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The Indus Riddle from India Today
The Indus Riddle from India Today

A flurry of excavations has uncovered startling evidence that presents a radically picture of the Indus Valley civilisation -- and calls for a complete revision of ancient Indian history.

By Raj Chengappa

Indus Valley To school students, history classes on the Indus Valley civilisation have always been simplistic. Even dull. Most textbooks talk of how the civilisation appeared like a meteor on ancient India's skyscape, shone brilliantly for a while and then was snuffed out either by marauding Aryans or sudden floods.

Archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht describes the syllabus as "dead boring". He could be dead right. Egyptian mummies somehow seem to evoke more interest than the town-planning feats of the Indus engineers. Did you, for instance, raise your hands in class and ask just how stone-age farming communities almost overnight took a giant leap forward and transformed themselves into sophisticated urbanites living in cities so well designed that Indians have never been able to replicate the achievement even 5,000 years later? Did you actually believe that poppycock about an Aryan blitzkrieg that wiped out a glorious civilisation, plunging India into the dark ages for over a thousand years?

Indus Valley You probably did. Now if Bisht has his way, you will have to relearn ancient Indian history. For the past six years, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team headed by him has been systematically excavating an Indus site called Dholavira on the salty marshes of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. What they have been uncovering is turning accepted notions on the Indus on their heads. Says Bisht: "Exploring Dholavira is like opening a complete book on the Indus. We now have answers to some of the most enduring riddles about the civilisation." For starters, Indus town planners are not as "monotonous" and "regimented" as archaeologists had us believe. In Dholavira they display a surprising exuberance that expresses itself in elaborate stone gateways with rounded columns apart from giant reservoirs for water. Bisht also found a board inlaid with large Harappan script characters -- probably the world's first hoarding.

While experts regard Dholavira as the most exciting Indus find in recent times, archaeologists have excavated or are in the process of digging up 90 other sites both in India and Pakistan that are throwing up remarkable clues about this great prehistoric civilisation. Among them: That Indus Valley was a misnomer and that in size it was the largest prehistoric urban civilisation -- even bigger than Pharaonic Egypt. That the empire was ruled much like a democracy and the Indus people were the world's top exporters. And that instead of the Aryans it was possibly a Great Depression that did them in. In Lahore, M. Rafique Mughal, Pakistan's top-ranking archaeologist, says: "It is both a revelation and a revolution. Our history textbooks need to be rewritten."

Courtesy --- PAVAN KUMAR

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