Harappan jewelry discovered in Rakhigarhi

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Anupama Nair



The year 2014 was a very memorable year for me personally as I had the chance to visit Gujarat for the very first time. I visited Dwarka, Somnath and then visited many Indus Valley sites in Gujarat. I surely enjoyed visiting those sites and hope one day I get to see Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. The major ancient civilizations of the world were Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BC–1900 BC), Greek (2700 BC–479 BC), Roman (550 BC–465 AD), Egyptian (3150 BC 332 BC), Mesopotamian (3500 BC–500 BC), Mayan (2600 BC–900 AD) among a few.

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age Civilization in the northwestern regions of Indian Subcontinent from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Western, Northwestern Bharat. It existed from 3300 BC to 1300 BC, and in its mature form from 2600 BC to 1900 BC. Along with Egyptian and Mesopotamian, it was one of three early civilizations of the Asian continent. It flourished in the basins of the Sindhu River (Indus), which flows through Pakistan, and is perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal  Ghagar-Hakra river northwestern Bharat and eastern Pakistan.

It is to be noted that this is the only urban civilization while the rest of the above-mentioned civilizations were rural. The civilization's cities were noted for their urban planning, baked bricks houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and new techniques in handicraft (seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin).  The large cities of Mohenjo-Daro (Sind) and Harappa (Punjab) likely had a population of between 30,000 and 60,000 and the civilization itself during its florescence may have contained between one and five million people.

The Indus civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization, after one of the sites, Harappa which was the first of the sites to be excavated in the 1920s while trying to lay a railway line.  The discovery of Harappa and soon afterwards Mohenjo-Daro was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India during the colonial rule. There were however earlier and later cultures often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area. By 2002, over 1000 Mature Harappan cities and settlements had been reported, of which just under a hundred had been excavated. There were seven known biggest townships — Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Ganeri Wala in Pakistan and Dholavira, Rakhigarhi, Lothal and Kalibangan in India.

Rangpur in Limdi Taluka of Ahmedabad district was the first site to be re-excavated after our Independence as the historians suspected to have a Harappan connection. It is believed that the Harappans probably migrated to Kutch around 2500 BC, and decided to settle down there. It is believed that there are 60 Indus settlements have been found in Kutch, of which 40 belong to the ‘early’ phase while the others belong to the mature phase.  The discoveries done by historians reveal that the Harappans brought their culture and way of life to Gujarat much before the civilization declined, causing large-scale migration from Kutch to the hinterland of Gujarat and even modern-day Saurashtra. 

If you are a historophile or a lover of history and ancient civilizations, like me a trip to all the Indus Valley sites in a particular state would be perfect for your next holiday. I started with Gujarat as it is near to Mumbai and took Shatabdi to Ahmedabad and thus started a journey of a lifetime! I visited Lothal and Dholavira. Then I got a chance to see Rakhigarhi in Haryana. Rakhigarhi came into the news after many recent discoveries by the Archaeological Survey of India which was conducting research for over 32 years. Let me tell you more about Rakhigarhi.

Rakhigarhi in Haryana was excavated by Shri Amarendra Nath of the Archeological Survey of India. Five inter-connected mounds spread in a huge area form Rakhigarhi's unique site. Two mounds, out of five, were believed to be thickly populated. It was found that mature Harappan phase represented by a planned township having mud-brick as well as burnt-brick houses with proper drainage system existed here. Animal sacrificial pit lined with mud brick and triangular and circular fire alters on the mud floor have also been excavated that signified the ritual system of Harappans. “A cylindrical seal with five Harappan characters on one side and a symbol of an alligator on the other is an important find from this site”.

Other finds included “blades (terracotta and shell bangles), beads of semiprecious stones, terracotta, shell and copper objects, animal figurines, toy cart frame and wheel of terracotta, bone points. The excavations also discovered a few burial sites”. It made one of its biggest discoveries yet with the excavation of a 5000-year-old jewelry-making factory.

The structure of some houses, a kitchen complex and a 5000-year-old jewelry making factory was discovered, which proved that the site must have been a very important trade center. Jewelry made of gold and copper were also found which had been hidden from the future civilization for thousands of years. Similar to Sinauli in Uttar Pradesh that  gained attention for its Bronze Age solid-disk wheel carts discovered in 2018, which were interpreted by some as horse-pulled "chariots", graveyards also have been found in the excavation sites which archaeologists said that “civilization believed in life after death”. ASI has made a lot of discoveries in the last two months in Rakhigarhi which points to the civilization progressing steadily towards development. Thousands of earthen pots, royal seals, and children's toys have also been excavated.

Archaeologists were also researching on the decline of the Harappan Civilization and ruled out external attacks as the reason for abandonment of the Harappan-age settlement discovered at Rakhigarhi. Climatic changes and shortage of water could be the major reasons for the mass exodus of the people. Satellite imagery as well as literary sources suggest the presence of a river channel in the area which could be the Drishadvati river which was associated with Vedic river Saraswati. Drying up of the river might have also affected the livelihood of the people as they could not carry out trade prompting them to gradually migrate to other locations. Several layers of settlements starting from the early Harappan phase (3300 to 2600 BC) to mature Harappan phase (2600 to 1900 BC) have been found at the site.

The Mound number 7 of Rakhigarhi has been declared as a necropolis. A total of 62 burials have been found there so far. These include two female skeletons found in the current round of excavation commencing from February that will go on till September-end.“Necropolis dates back to the mature Harappan phase. “We have dug deeper and found that residential settlement existed in Mound 7 in the early Harappan phase,” said an officer who is involved in the digging of Mound 7. He added that there was nothing found on the skeletons to suggest that the deaths took place during warfare. The pottery found with the bodies is suspected to have contained ghee, milk, curd etc., which are used in final rites in India even today, which shows “cultural continuity”.

The latest excavation has also exposed layouts of roads of 3-m width and drains with soak pits placed at corners where the drains have taken a turn at 90-degree angle.

I dream of the day when I can visit all other sites in India and Pakistan and dream of Akhund Bharat.

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