When Rajasaurus and other dinosaurs roamed the land where Indians live now

A spectacular new book brings alive the natural history of the Indian subcontinent.

Even though it was still part of the giant land mass of Gondwana, the outlines of what came to be Greater India finally began to be discernible about 145 million years ago. The mountain range that would later split to become the Western Ghats already marked the boundary with Madagascar to the west. In the north lay the craggy Aravallis that extended into a shallow sea to the north and west. In the east, a rift valley was beginning to form between India and Antarctica which would eventually become the eastern coastline of India. This rift valley between Greater India and Antarctica and Australia continued to widen until total separation of the two land masses happened around 122 million years ago. This was roughly when all the continents began to move towards their present positions.

Around 145 million years ago, as land masses parted, seas began to invade the empty spaces. The yellow star marks the position of India. Notice that Kashmir pointed to the east and Kerala marked the western tip of India.  The south and east were surrounded by a mass of islands which now make up Antarctica. Madagascar lay alongside Gujarat to Kerala and a shallow sea had begun to separate it from India.
Around 145 million years ago, as land masses parted, seas began to invade the empty spaces. The yellow star marks the position of India. Notice that Kashmir pointed to the east and Kerala marked the western tip of India. The south and east were surrounded by a mass of islands which now make up Antarctica. Madagascar lay alongside Gujarat to Kerala and a shallow sea had begun to separate it from India.

Greater India had its own spectacular array of Cretaceous dinosaurs. The best and richest source of dinosaur fossils from this period is the fossil-rich sedimentary layer along the Narmada river, known as the Lameta formation, named after a bathing ghat which lies on the outskirts of Jabalpur, en route to the famous marble cliffs of Bhedaghat where the river drops as the Dhuandhaar Falls.

The Narmada originates in Amarkantak Hills in Anuppur district of Madhya Pradesh, and travels through Maharashtra and Gujarat, covering more than 1300 kilometres during its journey. For about 200 kilometres on the banks of the Narmada that flows through Jabalpur are marble and dolomitic cliffs that are overlain with sedimentary rocks, and these preserve fantastic fossils from this period. If you want to go looking for fossils in this area, a starting point would be the hilly region around Jabalpur. This area was once flanked by the Narmada seaway to the west, with other rivers originating in the Vindhyas flowing around it. The ebb and flow of river water deposited copious quantities of silt and sediments which se led layer upon layer, preserving the fossils within them.

It is therefore not surprising that the first dinosaur to be discovered in India, a sauropod called Titanosaurus indicus, was found in a massive sediment horizon in a place called Bara (meaning big) Simla Hill near the army cantonment in Jabalpur. Titanosaurs (or giant reptile) were the giant herbivores of the Cretaceous period. Fossils of bones and eggs of titanosaurs and some other dinosaurs have been found extensively along the Narmada.

Jabalpur cantonment has a second hill close to the Bara Simla Hill called the Chhota (meaning small) Simla Hill where broken bone fragments can be found as you ascend. At the base of the hill, within the boundary walls of the Gun Carriage Factory in Jabalpur, one of the largest artillery and armaments factories in India, is a temple complex called the Pat Baba Mandir dedicated to Hanuman and other Hindu deities.

The temples’ precinct offered protection to the bones, eggs and nests that were discovered here because generations of priests and devotees believed that the eggs were signs of Shiva that appeared after he slayed the asuras (demons) who terrorised sages in this forest. Tragically, during a renovation in 2011, many nests and eggs were damaged and lost, and today very few fossils remain in the possession of the temples’ priests.

The seaways that cut through the middle of the Indian land mass were shallow and dotted with islands, and it was probably easy for large migratory dinosaurs like Titanosaurus to wade across these waterbodies. At least seven different species of these gentle, plant-eating giants from the Cretaceous period have been identified in India alone.

Titanosaurus varied greatly in size and external appearance; there was even a Titanosaurus that was armoured, with plates as bony extensions emerging from its skin. The bones of Titanosaurus suggest that they were perhaps related to a South American dinosaur called Saltasaurus. When Barapasaurus and Kotasaurus became extinct, Titanosaurus dominated as the top browser and is the largest known dinosaur of the Cretaceous period in India.

Over 25 metres long and about 12 metres tall, Titanosaurus was small in comparison to Barapasaurus, but still as tall as a four-storeyed building. For such an enormous creature, its teeth were extremely small and thin and palæontologists believe that they were perhaps used only for stripping leaves and shoots and not for grinding or chewing. That work may have been performed by the gastroliths (stomach stones) in its digestive tract. Like many other sauropods, Titanosaurus also had a large thumb-claw that may have helped their young defend themselves against predators.

But the biggest weapon these dinosaurs had was their whip-like tail that was capable of stunning any would-be predator. Studies done on trackways and footprints of large sauropod herds in Argentina and the US show that walking in packs with the young in the centre probably a defensive tactic Titanosaurus employed against predators. Despite being widely found, there is no assembled skeleton or even an authentic illustration of any Titanosaurus from India.

While the herbivorous Titanosaurus lorded over low tropical jungles, small carnivorous dinosaurs like Indosaurus (meaning “Indian lizard”) and land crocodiles like Laevisuchus (meaning “light crocodile”) lived in dense forests along the Narmada. Another menacing predator from this period was Indosuchus, which had a skull that measured almost 1 metre, and razor-sharp front teeth that were 10 centimetres long. Indosuchus hunted in packs to challenge larger predators. Its fossils have been found at many other sites along the Narmada and a few vertebrae have been found in the limestone beds of Ariyalur district in Tamil Nadu, too.

The seaways that cut through the middle of the Indian land mass were shallow and dotted with islands, and it was probably easy for large migratory dinosaurs like Titanosaurus to wade across these waterbodies.
The seaways that cut through the middle of the Indian land mass were shallow and dotted with islands, and it was probably easy for large migratory dinosaurs like Titanosaurus to wade across these waterbodies.

About 90 kilometres east of Ahmedabad and 70 kilometres north of Vadodara, close to the end of the Narmada’s journey, in the village of Raiholi in Kheda district, lies an extraordinary fossil graveyard. Raiholi features prominently on the world’s palaeontological map because it is one of the best places to see dinosaur nests and eggs. Interestingly, its discovery was almost accidental. In fact, dinosaur eggs appeared rather late – a little over three decades ago – on India’s palaeontological scene.

In October 1982, Professor Ashok Sahni, an incurably curious and widely respected palæontologist, was attending a seminar at the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad when a young officer of the Geological Survey of India (GSI), Dhananjay Mohabey, asked him about a round rock, about the size of a coconut. Mohabey worked with the GSI’s Nagpur office and, while on a survey of the Gujarat region, had heard of the frequent discovery of “cannonballs” during blasting operations at the ACC Cement factory at Balasinor, not far from Raiholi. The mine managers often decorated their shelves with these so-called cannonballs and used them to line garden paths leading to their site office. Professor Sahni analysed the shell cover of the “cannonball” Mohabey presented to him and found that it was the egg of a dinosaur!

After this, reports of the discovery of dinosaur eggs began pouring in from other sites around Raiholi and new locations in Gujarat, western Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra by GSI officers and other researchers. However, Raiholi remains the largest nesting ground of dinosaurs discovered in India, perhaps even in the world. Many nests are clustered together here in close proximity, suggesting that these were communal breeding grounds like the nesting colonies of penguins. The nests were made like hollows in the mud or sand and were lined with vegetation. In each nest the eggs were laid or arranged in a neat pattern so they would not roll around or bump into each other.

Tragically, as soon as news of this discovery spread, these sites were looted. Even today, if you stop at a tea stall near Raiholi you might be approached by locals offering to sell you dinosaur eggs. The Gujarat government has set up a conservation site in Raiholi and has made it a recreational park with two massive dinosaur replicas at the entrance to welcome visitors. But a lot of damage has been done to the site by vandals and today only the outlines of eggs within nests can be seen here.

Soon after the Raiholi discovery, a second site rich in dinosaur bones was discovered close by, across the state highway, that came to be known as “Temple Hill”. Fossil bones are so common here they can be gouged out from rocks with a pen knife. In one particular part of Temple Hill, in a patch of ground only 7 square metres in size, several bones were found which gained attention out of proportion to their size.

Suresh Srivastava, a geologist based out of the GSI in Jaipur, worked diligently at the Temple Hill site between 1982 and 1984, painstakingly unearthing bones and carefully noting the position of each one. He found a single braincase located about 3.5 metres away from the backbones. Because the relative sizes of the bones matched, the bones were thought to belong to a single individual. Close to this grave was another set of long bones many of which were broken and which, on closer analysis, were identified as those belonging to several individual sauropods.

Srivastava worked on the bones for several years, cleaning them of extraneous mud and accretions and placing them carefully in cartons. In 1994, Paul Sereno from Chicago’s Fields Museum and Jeff Wilson from the University of Michigan were visiting India and met Suresh Srivastava in the GSI office. When Srivastava opened the Temple Hill cartons and showed them the bones of the skull, the two American palæontologists quickly realised that this was no ordinary dinosaur.

Restoration of Rajasaurus with prey (Wikimedia Commons)
Restoration of Rajasaurus with prey (Wikimedia Commons)

Wilson, a PhD student then, carefully pieced together the bones under the expert supervision of Sereno and Ashok Sahni. It took them eight months to assemble the skull bones and reveal the apex carnivore of the Cretaceous period in India. They named it Rajasaurus narmadensis (meaning “king lizard of the Narmada”). From the size of its skull, they estimated that this predator was about 10 metres in length. Further analysis suggested that it had a robust build and a very strong skull and neck. Although it was smaller than Tyrannosaurus rex, Rajasaurus was perhaps more ferocious because it had the framework for greater agility and a stronger bite. It was perhaps a bit like the compactly built but superbly effective boxer Mike Tyson!

Rajasaurus is thought to be closely related to Majungatholus, a dinosaur from Madagascar, because their skulls and teeth were similarly shaped and their general appearance probably matched. This, of course, is not surprising, because you will remember that Madagascar at that time was still joined at the hip with western India!

Excerpted with permission from Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent, Pranay Lal, Allen Lane.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Han Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.


To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.