Today, at a time in my life, when I look back, I remember…..
[ Publishers note: The series Article written by Shamsuzzoha Manik and Shamsul Alam Chanchal ]
For long we have been engaged in finding the relationship between Indus civilization and Ṛigveda. A book titled “The Aryans and the Indus Civilization” written jointly by us was published in 1995 from Dhaka. There we have tried to find out the nature of relationship between the Ṛigveda and Indus Civilization. Another book titled “Arzajan O Sindhu Sabhyata” (Aryan People and Indus Civilization) written by both of us in Bengali dealing with basically the same issue but with more details and incorporating some more issues e.g., the epics Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa, was published in 2003. In both the books, written by us, we have rejected the Aryan Invasion Theory and explained Ṛigveda as the product of a religious reform movement that took place during the declining period of Indus civilization, which led to a civil war.
After publishing the two books many years have passed. Further field works and investigations carried by archaeologists and other scholars of various disciplines have made them discard many old ideas as regards the Aryan invasion and Aryan migration theory as well as shed new lights on the emergence and decline of Indus civilization which has helped enhance and enrich our ideas further.
This monograph is, in a sense, an updated extract of our past works with some new thoughts and some new dimensions, such as a brief assessment on the impact of Vedic movement as well as that of the fall of Indus civilization on the later history and society of Indian subcontinent.
Table of Contents:
1. Indus Civilization and its decline
2. Vedic people and the inception of religious reform movement
3. Destruction of dams or Vṛitras by Vedic people
4. Dam-based irrigation system in the Indus-Saraswati Valley
5. Nature of relationship between Indus Civilization and Ṛigveda
6. Society, religion and state in the Indus Civilization
7. Impact of Vedic victory as well as fall of Indus Civilization in South Asia.
The Indus civilization, also known as Harappan civilization, which had flourished in numerous sites distributed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west part of India from 2600 to 1900 BC, developed an amazingly cultural uniformity, mass production of crafts, internal and external complex trade-mechanism. It is remarkable for attaining a high degree of sophistication, standardization and utilitarianism, manifested in its excellent settlement planning, monumental buildings, impressive and aesthetic architecture, drainage systems, hydraulic engineering and water structures. It is also recognized for highly developed sanitary arrangements, stamp seals, script, weights and measures, pottery, art on seals, in metal images, stone sculptures, statuettes of faience, steatite and terracotta figurines, jewellery of gold, silver, copper, gemstones, ivory, shell, bone, clay, terracotta, objects of game and playthings in different materials, and implements and equipment of metals, stone, shell, bone and ceramic as used in many other activities.[i]
The Indus civilization sites have been spread out over 700,000 square kilometers (R.S. Bisht mentioned this figure; whereas J.M. Kenoyer has mentioned the area to be 680,000 square kilometers, D.P. Agrawal estimates it to be 1.5 million square kilometers, which is mentioned by Bisht) [ii] of north-western South Asia at over 1500 settlements (Michel Danino has given a figure of 1140 in total based on region-wise break-up and carefully tabulating them, which is referred by Bisht).[iii] It occupies an area twice the size of contemporary ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia for 700 years. The area covered from Sutkagendor, on the Makran coast situated on the border of Iran and covering the total area of Pakistan, to Alamgirpur and Hulas, Mandi and Shamlinagar on the Hindon in upper doab of western Uttar Pradesh also in Mandovali and Bhargarh in Delhi, and Shortughai (in Afghanistan) in the north to Daimabad in western Maharashtra.[iv] Considering its extent beyond the Indus Valley and distribution of large number of its settlements along the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley, which was once the Saraswati River, the total area covered by it is called sometimes as Greater Indus Valley[v] or Indus-Saraswati Valley and the civilization as Indus-Saraswati civilization.[vi]
It is very interesting as well as intriguing that such a large and powerful civilization had no civic structure definitely identified as palace or temple, as well as no royal cemetery. Moreover, the presence of meager numbers and low quality of tools used in war is also a surprising characteristic of the civilization. Considering all these characteristics, who were the rulers and how the state to such a large extent was administered is still a question that remains largely unanswered. At the same time absence of any large iconography relevant to the rulers of the civilization is also a question, when compared to other contemporary civilizations. What was the role of religion and religious forces as well as the military class in the civilization can only be guessed from the finds of archaeological and other scientific study vastly carried out last quarter of a century. The limited numbers of scripts largely depicted on seals, sealing, tablets and other objects are still not deciphered. All these unanswered issues led us to the question that who are the people that built up this magnificent civilization, what was the main cause of decline of the civilization, what was the role of different social groups during the crisis of the civilization and what happened to the large numbers of people of the civilization after its decline?
To find out the main cause of decline of the civilization several studies have been done and still being done by several scholars. In this connection regarding the climate of the Harappan period very little data is available at present. From Rajasthan salt lakes Gurdeep Singh and Enzel et al. separately collected data and reached different conclusions. Gurdeep Singh proposed favorable climatic conditions during the Harappan phase,[vii] whereas Enzel et al. proposed that the Harappan Civilization flourished when the climatic conditions were not very conducive for the human cultures.[viii] Several other scholars worked on the climate of the Harappan period and concluded differently.[ix] However, we can take the view that climate of this region was not markedly different in the third millennium BC from the one we have today.[x] In arid climatic condition, the Indus and Saraswati river basins with their tributaries provided a strong agricultural base for the Harappans, where they could raise not only sufficient food grains for the Harappan population but also had surplus production. It can be assumed that the surplus agricultural production was the main basis for the huge population and large numbers of settlements in the region, as well as the advancement in technology and art. Granaries found in the Harappan settlements support this view. These two basins are sufficiently supportive for wheat and barley cultivation. The crops cultivated in Saurashtra and North Gujarat have vast tract of pastureland. Such varied ecological conditions occupied by the Harappans provided them a lot of subsistence advantage. If one agricultural zone failed due to a natural calamity, they had another at their disposal to support them.[xi]
At the upper reaches the Indus system consists of the Indus and five other rivers, the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej. The absence of Harappan sites on the Sutlej (except in its uppermost course along the Siswaliks) and on the Yamuna shows that these rivers were not flowing in their present channels during Harappan times. Indeed, the Sutlej was not flowing in its present course until the late medieval period. There is geomorphic, archaeological and folkloristic evidence to show that both the Sutlej and the Yamuna were flowing into the Ghaggar channel in the past, that they shifted to their present channels during Late Harappan times and early medieval times, respectively.[xii] Present Ghaggar-Hakra drainage which is the upper reaches of the once Saraswati River, is to the east on the border between Pakistan and India. The Ghaggar was a mighty river in the past and had on an average a bed eight kilometers wide. The Sutlej, before assuming its present course, was braided into a multitude of channels. This fact is also recorded in the Mahabharata in the form of a legend – when Vaśiṣṭha threw himself into the Satudri (Sutlej) it broke into a hundred streams. Ghaggar was once a perennial river and it is possible that it could have flowed directly into the Ran of Kutch, without meeting the Indus. The palaeo-channels beyond Marot indicate such a possibility,[xiii] and it is supported by the Ṛigveda which says that the Saraswati flowed directly into the sea (VII/95/2). Recent multi-disciplinary research work led the scholars infer that the river Saraswati originated in the Himalayas and dried up during 2000-1500 BC, the reason mentioned due to the tectonic and palaeo-climatic changes.[xiv] At the south the channel of Saraswati was thought earlier to discharge in Wahinda and Nara channel. However, recent studies shows different results and present mapped course of the Saraswati is about 40 km east of the river Nara and finally discharged to the Arabian Sea joining the Ran of Kachchh.[xv] Recent archaeoclimatological research conducted in the upper Indus, in the region of Harappa, found that the rivers failed to deliver the usual abundance of water at about 2100 BC.[xvi] In the Cholistan desert of Pakistan, Rafique Mughal has carried out intensive explorations along the present dry bed of the Hakra River in Pakistani Punjab. The explorations have provided overwhelming archaeological evidence of various channels at least from the fourth to the first millennium B.C. He emphasized that hydrographic factors profoundly influenced the life history of the Indus Civilization and changes in the course of Hakra River were the major cause of its decline in Cholistan.[xvii] In the following sections we will try to relate the long social crisis caused by the change of river courses, drying up of rivers, etc. at the declining period of the Indus Civilization to the Vedic movement documented in the Ṛigveda that happened in the Indus-Saraswati Valley.
[i] R.S. Bisht, “Harappan Civilization (1921-2013): An Overview,” in, Puratattva, No. 43, 2013, p. 14.
[ii] R.S. Bisht, “Harappan Civilization (1921-2013): An Overview,” in, Puratattva, No. 43, 2013, p. 14; Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, Oxford University Press, Karachi and American Institute of Pakistan Studies, Islamabad, 1998, p. 17.
[iii] Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, 1998, p. 17.
R.S. Bisht, “Harappan Civilization (1921-2013): An Overview,” in, Puratattva, No. 43, 2013, p. 13.
[iv] D.P. Sharma, “Harappan Civilization,” eds, D.P. Sharma and Madhuri Sharma, Early Harappans and Indus-Sarasvati Civilization, Volume I, Kaveri Books, New Delhi, First published 2006, p. 4.
[v] M. Rafique Mughal, “Further Evidence of the Early Harappan Culture in the Greater Indus Valley: 1971-90,” in, South Asian Studies 6, 1990, p. 176.
[vi] S.P. Gupta first introduced the name ‘Indus-Sarasvati Civilization.’ See: S.P. Gupta, “The Indus-Sarasvatī Civilization: Beginnings and Developments,” in, ed, Thomas R. Trautmann, The Aryan Debate, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 158-159.
[vii] The issue has been discussed by V.N. Misra, “Climate, a Factor in the Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization – Evidence from Rajasthan and Beyond,” in, eds, B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta, Frontiers of the Indus Civilization, Sir Mortimer Wheeler Commemoration Volume; Books and Books, New Delhi, on behalf of Indian Archaeological Society jointly with Indian History and Culture Society, 1984, pp.461-483.
[viii] Y. Enzel, L.L. Ely, S. Mishra, R. Ramesh, R. Amit, B. Lazar, S.N. Rajaguru, V.R. Baker and A. Sandler, “High-Resolution Holocene Environmental Changes in the Thar Desert, Northwestern India,” in, Science, Vol. 284, 2 April 1999, pp. 125-128. (Available from internet)
[ix] Michel Danino, “Revisiting the Role of Climate in the Collapse of the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization,” in, Puratattva, No. 38, 2008, pp. 159-169.
[x] This view was suggested by Gregory L. Possehl, which is referred by Michel Danino. See: Michel Danino, “Revisiting the Role of Climate in the Collapse of the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization,” in, Puratattva, No. 38, 2008, p. 161.
[xi] Vasant Shinde, Shweta Sinha Deshpande, Toshiki Osada and Takao Uno, “Basic Issues in Harappan Archaeology: Some Thoughts,” in, Ancient Asia, Vol. I, 2006, p. 67. (Available from internet)
[xii] V.N. Misra, “Climate, a Factor in the Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization,” in, eds, B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta, Frontiers of the Indus Civilization, Sir Mortimer Wheeler Commemoration Volume, Published by Books and Books, New Delhi, on behalf of Indian Archaeological Society jointly with Indian History & Culture Society, 1984, p. 483.
[xiii] D.P. Agrawal and R.K. Sood, “Ecological Factors and the Harappan Civilization,” 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. 226.
[xiv] J.R. Sharma, A.K. Gupta and B.K. Bhadra, “Course of Vedic River Saraswati as Deciphered from Latest Satellite Data,” in, Puratattva, No. 36, 2005-2006, 2006, pp. 187-195.
[xv] J.R. Sharma, A.K. Gupta and B.K. Bhadra, “Course of Vedic River Saraswati as Deciphered by Latest Satellite Data,” in, Puratattva, No. 36, 2005-2006, 2006, pp. 187-195.
[xvi] Rita P. Wright, Reid A. Bryson and Joseph Schuldenrein, “Water supply and history: Harappa and the Beas regional survey,” in, Antiquity, 82, 2008, pp. 37-48. (Available from internet)
[xvii] M. Rafique Mughal, “The Consequences of River Changes for the Harappan Settlements in Cholistan,” in, The Eastern Anthropologist, Vol. 45 (1 & 2), 1992, pp. 105-106, 114.
Création d’une chorale pour pouvoir survivre. L’apôtre «Zambe Ayenemotasse», tel était le titre du prédicateur,…..