Harappan Civilization and Vedic Culture: A Comparative Study

Harappan Civilization and Vedic Bharat (India): Two Sides of the Same Coin

      The mature Harappan civilization popularly called The Indus Valley Civilization began as early as 6000 BC when inhabitants of the region began to develop a distinct cultural style. It was spread in basin of Sindhu and Sarasvati Rivers. As we may know, river Sarasvati later became extinct. Harappa happens to be the first place where remains of this great civilization were first got noticed. Considering the volume and density of findings in other places since then, and considering the fact that the civilizations was well spread between two great rivers of their times, it is only justified to call it "Sindhu Sarasvati Civilization" rather than calling it Indus Valley which is how the Westerns prefer it. But name is just a name and it has no relevance against the substance.

Harappan and Pre-Harappan Civilizations developed along ancient Sarasvati and therefore these may be more appropriately described as part of Sarasvati-Indus Civilizations.
Harappan Civilization

      All we know about this heritage is out of excavations starting only in 1920s. As per historians involved with these excavations in India and Pakistan, there are strong conclusions that by 2600 BC itself city-states began to emerge with common, standardized, and shared elements, such as pottery styles, baked bricks, and stone weights in the entire impacted area. Based on these findings, the period of 2600 BC to 1900 BC is taken as "mature period" of this civilization. While the indications of early evolutions of the settlements dates back to 3300 BC and even before.

      There was internal trade throughout the civilization consisting of beads, lumber, pottery etc., transported by bullock carts and boats. Items are also found suggesting well-developed trade with far-flung cultures to the east and west. Certain Mesopotamian sites, such as the ancient city of Ur, have yielded materials of Sindhu Sarasvati origin. By 1900 BC there appear signs of distinct regional developments, such as local languages and writing began together with emergence of a broader-based fluid cultural tradition stretching to the plains of the Ganga in north India.

      The remains found from excavation sites (over one thousand and still continuing) include many images and objects used in day-to-day life allowing a peep into expected systems of that time. As anywhere else in the world, initial clusters of human settlements came in the fertile silt carried by rivers assisting the people to grow enough foods and facilitating trade and transport. Sindhu Sarasvati valley is said to span over a million kilometers going upto north of what is today called Punjab going down to Lothal sea port and wide enough to include many parts of present Rajasthan, Gujarat, Sindh, Haryana, Punjab and Baluchistan.

      The artifacts analyzed from the excavation in this area reveal presence of many seals which include cubical terracotta dice, seals depicting many animals and agriculture tools, stones which were more like weights and many other seals having markings in combination of drawings or designs and figurines. Weapons made of copper and bronze are found in plenty. Also found are things using gold, iron and lead. Their towns were square, had elaborate drainage system, bathing pools, grain storage spaces, play grounds, buildings presumably used for government purposes and had houses of different sizes.

      Based on their study of material excavated, experts in related subjects from the world over have indicated that those people grew many types of grains: they spun, wove and dyed wool, and were probably the first to use wheeled transport. The seal depicts animals like bulls, rhinos, elephants, tigers, snakes and crocodiles and some animals which have no parallel at present. In particular, there are seals having figure of a healthy creature having body like a bull with head of a Zebra and having a single horns coming up and going in front.

      Another potential continuity between Indus Valley religion and modern Hinduism is the emphasis on the ritual of bathing and personal hygiene. The bathing tank at Mohenjo-Daro suggests a connection with the bathing tanks found at most Hindu temple sites. Similarly, smooth oval and doughnut-shaped stones at Indus Valley sites have led to speculations that these are evidence of early worship of the symbols of male and female generative principles, the linga and yoni, respectively, which are widespread in Hinduism even today. Also found are statues and amulets of gods and goddesses and sculptures of people sitting in Yoga postures. All these evidences, clearly provide an undeniable linkages and continuity of Sindhu Sarasvati Civilization with Vedic civilization generally credited to a later period in and around present day Punjab and Western UP.

      The most important find for religious purpose is a male God who has features suitable for Shiva with an exposed phallus or may be end of waistband (the seal is just one inch long, hence gives rise to lot of imaginations by various experts.) Also found are many figurines depicting women. What are not found, however, is any recognizable structures which can be safely concluded to be religious building. (Doniger, 2009)

Interesting Findings

      Initially, it is not certain as to what brought an end to such a great civilization. Though historians from complete spectrum of opinions believed that floods did eventually bury the remains which got accidentally found during laying of railway tracks during British Raj time. There is numerous mention of a great flood in many subsequent scriptures and one cannot rule out that the flood so mentioned may have been the one which engulfed Indus Valley and covered a great civilization. But then, all religions of the world and basic scriptures do carry reference to a devastating flood which resulted in almost a fresh beginning of the humanity. In any case, there were many indications that clearly prove that the candle of entire Sindhu Sarasvati culture got extinguished rather abruptly.

Major Break-Through

      Detailed work carried out by Archeological Survey of India in the basin of Ancient River Sarasvati results in rejection of many theories that were earlier getting propagated about Vedic culture being attributed to Aryans and that they were from a different race which was most probably from out of India. Before going further, it is critical to understand about existence of Sarasvati and its course during its heyday. Sarasvati was considered a mythological imagination until recently. But new facts and analysis have come to surface just recently negating those assumptions and Sarasvati need not be considered a myth anymore.

      The available evidences conclude strongly that it existed as a great river originating from Himalayas and discharging into the sea at bay of Khambat having its course via present day of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The existing rivers like Sutlej and Yamuna were its main tributaries. These findings are based on Geological and Hydrological examinations collected in last 50 years. There are overwhelming evidences of Sarasvati as a great river based on remote earth sensing pictures now available from more than one sources.

      These excavations suggest that the spread of human concentration of Indus civilization was to the east of Sindhu with largest concentration being on the banks of Sarasvati in Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab region. Most of the Ashrams of ancient sages were settled on its banks where the Vedas got composed over several centuries. No wonder that Sarasvati is mentioned time and again in Rig-Veda as the main river. In fact, Rig-Veda has over thousand references to samudra (ocean) and talks about dozens of ships and about Sarasvati flowing to Sea. Before few decades, some historians were considering the Vedic reference to Sarasvati as a small river in Afghanistan which ends up in desert area. But references to Sarasvati in Rig-Veda clearly indicate to a big river capable of accommodating ocean going ships. Surely, Vedic composers have no compulsion to talk about a mythical river or exaggerate a small river as a big river.

      The great river came to a slow end by 1900 BC due to changes in tectonic shifts and presumably also due to reduction of water flow from the original source. Experts related to this field confirm the Sarasvati catchment area falling in Punjab as area where active faults are present resulting in lateral and vertical tectonic movements. These movements must have resulted in diversion of streams in distant past. As the most probable reason, one of such heavy impact tectonic shifts must have been responsible for change of course of Yamuna and Sutlej drifting from Sarasvati to Sindhu and Ganga respectively. Good thing is that these are no more assumptions but hard facts backed, up by multi-faceted evidences like remote sensing imagery. Unfortunately, such evidences were not available to historians earlier when they were guessing about different conclusions. Presently; Government of India has highly technical teams working to identify exact course of Sarasvati in the hope to find higher chances of underground streams on the old river bed.

      May be, and I am just guessing, the so called tectonic shift was large enough to disturb the flow of many of these rivers and large scale additional flow of water going to Sindhu, all of a sudden would have become main reason of a big deluge. And drastic reduction of flow in Sarasvati would have forced the habitants to look for alternate sites for their resettlement. Some of them would have gone to northerly direction in Punjab and Doab while some from the southern area must have gone down to the banks of Narmada.

      Excavations at several places like Dholavira and Lothal which are found to be at the bank of Sarasvati and the material collected are crystal clear that Sarasvati area was integral part of this culture peaking around 2500 BC and coming to a complete end by 1900 BC. Certainty about existence of Sarasvati and its repeated mention in Rig-Veda together with its ending by 1900 BC makes it predate the end of Sarasvati culture. This helps in establishing that Rig-Veda got composed before 1900 BC for sure. This immediately force people to believe that Vedas had been composed at the banks of river Sarasvati only and no where else. (Frawley)

      The findings of excavations at Dholavira confirm its occupation between 2650 BC and 2100 BC. In addition, ASI has done excavations in about 1200 ancient settlements all along the bank of Sarasvati concluding strongly about its course and mighty size. Excavations at Bet Dwarka also suggest presence of well-developed and flourished human civilization in that part in between 7000 BC and 2500 BC. In a way the plight of historical contributions made by Sarasvati to Indian civilization is similar to the modern India as both of these have Himalayan and glorious past but remain unaware of the same unless being told by others. Both lost their shine over the period while the earlier converted to a desert the other got captured by foreign rulers and got plundered several times.

      Predating Vedas to the culmination of Sindu Sarasvati completely results into a 180 degree turn on the so called foreign historian's myth of Rig-Veda being composed by so called Aryans who supposedly invaded north India around 1500 BC, fought with Dravidians, pushed them back to South India and converted other indigenous population as slaves and established their own kingdoms. This theory, we should all remember, has always been a vested interest theory advanced by English people and German historians as it serves their dubious objectives of downplaying Indian culture as not being originally Indian. Afterall, they were ruling India and considered it as their Jagir. Their military triumph over Indian allowed them to think bigger of themselves and allowed their flight of fantasies to conclude what suited them. There are many other strong arguments to throw the 'Vedas by Aryan invaders' theory out of the window. Let us look at few important points mentioned hereunder:

1. There is no reference anywhere in Vedic literature to suggest Aryans as a separate race or people from outside the land. The literal meaning of the word as well as multiple references refer to Aryan only and only as "noble" which can be equated to some people being called 'Sir' in English system. So, to begin with, considering Aryans as a separate race is ill founded on wrong understanding of the word itself.

2. Racial types found and analyzed from Sindhu Sarasvati to modem times, from North of India and from South of India strongly suggest a strong continuity. There are studies after studies on the point to take away any ambiguity that racial type of Indian habitants underwent any change in last couple of thousand years. Certainly there is no dilution and no major influx of people from outside is plausible.

3. There are many religious signs available in Sindhu Sarasvati excavated findings that Sindhu Sarasvati and Vedic compositions are surely in communication with each other. The seals, the figurines and the God-like idols and presence of Vedic ritual kunds are all clear proof of the continued relation between Vedic period and Sindhu Sarasvati.

4. If Aryans were not originally from India, how come none of their books ever carry a direct or indirect hint to their original place? It is but a common knowledge that any migrant will always carry memories of their place of origin and will cherish those things for a long time. Vedas don't say a word for any other potential place of their composers. All it says about the place is words like Suptusindhu, 'Brahmvarta' and 'Aryavarta'.

5. Aryans are painted to arrive in north India riding on their horse driven chariots. But who can use chariots in hilly terrain of North Western India (read Afghanistan) or in deserts that Aryan invasion required? Again, Sindhu Sarasvati excavations have shown sufficient evidence of chariots being in existence and hence their reference in Vedas should not be taken as if chariots are a matter of import. As seen earlier, the evolution of chariots started after initial Rig-Veda hymns have already been composed. To that extent only later part are found having references to chariots. It is like saying why a nuclear bomb was not referred in First World War? Well, precisely because there was no bomb exploded before Second World War.

6. Recent excavation and its findings suggest clear presence of Rig-Vedic people living in India as long ago as 4000 BC. The whole concept of Aryan invasion is nothing but a sinister design of narrow ideology of English sponsored and funded German nationalism headed by people like Max Muller who have been proved wrong on so many counts already.

7. One argument goes that India did not have horses while Rig-Veda is very horsy. Again, excavations have shown presence of horses in India even in earlier part of Sindhu Sarasvati. Maybe horses were imported from outside countries but trade had been known to exist in early Sindhu Sarasvati period and arrival of horses in India had surely started and presence of horses in India does not necessitate Aryans arrival.

8. Aryan invasion theory suggests that Vedas have been composed in Punjab area where Aryans came and settled from their Central Asian roots. The presence of Sarasvati River in the Rajasthan area which is repeatedly and clearly mentioned in the Vedas itself, comes out the main place where Vedas got composed. It is only after the drying up of the river that people have moved in north direction to make their settlements. New evidence suggests that much before the sages shifted their base to Punjab and Doab area, Rig-Veda has already been composed.

9. Western historians relate Sanskrit as the language having common roots with other Indo European language groups and find Avestian to be immediate family of Sanskrit. Yes, there are strong similarities among Sanskrit, Avestian, Latin and Greek but languages are languages and these have been found travelling from one place to another almost continuously and not necessarily with the people who spoke these languages. With newer evidences available off late, it is proven that Avestian culture emerged 500 to 1000 years after the Vedic culture. Similarity in languages of two different cultures with so much time apart, in fact, goes to prove that language from Indian subcontinent travelled West in pre Sindhu Sarasvati period and may have spread to Euro Asian region in due course — a fact that has been mentioned by Indian scholars even before the Sarasvati excavations results were out in open.

10. Ancient portion of Rig-Veda does not carry reference to either cotton or silver while there are references to copper and gold. This again proves that composition of Vedas happened in period when cotton and silver were still not found and used. This again pushes back composition to before 2000 BC period.

      So, there are clear reasons for us to conclude that theory of invasion by Aryans is a complete false theory; that Aryans are not people from out of India but a group of noble people from well within the Indian diaspora of that time; that Sarasvati river got dried much after the period in which earlier Vedas got composed and that the region where Vedas got composed was on the banks of flourishing Sarasvati river; and finally that migration of Aryans to Punjab got compelled by the end of Sarasvati.

      Many times, one comes across writers from the West, specially English trying to somehow play down the great heroics of Indian History but undisputed fact acknowledged by the entire world today is that when Sindhu Sarasvati people of Indian subcontinent were building great cities and when the people on this land were composing great literature, people in British were still swinging on trees.

      The purpose behind explaining this matter in such detail is because this has very significant impact in analyzing Hinduism as a home grown tradition or something which has come from outside. The question is not important only for pegging the likely period of Rig-Veda's compositions. Origin of Sanskrit, the class system which later gave rise to caste system, philosophies developed from Indian territories are some of the issues which get linked with this base issue. Because, if Aryans were outsiders, all their magical creations will also get credited to foreign lands, than the Dravidians being ethnically different from north Indians will also get established. Then superiority of Brahmins and Kshatriyas will also get legitimacy. In that case, Sanskrit will definitely belong to Indo European group and an import from outside. Besides, all our scriptures in Sanskrit will get rendered written by outsiders. All other languages originating from Sanskrit will get reduced to piracy. These are all pillars of entire Hinduism and settling this point strongly and conclusively was essential to establish Hinduism with its motherland.

      In conclusion of the argument about inseparability of Sarasvati and Vedic culture, I would like to reproduce a portion from writings of V. S. Wakankar (1919-1988), Padmashree award winner and great Indian Archeologist who is known for discoveries of 30,000 years old Bhimbetka rock caves and painting in 1970 and also for tracing the basin of dry river Sarasvati:

(i) Harappan and Pre-Harappan Civilizations developed along ancient Sarasvati and therefore these may be more appropriately described as part of Sarasvati-Indus Civilizations.

(ii) Most of the Rishi Ashrams described in Ramayana and Mahabharata were lined along Sarasvati river.

(iii) Perforated pottery jars and fire altars are found in most of the 1200 settlements excavated along Sarasvati river indicating that civilization which flourished was Vedic.

(iv) Land was fertile and barley etc. were cultivated in the Sarasvati region even 7000 years back and same style of cultivating the fields continues till today in areas like Rajasthan and Haryana. 

(v) It is unhistorical and unscientific to say that Vedic Aryans migrated from any other region to India. They belonged to India and compiled Vedas in settlements along Sarasvati river."

      Continuity of same culture till date is also founded by the book "The Sarasvati Flows on—the continuity of Indian Culture" written by Dr. B.B. Lal, the retired Director General of Archeological Survey of India. Dr. Lal also was given Padma Bhushan award in 2000 for his meritorious achievements in his field where he also worked on many committees of UNESCO.

      So please next time if you come across any reference to Aryans being imported from any place outside India, you should be able to pause and confront your opposition with strong arguments against such lies. Every bit of Vedas and every thing connected with Sanatan Dharma, the great Indian tradition, has germinated very much on Indian soil and every Indian deserves to feel proud of their spectacular, splendid and grand heritage.

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