The River that made India


Ancient civilizations almost always developed around mighty rivers. The river Indus and its tributaries formed the Indus valley indus-civilizationcivilization around 3000 B.C. It extended from Khyber in the north to around the port city Dhola Vira in present day Gujarat defining its approximate southern boundary. In the west Mehrgarh was its big city which perhaps existed from pre-Indus era while Kalibangan in Haryana could be considered as the eastern limits based on the excavations.

Common trading commodity or a unifying religious factor usually kept any civilization intact. In the case of the Indus Valley people, the symbols seem to suggest a well-defined common socio-religious structure in the absence of tools to decipher their alphabets.  Their houses were multi-storied, a drainage system that can put the present dwellers of the region to shame. The highest accord was given to a great bath. The women and men seemed to have been fashionable. The arm-bangles of the statue of “the dancing girl” resemble those worn by the Thari and some Rajasthani tribal women today perhaps indicating that not all links have been broken.

They traded cotton and other items with Mesopotamia and hence the genes of entrepreneurship were well developed. The Indus River flooded almost twice a year bringing abundant nutrients to grow crops. With such highly evolved scripts and engineering capabilities it is baffling why the civilization vanished.

There are three theories of extinction in the absence of a nuclear attack in those days. No weapons or arms worth fighting with have been excavated assigning the theory of armed invasion a very low probability. A massive earthquake could have forced the population to migrate to safer locations like the Ganges and the Yamuna delta belt or even further down towards the Deccan belt. The scripts have been related to proto-Dravidian language and Brahui spoken in parts of Pakistan has been classified as Dravidian. It is however uncertain if earthquakes could force people to leave such settlements for ever. Japanese do not vacate their islands in spite of continual episodes of earthquakes. They have adapted. Now if this theory of total evacuation due to earthquakes is dismissed, then causative agent could have been the river Indus alone either due to excess of itself in the form of floods or lack of Indus River leading to sustained drought.

Civilizations have risen again around that river. Pakistan and India are politically divided states inheriting the legacy of Indus valley civilization with varying degree of affection towards it. The figures of “Pashupatinath” maintain harmony with the tiger as well a buffalo and symbols like swastika make Indians more attached to the civilization though only Dhola Vira as a site could compete with Mohenjo Daro or Harappa that is now in Pakistan. Lack of coherence among the religious symbols in that era with the current one in Pakistan makes an uneasy acceptance of the past in some quarters of Pakistan. Political scenario in Pakistan adds to the low attraction of foreign tourists to the Indus valley and Buddhist sites that have been identified for tourism. In India too there is an unenthusiastic zeal to know more about the sites perhaps because the link to the river is physically very less. Kalibangan and other sites in India are not popular tourist destinations. The Sindhu Darshan tours around Leh and its promotions have dwindled. The river originates in Tibetan plateau and flows downstream into Pakistan but before that flows though Ladakh in India. It is said that the when the Gondwana plateau hit the Tibetan plateau the mountains around present day Everest started to ascend and led to glacier formation.

Most rivers in India, China and Indo-China originate in the Tibetan side of the impact. The river is known as Zangbo or the Lion river in Tibetan. It is known as Sindhu Nadi (river) in Indian dialects of Sanskrit based languages. When the Persians came they pronounced it as Hindu Nadi or Darya(river)-e-Hindavi and the people that dwell around the river side of Hindavi as Hindoos. When Alexander  and his troops came from the Mecidonian region, which in those days was attached to the Greeks, they could not pronounce the letter ‘H’ and comfortably dropped it to call the river simply as Indus, the land around it as Indica. Indus and its tributaries formed the first line defence from entering India. A massive battle was fought with the regional king Porus of Hydaspes(Beas river). Alexander did not advance any further into India as they only managed a pyrrhic victory. They returned. Alexander died on the way back. The legendary and spicy tales however spread across the western world.  The Sindhu Valley people who were till then Hindus to the Persians and Mesopotamians later became Indians to the world. They readily accept the names given by outsiders. They called themselves Hindus and now call themselves Indians. The link to the river is however intact in some form or the other.

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