India in 2600 BC

Indus Valley Civilization

Cities in Indus Valley Civilization


Awake my mind, awake my mind, 
Gently awake in this holy land of pilgrimage
On the shore of this vast sea of humanity that is India.
Here I stand with arms outstretched
To hail man divine in his own image
And sing to his glory in notes glad and free.

No one knows whence and at whose call
Come pouring endless inundation of men
Rushing madly along to lose themselves 
In this vast sea of humanity that is India.

Aryans and Non-Aryans, Dravidians and Chinese
Scythians, Huns, Pathans and Mogols - 
All are mixed, merged and lost in one body.

That’s what Tagore had told about India – the holy land of pilgrimage on the shores of the vast sea of humanity. The story of India is an incredible saga of amalgamation of people and cultures from across the world. Since time immemorial India has absorbed, but still managed to preserve, each and every entity that came by her. There are so many facades of Indian people and cultures. Each facade is unique in its own hues and shades but still exudes a unified soothing luminance. Each entity of different colours is weaved into a single garland. You take out a single pearl from the garland and you snap the garland. You have to appreciate each and every pearl, each and every hue, and each and every fragrance that emanates from the garland. It doesn’t matter where from each of these pearls was gathered. What matters is the whole garland – the exquisite and exuberant garland that’s adding more hues and shades with each passing day.

That’s India  - an ever changing dynamic country, that has been changing every moment, but has still managed to retain a common essence that’s so much Indian. Indian culture is like a symphony of million notes. We appreciate each of these notes that has enriched India and her culture across ages.

Perhaps the earliest note of prominence in the Indian Symphony is the Indus Valley Civilization, which is undoubtedly the cradle of Indian civilization. The story of India predates the Indus Valley by many many years. We can consider all those as her days in womb. Perhaps she opened her eyes and saw the world as a child sometime around 3300BC, which was the starting of the Indus Valley Civilization. This early phase is also referred to as the Ravi Phase, which finally culminated into the matured Harappan Civilization.

Discovery of Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley civilization holds a special position for Indians especially because of the time it was excavated and discovered. India was still under the perilous British Rule. By 1900s India had already slipped into a phase of perpetual decay. Perhaps that was one of the darkest phases in India’s history. Not only was the economy totally shattered by 150 years of British rule, but also her self esteem had reached an all time low. She had lost all convictions. She had started to believe that she never had any past and that she only had a dark future at the merciless hands of her rulers. She had totally become oblivious of the fact that only two centuries back she was one of the most prosperous places on earth. It was at this moment in the beginning of the 20th century that Indus Valley Civilization was discovered. It showed to the world that the most sophisticated urban civilization of its time flourished in India some 5000 years back in the north western part of Indian subcontinent in various places of present day Punjab, Gujarat, Sind and Afghanistan, spreading even to areas in Iran and Turkmenistan.  

Indus Valley Civilization was a civilization of urban city states flourishing along Indus and its tributaries. Many of the cities were found along the dried up river beds of Ghaggar-Hakra river, which is often identified as the lost Saraswati river mentioned in the Rig Vedas. That’s why the Indus Valley Civilization is also called the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization by many people. Till date more than 1000 cities have been found along Indus and its tributaries. Some of the most important cities were Mohenjodaro and Harappa in Pakistan and Lothal in Gujarat, India. The ruins at Mohenjodaro in Pakistan are included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Indus Valley: A Socialistic Civilization

Though there are many similarities between the three contemporary civilizations of Indus Valley, Mesopotamia and Egypt, still there is a striking difference. In both Egypt and Mesopotamia there are evidences of citadels and huge structures and palaces for Kings and Emperors. The pyramids are testimony to this. There are also evidences that while the rulers and the Kings stayed in these citadels, the common people had to stay in mud huts. But on the contrary the finest structures erected in Indus Valley were for the convenience of the common people. The town planning, water supply, sewerage and drainage system were of very high quality. None of the contemporary civilizations had such great town planning. There is also evidence of public and private baths and granaries. There were also two storied private houses, made of baked bricks, with bath-rooms and porter's lodge.

Pyramids are no doubt excellent pieces of architecture and good evidence of the advancement the Egyptians had made in the field of art and engineering, but the useful and modest structures in Indus Valley with excellent facilities for the citizens do speak volumes about its social outlook, which indeed is a very note worthy thing. The prosperity of any nation always lies in the all inclusive development of the citizens. The rulers of Indus Valley understood this so well. Even in her cradle India seemed to be quite mature. The socialistic outlook that prevailed in Indus Valley has been preserved for ever in India through the ages. It’s no wonder that India has continuously been the most prosperous nation (alongside China) till 1800s uninterruptedly for almost 5000 years.

Art and Engineering

The socialistic Indus Valley was also advanced in art, as is evident from the innumerable anatomically accurate figurines and statues recovered. There are evidences of the usage of ornaments and jeweleries. Sir John Marshall, the person in charge of the earliest excavations at Indus Valley had observed that "nothing that we know of in other countries at this period bears any resemblance, in point of style, to the faience models of rams, dogs, and other animals, or to the intaglio engravings on the seals, the best of which - notably the humped and the shorthorn bulls - are distinguished by a breadth of treatment and a feeling for a line and plastic form that have rarely been surpassed in glyptic art; nor would it be possible, until the classic age of Greece, to match the exquisitely supple modeling of the two human statuettes from Harappa...".

The town planning, the well-planned streets, advanced drainage and sewerage systems, two storied houses and the municipal governance required to maintain all these indeed point to the high quality of engineering and knowledge of governance available to the people of Indus Valley.The first dock in the world, dating back to 2400 BC, was built in Lothal. The structure of the dock shows that the people of Indus Valley had very good knowledge of maritime engineering. It’s also highly probable that they knew very well about the tides in the Arabian Sea. They also seemed to know about dams.

Jawaharlal  Nehru has observed in his Discovery of India, "It is interesting to note that at this dawn of India's story, she does not appear as a puling infant, but already grown up in many ways".

Economy

The people of Indus Valley were no doubt very prosperous. They were mainly farmers, artisans, weavers and traders. Though all the remains of Indus Valley are of an urban civilization, but it's highly likely that there vast stretches of pastoral lands for agriculture between the cities. Very much in contrast to the contemporary civilizations in Sumer and Egypt, cotton was used for textiles in Indus Valley and it was not introduced to the Western world until 2000 or 3000 years later.

Indus Valley in World Perspective

Indus Valley civilization was contemporaneous to ancient urban civilizations in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq), along the rivers Tigris, and Euphrates, Egypt along Nile & Ancient Elam in present day Iran. 
Around 2600BC, the beginning of the mature Harappan Phase of Indus Valley, it was the period of the Early Dynasties in the Sumerian City States in Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom (3rd to 6th dynasty) in Egypt and Old Elamite Period (2700 - 1600 BC) in Elam.

One of the most important city states in Mesopotamia was Babylon, which rose to prominence around 2300BC. Another important city state was Ashur, which eventually became Assyria (present day Syria) in upper Tigris. 
The period of the Old Kingdom was the golden age of Egypt. Many pyramids date back to this period. 
There are enough evidences of trade, commerce and exchange of art and culture between Indus Valley and Mesopotamia and Egypt. By 2900 BC long distance voyages were already in place between the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia and Elam. Indus Valley Civilization might have been the link between the Elamite and Dravidian languages, both of which belong to the Elamo-Dravidian language family. The language of the Indus Valley also might have been a member of the same Elamo-Dravidian family. The remnants of this language might be the Brahui language, also a member of the Elamo-Dravidian family, spoken in some parts of present day Pakistan. The close relation between the Elamite and Dravidian languages provides credence to the hypothesis that the people of Indus Valley might have been the ancestors of the present day Dravidian people or the original people of the Indian subcontinent.

Around 2600 BC, when the Indus Valley Civilization was flourishing in present day Pakistan, Punjab and Gujarat, something interesting was also happening towards its North-Western side, precisely in present day Northern Iran and adjoining areas. From 2800 BC onwards the Eastern Proto-Indo-European people, staying between the Ural River and the Hindu Kush mountains and the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, started to migrate towards Iranian plateau and South Asia. These people, the Proto-Indo-Iranians, gradually developed their own language, the Proto-Indo-Iranian language, a derivative of their native Proto-Indo-European language.  A very unique characteristic of these people was that, unlike any of their contemporaries, they used horses and chariots extensively. These people also expanded towards Mesopotamia and introduced horse and chariot to the Sumerians. There's mention of horse and chariots in Sumerian texts around 2500 BC. Interestingly people of Indus Valley were not familiar to horses. 

The Indo-Iranians later expanded further into Iran and India during the declining phase of Indus Valley Civilizations. In India they would be called the Indo-Aryans, the creators of the deep rooted Aryan Civilization and Culture.

References & Useful Links

  1. Wikipedia 
  2. Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru
  3. http://www.harappa.com
  4. UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ruins at Mohenjodaro, Pakistan
  5. Mohenjodaro and Indus Civilization by Sir John Marshall (in charge of the initial excavations of Indus Valley)
  6. Ancient India by R C Majumder