Located 40 kilometres northwest of Calcutta and spread over about four square miles, Chandraketugarh is a treasure trove of antiques, some dating back to 650 BC. Chandraketugarh first came to light in the first decade of the last century when some antiques were dug up while laying a road. A.H. Longhurst, a renowned British archaeologist, visited the site in 1907, followed by Rakhaldas Bandopadhyay (the man behind the excavations at Mohenjodaro) in 1909.
Both also stated that detailed studies and extensive excavation of the site was necessary.But, historians and archaeologists of the post-Independence era failed to act on their recommendations and Chandraketugarh remained neglected for decades. But there was limited excavations done by Kunja Gobinda Goswami of Calcutta University’s archaeology department, from 1955 to 1963, and by the ASI a few years ago.
According to historians, the place dates back to the 3rd century, which is pre-Mauryan era. While there’s another section that believes that the place is a part of the ancient kingdom named Gangaridai. The archaeological studies also say that once the destination was an important port city with huge walls.It is said that the people during that time were involved in several handicraft activities.
Apart from being a site with a long period of settlement, several other factors make Chandraketugarh significant historically. The first is its likely position in a network of international trade. The Greek geographer Ptolemy in his famous Geographia gave a detailed account of the lower Ganga and the region it traversed. Among the four towns that he mentioned, the town of Gangaridae has been identified as Chandraketugarh by several historians. While scholars have argued over whether the site had direct trade relations with Rome, it is likely that even if there were no direct relation, it was part of a much wider network in metal trade. The abundance of coins unearthed points to that.
Large number of terracotta objects or artifacts has been unearthed from the site. Ranging from seals, pottery, rattles, toys, figurines to plaques, the plethora of terracotta art sketches a vibrant picture of early urbanism and cosmopolitanism and also gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people.
On the evidence of art objects it is clear that the principal artistic medium of the site from the Maurya through the Gupta periods was the terracottas made from moulds. In all meaningful aspects this art in its stylistic affiliation seems to run a parallel course with those art objects of Gangetic India of c 350 BC through to c 500 AD.
They reveal the astonishing thematic variety which is characteristic of this school. These range from religious and ritualistic objects like primitive earth goddess, yaksa, yaksinis, nagas, male or female figures, at times standing on wheeled animals, and winged deities, to types and forms which are frankly secular.
Chandraketugarh has provided for us a deluge of terracottas depicting amorous couples shown in dalliance or in maithuna postures. The male and female figurines with intricate ornamentation are suggestive of imitation of the gold smith’s craft.