Fortified site in Bareilly District, Uttar Pradesh, India. It flourished from c. 500 bc to ad 1100, and it was identified by Alexander Cunningham as the capital of North Panchala, an early kingdom mentioned in the Mahābhārata epic of the 1st millennium bc. The fortifications of the site measure 5.6 km in circuit, and the mounds within stand 23 m above the surrounding plain. Early visitors such as the 7th-century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang noted a number of Buddhist stupas; although these can no longer be located, Cunningham’s excavations of 1862–5 produced a reliquary casket at one stupa site. Some years later A. Führer undertook the excavation of a temple without much result. However, the principal excavation of Ahichchhatra was carried out between 1940 and 1944 by the Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of Rao Bahadur K. N. Dikshit, assisted by Amalananda Ghosh. This yielded evidence of nine successive periods of occupation in the western sector of the city dating from 500 bc to ad 1100.
These periods have been defined chiefly on the evidence of coins, pottery, terracottas and beads (see Panigrahi, Agrawala and Dikshit): the important ceramics known as Northern Black Polished ware and Painted Grey ware (see Indian subcontinent, §VIII, 5, (i)) were first defined at this site (Deva and Wheeler). Rather crudely executed grey terracotta figurines of the mother goddess found in Stratum VII (3rd–2nd centuries bc) can be related to similar figurines from Mathura, and moulded plaques of Shunga and Panchala affinity were recovered from Strata VII and VIII (4th–2nd centuries bc). Distinctive figurines of dwarfs and grotesques occurred in Stratum IV (2nd–4th centuries ad).
A Shiva temple of the 5th–6th century ad yielded some remarkable terracotta figures of river deities (New Delhi, N. Mus.). Etched cornelian beads of the early historical type were recovered from Stratum VIII and faience beads from Stratum III (c. ad 350–750). Glass beads overlaid with gold foil were found in Strata III and I (c. ad 850–1100). Further excavations carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India between 1963 and 1965 yielded evidence of a Bronze Age habitation with Ochre Coloured pottery dating from the 1st half of the 1st millennium bc. Finds from the site are currently held by by Archaeological Survey of India and in the National Museum, both in New Delhi.
- A. Cunningham: ‘Ramnagar and Ahichchhatra’, Archaeol. Surv. India Rep. 1862–5, 1 (1871), pp. 255–65
- A. Führer: Monumental Antiquities and Inscriptions of the N.W. Provinces and Oudh (Allahabad, 1891)
- K. Deva and R. E. M. Wheeler: ‘Appendix A: Northern Black Polished Ware, the Pottery of Ahichchhatra’, Anc. India, 1 (1946), pp. 55–8
- K. Deva and R. E. M. Wheeler: ‘Appendix B: Note on the Painted Grey Wares at Ahichchhatra’, Anc. India, 1 (1946), pp. 58–9
- A. Ghosh: ‘Introduction: The Pottery of Ahichchhatra, District Bareilly, U.P.’, Anc. India, 1 (1946), pp. 37–40
- K. C. Panigrahi: ‘The Pottery of Ahichchhatra, District Bareilly, U.P.’, Anc. India, 1 (1946), pp. 40–55
- V. S. Agrawala: ‘Terracotta Figurines of Ahichchhatra, District Bareilly, U.P.’, Anc. India, 4 (1947–8), pp. 104–79
- M. G. Dikshit: ‘Beads from Ahichchhatra, U.P.’, Anc. India, 8 (1952), pp. 33–63
- Archaeological Survey of India (1963–4), pp. 43–4 [excavation report from Ahichchhatra]
- Archaeological Survey of India (1964–5), pp. 39–42 [excavation report from Ahichchhatra]