Decline of Indus Civilization and Vedic Upheaval (Chapter-6)

Shamsuzzoha Manik
Articles & Essays, History
Decline of Indus Civilization and Vedic Upheaval (Chapter-6)

Publishers noteThe series Article written by Shamsuzzoha Manik and Shamsul Alam Chanchal ]

Society, religion and state in the Indus Civilization

So far earliest level of Neolithic age a settled community found at Mehrgarh, in Bannu Basin in the district of Baluchistan, at a period of approximately 7,500 B.C with continuity up to the end of the Early Harappan just prior to the beginning of the urban phase of the civilization. In a broad cultural division Early Harappan Phase starting approximately 5500 to 2600 BC, which flourished in various regions of the Indus-Saraswati Valley and Mature Harappan is the culmination of internal developments within these Early Harappan cultures. In the Sindh and Baluchistan region the elements of the Early Harappan Amri-Kot Diji cultures dominated the assemblages of the Mature Harappan phase in that region. In the Saraswati valley the elements of the early Siswal-Sothi continued to be dominating in the Mature Harappan phase in that region. The early Harappan cultures of Sourashtra were dominated by Padri Early Phase and continued its culture in Mature Harappan Phase. It is now established that Mature Harappan Phase is not strictly homogeneous throughout the entire region of North-western part of South Asia, which was thought earlier.

During the later Early Harappan periods there found new settlements continued from the previous cultures in the region. The Harappan urban revolution took place around circa 2700-2600 BC in the region of Mehrgarh, Nausharo, Kot Diji, Bhirrana, Kalibangan, Harappa, Dhalewan, Rakhigarhi, Rahman Dheri, Boror and Kunal.[i]  However, there are more settlements found in the Greater Indus Valley during this early phase, comprise predominantly local cultures as evidenced from the archaeological excavations. During the urban phase of the civilization, there was continuity from the earlier phases from the local cultures and the numbers of sites increased considerably including large cities and other settlements which can be designated as towns and villages. There were common traits in this phase throughout the settlements spread in the Indus-Saraswati valley with standardization in the city and town planning, covered street drains, brick size, weights, script and similarity in arts and craft production.

In dam-based irrigation system building of dams as well as continuous yearly maintenance to keep it functional throughout hundreds of years, considerably large numbers of people are required. We assume that there was social compulsion to accommodate many working people in dam based irrigation system from its formative stage which was possible by peaceful means by making confederacy among various tribes living in proximity. It has been seen in Mesopotamia that the rulers were involved in the control of the irrigation systems and water managements for different tribes and communities of the subject people. Similar thing happened here too. In the urban Harappan phase there was control and ‍strictness by the state as evidenced in rigidity maintained in measurements in bricks, roads and lanes, structures, and uniformity in weights, script, etc. along with the diversity and freedom in other areas, such as religion and local cultural aspects, some of which may have inherited from similar practices at the Early Harappan Phase.

As time passed the practice of confederacy among the neighboring tribes attracted other tribes for maintaining as well as sharing the benefit of the dam based irrigation system at extended areas. This type of confederacy may have been formed at every cultural regions in the Early Harappan Phase under the leadership of a city or town, may be both in small and large scales. However, there may have any one dominating confederacy that influenced all other confederacies in the region culturally and materially probably through the means of introducing the river control system in extended areas during this period. Possibly for this reason we see similarities in ceramic culture of Harappa during Ravi Phase (3300 to 2800 BC) among the distant settlements like Early Harappan level at Kot Diji, Jalilpur Period II, Rahman Dheri Period II, etc.[ii] In the Harappan Phase we see five large cities evolved in the Indus-Saraswati Valley like Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Dholavira, Rakhigarhi and Ganeriwala, with almost equidistance from each other.[iii] We assume that during the transition phase (2700-2600 BC) all these cities formed a greater confederacy with a single leadership, which is demonstrated in similar material cultures archaeologically evidenced throughout the whole Indus state. The authority executed by the Indus rulers was related directly with the dam-based river control system by distributing water to the tribes and communities living in the area under their control. This should have been possible by the extension and consolidation of river control system from the earlier phase. This may happen in the rivers of the Indus-Saraswati Valley and even beyond its peripheral region.

The formation of confederacy among sedentary and semi-nomadic tribes supposed to have been introduced from the beginning by relatively peaceful means with one or more tribes in an authoritative position. To form the confederacy as well as to keep it functional for the sake of irrigation of dammed water through cannels it was very much dependent on the central control as well as consensus of the members of the tribes. This tradition seems to have led the society to a democratic and comparatively peaceful way of social transformation, which slowly became the deep tradition in the region. Thus relatively peaceful social transformation took place in the Greater Indus Valley, which had a strong political, social, cultural and psychological impact on the Indus Civilization. Archaeological evidence also supports the relative absence and low quality of arms and military tools in the Indus Civilization. The massive mud-brick walls surrounded most of the large settlements, had been built as a symbol of power and authority,[iv] not for the military purpose.

The meager numbers and poor quality of military tools and absence of depiction of warfare or battle in any Harappan art indicate that the military class or army was in minor position in the Indus Civilization. It seems that it remained under strict control of the democratic and civilian rulers of the civilization. The role of the military class was confined to the responsibility of protecting the civilization from minor invasions from outer regions and also to protect itself from minor internal strife, if any. As it was the age before the introduction of horse, a mass attack in large scale from a distant place was not possible. And nearby there was no other military power or civilization which could threaten its existence. The hostile communities outside the periphery, if any, were absorbed in the civilization by its gargantuan power.

Developing a glorious civilization with vast areas in a relatively peaceful way and without making aggression against the people of different tribes and communities is unique and unprecedented in the history of humanity. We assume that sufficient affluence attained by dam-based artificial irrigation system enabled the civilization to absorb different communities of people in it peacefully or without making military aggression, which was not possible in other contemporary civilizations.

Everywhere-else in order to build civilization man emphasized extracting human labor and service. But here the pioneers of civilization adopted a way whereby man could build civilization by emphasizing the extraction of nature. To be more specific, in Indus civilization exploitation of man by man was largely replaced by the exploitation of nature by man. In order to do that man had to chain the rivers, not man, in a relative sense, of course. That is why we see so much concern for the wellbeing of the general people and so much modesty of a civilization despite having its enormous size, resource and power in the given historical context.

Regional religious practices such as fire worship can be demonstrated in Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Banawali, Dholavira and Lothal[v] but not in Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Animal sacrifice was demonstrated in Mohenjo-daro. The absence of seals bearing human and semi divine forms and the scarcity of so-called mother goddess figures in Rakhigarhi may indicate that certain religious rites which were common in the Indus Valley were not popular here.[vi] The burial customs practiced were also different in different settlements and even diverse in same settlement. All these features of simultaneous existence of strict state control and flexibility to allow regional religious practices and cultures were the unique characteristic of the rulers of the Indus Civilization. There was trade with Mesopotamia. But no items produced in Mesopotamia proper have been found in the Indus region. There was also absence of Mesopotamian cylinder seals and sealings in Indus cities. This indicates that Mesopotamian traders were not directly involved with the Indus trade.[vii] This also indicates a strict control of trades by the Indus state authority.

At Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, almost every house had a bathing platform with a drain leading out into the street, emptying into a sump pot or a brick-lined drain. The rulers were conscious for the well being and amenities for the subject people, as evidenced from the well planned settlements, covered drains, facilities to provide water, etc. It is estimated that more than 700 wells had existed at one time in the city of Mohenjo-daro, the highest density ever found for a city worldwide, and also the earliest one.[viii] Our view is that the civilization developed in such a manner that it was not possible for the rulers to be permanent and centralize the power like those of the other ancient civilizations like in Egypt and Mesopotamia. For this reason they did not concentrate on to erect monumental architectures like palaces or tombs like others. The democratic and republican nature of state administration may have continued in later republics in early historic India. Michel Danino referred to B.B. Lal’s comment in this connection and also indicated this possibility by mentioning, “The case for a rebirth of Harappan governance in the form of the early historic “republics” does seem valid, although we will need more evidence to firm it up.” [ix]

Archaeologists have identified at least three sub-phases on the basis of changes in ceramic and other artifact styles, in seals and writing and in architectural configurations. Excavations indicate numerous phases of urban growth, decay, and renewal that happened at major sites such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.[x] These may be associated with the internal social changes or changes in the leadership of the society and state. Now the question is who were the rulers of this state dispersed to such a large extent?

The utilitarian nature of the Harappan civilization has already been identified by the archaeologists as seen in the metal objects found at various sites. Jim G. Shaffer writes in this connection, “Mesopotamian context are usually interpreted as representing status symbols, and as a means of concentrating wealth in a limited number of relatively portable objects. The function of metal artifacts in early Mesopotamian cultures is viewed as being mainly symbolic rather than utilitarian. This is a distinct contrast to the Mature Harappan Culture where the primary function for a vast number of metal artifacts appears to have been utilitarian rather than symbolic.”[xi] There was no palace or temple or royal cemetery that can be identified even in the large cities like Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira or recently excavated large city of Rakhigarhi. In other contemporary civilizations the rulers concentrated on building gigantic structures such as royal palaces, temples, tombs like pyramids, etc. These were the material manifestations of their power and grandeur. But all these features are absent in Indus Civilization. This fact paints the picture of a democratic state and society.  Most of the archaeologists agree that the Harappan state was not ruled by hereditary monarchical elites.

As regards religion we can assume that the role of religion was secondary or minor for the greater social unity and bonding as demonstrated in the absence of large religious structures like temples or any large icons, contrasting to other ancient civilizations. When the highly artistic and finely made pictures depicted on the terracotta or steatite seals are considered, it is evident that the crudely made so called mother goddess and terracotta human figurines found in some large cities and some other sites were not associated with the ruling class. The power of the civilization must have manifested through its outward symbols or structures.

The dam-based irrigation system with sluicegates was an unprecedented and unparalleled intervention by men over the forces of nature in ancient times. In this action religion should have no role or little role to play, if any, in the formative stage of civilization. Rather it seems that building dams with gates to control rivers required not only extraordinary courage and innovative ideas but also unprejudiced or logical thinking or ideas about life and nature. To the primitive mind it should be considered something like not only going against nature or natural forces but also something like going against the gods or spirits of rivers. So, at least the pioneers of Indus Civilization seem to be materialist or non-religious people in their world vision which influenced the development of civilization. But there should have been the presence of religion or belief in the supernatural elements in the society, at least at the bottom level. Being predominantly non-religious the builders and rulers of the civilization might have allowed a particular religion which would develop or function under their control and would act as their supporting tool in the task of unifying and controlling the society.

The builders of the Indus Civilization controlled the rivers by building dams for the affluence of the people and that is why no coercive means to control the people was required. So, militarism could not develop. On the other hand, since the civilization was not based on extreme form of inequality, exploitation and oppression, religion also should not have developed to take any dominant position at least in the flourishing time of the civilization. But, in course of time, this situation should have changed, especially during the declining time of civilization when the dam-based irrigation system could no longer function properly, as mentioned earlier. When material power of civilization waned, along with militarism religion should have gained prominence in the society and ultimately with the final destruction of the civilization the phase of religious domination and militarism or warfare should have begun. The Ṛigveda is the product of such a situation.

It is significant that Ṛigveda paints a clear picture of a civilized society. But we cannot have any clear picture about its administration or statecraft. It clearly indicates the distance of the priest class of Indus Civilization from the politics or statecraft. Since the priests had no role in the politics or statecraft, political matters and issues related to statecraft remained out of their jurisdiction as well as knowledge. As Vedic priests came from the traditional priesthood of Indus society, despite the fact of inciting a revolt against the rulers of civilization by religious reform, they also carried this legacy of their distance from political matters.

However, in the Ṛigveda there are few mentions of savā, samity, samrāṭ, rājan, rājaka, etc. The first two terms refer to assemblies that took vital decisions on matters of public interest. The term samrāṭ represents a superior position to the local rulers rājan and rājaka. The Ṛigveda also mentions about mayor or ruler of a city, “Emulous in commendation, like (those contending for the favor) of men, may Indra, the wielder of the thunderbolt, be equally (a friend) to us: like those who desirous of his friendship, (conciliate) the lord of a city (ruling) with good government, so do our intermediate (representatives), propitiate (Indra) with sacrifices.” (I/ 173/10)

The clue of the state administration can be visualized if we look at the panchayat system that existed and continued for long in Indian society for the village administration before the advent of British colonialists. It was the practice continued in the society based on mutual consent and cooperation. Another important aspect of Indus Civilization is that it is difficult to definitely identify the capital among the major five large cities. Among the five, Ganeriwala has not yet been excavated and so no data is available till now. Among the other four excavated cities Mohenjo-daro seems to be the capital as the Great Bath is there at the citadel, which is not found at any other Harappan cities. Ablution of the head of the rulers may have been associated with the Great Bath, but this does not definitely imply the control of any religious class in the state.

Along with minor role of military class in the Indus state it also can be assumed that the administration was placed directly under the house of representatives of different social groups, such as traders, industry owners, engineers, craftsmen, teachers, philosophers, etc., which was predominantly non-religious in nature. This system of state administration should be republican, which might have gone upward from the bottom and regional level of the society to the top at the center. There was no caste system in the society; otherwise it would not have been possible to develop such an advanced civilization. The Ṛigveda also reflects the absence of caste system like hereditary professional groups in the society, as it mentions: “I am the singer; papa is the physician, mamma throws the corn upon the grinding stones; having various occupations, desiring riches we remain (in the world) like cattle (in the stalls): flow, Indu for Indra.” (IX/112/3).

Most of the hymns in the Ṛigveda is associated with the rural life indicates the possibility that the rebel Vedic priests were either forced or compelled to leave the cities and towns and organized the agricultural and semi-pastoral people widely distributed and living in vast region of the Indus-Saraswati Valley. Michel Danino also mentions in similar way, “….., if the composers of the Vedic hymns were living in Harappan times, they may well have done so on the margins of the great civilization (perhaps in ashram-like settlements) rather than in the middle of its cities.” [xii]

In order to clarify the issue further, we may try to understand the effect of drying up process of the Saraswati or Ghaggar-Hakra that was once the mightiest river in the entire region of the civilization. This situation should have forced a large population to abandon cities, towns and old settlements and to go back to a sort of semi-nomadic or at best to a rural life pattern in newly settled areas. In our opinion, these displaced people who were most affected by the drying of rivers and frequent changes of river course formed the foundation as well as the core-force of the Vedic movement. Naturally, in some cases, their unstable, uncertain, nomadic or semi-nomadic and rural or semi-rural life may have some reflections in the Ṛigveda.

The Ṛigveda reveals that Varuṇa was the central or the chief god of the religion supposedly permitted or preferred by the Indus state and a form of monotheism was established centered to Varuṇa. This monotheism might have developed during the formation of Harappan state in the transition phase at about 2700-2600 BC which continued till to the end of the Indus civilization. But the state itself might have been even atheistic or non-religious, but allowed religion in a restricted and controlled fashion for the common people. Probably code of conduct and custom was practiced by the ruling class. The Varuṇa centered monotheism allowed for the unification of the large state, which comprised of people diversified in religions and cultures.

As Varuṇa was the supreme god of the religion supposedly permitted or preferred by the Indus state in relation to other religions, it was difficult for the Vedic reformers to take an explicit position against him, who was highly venerated by the common people. In this situation they promoted the minor god Indra and other gods such as Agni, Usha, Vayu, Aśvins, etc. who were suppressed minor and regional gods in the Indus society. The god Indra was promoted parallel to Varuṇa, to diminish slowly the role of Varuṇa in the society.  It can be further assumed that many regional religious and cultural elements, which remained suppressed from the formative stage of the civilization, should have come out and became prominent by the religious reform movement, which has been manifested in the Ṛigveda.

Since the traditional religion was not congenial to war or violence, in order to counter Vedic movement another religious reform of the existing religion also became essential, which was supported or inspired by the rulers of the civilization. Thus one group stood for the destruction of dams and the other for the suppression of Vedic rebellion. We propose that the Avesta is the product of the second religious reform movement during the same time. The Avestan movement took place under the leadership of Zarathustra. In the Ṛigveda there is a mention of an enemy of the Vedic faction named as Jarútha (X/80/3), who may be Zarathustra.

One interesting matter is that there was a central religious leader in the Avestan reform, but no such central leadership in the Vedic reform movement. It seems that during the protracted crisis at the end of the Indus Civilization, a discontented section of the priest class of the existing religion was in consensus to reform the existing religion aimed to destroy the dams with the support of the suffered people as well as a minor section of the ruling class. They could not build central leadership, but the common goal kept them united. So without having any single leader or center the reform movement advanced and side by side without having any single military leader the movement turned into a war by the soldiers inspired by the Vedic priests. Whereas the Indus or Harappan state that had a center for state administration, favored the creation of a center for the religious reform movement from the background of the existing religion under the leadership of Zarathustra.

That the Avestan reform was particularly against Indra can be clearly acknowledged from the Avesta. There Indra is hated as a demon or evil spirit. In the Avesta the daêvas or Vedic gods are enemies of the Avestan people. Although the Avesta has undergone major devastation and changes, yet it can be identified as a document composed in the Indus-Saraswati region in a context of social conflict. There are mentions in the Avesta of the river names such as Hapta Hindhu (i.e., Sapta Sindhu) or seven rivers, Harayu (i.e., Sarayu), etc., which are also the rivers in the Greater Indus Valley and mentioned many times in the Ṛigveda. In this context, it should be mentioned that the letter S is pronounced as H in the Avestan language. That is why, the river Sarasvati or Saraswati is mentioned as Harahvaiti in the Avesta. The mentioning of the river names is the most important proof that the Avestan people migrated from India to Iran.

There are many reflections in the Avesta of the great conflict that happened in the Indus civilization during its final days. That the battles were fought for water among the contending factions is explicitly stated in the Avesta:

  1. Seeking water for their own kindred, for their own borough, for their own town, for their own country, and saying thus: ‘May our own country have a good store and full of joy!’
  2. They fight in the battles that are fought in their own place and land, each according to the place and house where he dwelt (of yore): they look like a gallant warrior who, girded up and watchful, fights for the hoard he has treasured up.
  3. And those of them who win bring waters to their own kindred, to their own borough, to their own town, to their own country, saying thus: ‘May my country grow and increase!’ (XIII. Farvardîn Yast, XXII)[xiii]

The Avesta shows the conflict between the Vedic gods, mentioned as daêvas and the gods of the Avestans, who are mentioned in the Ṛigveda as asuras. In the Indus civilization the gods were probably known as asuras, meaning strong. At the beginning of the Vedic war the Vedic faction used the same term asura for their gods, which is mentioned in the Ṛigveda. However, as the war continued the Vedic priests gradually started using deva for their gods and asuras for the enemy. Thus they were gradually dissociating themselves from the traditional religion.

But despite many differences between the two factions some gods remained common in both the reforms. The Vedic faction still kept Varuṇa as their god. We conjecture that through the religious reform the supreme god Varuṇa of Indus civilization has been named Ahur Mazda in the Avesta. The god Mitra is also venerated by both the factions. He is called Mithra in the Avesta. Vedic Soma is called Haoma in the Avesta. The Vedic god Vayu is an important god in the Avesta.

From the archaeological evidences we can assume that in the Indus Civilization there was no iconolatry in the religion that was controlled and patronized or regulated by the state. Following this tradition both the Vedic and Avestan religions do not practice iconolatry. However, in the Avesta the iconoclastic attitude is more explicit than in the Ṛigveda.

The development of religion without image worship is another surprising aspect of Indus civilization. It seems that the rulers of the Indus civilization as a part of their grand project to assimilate different tribes or peoples relatively peacefully and thereby build up a single great nation on a vast territory allowed or even might have encouraged to develop the religion of formless gods and goddesses. Once the gods or deities of different tribes either lost their separate figures or images, or were restricted to a small size, a very effective weapon for preserving tribal entity or separation was lost or weakened. So it became easier to assimilate separate tribal religions or cultures into a single religious structure under the supreme god Varuṇa, who also did not have any image or form. Thus from the religious point of view, Varuṇa was the symbol of peaceful unification of all the nations into a single nation of Indus civilization.

It seems that for the two reasons the question of unification remained the most vital question for the existence of the Indus civilization throughout its lifetime. Firstly, the too fragile river control system, which could collapse any moment in case of any major chaos or loosening of the central control of the state authority. Secondly, the huge expanse of the state, which also could collapse in any case of effective rise of any diverse or hostile element from within the boundary of the civilization. Especially, before the introduction of horse it was nearly an impossible task to maintain such a vast state even with military might. But the ruling class of the Harappan state maintained their control over seemingly an ever expanding vast territory over centuries without having the advantage of using a fast animal like horse and without making systematic military campaigns against other tribes or nations.

It can be understood that the river control system was the main source of vigor or power of the civilization. So, we can assume that in order to maintain its power and ensure its security the civilization had to expand river control system continuously by constructing dams on new rivers in new but adjacent territories seemingly by achieving the consent and participation of the inhabitants of the concerned territories.

So, the civilization could expand relatively peacefully through centuries. But without achieving unity among diverse populations neither the river control system nor the state could be sustained. Since the rulers could not give preference to militarism or coercive measures to achieve unification, they had to go for developing or using different measures, which can fall into the category of culture and language.

Religion, no doubt, falls in this category. But because of the nature of river control system as well as the benevolent and utilitarian nature of the civilization the founders and rulers of this civilization could not emphasize religion. Particularly, they could not encourage such religious practices which would strengthen identities of different tribes. So, they had to discourage building of icons or images of deities of different tribes. But they had to be accommodative also. So, they should have allowed diverse religions under certain conditions. Thus there are many supposedly religious motifs with a very small size and crude shape and in a very small and fixed frame, e.g., on seals, found at different sites. It seems to be a method to keep under control or arrest the possibility of growth of different tribal religions. So it seems that the religious tolerance was very conditional. It is assumed that despite allowing much diversity in the civilization the main objective of the rulers was to achieve highest possible uniformity through a slow but steady process of assimilation.

But we suppose that the rulers of this civilization could not overlook the importance of religion in ancient times. So they might have preferred to have developed a religion that would not go against their interest or that would rather fit into their grand design of unification on a massive scale. So, a religion might have been preferred to develop gradually, which would be in consistence with the spirit of Indus civilization. So, Varuṇa was made the supreme god without having any image and different gods or deities of different tribes or communities were incorporated in this religion. But none had any icon or image. Thus there was no iconolatry in the existing religion, as we mentioned earlier.

It seems that the monotheistic nature of the Varuṇa centered religion helped the ruling class in the act of forming the greater society, as all the monotheistic religions in history serve the same purpose in the society to suppress the tribal identities and thereby bring other tribes into the greater social entity. From the Ṛigveda and Avesta we can assume that in the declining period religion became an important factor for both the ruling class and the Vedic rebels. However, in the Ṛigveda the opponents have been many times branded as irreligious, riteless or as who hates prayers, who does not worship, etc. But from these statements it is very difficult to conclude about the position of their opponents or the ruling class as regards religion. As a part of the Vedic religious reform the opponents might have been declared irreligious by the Vedic priests. However, it should be stated that what was the actual relation of the ruling class with religion during the heyday of the civilization is yet to be answered clearly.

But one thing is clear from the archaeological evidences that the rulers of the Harappan civilization gave highest emphasis on developing unified cultural norms in the entire civilization. This is reflected in the presence of common scripts, same measurements, weights, city planning and uniformity in other structural arrangements throughout the enormous expanse of the civilization. It can be understood that the builders of the civilization gave unusual emphasis on attaining and maintaining uniformity in order to attain highest possible unity or unification of the population. The cultural unification might have been achieved greatly by teaching the vast numbers of people in the area a single language, perhaps mostly orally. Thus with the expansion of river control system parallelly cultural and linguistic control system developed and expanded, which did not need any major military or coercive measures to impose upon the people.

The cultural and linguistic power of the civilization can easily be understood when we look at the expansion and influence of the Indo-European languages over the vast expanse of the globe. It is clear that the language in which the Ṛigveda was written or composed was the official language of Indus civilization. Not only that, it seems to be the most commonly used language by the people. Otherwise, the Vedic priests would not have written their hymns in the Vedic language. In order to build any popular social or religious movement the organizers must use the language that is used or understood by the general people of the contemporary society.

Scholars, in general, hold the view that Avesta was written in Old Iranian language which is closely related to Vedic language of the Ṛigveda. Our view is that both of them were originally written in the same Vedic language. So, we can infer that the Vedic language was understood and even used by quite a large number of the population of the vast region of the Indus civilization. The signboard depicted in Indus scripts found at the gate of Dholavira city also supports this view. Naturally, it required enormous initiative and effort by the state to teach the people as large number as possible the language that was the language of the state. So, wherever these people migrated during and after the collapse of the civilization, they carried the language in which they used to read, write and even speak in many cases and thus gradually developed new languages in new lands, all those belonging to the Indo-European language family.

Thus the power of a civilization, extinct long before, is still very much alive through the languages spoken by the billions of people that have spread over much of the planet earth now. Nearly 42% of the human population (3.2 billion) speaks an Indo-European language and it is by far the highest of any language family.[xiv] This is not only the outcome of a great civilization but also the outcome of careful, conscious and painstaking efforts undertaken over centuries by a group of people who built such a brilliant civilization mainly depending on peaceful means. It is also very much interesting to note that the history of the expansion of many major languages such as Arabic, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Han, etc. is closely related to military conquests. But the spread of the so-called Vedic or proto-Indo-European language presents different picture. Outside the periphery of Indus civilization it spread when it became the language of a people wondering hither and thither in search of new homelands and when they had no power-base to show their military might.

Notes & Ref:

[i] D.P. Sharma, “Harappan Civilization,” in, eds, D.P. Sharma and Madhuri Sharma, Early Harappans and Indus-Sarasvati Civilization, Volume I, Kaveri Books, New Delhi, 2013, p. 8.

[ii] Jonathan Mark Kenoyer and Richard H. Meadow, “Harappa: New Discoveries on its Origins and Growth,” in, Lahore Museum Bulletin, Vol. XII, No. 1, 1999, p. 2. (Available from internet)

[iii] M. Rafique Mughal, “The Harappan “Twin Capitals” And Reality,” in, Journal of Central Asia, Vol. XIII, No. 1, July, 1990, pp. 155-159.

[iv] P. Eltsov, “Power circumscribed by space: Attempting a new model of the ancient South Asian city,” in, Current Studies on the Indus Civilization, Volume VI, eds, Toshiki Osada and Akinori Uesugi, Manohar Publishers & Distributers, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 62-65.

[v] D.P. Sharma, “Harappan Civilization,” in, eds, D.P. Sharma and Madhuri Sharma, Early Harappans and Indus-Sarasvati Civilization, Volume I, Kaveri Books, New Delhi, 2013, p. 18

[vi] Amarendra Nath, Excavations at Rahigarhi [1997-98 to 1999-2000], Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, 2014, p. 106. (Available from internet)

[vii] J.M. Kenoyer, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, 1998, p. 98.

[viii] Michael Jansen, “Mohenjo-Daro, Indus Valley Civilization: Water Supply and Water Use in One of the Largest Bronze Age Cities of the Third Millennium BC,” in, eds, Terje Tvedt and Terje Oestigaard, A History of Water, A, Series III, Vol. 1: Water and Urbanism, I.B. Tauris, 2014, p. 53. (Available from internet)

[ix] Michel Danino, “The Harappan Heritage and the Aryan Problem,” in, Man and Environment, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, p. 3.  (Available from internet)

[x] Jonathan Mark Kenoyer and Richard H. Meadow, “Harappa: New Discoveries on its Origins and Growth,” in, Lahore Museum Bulletin, Vol. XII, No. 1, 1999, p. 4. (Available from internet)

[xi] Jim G. Shaffer, “Harappan Culture: A Reconsideration,” in, ed, Gregory L. Possehl, Harappan Civilization: A Recent Perspective, American Institute of Indian Studies and Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1993, p. 48.

[xii] Michel Danino, “The Harappan Heritage and the Aryan Problem,” in, Man and Environment, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, 2003, p. 11. (Available from internet)

[xiii] The Zend-Avesta, Volume XIII, Part II, of The Sacred Books of the East, edited by F. Max Mülller, Second Edition, Oxford, 1895, pp. 195, 196.

[xiv]Indo-European languages” from Wikipedia, web link:

Shamsuzzoha Manik. He is a Bangladeshi translator, writer, editor, and publisher who was arrested on February 15, 2016 after a religious extremist group warned of violent protests over one of his books. The police shut down Manik’s stall at the...

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