Definitions

Sopara

Sopara

Sopara (Sanskrit: ) (mentioned in the Hebrew texts as Ophir) was an ancient port town and the capital of the ancient Aparanta. The site of this ancient town is located near the present day Nala Sopara town in the Thane district of the state Maharashtra, India. In ancient times, it was the largest township on India's west coast, trading with Mesopotamia, Egypt, Cochin, Arabia and Eastern Africa.

History

The Mahabharata and the Puranas state that the was reclaimed from the sea for the dwelling place of Parashurama and it became a tirtha for this reason. The finding of the relics in a stupa and the rock edicts (the fragments of the 8th and 9th major rock edicts) of Ashoka in 1882 prove the importance of this port town from the 3rd century BCE to the 9th century CE. The Buddhist text Mahavamsa (VI, 46,47) states that the first king of Sri Lanka, Vijaya sailed from Supparaka (Sopara) to Sri Lanka. Ptolemy mentioned this town as Soupara, and it was a major commercial centre during his time

Excavations at Sopara

In April 1882, Bhagvanlal Indraji, a noted archaeologist, numismatist and epigraphist excavated at the Burud Rajache Kot mound in Nirmal. The ruins of a Buddhist Stupa was found. From the center of the stupa (inside a brick built chamber) a large stone coffer was excavated which contained eight bronze images of Maitreya Buddha which belong to the c. 8th-9th century CE. This coffer also enclosed relic caskets of copper, silver, stone, crystal and gold, along with numerous gold flowers and fragments of a begging bowl. A silver coin of Gautamiputra Satakarni (Satvahans) was also found from the mound. The Bombay Provincial Government presented the Sopara relics to the Asiatic Society of Bombay. The coins and the artifacts found during the excavations at the site of this ancient town can still be viewed in the The Asiatic Society, Mumbai museum. In an old muslim graveyard near Ramkund, the fragments of VIIth and IXth major rock edicts were found. These rock edicts can be viewed in the Chhatrapati Sivaji Maharaj Vaastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. In 1956, a fragment of XIth major rock edict was found from a coastal village, Bhui. During 1993 excavation, a ring well, fragments of Roman amphorae red polished ware and glass (all belong to the early centuries of the Common Era) were found.

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