Ancient civilizations

Rakhigarhi, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro:

(Update): The sites of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro – two sites of Indus Valley Civilization – have been surpassed by the discoveries made in the excavations made in Rakhigarhi and Bhirrana in Hissar District of Haryana State in India reported and published (in Nature) in 2016. The sites found here encompass 550 hectares of area, which is about twice the area in the former sites. Latest studies of Rakhigarhi suggest that this place was the metropolis or capital of the IVC. On the scientific examination of the artifacts found here in Rakhigarhi, it is dated at least 9000 years old habitation, which is at least 4000 years older than Harappa / Mohenjo Daro. With the new technological tools available now, DNA tests are presently carried out on 9 human skeletons found in the excavations there and it is hoped that facial expressions, food habits, health conditions of those ancient people will be reconstructed soon. Wow!

Excavations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro by archaeologists have shown beyond any shadow of doubt that the people living there from their earliest known time around 2700 years BC were highly developed in the matters of architecture, town planning and culture. They had their houses built of fired-bricks with well layout plans of wells, steps leading to those wells, paved flooring, great public-bath rooms and community granaries. The town layout had provided for straight streets, drainage for wastewater outlet, big hall of civil administration for the governing authority and fortified citadels supplemented by the defenses of the town. The culture had included script for writing, decorated artifacts for ornaments and household use and sculpted figurines for worshipping or other religious purposes. Since these findings in late twentieth century, a great debate among scholars of diverse fields, including archaeology, is going on that does not seem to have an end.

  This debate is less concerned with the correct assessment of its development than with scoring a point on an altogether a different aspect of India history relating to Aryans versus Dravidian controversy.

  The decline and ultimately extinction of the Harrappan people that has been shown by these excavations to have taken place are cited as the proof of the Aryan invasion of Indus Valley towns of Harappa, Mohenjo Daro etc. and destruction of their Dravidian inhabitants. It is also cited as an un-refutable proof of Aryans being foreigners who invaded India and Dravidians the native people of this country.

  A brief reference on this point is worth making. There are certain conclusions derived from the findings of these excavations that may be archeologically termed as beyond doubt while there are some others that are not beyond doubt and are mere probabilities. One must guard against making sweeping generalities on the strength of probabilities till positive evidence by better research in support of the probabilities is made available.

  The current position (1967) of our knowledge of Indus Valley civilization primarily based on the pioneer work of scientific excavations of Mohanjo-Daro and Harappa may be summarized thus:

  1. It has not been possible to decipher the script engraved on Seals and artifacts found in excavations. Several attempts to decipher the writings using computer have been made but without success so far. They may be read one day by applying better methods and the results would throw open the mind and life of these ancient people.

  1. A public well-room excavated in one area – marked as DK (according to the plan of Sir John Marshall) – had the evidence of a tragedy that involved four deaths and an apparent attempt on the part of the victims to escape – though in vain – before meeting death. In another area – marked as HR – thirteen skeletons of adult males and females and a child found in excavations had positive evidence of violence; one of the skulls bore a straight cut 146 mm. In length that could only have been done during life with a sharp and heavy weapon, such as sword and that this was in all probability the cause of death and another skull showed similar signs of violence. Who caused this violence? Invading Aryans? May be but may not be also. Probabilities of Aryan invading hordes or some hill tribe falling upon the town causing this violence have both been indicated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.

  1. The excavated towns had a flourishing civilization at the relevant time. There are signs of violence against people belonging to several periods, as they are found in different layers belonging to different periods. The civilization continued for long enough to develop and stabilize itself. Suddenly it collapsed and became extinct. What was the cause of this unfortunate extinction? Sacking by the victorious Aryans? Or, natural cause, that were peculiar to this area? On the strength of researches of geological, hydrological and environmental nature it has been indicated that either or all of these factors could have led to the destruction of the (town) civilization: During, and perhaps before, the period of the civilization there were intermittent spasms of tectonic uplift across the Indus Valley somewhere above Amri and well below Mohenjo-Daro. The neighborhood of Sehwan, 20 miles above Amri, was just such a centre of periodical disturbance capable of creating a barrier and resultant northward lake possibly as much as 100 miles in length. From time to time this lake, reinforced perhaps by an exceptionally high annual river-flood, might be expected to penetrate the dam. Through the centuries the citizens were called upon to battle again and again with the advancing lake and the lake coming upon them slowly but relentlessly. It is easy to imagine the accumulative demoralization of the citizens and their decision to desert the area for a better place. It is also indicated that the area became ecologically unsustainable in the absence of loss of fodder for the cattle as a result of their excessive requirement of soft-mud obtained from the area for making bricks in very large quantity and the fire-wood required to fire those bricks. Of course, these possibilities are in addition to the Aryans destroying them.

  1. There are references and allusions in Rig-vedic hymns, particularly in the older ones, to their battles with their enemies and calling upon Indra, Mitra and their numerous gods for help. Words like ‘pur’ (meaning rampart, fort, stronghold), ‘prithvi’ (broad), ‘urvi’ (wide), ‘ayasi’ (metal), ‘saradi’ (autumnal), ‘satabhuji’ (with hundred walls, ‘asmamayi’ (stone), ‘am a’ (raw or unbaked), ‘puramdrs’ (Aryan war god Indra, a fort-destroyer) and ‘Indra destroying ninety forts for Devodasa’ have been cited as proof to assert that Aryans who compiled these hymns had attacked these Harappan people and had recorded the events in the Rig-vedic hymns. Apart from the meaning of these and other similar words in their proper context, perhaps, it may be convincingly demonstrated that Rig-Vedic hymns were sacred and dealt more with the compilers’ subjective reflections than mundane events, of howsoever-critical importance they may be to them. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the compilers of Rig- Veda were capable of recording historical events in unambiguous language as they did in the case of cataclysmic floods. It may also be added here that the words used by Rig- Veda have to be given a meaning in consonance with the pith and substance of the context wherein they are used. They should not be culled out of their surrounding environment and given a dictionary meaning.

  1. Some seals and other artifacts found in excavations bear designs of script, animals, humans, semi-animals and humans and linear drawings. The linear drawings include a Swastika, and the occurrence of this drawing among Harappa people may connect them, if not otherwise then at least by way of trade or cultural links, with Aryans who used this sacred symbol. One figure is depicted as seated either on the ground or on a low stool. In two instances of this figure the head is three-faced, and in all it bears a horned headdress with a vertical central feature. The arms are laden with bangles from wrist to shoulder, after the fashion of the left arm of the dancing-girl; and there is a girdle or waistcloth. On one of the seals, the figure is flanked on its right by an elephant and a tiger and on its left by a rhinoceros and a buffalo. Below the stool are two antelopes or goats. It is supposed that the figure is a prototype of Shiva in his aspect as Pasupati, Lord of Beasts. It is a positive evidence that these people conceived of a deity having the power to look, if not in all then, in three directions and that all the low and high creatures, represented by fierce tiger and powerful elephant, were mere its obedient.

  There is no scientific sanctity attached to the assertion that Aryans did not come from out of India. As Genetics tells us humans have a common origin, perhaps, somewhere in Africa as anthropologists want to convince us on the basis of finding of the most ancient humans fossils found there. Geology further points out the split of a single landmass on earth – Gondwana continent – into present continents and distribution of early mankind.

  In the early stages of their evolution people, driven by their needs, migrated in waves and successions. Even now people migrate, though not in waves, for economic reasons. It is indicated that Harappan people were themselves settlers from somewhere else. It is but natural that people have from the earliest period of mankind’s evolution been moving on to different places on earth and India is no exception to this natural tendency.

  One may quarrel with the period when a particular people came to India or the method -whether comparatively peaceful or a sudden violent invasion – but not with the fact of immigration. This land – India – saw pre-Harappa people coming here and supplanted by Harappa in due course. Further, so-called natives, were supplanted by Aryans, who might have come and settled besides Harappa people or invaded and sacked them, a subject better to be left for future research.

  The story does not end here. The native mixture of these people saw succession of waves of Scythians, Greeks and Muslims. They all were absorbed by this land and became part and parcel of her spirit.

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