by Bernard K. Means, Director
On August 5, 2015, I left Srinagar (Garhwal) mid-morning with three members of the faculty in HNB Garhwal University’s Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture, and Archaeology: Praadeep Saklani, Rakesh Bhatt, and Vinod Nautiyal.
Vinod is my host for my week in Srinagar (Garhwal), which is focused on 3D scanning in the archaeology laboratory he directs (more on that in the next post). Somya Choudhary, a graduate student in this department, accompanied us and acted as our driver (as he did for most days I was in Srinagar (Garhwal). Our destinations this day were two locations in the Garhwal Hills of the Himalayas in and near the town of Gopeshwar.
Gopeshwar is just over 62 miles (100 kilometers) away from Srinagar (Garhwal), but our trip took us more than three hours. This region is prone to landslides, which cover the road in places with everything from a few very large cobbles that necessitated deft maneuvering by Somya, to hundreds of cobbles that covered half of a road that was already barely more than one lane wide. The road was narrowed in some places because the road edge itself had collapsed, and everywhere road crews worked to repair the damage. In other places, progress was slow because the paved road surface had washed away.
And, of course, there was the traffic. We were either passing slower moving vehicles on the narrow road, with many blind corners, or being passed ourselves. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and the occasional cart not only had to weave in and out of each other, but also shared the road with cows, horses, donkeys, dogs, people, and the occasional monkey.
We followed this long and winding road to our first stop in the Garhwal Himalayas: an archaeological site being excavated by graduate students at HNB Garhwal University under the direction of Vinod Nautiyal. Today, the site’s environs consist of a marshy area cultivated in rice and an adjacent small village.
Millennia ago, however, the marshy area was once a lake that attracted a diverse range of animals and led humans to settle in this area. The finding that humans lived at this high altitude in deep antiquity was not the only surprising discovery. Vinod and his team also uncovered evidence for craft production, including metallurgy.
After a stop at one of the ubiquitous small shops that line the roads of India for tea (I declined), we next headed toward the town of Gopeshwar to visit the temple of Rudranath (Gopinath), which is dedicated to the god Siva.
Rakesh led our tour of the temple. Not only is he an expert on the temple, he is also a practicing Hindu priest. Once we entered the walled temple compound, we removed our footwear so that we could enter the temple itself. Rakesh discussed the history of the temple, which today remains a major pilgrimage site in the region. He also performed a Hindu ceremony that included me, Vinod, and Pradeep. I was honored, of course. After we left the interior of the temple, we walked around its exterior and Rakesh pointed out important features of the temple’s architecture and overall design.
He noted Hindu temples are symbolically viewed as reflecting the human body. Surrounding the temple is a number of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, some of which may represent earlier temples at this location.
Near the temple’s entrance is a breathtaking, quite large iron trident. The trident is one of the symbols used to represent Siva. This particular trident dates to the 6th or 7th centuries A.D. and shows evidence for repairs dating to the 12th century A.D.
I had brought with me an iPad Mini and a Structure Scanner attachment, and, with permission, I scanned a corner of the temple and some of the sculptures.
I will work to print and animate the resulting digital models, and make them available to my Indian colleagues, as well as my undergraduate students at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). We then ended our visit, as it began raining and, this being the monsoon season, we were not sure if the rains would be heavy or light—fortunately, the rains remained light.
As I sat in the temple’s courtyard on a stone bench to put my socks and shoes back on, I noticed a sign put up by the Archaeological Survey of India: “Sustain Your Heritage and Feel Glorious.” Sustaining—and sharing—heritage is one of the main reasons that I and other archaeologists employ 3D scanning to document and preserve archaeological discoveries.
In my next post, I will detail my principle reason for making the long trek to North India—drawing on my experience with 3D scanning to work with Vinod, his archaeological team, and his graduate students on their own virtual curation efforts. Their efforts are partly directed toward creating a virtual presence for the Museum of Himalayan Archaeology and Ethnography, which is located on the campus of HNB Garhwal University.
Until next time, I hope we all feel glorious in our efforts to sustain our heritage.