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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Harappa & Mohenjo-daro

Based on research by Sonia Saleem

Harappa or “Hari-Yupuya” as mentioned in the “Rig Veda” marked the height of urban development of the Indus valley civilization at 2600 B.C.E till 1900 B.C.E. for 700 years. Harappa is located in the present day province of Punjab, near the city of Sahiwal, and in its full glory was the perfect proto-type of a fully developed city of the Indus valley civilization. It was the perfect reflection of the kind of organized thought which the Rig Veda emphasized. [Wheeler, Kenoyer].

Harappa has the same humble beginnings as any other large city. It began as a village settlement, gradually growing over the centuries to accommodate renowned craft industries, world accessible markets, and clean residential areas and cemeteries. Harappa is 128,800 hinterland, and 150 hectares in area. Harappa city was so developed and central to the Indus Empire that the name Harappa became synonymous with the dominant culture at the time, followed by all the other cities in the Indus region, right down to Kutch on the coast in present day India. [Rehman, Kenoyer]. Accordingly, the ruins of Harappa are three miles in circumference. The ruins of this city are split up into mounds, labeled from mound A, to G by archeologists, making points easily identifiable. The mounds were common to all Indus cities, and the higher the mound, the more central and important that area was in the city. For example the citadel mound was almost always the highest mound. This archetype Indus city was built on the east-west, north –south axis, and was surrounded by four city walls with a large entrance gate on the western wall. The gate was 2.8 meters wide, and 3 to 4 meters high, [Kenoyer], fixed with rooms or look out posts at the top. [Kenoyer]. Inside the gateway there was a grand space for a market making it easier for goods to be transported in and checked, taxed and sold. The Ox and cart was the method used to transport these goods, and the entrance was just big enough to allow one cart in and out at a time. Once inside the city gate, and past the market space, a network of roads led in to the centre of the city. The north road led to all the shell and agate workshops, the west road lead to the copper-craft workshops. Evidence of a caravanserai is found outside, and south of the main city gate. It contained houses, drains, baths, a wel,l and stables for horses. [Kenoyer 55].

It was a complete and accommodating stop for traveling traders and merchants, as Harappa was an integral part of an ancient trade route. Traders in fact helped the infra-structure flourish in the region. Kenoyer mentions that a modern road used at present outside of the city gates, near the old site of the caravanserai was in all likelihood laid out 4500 years ago by Harappan traders. This caravanserai was used for post transfers along the route as well, serving Lahore and Multan. This caravanserai was kept in use for thousands of years later by traveling traders, again verifying the fact that the city of Harappa was situated in a strategic position for trade routes.

A second gate was located 200 meters east of the first one. This gate led into a suburb of the city which also produced ornaments, crafts and other artifacts for trade. This gate also had a caravanserai approximately 50 meters south outside, to accommodate the traders who came to this part of the city. [Kenoyer 55].

There is no evidence of a palace or a huge residency for a monarch or ruler in the centre of the city. However there is a large building amongst many discernible houses in the northern suburb of the city. But it is thought that it was a storehouse, as there are many circular work-platforms upon which craft work, and ceramics were made. [Kenoyer 55]. According to the map of Harrapa, made by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, besides the carvanserai’s, the granaries, cemeteries, and the workmen’s quarters were outside the city walls. From the map it also seems like the western wall contained most of the gates accessible to the city, as well as the main entrance. The expansion of Harappa was gradual, and migrants from other cities, and nations were not unusual. However one culture was dominant in Harappa, and in fact Harappa culture dominated the rest of the cities too. This ensured peace and harmony throughout the Indus region. Even before Harappa became the epicenter of culture, peace and harmony dominated the Indus region. Non-violence, even in the form of self-defense, was a part of Indus religion, thus all invasions or migrations were not resisted, nor were there any clashes amongst tribes. The gates of the city were not constructed to counter any kind of military attack, nor were the walls made for self-defense. Walls surrounding mounds with in the city just demarcated different areas. [Kenoyer 56]. An imminent threat of war was not even an idea or a thought in the Indus valley. A uniform culture propagated peace. The city catered specifically to the smooth running of trade, and business, another integral of Indus religion.

Mohenjo-daro, or “Mound of the Dead” is thought to be similarly built to Harappa as all Indus cities possessed a common design reflecting Vedic, organized thought. It can also be prided in being the first city in the world to have a full-fledged draining system. A vast draining system for a whole city was invented in the land of the Indus.

The city of Mohenjo-daro is 169,260 sq km hinterland, and is 250 hectares. [Kenoyer]. This also suggests that Mohenjo-daro is older than Harappa. However, the remains of Mohenjo-daro are not all complete as they are at the excavated site of Harappa. There are no physical remains of walls and gateways, but the size of the foundations of these walls surrounding the city suggest that these walls were probably grander than those of Harappa. Mohenjo-daro was frequented by floods, which is the main reason why it did not flourish in the same way that Harappa did, and was probably the cause of its ultimate destruction. The eastern citadel at the time was situated very close to the Indus River. Flooding in this region is still a concern and a problem, even though the nearest branch of the river has shifted 3 miles away to the east. [Wheeler].

A Buddhist stupa and monastery were found on top of the western citadel, and were built there several centuries after the demise of the Indus civilization, in 200 B.C.E. Between the complete demise of the Indus civilization, and the spread of Buddhism, no other city as big as Mohenjo-daro existed in this region. Mohenjo-daro was thus built as a grid, organized on a north-south, east-west axis. It was built as a slope, obviously to counter the floods. The western citadel was the highest mound, which gradually ran down east, making the eastern citadel the lowest mound. Similar to Harappa, the highest mound marked the more important, central part of the city, where dignitaries and rulers lived, and probably was the hub for trade in this part of the Indus Empire.

Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were the capital cites of the Indus civilization, however the Indus River was not the only water-way which was included in this civilization. The Ghaggar-Hakra River was the other river feeding the Indus valley civilization, but dried up over the centuries to become the Cholistan desert. It ran through the areas of present day Punjab and Sindh, parallel and east of the Indus. The capital cities, and the cities of Ganweriwala, Rakhigarhi, were situated on different points of the banks of the Indus, fundamentally to be a part of the trade routes. The latter two covered only 80 hectares each in area, but were just as important for trade. Dholavira covered 100 hectares in area, and was the most furthest away from the centers, but was situated on the Rann of Kutch, which is now present day Indian Gujarat. Thus it served as a good base to import and export goods beyond the Arabian Sea, and fish, and sea shells found to be supplied and channeled around the Indus civilization. These smaller cities were built much in the same organized, grid like manner as the capitals. Indus architecture can be defined as logical, neat, functional, simple, and strives for order and organization. [Kenoyer, Wheeler]. Religion and trade routes were evidently the crux and core of the existence of these cities.

“Life is one long process of getting tired.” [Samuel Butler.] A territorial shift of Indus culture to the Ganges region; .

All things, great or small must come to an end. A great, thriving, and peaceful civilization such as the Indus civilization surprisingly did come to an end. It is thought that environmental changes, and tectonic plate shifts under the earth helped in its demise. Natural causes suggest an evolution, a slow and steady gradual change from the center of trade commerce shifting east to other major water systems in the sub-continent. The entire civilization shifted east, and south.

According to Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the exact cause is ambiguous. He says “Over-ambitious wars, barbarian invasions, dynastic or capitalistic intrigue, climate, the malarial mosquito have been urged severally in one context or another as an over-all cause.” [126, Wheeler.] Thus there is not a single cause for the demise of the Indus civilization. Perhaps it is safe to say that as a civilization that describes a population, it did not really demise, but moved. As a race, the Indus civilization is alive, and has evolved, and the people are known as Pakistani’s today. A history of the Indus civilization as a race is a history of shift and change, but gradual change and evolution, not dramatic upheavals or revolution. The Indus people did not die off. They just simply moved around the vast sub-continent due to unavoidable environmental circumstances. And since the time of the Aryan invasions, the inter-play with merchants from around the Gulf and Mesopotamia, and the rest of the sub-continent, the Indus valley race has always been subjected to changes. It was an area that primarily welcomed foreign influences, for strong trade ties. Racial intermingling and foreign influences were natural features of the Indus valley civilization B.C.E. Vedism developed with Aryan interjection, which eventually developed in to Brahamism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Trade made the Indus region famous, and attractive to foreigners. A history of the Indus region is a history of invasions.

As an Empire, as a fantastic, old, and rooted geo-economical force, the Indus valley civilization did come to an end. Mohenjo-daro was in all probability named “Mound of the dead”, because it was a city that was perpetually flooding, causing reoccurring destruction and reconstruction. There was a point where the population thought it wiser to move in the end, instead of reconstructing. The floods were as frequent as annual; the River Indus would swell each year due to rain and melting snow. It gradually became increasingly undesirable, unsafe and completely uninhabitable. Evidence of extreme flooding was still apparent as silt-clay deposits lay over the entire city; over the debris at the time of its excavation. Underneath the mass slush of clay were buried layers upon layers of brick platforms upon which the residents of the city kept rebuilding their homes and shops after a recent flood. [Wheeler]. According to research done by Dr. Dales in 1960, sea trade had actually stopped along the Makran Coast with the Persian Gulf around 1900 B.C.E. because of frequent flood-destruction making Mohenjo-daro unfit for international trade, and markets. This meant that the demise of Mohenjo-daro was inevitable. [Wheeler]. In fact residents of the city who could afford to move and rebuild their lives in other cities had found it more feasible to leave, consequently turning the affluent city of Mohenjo-daro in to a desperate slum. The focus of trade thus shifted to Harappa and the Rann of Kutch and its urban city Dholavira became the sea route for Persian trade. Harappan success was thus also inevitable.

Harappa did not demise as a city, as natural calamity did not hit its path. However, the importance of Harappa as the hallmark of Indus culture did shift.

It is mentioned above repeatedly that Harappan culture defined Indus culture as a whole, by 2600 B.C.E onwards. This period was marked by the height of the Indus region’s success as a flourishing, and progressive civilization. However 1900 B.C.E onwards saw a gradual shift of the territorial centre of culture from the Indus region to the middle, the Ganges River region. This was also known as the late Harappan phase. Indus culture, also known as Harappan culture shifted a long with its people, giving space for it to evolve into a new civilization, by accumulating new beliefs. Harappan unity broke down in to fragmented, smaller societies, spread-out as far as Afghanistan, and Central Asia in the north-west, and the Ganga-Yamuna Rivers in the south-east. Opportunity cost? Or just plain opportunity? Buddhism evolved around 600 B.C.E and spread though-out the sub-continent, whilst continuing to endorse the importance of trade. Most traders and merchants were Buddhists, as this knowledge system believed in equality, as opposed to the Aryan tradition of social hierarchy. Trade routes thus spread, resulting in more invasions, more political upheavals, more trade, more migrations, and a spread of Buddhism. Most caravanserais were also Buddhist monasteries, where Buddhist monks were ready to serve the weary traveling merchant by 300-200 B.C.E. Alexander the Great arrived in 326 B.C.E. only to begin a new era of culture which was a mixture of Greek and Buddhist culture known as Ghandara culture. Indus culture had evolved in to a more mature school of thought, as well as holding on to the importance of trade, and was more wide-spread. It allowed for the development of areas, such as Gujurat, and other water systems, such as The Yamuna-Ganga systems by being included in the ever expanding trade-routes. [Kenoyer].

Other smaller cities and villages around the Indus region demised simply because of a shift in the direction of the mighty river, causing most river beds to simply dry out completely. This left agricultural development in the pits. People had to move east. Besides trade, and agriculture, Indus art and craft practices were also kept alive. Pottery technology flourished, and saw more animals being included on these pots for decoration. It thus became easy to tell how far Indus culture spread and evolved. [Kenoyer].

This new tradition came to be known as the Indo-Gangetic tradition, a very valuable link which has determined the course of history through-out the sub-continent, and still defines the culture of these two regions today. This link marked a new level of development for the settling communities by 300 B.C.E. However, it was a new kind of development which saw the rise of small city-states run by monarchies, armies, metal weapons used for combat, horse-drawn chariots instead of ox-pulled ones, and of course, politics became the game of power.

The Indo-Gangetic link unarguably defines the main-stream cultural atmosphere of Pakistan today. It is intrinsically a territorial link; the people of the Indus River established it with the Ganga River, out of the sheer human instinct to survive. The Indus valley civilization did not demise in entirety. It lost a part of itself in the form of the city of Mohenjo-daro, as well as smaller cities in the south, and Gulf trade along the Makran coast. But by shifting east, it gained another water system which helped develop Indus valley culture, thought, religion, and trade. The history of Indus culture is a history of territorial shift. It naturalizes the idea of diverse ethnicities, not only existing together, but inter-breeding to make new ethnicities. All this has taken place over the course of 5000 years, and in one land. To ignore this, is to ignore our fundamental cultural history. Our culture is an indigenous culture by virtue of our changing landscape. The people of the Indus influenced the Ganges River region primarily, and not vice-versa. The culture that is practiced today is the culture that has been practiced over the centuries in the Indus valley. It is safe to say that the history of the sub-continent began in the Indus region.

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