Generally, ruins do not tell anything but the recent excavations going on in more than 500 sites in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, etc are set to address many of the riddles associated with the civilisational history of Bharat. The civilisation that was spread over from Indus Basin of present day Pakistan to the north-eastern Bharat upto the Arabian Sea had posed many questions for researchers of human history. Firstly, it is going to change the calculation of timeline of civilisational history, which until now was believed to be 5,000 years old, now will be considered more that 8,000 years old. The climate reconstruction at Bhirrana demonstrates that some of the Harappan settlements in the Ghaggar-Hakra Valley are the oldest in Bharat and probably developed at least by the ninth millennium before present, over a large landmass. Hitherto, rejected and referred as ‘mythical’ by established historians, the theory of ‘Saraswati’ river will also get scientific basis through these findings. More than 500 sites of Harappan settlements have been discovered in this belt during the last hundred years. Of these several sites both in India viz. Kalibangan, Kunal, Bhirrana, Farmana, Girawad and Pakistan viz. Jalilpur, Mehrgarh in Baluchistan, Rehman Dheri in Gomal Plains have revealed early Hakra levels of occupation preceding the main Harappan period.This is nothing but the ratification of Saraswati Civilisation that shaped the larger consciousness of Bharat as a nation.
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The similar set of excavations going on in Shivaganga region of Tamil Nadu has also connected the cultural threads of our diverse but integral culture. If the findings related to the carbon dating and civilisational specificities to be believed, then it is going to change the whole narrative about our ancient history and so the modern political discourse associated with it. More importantly, the civilisation about the continued survival of Harappans at Bhirrana suggests adaptation to at least one detrimental factor that is monsoon change. The adaptability and flexibility of this civilisation has been the cardinal feature which continued over the period of time. As Prof K N Dixit, Chairman of Indian Archeological Association says, “The carbon-14 dates from Bhirrana pushed back the primary urbanisation in Saraswati Valley somewhere to the middle of 8th millennium BCE in the time range of C.7500-8200 BCE.”
These two factors will not only compel us to relook at our own historical timeline but also will burst many myths created by the British historians and nurtured by their left-liberal prodigies.
Arati Deshpande Mukherjee explains the scientific basis of these excavations.
Archaeology defines History
The rise of the post-Neolithic Bronze Age Harappan Civilisation 5,700 – 3,300 years before present, spread along the Indus Valley of Pakistan through the plains of North-West India, including the State of Gujarat and up to the Arabian Sea. So far, its subsequent decline has remained an enigma in archaeology. In the Indian subcontinent, the major centres of this civilisation include Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan and Lothal, Dholavira and Kalibangan in India. In recent years, excavation at Rakhigarhi and few other places indicate that the civilisation probably was more expansive than thought before.
While the earlier phases of the civilisation were represented by pastoral and early village farming communities, the mature Harappan settlements were highly urbanised with several organised cities, developed material and craft culture having trans-Asiatic trading to regions as distant as Arabia and Mesopotamia. The late Harappan phase witnessed large scale deurbanisation, population decrease, abandonment of many established settlements, lack of basic amenities, and disappearance of Harappan script. Many archaeologists believe that weakening of the summer monsoon after 5,000 years and a major drought around 4,200 years throughout the Asia probably were the reason behind the Harappan collapse.
The recent study by a team of researchers from IIT Kharagpur, Deccan College PGRI, Pune, Physical Research Laboratory Ahmadabad, Birbal Sahani Palaeobotanical Institute, Lucknow and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) shows that the civilisation itself was much older than thought before going back to 8,000 years before present and probably climate was not the only cause of its collapse. These findings have been published in the prestigious journal Nature Scientific Reports on May 25, 2016. The unprecedented approach adopted by the Indian team in this regard was appreciated by one of the journal’s reviewers. It is considered as a big achievement for Indian archaeology as well as the scientific community at large.
The findings come from the Harappan site of Bhirrana in Haryana excavated by late Dr LS Rao from the ASI which was part of a high concentration of settlements along the now dried up mythical Vedic river valley 'Saraswati', an extension of Ghaggar River in the Thar Desert. Bhirrana has preserved all cultural levels of this ancient civilisation from Pre-Harappan Hakra phase through Early Mature Harappan to Mature Harappan period.
The archaeological materials specifically analysed for this research were the large quantities of animal remains like bones, teeth, horn cores of cow, goat, deer, antelope etc. recovered from Bhirrana excavations. Their analysis was carried out by Dr Arati Deshpande Mukherjee (the writer), at the Archaeozoology laboratory, Deccan College PGRI Pune which has helped explore the diverse ways in which animals were used by the Bhirrana inhabitants.
In order to check the validity of the C14 dates previously obtained from Bhirrana additional dating of pottery from the Early Mature Harappan period by a technique called Optically Stimulated luminescence (OSL) by Dr Navin Juyal at Physical Research Laboratory Ahmadabad was found to be nearly 6,000 years old, the oldest known pottery from the Early Mature Harappan period so far. The levels of Pre-Harappan Hakra phase have been dated to be as old as 8,000 years before present.
In this area, the monsoon was much stronger from 9,000 years to 7,000 years before present and probably fed these rivers making them mightier with vast floodplains. The study revealed that the monsoon became progressively weaker from 7,000 years onwards but surprisingly the civilisation did not disappear, rather it continued to evolve even in the face of declining monsoon condition.
It is suggested that the climate was probably not the only cause of Harappan decline supported by increasing evidence of Harappans changing their subsistence strategy by using shifting crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley during the early part of intensified monsoon to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice in the later part of declining monsoon. As these later crops generally have much lower yield, the organised large storage system of mature Harappan period was abandoned giving rise to smaller more individual household based crop processing and storage system which acted as a catalyst for the de-urbanisation of the Harappan Civilisation rather than an abrupt collapse.
In Search of History
Since the discovery of Harappan Civilisation in 1920s, archaeologists have been trying to know the origin of this civilisation. In 1947, Wheeler encountered a stage prior to this civilisation in the defence area at Harappa. But the real early levels were noticed in 1958 at Kot Diji in Pakistan where a full fledged early Harappan phase was encountered. In 1960, in the excavations at Kalibangan, a similar level was also noticed and thereafter, this phase was noticed at many sites in Indo-Pak sub-continent.
However, in Haryana, a site known as Kunal was found which was termed even earlier than Kalibangan and KotDiji. This cultural sequence known as pre-early Harappan or Hakra culture was also reported from Bhirrana in 2002-2003. Later on Girawad, Farmana and Rakhigarhi also yielded this cultural phase which is known in archaeological parlance as Hakra Ware, an extension of Saraswati Valley known as Hakra River in Bahawalpurstate of Pakistan, an adjoining area of District Ganganagar, Rajasthan. The carbon-14 dates from Bhirrana pushed back the primary urbanisation in Saraswati Valley somewhere to the middle of 8th millennium BCE in the time range of C.7500-8200 BCE.
RL Raikes and RK Karanth from the drilling of flood plains of Kalibangan noticed a coarse greyish mineral which is also found in the present day river bed of Yamuna River clearly supporting that once this river which was a tributary of Saraswati River but later on because of tectonic movement in Himalayas, this river started flowing in the Gangetic system of rivers. In 2013, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in collaboration with Deccan College of Pune initiated the next round of excavations which are giving the startling revelations.
The C-14 dates from Rakhigarhi, Girawad etc. confirmed the period of early Harappans somewhere to the range of C.4200 BCE onwards. Marshall has put up the beginning of Harappans to C.3000 BCE and as such one can assigned the early Harappans between C.4500-3000 BCE and earlier culture anywhere between C.6000-4500 BCE, a transition between Neolithic and Chalcolithic requires more work by excavating site in Haryana and Rajasthan. Now it is surmised that the origin of Indian Civilisation goes back to the middle of the 8th millennium BCE.
Significance of Saraswati Civilisation
The indication of pre-Harappan Civilisation points towards the most ancient civilisation of the world, perhaps older than the Egyptian Pharaohs. The science has certainly come handy in this search for River Saraswati. The latest satellite data, including hydrogeological and drilling data and also results of isotopic studies carried out by BARC Mumbai help us to decipher the course of river Sarasvati. The findings of ISRO and NASA also confirm the same. The study also indicated that the rise in Himalayas and consequent displacements in the Siwaliks and its foothills in the form of Yamuna and Sutlej tear faults was the main cause for ultimate drainage desiccation inthe north-western India. It drained through the present day Ghaggar and was flowing parallel to the river Indus as an independent river system but did not flow through the present course of Nara.
Interestingly, these findings are not limited to the archaeological excavations in Bharat but spilling over to similar efforts in Pakistan. In Pakistan a particular pottery known as ‘mud appliqué’ ware was found having a wide distribution in the greater Indus region, Baluchistan and also in Cholistan area of lost river Hakra/ Sarasvati in India which has been termed by Mughal as ‘Hakra Ware’.
Similar pottery has also been reported earlier from Jalilpur and at a few other places in Gomal plain in regular excavations. This suggests that the cultural life inno way was different as the food gatherers were found using a multiple variety of lithic equipment which were also used profitably before the knowledge of agriculture became very common. These nomadic people also appeared to have a longer duration of life because of climatic factors.
The findings suggest that an organised civil society, with centres of pilgrimage, was prevailing in this period. Archaeologists believe that Rakhigarhi was situated on one of the banks of three different paths Saraswati River adapted. One may wonder why this existence of Saraswati River and civilisation is so significant in historical discourse. The simple reason is that Vedas mention about Saraswati River. If one accepts the existence of such river then the timeline of ancient scriptures and associated social dynamics will also change. Even the Aryan invasion theory lies flat as per the new finding Vedas pre-date the alleged invasion. The timeline given by the British historians to justify their rule in Bharat is also negated by this research.
The Communist historians keep on negating the very existence Sarasvati River and continue to do so even after the revelation supported by scientific evidence. It is perhaps because of the fear that their ideological edifice of Bharat as a conglomeration of nations would shatter.
The eminent archaeologist from Deccan College of Pune who have been associated with these excavations with his team of 20 researchers for more than three and half years, says that in this excavations have come up with many evidences which suggest that Rakhigarhi was the epicentre of Harappan civilisation. Prof Shinde says, “My team did excavations at two places which were turned out to be houses and cremation grounds. They revealed the culture, constructions and industrious nature of that society. The ruins are being investigated at the international level.”
The artefacts found at the sites clearly show the industrial advancement in those days. The business linkages were extended in other parts such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra of present day Bharat. Initially the hutments were in round shape, in the later period they acquire square shape. Lately, there is a usage of bricks in construction.
Changing the Narrative
The attempts for solving the civilisational riddles are not limited to Haryana but they are ranging from Himachal to Gujarat. The excavations were carried out in the Masol Village of Mohali which is situated in the foothills of Shivalik can turn the basic history of human existence upside down.
Shivalik mountains have been suggested to be 16 to 5 million years old. Much of present day Himachal Pradesh is situated in these hills. Punjab, Haryana plains sit just below these hills. This area has many perrenial rivers flowing through these states. Due to this, the area must have been rich in vegetation and plenty of water made which had made it an ideal place for many animals to inhabit.
In fact, a research conducted jointly by India-based Society for Archaeological & Anthropological Research (SAAR) and France’s National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) and department of prehistory of the National Museum of Natural History has found rich cache of diverse fossils of fauna which is being dated back to 2.6 millions years claiming them to be the oldest fossils shadowing the ones found in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia which are said to be 2.58 million years old. If this is true then the roots of pre-Harppan civilisation can go beyond 10 thousand years old. That can perhaps burst the commonly accepted understanding that the first human species emerged in Africa.
The parallel excavations are going on in Shivaganga of Tamil Nadu. A set of four dozen square trenches have been dug out, to reveal what archaeologists call as one of the biggest human habitations of Sangam Age known so far. Following the exploration works on the Vaigai River bed in 2013-14, the ASI identified Keeladi village for excavation. The first phase of the study done in 2015 unearthed various antiquities, iron implements and earthenware, both foreign and locally made. The broken pottery parts are dating back to 3rd century BC proves foreign trade existed in the region during the period. The similarity of urban settlements and signs of business interactions also burst the myth of Aryan- Dravidian divide.
This changed timeline and narrative tells a lot about our civilisational ethos. The question is whether ‘eminent historians’ who take pride in negating our civilisational heritage with Western prism would accept this.
As Prof Ramesh Bhardwaj of Delhi University says, “This archaeological data supported by radiometric dates suggested an unbroken history of Bharatiya culture of minimum last ten thousand years.”If this is true then, the science and archaeological evidence should be put forth before ideological preferences.
(With inputs from Arun Kumar Singh)
In Rakhigarhi, statues made of stones, metal and human bones have been found. The ruins and the DNA of human skeletons are being studied at the international level
—Prof Vasant Shinde,
VC Deccan College, Pune
Our study revealed that the monsoon became progressively weaker from 7,000 years onwards but the civilisation continued to evolve even in the face of declining monsoon condition
Arati Deshpande Mukherjee
Assistant Professor of Archaeozoology at Deccan College, Pune