Mohenjo-Daro Ruins

"Never in the world has hate ceased through hate. Hate can be displaced only by love."
                                                                                                                                      Gautama Buddha



When Central Europe's only housing accommodation was the cave these ancient houses had every "modern" convenience. There were baths, toilets, drainage and fresh-water tanks, handsome interior courtyards -- similar to those that still exist throughout the modern Orient -- comfortable bedrooms, guest rooms, dining rooms and janitor's quarters. Everything a modern swimming pool has to offer existed here in Mohenjo-Daro long before the beginning of our history.

Sir John Marshal

IN 1856, during the reign of Queen Victoria, the British were engaged in building the East India Railway between Karachi and Lahore. The project was directed by two brothers, John and William Brunton. John was laying the southern section of the track, and William the northern section up to the Punjab.

In order to build a solid embankment one needs a firm foundation and plenty of stone, and John Brunton was perpetually racking his brains for a suitable source of supply. Not far from his route stood the ruined medieval town of Braminbad -- a regular mountain of bricks -and the resourceful engineer made use of them. He informed his brother William how he had solved the problem of stone supply, and William began to reconnoiter the country on either side of his own stretch of track between Multan and Lahore. Soon he, too, discovered an ancient ruined city, and on its rubble the modern township of Harappa. The bricks there were exactly what he needed, and so the ruins at Harappa were speedily cleared away. Today the trains traveling between Lahore and Karachi thunder along over nearly a hundred miles of track laid on bricks made 3,600 years ago. Produced by one of the earliest advanced civilizations in the world, they are still so solid and indestructible that even modern locomotives cannot pulverize them.

In 1922, when the Indian archaeologist R. D. Banerji was excavating an old Buddhist monastery dating from about 300 A.D. -- on the lower Indus at Mohenjo-Daro, the "Hill of the Dead" -- he found that the bricks used by the early Buddhists dated from much earlier times, and that beneath the monastery and the "Hill of the Dead" a very ancient city lay buried. About the same time, the director of the Indian Archaeological Service, Sir John Marshall, began to carry out extensive excavations at Harappa. It was soon established that the territory of this prehistoric Indus civilization stretched as far as Baluchistan, and that long before the so-called Aryans migrated to India from the Caspian Sea region about 1500 B.C., a much more ancient civilization must have existed in northwest India; it flourished between 1700 and 1500 B.C. How did the scholars arrive at this date for Harappa and MohenjoDaro?

Scarcely any written evidence has been found in the Indus valley, only seals with unidentified and undeciphered characters. Thus, this line of investigation yielded no answer. However, the archaeologists who excavated Sumerian towns in the Euphrates and Tigris valley had found very similar seals and some pieces of broken pottery which unmistakably originated in the ancient cities on the Indus. Since Sumerian cuneiforms were deciphered together with their precise dates, the layers of earth which the Indus seals shared with datable Sumerian objects established the date of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. And it was found that the people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa were contemporaneous with a Sumerian period fixed between 1700 and 1500 B.C.

Where did these ancient city builders come from? Very little is known, except that their cities flourished long before the Aryan immigrants arrived in northern India. Perhaps the inhabitants of Harappa were themselves intruders who had come from somewhere beyond the northwestern frontiers of India. They certainly had an advanced civilization when they began to build their cities. The fact that their writing has been found only on seals (which are probably amulets), some pottery fragments and tools, and that the symbols found at different excavation levels at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro scarcely changed through the different periods, would indicate that there was only a modicum of intellectual development among these people after they arrived in India -- perhaps due to the climate. There may be another reason for the absence of larger documents: such writings were probably executed on bark, cotton, leather, palm leaves or wood, all of which obviously would long ago have disintegrated in the damp and saline soil of India.

Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa represent the oldest examples of city planning in the world.

Several groups of skeletons were found during the excavations at Mohenjo-Daro: one, fifteen strong, in a large room; and another, consisting of six, in a street. The contorted postures of the dead indicate that they died a violent death. Archaeologists believe that the people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa abandoned their cities simultaneously, although no one knows why they did so.

Both cities appear to have been built according to a careful plan.The streets of Harappa run parallel and are crossed at right angles by other parallel streets. These ancient habitations on the Indus had no winding lanes, like the cities of medieval Europe, and town planning seems to have been in competent hands. In fact, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa represent the oldest examples of city planning in the world.

It is equally remarkable that hardly any of the houses encroached upon the street, their frontages forming fairly straight lines. The main streets ran from east to west and from north to south, probably so that the northerly winds could keep them well ventilated. "Street No. 1," as it is called, is about a thousand yards long and runs in a straight line from north to south, dividing the city into two sections. Several of Mohenjo-Daro's streets were quite broad, some of them ten yards wide, so that carts and chariots could easily pass in two-way traffic. The walls of the houses along the main streets excavated so far go down to twenty feet, and will reach even further once they are fully cleared. Some house fronts have been bared to a depth of twentysix feet, but the foundations have not yet been reached.

The houses at street intersections were rounded off so that beasts of burden and pedestrians would not hurt themselves at the corners. Almost every building in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro is constructed of burned bricks whose shape more or less resembles our own. But the most remarkable feature of Mohenjo-Daro's houses is their simplicity. There is scarcely any ornamentation; no pillars, balconies, sculpture or windows -- only narrow doorways and flat roofs; windows were impractical in the hot Indus valley. Many of the houses are regular labyrinths: perhaps their owners sought safety in the depths of their dwellings. It is of course possible that the ornamentation of the houses was carved out of wood, as is still done in India. In that case, it is not surprising that none of it survives after 3,500 years.

Anyone strolling through the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa will see that these ancient houses had every "modern" convenience. There were baths, toilets, drainage and fresh-water tanks, handsome interior courtyards-similar to those that still exist throughout the modern Orient -- comfortable bedrooms, guest rooms, dining rooms and janitor's quarters. And all of this is "prehistoric." It all existed at a time when Central Europe's only housing accommodation was the cave!

The Great Bath House 

The most important building so far excavated at Mohenjo-Daro is the great bathhouse. It was equipped with hot air, steam and water, a fine swimming pool, dressing rooms, small bathrooms, running water, cold showers and the like. No one who examines the layout of these premises can fail to be astounded by the ultra-modern building technique which these people had mastered more than 3,000 years ago.

West of the great bathhouse was a huge granary, excavated in 1950, whose individual grain bins were so constructed that constant ventilation kept the stores moisture-free. The building originally must have measured 164 by 82 feet, but at some period it was enlarged on the south side. Sir Mortimer Wheeler describes how this commodity-the single most important factor of public prosperity-was at one time administered and distributed, and how government tithes must have filled and refilled the grain bins. He points out that, in a moneyless period of history, this granary, for all practical purposes, was the state treasury.

However, the mightiest building has not yet been unearthed, because a Buddhist shrine, or stupa, stands above it and would have to be demolished before the secrets beneath it could be explored. And since the Indians do not want their stupa damaged, this subterranean miracle, which may be a 4,000-year-old temple, remains inaccessible.

Many female statuettes have been found at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. They probably represent a goddess, but her name is not known, although the greatest authority on the Indus civilization, Sir John Marshall, believes her to be the mother goddess who is still worshiped by Indians today and obviously goes back to prehistoric times. On some of the amulet-seals there is a seated figure, surrounded by animals, who is rightly regarded as a forerunner of Siva, one of the two major deities of modern Hinduism. There were also animal gods, sacred fig trees and a whole menagerie of idols. Judging by the mother goddess' clothing, the women of Mohenjo-Daro wore nothing but a skirt that barely reached to their knees and was held up by a belt, but perhaps there also was a cloak that covered the arms but left the breasts bare. We also have a nude bronze statuette of a dancing girl. The men probably wore a kind of loincloth, and over it a robe draped across the left shoulder and tied under the right arm

Many jewels have been found in silver, copper and bronze vessels: necklaces and ornaments of gold, electrum (an alloy of silver and gold), silver, copper and bronze. Great quantities of other objects were also unearthed: rings, bracelets and nose ornaments; examples of almost all the precious and semiprecious stones we know; bronze mirrors with wooden handles; cosmetics, razors and even a saw with serrated teeth,the first of its kind. The large number of fishhooks would point to angling, and some of them still showed remnants of cotton threads.

Many of the tools and weapons have small inscriptions -- perhaps names, perhaps numbers. There were weights made of alabaster, quartz, jasper and limestone, with a unit weight of .0302 ounces and increasing in the following ratio: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 160, 200, 320, 640, 1,600, 3,200, 6,400, 8,000 and 12,800. The people of Mohenjo-Daro were apparently honest, because there were scarcely any dishonest weights .e., hose deviating from the norm. Scales consisted of a bronze bar with copper pans attached. A linear measure was found, too: a strip of shell divided into units of 2.1999 feet. Amazingly enough, the error, or departure from the norm, on this measure amounts to merely .00299 inch.

These prehistoric people could spin and weave cotton, as is proven by many spindles that were found. Their pots and vessels are far from primitive, showing not only an extremely advanced technique but also a considerable variety of design. These are the products of a people with a long tradi excavations at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa have shown that we will forever be rewriting history for India's prehistoric age had been presumed to be a dark and uncivilized period of barbarity. Now it is recognized that long before the "beginning of all civilization mankind had known an extremely high level of culture. It is nothing short of fabulous when we hear such a meticulous scholar as Sir John Marshall declare that the jewels of these Indus people were cut with such consummate skill that they might better have come from London's Bond Street than from a prehistoric household more than 3,000 years ago.

Thus at a time when Queen Nefertiti and her husband, Pharaoh Ikhnaton, lived in Egypt, a highly advanced civilization also flourished on the Indus, in modern cities whose origins are hidden in the mists of prehistoric times. And most amazing of all: it is always the oldest examples of the Indus civilization that show the greatest finesse and the highest cultural perfection. Therefore, what was unearthed here was already marked by decadence, and the glorious beginnings remain to this hour one of the greatest mysteries of human history.



Never in the world has hate ceased through hate. Hate can be displaced only by love.
Gautama Buddha

OUT of the darkness of an age long past -- 3,000 years ago or perhaps much earlier-India sends us these words: "Learning and teaching bring joy, strength of mind and freedom. We benefit from them day by day, sleep in peace, and become our soul's best doctor. Mastery of the senses, pleasure in solitude, growth of knowledge, authority and maturity will be the result."Whose was the mind that shaped these words? Where lived the people who had such complex minds? Where can we read more of such words?

The origins of India's history are hidden in impenetrable darkness. We do not know which people first inhabited the subcontinent of India. We do not know what happened to them.The earliest advanced civilization we have unearthed from India's soil, as has been mentioned, is that of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, a civilization which goes erica, Inc.

Questia Media America, Inc.

Publication Information: Book Title: The Living Past. Contributors: J. Maxwell Brownjohn - transltr, Ivar Lissner - author. Publisher: Putnam's. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1957. Page Number: 145.