Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Excavations at Chandore 2012

The Ancient Temple complex at Chandore (18 09’ 52” N; 73 11’ 02” S) is situated near the hamlet of Chambharpada at Chandhore Village, Tal Mangaon, Dist Raigad, Maharashtra. The site was discovered in 2011 by a joint team of members from the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (CEMS), University of Mumbai and the India Study Centre (INSTUCEN), Mumbai. These explorations were carried out in March 2011 (Dalal 2012). (See earlier post fromMay 2011)

After explorations it was decided to apply for permission to the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct archaeological investigations (both excavations and clearance) at the site in the 2011-2012 Season. The CEMS applied in conjunction with the India Study Centre Trust (INSTUCEN), Mumbai.  Permission was granted and the excavations carried out under the direction of the author along with the past and present students of the CEMS.

The Site

The ancient site of Chandore is located less than half a kilometer to the east of the modern village of Chandhore opposite (and to the west of) the hamlet of Chambharpada. This site is essentially a cluster of Temples/Temple Plinths and lies close to the medieval coastal port site of Mhasla and the other medieval port sites on the Rajapur Creek.

It is also located along the very road that leads from the interiors of Maharashtra to the Rajapur creek and eventually the coast. It is equidistant from Goregaon and Mangaon and would have been the convergence centre for the routes from the north (via Mangaon) and south (via Goregaon) flow of traffic of goods from the interior to the ports of the Konkan. It thus lies on a critical node of one the most viable trade routes in this region.

The ancient site itself is made up of a complex of temples/temple plinths and assorted structural and sculptural members. The plinths in turn can be divided into 2 sub complexes – divided by the Chandore-Govele road - the first opposite the Chambharpada and the second about 100m to the west of the Chambharpada. The first group/complex of temples includes a single large disturbed plinth with an adjacent tank/step well with a smaller temple and nandimandapa. The second group/complex (north of the first group and west of Chambharpada) consists of at least two more temple plinths (one intact and exposed and the other buried and only partially exposed) and a host of smaller structure bases and scattered sculptural members.

The Excavations
The excavations per se were carried out on the eastern side of Complex1 - Plinth 1. Two quadrants each measuring 2.5 x 2.5m were taken up for excavations. The reason for the location of the trench was the slope and the possible accumulation of debris due to the obstruction of the natural flow of rain borne soil and artefacts by Plinth 1. 

The excavations revealed a very small deposit between 30 and 70cm. the soil excavated was uniform and no real layers with the exception of humus discolouration were visible. The bedrock (laterite) locally known as kaatal was exposed in both quadrants. A large number of potsherds of coarse Red and Grey wares, bangle fragments of glass, a broken wound (black) glass bead, a fragment of Monochrome Glazed Ware – a West Asian import (a second example was found whilst clearing the debris on the steps of the tank), a silver Gadhaiya coin (Maheshwari 2010: 83, Cat No. 204-244) and a large number of retouched stone tools (microliths) and tool making debris were recovered from the trench.

The bangles are mainly opaque black with a few green and fewer blue/bichrome blue examples. Amongst the large number of bangle fragments are few with coloured appliqué glass dots reminiscent of similar bangles found at Sanjan (Gupta et. al. 2003; 2004) and dated between the 9th and 12th c AD.

The microliths are a separate and unique ‘problem’. To the best of the authors knowledge these are the first microliths excavated in a stratified context in the Konkan. They require a serious and dedicated study and will be dealt with separately and in detail at a later stage.

Suffice to say that the microliths take back the antiquity of human occupation at Chandhore to at least the 2nd millennium BC.

In conclusion, the sculptural material, the hero/sati stones, the pillars and the Gadhaiya coin all point out to a 10th to 13th c AD period for the site. The Monochrome Glazed Ware and a few very specific types of decorated glass bangles point to a slightly later terminal date of approximately the 15th c AD.

All these conclusions are preliminary and much more work is needed to ascertain the facts.

The excavation at Chandhore was carried out by the Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai in partnership with the India Study Centre Trust (INSTUCEN), Mumbai.

I am very grateful to the Archaeological Survey of India; the Vice-Chancellor, University of Mumbai; the Director of the Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai; Mr. Samuel Nazareth, Dr Aravind Jamkhedkar, Dr Suraj Pandit and Dr Abhijit Dandekar.

Special mention must also be made of Dr B. Vaidyanathan who almost single-handedly created the detailed site plan for the first season of excavations.

I am also indebted to the staff at the department, all of my students past and present who participated in the excavations and the labourers and villagers of Chandhore for all their help and patience.

And finally, my sincerest thanks to Siddharth Kale, Tukaram Kadam and Andre Baptista for being the pillars on whom I could lean with effrontery.

Naushijaan - Lucknowi Tehzeeb comes to Mumbai

Last week Rhea and I were invited to eat and consult at a newly opened restaurant in the eastern suburbs ... but a sudden tragedy struck and their A/C unit conked out shutting down the entire restaurant, we were disappointed and decided to make our weary way home when I remembered seeing a a new restaurant claiming to serve Lucknowi delicacies on the Kurla-Ghatkopar Rd ... we did an immediate rethink and decided to redraw the days plan of action and turn towards this new eatery. 

To add to our desires was the fact that a common friend, foodie and food writer Kalyan (The Knife) Karmakar had been giving our taste-buds sleepless nights with his posts from his ongoing Food Safari in Lucknow  :)

Naushijaan (Lazzat-e-Lucknow) - is situated just off the Kurla-Ghatkopar LBS Marg, It is a low roofed eatery with wall to wall pictures of Lucknow's Architectural Heritage, the Nawabs of Lucknow and the various dishes made and served at the restaurant. The outside of the restaurant has a Ulta-tava parantha maker cum BBQ on one side and a tava for Galauti Kebabas and Tava Chicken on the other. It is mainly a no frills, non-luxury, A/c restaurant with its entire staff imported from Lucknow.

(Naushijaan is a chain of Lucknowi restaurants originating in Lucknow with franchisees/branches in Chandigarh, Kolkata, Coimbatore and now in Mumbai.)

They seated us at a table and immediately brought a small basin  with warm water and  an ewer for us to wash our hands with. This struck a perfect note with me.

We ordered (on recommendation) - The Galouti Kebabs, The Tava Chicken, The Mutton Parda Kebab Pasanda with Ulte Tave ke Paranthe. The chicken was really nice but not spectacular. The mutton was really rich, spicy, silken in texture and extremely flavourful. The Galouti kebabs on the other hand were really spectacular, they were redolent of pure ghee and the smell of fried meat, they had a nice crisp outside with a soft melt in the mouth inside. Galoutis I have eaten in 5 Star hotels have always tasted pasty and flat on the inside, these on the other hand had definite texture, extremely soft but not a complete paste, they were beautifully well seasoned and cardamom was the single strong note amongst many subdued ones. The Parantha was the perfect accompaniment.

 By the time we finished with the kebabs and chicken we realised all we had place for was the Biryani ... the saalans would have to wait for another time.

Our friendly waiter Radhe Singh recommended both the Pullao-style in Mutton as well as the Degh-style ... we cast caution to the winds and decided to call for one of each. The both arrived looking very similar with a beautifully shiny silver varakh on top, but they both tasted completely exquisite and different. The pullao was moist (a tad cold) and had a robust taste of onions and spices. The degh-style was drier and redolent with the aroma of the spices which had permeated not just the soft juicy shank of mutton but each and every grain of rice. The degh-style was the clear winner. The word for all Awadhi rice dishes is Pullao, Biryani is a word used outside the Awadhi/Lucknowi heartland. We barely ate a third of each and parcelled the rest. 

Sadly there was no Shahi Tukda as they weren't satisfied with the bread available locally and no Shirmaal as they couldn't get the correct food colour in Mumbai!

Radhe Singh washing Rhea's hands post meal.

We were so happy with the food and the parcels we took home that  were back the next week with our friend Jubal - who had heard so much from us about the amazing food that he drove down from Nahur when he heard we were on our way there.

We tried the Chicken Tangdi (drumstick) Kebabs, which were really lovely; the Kakori Kebabs, which were dry, gamey, pasty, over-spiced and a bit weird with the Afghani Naan or Afghani Parantha. The Afghani  which was an absolute delight was a kind of bread that I have never seen or eaten in Mumbai to date. The Afghani Parantha was sublime to say the least, sweet, slightly stretchy, crisp on the outside and spongy and soft on the inside with a divine taste. I would come back just to eat this!

With the Afghani we had the saalans we had missed out the last time - Jehangiri Chicken and Mutton Majlisi.
The combination was perhaps not the best idea as the Jehangiri was a subtle flavour with hints of kewra (screw pine essence) and mace whilst the Majlisi was a robust preparation cooked in mince and charged with pepper, black elaichi, cloves and cardamom ... cardamom appears to be the favourite spice at Naushijaan and is present in all its preparations.

We had to have the Degh ki Biryani (Of course!!) and I followed it with their Phirnee. The phirnee was rich, flavourful, not too sweet, full of nuts and a cardamom pod (!), but I was a bit peeved that it was served in a small 100ml plastic vaati against the usual shallow 'V' shaped earthenware dish.

All in all Naushijaan is an experience I recommend to all lovers of good food, meat and Awadhi/Lucknowi food in Mumbai ... its a great place for great food.

9th March 2013 ... 'tis with great sadness that I have to announce here that Naushijaan shut shop late last year ... I was told they felt they were very badly located and therefore wenren't doing as well as they needed to. :-(

Friday, May 18, 2012

Punjab da Aab in Mumbai

I have been shirking my blogging responsibilities of late by claiming tiredness, too much work, heat, etc, etc, etc ... but Naushijaan at Kurla and Oye Kake at Fort just ensured that I had to get back to writing.

Well here's the blogpost on Oye Kake

Oye Kake is a small Punjabi vegetarian restaurant in a small bylane in Fort, just off PM Rd, right next to the venerable Yazdani Bakery. They are what at first glance appears to a slightly trendy version of the ubiquitous Punjabi Restaurant that we see all over Mumbai ... but scratch the surface a bit and you see that it's not that and has a surprising amount of depth and contemporariness. It's funky quotient is that all of it's food is vegetarian, authentically Amritsari and that their Kulchas are made in water (Aab) brought down all the way from Amritsar! 

I ate the kulchas on my last visit and can vouch for their yumminess without being quite able to discern what they have imbibed specifically from the Amritsari aab. All the kulchas are served with a small portion of some of the softest most palate exciting chhole that I have ever eaten out side a Punjabi home in Mumbai.

My student Tanvi was down from Singapore on her first holiday after her nuptials and her classmates Arti and Manish decided we needed to meetup, chit chatting took so long that Tanvi decided to stay over in Fort rather than brave the train journey to Malad ... this was all the excuse we needed and we went off to Oye Kake to dig into sum Punjabi veggie goodness.

The restaurant has a happy youthful feel with some cartoons on the walls alongside some lovely black and white pictures, chimtas

The Menu is printed on a thick board with the dishes on one side and a small write up about the place on the  other. We quickly ordered some chhaas for Tanvi and me, pedhewali lassi for Arti and a Pepsi for Manish.

Tanvi then evinced a desire to eat some Masala Papad and her request was our command!

We ordered Alu Paranthas, a Cheese and Garlic Naan, Palak Paneer and Rajma Chaval.

The Alu Paranthas were nothing that special -good but not superb, the Naan though was a divine experience especially gooey on the inside with explosive chunks of garlic and buttered lightly on the outside .... I could go back just to eat this! The Paneer was fresh, soft, creamy yet silken; the palak seasoned just right with tempering before being puréed - together a perfect marriage.

 The Rajma Chaval arrived in a bucket (as expected) but without much ghee ... when we asked for some we were pleasantly surprised to be immediately rewarded with a large vaati of the genuine stuff. The Rajma was cooked as only Punjabis know how, delicately spiced, tangy, cooked so soft  it dissolved on contact with ones tongue ... this was North India in all its simple culinary delights.

We finished of with kesar phirnee (dehydrated), malai kulfi (watery) and the most divine Gulab Jamuns I have eaten in quite some time. The Gulab Jamuns made up for all the other dessert disappointments and we soon called for a second round and then a third round!

The young owner of Oye Kake was there and was quick to remark that he had seen us 'diss' his Phirnee and upon checking realised something was way wrong that day. We had a pleasant conversation and I promised him that I would write about his place because I had eaten really well and yet didn't feel heavy and stuffed. So well here it is.

Oye Kake is in a small lane and parking in the day time would be a serious problem at night though its plentiful. The service is prompt, the waiters and staff smiling, quick and helpful and the owner is usually right there in his restaurant - making sure all his staff are delivering the goods.