INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
MOUND OF THE DEAD
Imagine a city built 4000 years ago, with three storied houses and bathrooms attached. Having an elaborate drainage system and magnificent public baths. Then suddenly around 1700 BC this city is abandoned, leaving ample traces of it existence but no hints for its disappearance---that is the mystery of Mohenjo-daro which literally means ‘Mound of the dead'.
Mohenjo-daro (now in Pakistan) and Harrapa were cities which were part of a civilization which existed on the banks of the river Indus (Sindhu). At a time when urban dwellings were unheard of, Mohenja daro and Harrappa were exceptions. Separated nearly 400 miles apart, they were cities which were part of the Indus valley civilization which sprawled all over the Indus plain (the Punjab and Sind) and parts of Northern Rajasthan and Kathiawar.
The ruins of Indus Valley civilization was first discovered in 1826 by a British Army deserter named James Lewis. In a small town in Punjab called Harrappa, He noticed a large mound, but the importance of this discovery was not fully appreciated. Three decades later Sir Alexander Cunningham, who was the head of the Archaeological Survey of India, rediscovered this site in 1853. It was an accidental discovery, because he was actually trying to follow the trail of Chinese pilgrims who visited Buddhist cities. But unlike Lewis, Sir Alexander Cunningham realized its importance and once again excavated the site in 1856. Though what he discovered was some ancient pottery and stone tools, his findings generated some interest amongst scholars.Rediscovered in 1922 by R.D.Banerji, it was later excavated by Sir John Marshall during the 1930s which greatly helped in throwing some light on this lost civilization which is also known as Harrappan civilization. It is estimated that during its heyday Indus valley civilization must have had nearly five million inhabitants. The cities had grid-like well laid out streets with buildings made out of baked bricks. What is noteworthy is that even during the later Vedic period of the Aryans, wood was the main raw material for houses. The Harrappans were however very different. Theirs was an urban culture with a high degree of social organization and urban planning. Imagine individual houses having access to water from wells, and protected from noise and odour. Imagine streets with covered drains and havings buildings with underground furnace for heated public baths.
Mohenjo-daro is a city divided into two parts. The Citadel and the Lower City. Much of the Citadel has been excavated, but the Lower city remains a mystery. The last major excavation was done in 1964-65 after which it was suspended. This was in order to protect the existing exposed structures.
The citadel was the nerve center of civic and religious life. It was also the hub of socializing. The great bath for example was located here. The lower city on the other hand was the residential area.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND RELIGIOUS LIFE
As Indus valley script has not been deciphered, our understanding of Harrapan social life is limited to the information provided by numerous seals and artifacts found in these sites.
Though Indus valley civilization was urban in nature, agriculture was its mainstay. Apart from agriculturists there were others too like potters, metal workers, artisans, builders etc. This indicates the level of sophistication of this ancient civilization.
The Harrapans had trade links both inside and outside the Indian sub-continent. Within the Indian sub-continent they maintained links with Baluchistan, Rajasthan, Gujarat and southern India. Their trading partners outside the sub-continent were North Eastern Afghanistan, North Eastern Persia and Central Asia. The existence of seals similar to Indus Valley civilization indicates that they had trade links with Mesopotamia, Sumer and Akkad. The existence of the dockyard at Lothal, imply that trade could have been over sea. But then there are no clear evidences to vouch for this.
Their religious beliefs can be deduced from the existence of various kinds of seals. Scholars of the opinion that Harrapans probably worshipped Rudra or Shiva in his Pashupati form on the basis of some seals showing a three-faced deity in a sitting posture. This is further reinforced by the existence of cylindrical shaped stones in the form of a LINGA which are symbolic of Shiva. Many scholars are of the opinion that later Aryans may have included Shiva in the pantheon of Hindu Gods at a later date.
THE GREAT MYSTERY
The mystery of Mohenjo-daro is not only due to its disappearance, but also its script which has not been deciphered yet. The most puzzling ones are the seals which come in all shapes, square rectangular etc, with human and animal motifs on the one side and inscriptions on the other. Who were these people? How did they suddenly disappear? We do not have answers for this...at least not yet.