Rig-Veda reveals secrets of Indus civilisation?

Syed Fattahul Alim
Articles, Podcast, Reviews
Rig-Veda reveals secrets of Indus civilisation?

Publisher’s note: This article is a book review of a Bengali book “Aryajan O Sindhu Sabhyata” written by Shamsuzzoha Manik and Shamsul Alam Chanchal. Though it is published as a book review, it is more than a simple book review as it reflects wide range of knowledge about Indus Civilization. Despite the article has some limitations caused by backdated information, considering the value of the review/article we are glad to publish it along with an audio podcast. — Ongshumali, 1 December, 2018

{The two authors (Shamsuzzoha Manik and Shamsul Alam Chanchal) of this new idea (of Indus civilisation) have revisited the hymns of the oldest religious scripture Rig Veda. They have also tried to connect the Vedic hymns to the struggle for power in the form of a movement for religious reform that became necessary to save the old human settlements from ultimate collapse – Syed Fattahul Alim.}


To listen to the audio please play the YouTube podcast

ONE of the greatest mysteries of human history is the mystery of the people who started building a highly developed civilisation in the Indus valley some 5400 years ago. It is also called Harappan civilisation because the explorers Charles Masson and Alexander Burnes and the archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunnigham in the nineteenth century (1870s) had first come upon the relics of that long lost culture in Harappa, now in Punjab of Pakistan. While the historians of ancient India were wondering who those people were who could build such an advanced urban centre in antiquity, Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni and R.D. Banerjee found another site at Mohenjo Daro of Sind, further south in the Indus valley in the early 20th century. But it was not only in Harappa or Mohenjo Daro to which centres the Indus civilisation was confined. Other sites bearing the stamp of a culture similar to those of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro have also been found in parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Baluchistan, Sind and the Makran coast. Now the idea is gaining ground that the civilisation that had its orgin in Harappa, and probably afterwards in Mohenjo Daro, gradually spread over a large region covering about five hundred thousand square miles. The archaeological finds at the different sites spread over such a vast swathe of geographical area strongly point to the existence of a very uniform culture all over and hence of the possibility that a central authority exercised through some kind of federal system of administration. When the Indus valley civilisation was at its peak, some historians say, it took the form of a full blown empire. In that case, it could be that, what is known as the Harappan or the Indus valley civilisation was in fact the largest ever empire built by any ancient community as far back as between 3400 and 1700 BC. The relics further indicate that the civilisation developed and declined in phases before it ultimately faded away around 1700 BC. As it had happened to every other civilisation in the past, the Indus civilisation, too, gradually fell into decline. Archaeological evidences indicate that the Indus civilisation had flourished in grandeur for over a period of more than two thousand years and that its demise was rather unceremonious. It appears that the ancient human settlements found at the sites like Harappa, Mohenjo Daro, Guneriwala, Rakhigari, Dholavira or Kotada, Lothal, Kalibongan or the one found recently in the Cambay gulf, which is situated some 30 kilometres east of Surat coast in Gujarat, were all connected to a common origin. But how did it finally come to an end? It looks as if the mysterious race or races who peopled the vast empire from modern Punjab, parts of western Uttar Pradesh, northern Rajasthan to Sindh and parts of north-eastern and southern Baluchistan suddenly disappeared from the map of human history. For there is no proof that the people who had created that great civilisation did survive their decline by way of transmitting the high level of culture and language to latter generations. Was there any invasion by barbarians from beyond the fringe of the Indus civiliastion so that the people had to migrate en masse and leave the cities undefended for loot and destruction? But then where had they gone? The theory that once gained currency that Aryan invasion of the ancient cities of Indus civilisation from the north was the ultimate cause of their decline has, however, been challenged by many latter-day historians. Even if it were the Aryans, then how could it be that, as the Aryan invasion theory claims, they could completely replace the Dravidians, the said owners of so rich a culture lock, stock and barrel so much so that so little is left of the Indus civilisation?

Not surprisingly, the mystery of the Indus civilisation has been able to draw so many scholars, researchers of Indology and the historians of ancient India into presenting theory after theory in a bid to solve this great riddle of all times. Very lately, a new hypothesis from yet another angle has been proposed by Shamsuzzoha Manik in association with Shamsul Alam Chanchal in their book titled “Aryajan O Shindhu Shabhyata” (the title may be roughly translated as the Aryans and the Indus civilisation). The 283-page book with its cover carrying the picture of a swastika, which was inscribed on a seal found in Mohenjo Daro, has been published by Azaharul Islam of Badwip Prokashon, 70 Basement Aziz Supermarket, Shahbag, Dhaka-1000.

The two authors have not only challenged the widely-held concept, that Aryan invasion was the immediate cause of the Indus civilisation’s fall, they in their book have also torn as under the myth of Aryans as outsiders and also that it was the barbarians who had destroyed the agricultural civilisation that flourished in the Indus basin. But while debunking the theory that the Aryans were outsiders and that they had put an end to that great culture of antiquity, the book does not attempt to dismiss the Aryan concept of ancient history of India altogether, but reestablish it from a startlingly new angle. To arrive at that, the two authors (Shamsuzzoha Manik and Shamsul Alam Chanchal) of this new idea have revisited the hymns of the oldest religious scripture Rig Veda. They have also tried to connect the Vedic hymns to the struggle for power in the form of a movement for religious reform that became necessary to save the old human settlements from their ultimate collapse.

According to Manik and Chanchal, the Aryans were not outsiders. They were in fact the same people who had created that great wonder known as Indus civilisation. This is a new hypothesis about the origin of the Indus or, more preferably, the Harappan civilisation (for there are convincing proofs that the civilisation did not grow along the banks of Indus only.) On the other hand, the Saraswati basin – the areas washed by another great river now long dead – was the cradle of the still higher form of that civilisation that had started in Harappa, the two writers argue. In the same breath, they also demolish the long held concept that the Dravidians were its original owner. To prove their point the proponents of this new assumption have made a fresh attempt to decipher the hymns of the sacred scripture, Rig-Veda, which, to them, is the living proof of the history of a struggle that was fought between those who were against change and those who were for it in the valleys of Saraswati and Indus thousands of years ago. But then what was the war about?

The authors of the 283-page treatise on that little understood struggle for social authority and supremacy that was fought in antiquity quote profusely from Rig-Veda to prove their point. The central thesis is that that the war was between the vested interests, who wanted to keep the vast network of the then dying irrigation system supported by water control structures on the ancient rivers like Saraswati, Indus and Yamuna and those who were for destroying those structures. The champions of the cause for that change were in fact the makers of Rig-Veda verses, the authors maintain.

The argument goes on like this. The higher form of Indus civilisation started in Harappa. It began its first phase some 5400 years ago. The ancient archaeological sites like Amri, Kot Diji, Kalibongan, Harappa bear witness to that great civilisation-building activity. The activity continued until 2600 BC, when the first phase of Harappan civilisation reached its peak Highly planned cities, buildings with complex architectural patterns, huge public buildings, elaborate drainage system, sculptures, ceramic and metal works, highly developed trade and commerce, written script and a stratified social structure, etc were the strong features of that civilisation. It was on the surplus of agriculture that such urban centres with high level of culture could develop. But for agriculture to take a leap from a subsistence level to a surplus one, farmers needed a constant supply of water throughout the cropping seasons. So, it became necessary to control the flow of the rivers and divert the water to the crop fields a network of embankments, dams, barrages, even some of them fitted with sluice gates, had been built on the rivers. Canals were dug and big reservoirs were created to ensure conservation and supply of irrigation to the crop fields. This implies that the builders of Harappan civilisation were also in possession of a high level of technology to achieve the feat of building dams and sluice gates and digging canals and water reservoirs. The second level of Harappan civilisation which expanded over a vast region continued to control and divert the rivers to sustain its growing size and population until between 2600 and 1900 BC. And then the decline started. Why? because, the rivers were in the throes of death as they were in chains. Nature took its revenge. Forced change in their course had caused the rivers, in some places, to burst their banks, while at other points, to dry up. Water-logging in some places, increased salinity. Agriculture suffered and life became unbearable. What could be the possible answer to this unacceptable situation? In the late phase of Harappan civilisation (between 1900 and 1000 BC), a last attempt was made to save the civilisation by releasing the rivers. This required destruction of the water control structures. Hence started the civil war between the vested, the pro-barrage, quarters and the emancipatory, anti-barrage people including farmers and common masses, Throughout its pages, the oldest scripture on earth, the Rig-Veda, dedicates its verses to the proponents and the agents of that change.

This is the sum and substance of the challenging hypothesis proposed by the authors of the book Aryajan and Shindhu Shabhyata. They also quote from other authorities on the subject including M. Rafique Mughal as well as others in support of that pivotal concept.

This work that sheds new light on the basic causes that led to the rise and fall of what is widely known as Indus civilisation deserves attention from serious researchers and scholars on the subject.

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