, built of bricks, is believed to be the earliest structural temple in Maharashtra. It has a vaulted roof and is an exact counterpart of rock-cut Caityas. Other notable temples of early period are the Uttareshwara and the Kaleshwara.

Like the Trivikrama temple, Uttareshwara temple is a brick temple. It has beautifully carved wooden doorframe and the original one is kept in the museum. It is a rare specimen of high degree of craftsmanship. Excavations conducted at Ter also exposed a brick tank called Tirthakund and remains of a Buddhist stupa.

In short, Ter was one of the most flourishing trade centres, giving boost to architectural and religious activities, which in turn further attracted the people from all over the Deccan towards it.  “It is one of the richest pieces of heritage. More people need to come here and appreciate the heritage. More research needs to be done. We would be able to find more things,”said Barde Gopichand Vishnu, a local schoolteacher.

Ter as a cultural zone has a lot more to reveal. At Dharashiv, just a few kilometres away from Ter, there are rock-cut temples carved sometime in the 7-8th centuries. The first cave was discovered in 10th century during the age of Rashtrakutas, while there have been debates whether the caves are Buddhist or Jain creations.

“It is believed that these caves were originally Buddhist, but were later converted into monuments of the Jain religion,” points out  Dalal, a veteran archaeologist and culinary anthropologist. “Due to growth of vegetation on top of the caves, cracks have developed in the rock and the caves are leaking. This has further aggravated the problem....graffiti is a major issue," he said. Conservation efforts need to be intensified, he added

At Jagji, about 9 km from Ter, there is a stone temple constructed sometime in the 12th century. It has one of the most ornate shikaras of the Chalukyan style. Some 20,000-plus artefacts painstakingly collected by Ramlingappa Lamture, a local merchant of Ter, stand witness to the mute fact of the importance Ter achieved in the field of contemporary trade and commerce of the period. 

“The Periplus mentions details of exported and imported items from Indian ports like Bharoch, Kalyan, Sopara. It mentions silk, cotton clothes, fine muslin, figured linens, agate, precious stones, jewellery, ivory, black pepper, spices, butter, ghee, honey, indigo and sandal as items exported from the port. While Italian copper, zinc, glass, topaz, coral, storax, frank incense, vessels of glass, silver and gold plates, wines, and  cosmetic materials etc were imported.

The abundance of ivory objects both finished and unfinished indicate that Bhokardhan (Bhogvardhana as it was called in those days), must be the ivory making centre in the Satavahana period. Though the ivory figurine is incomplete, it is of considerable interest as it pre-dates similar figurine at Pompeii. “Osmanabad offers a view to the trade and commerce of the past,” adds Prakash Kashid, a local journalist.

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