Indian History

A Diary Meets a Secret at Mohenjo-Daro’s ‘Great Bath’

Next stop – Mohenjo-Daro!
[Source – Wikipedia]

Along the great rivers – Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Indus, Yellow, Yangtze, coastal Peru rivers, Coatzacoalcos – rose the world’s oldest great civilisations – Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indus Valley, Chinese, Caral-Supe, Mesoamerican. Rivers sustained these agricultural civilisations, providing food, fertile soil and better access to build trade relations with the rest of the world.

Archaeological findings provide us with a map that take us closer to these ancient civilisations, yet mysteries remain, as in the case of the Indus Valley civilisation, also known as the Harappan civilisation.

Major sites and extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
[Source – Wikipedia]

Although bigger than Egyptian or Mesopotamian (spread across northwest India, Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan, more than 1500 sites being found), the Harappan society boasts no monumental marvels like the pyramids or a deciphered writing like the cuneiform, nor even a ruling class, a military, weapons of war and not even distinctive burial sites.

The historians found no evidence of violence either and therefore, a tectonic shift that dried up the river or a terribly great flood is seen as the main reason behind the Indus Valley civilisation’s final collapse.

Nevertheless, what was discovered makes Mohenjo-Daro and Dholavira – the main Indus Valley cities amongst others – world heritage sites of immense importance. Indus Valley people lived in a very well-planned city that was most likely cosmopolitan-natured.

With its naturally ventilated and uniformly baked clay brick houses, well connected grid-patterned streets, an elaborate drainage system (some of these 4,500-year-old drains still perfectly operational), public washrooms, dustbins, around 700 freshwater wells, a massive granary, a citadel, uniformly made artefacts, seals and weights – Mohenjo-Daro was one of the twin capital towns, along with Harappa, of the Indus Valley civilisation.

The most important structure excavated here is not a palace or a temple, but a public bath – known as the Great Bath – also called the “earliest public water tank of the ancient world”.

Tightly fitted bricks and a layer of bitumen (waterproof tar) made the floor of the bath watertight; it was a large building with several rooms, one of which also had a freshwater well.

The ruins of what was once a large multi-storied building – now termed as the House of Priests – right across the street of the Great Bath, reinforces the idea that the bath had a sacred purpose.

Most scholars agree that this tank would have been used for special religious functions where water was used to purify and renew the well-being of the bathers. This indicates the importance attached to ceremonial bathing in sacred tanks, pools and rivers since time immemorial.

J. M. Kenoyer
“The Priest-King”, a seated stone sculpture at the National Museum, Karachi. [Source – Wikipedia]

A single soapstone seated structure termed as “Priest-King” by the archaeologists does not suggest that a monarchy or a priest ruled the city of Mohenjo-Daro, yet the remarkable urban planning and meticulous construction focusing on public welfare hints at probably a council of elders and a community that worked together.


A Mohenjo-Daro’s citizen’s Diary

Seal with two-horned bull and inscription; 2010 BC; steatite; overall: 3.2 x 3.2 cm; Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, Ohio, US).
[Source – Wikipedia]

Day – Sunny

Got up. Slipped from broken stairs. Mended. Water’s fresh, took bath, drank plenty.

Seals made – water buffaloes, elephants, bulls, rhinoceros. Ha!

Day – Sunny, Clouds Playing

At The Great Bath. Slipped from slippery stairs. Cleaned. Cleaned more. Got fresh water from the well. Poured. Poured more. Thanked noble Indus.

Day – Too Rainy

Group work. Mending limestone slabs. Mended. Dry granary functions. Ate well. Didn’t slip. Healed.

Day – Raining

At The Great Bath. Mending roof. Unfinished. Slipped. Fell into the Bath. Resurrected. Ha!


Reclining mouflon; 2600–1900 BC; marble; length: 28 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City).
[Source – Wikipedia]

Blogger’s Note –

Only ten percent of Mohenjo-Daro has been excavated so far and yet it shows how grand the city must have been, its citizens living a simple life, nurturing good daily-living-practices; either celebrating special occasions at the Great Bath or just storing water, humbly accepting what the Indus River brought.

Spiritually awakened or not, religiously enlightened or not, fiercely ambitious or not, the Indus Valley folks definitely, without any doubt, slept well. And that’s their secret, if there is any. They rested and digested fantastically and so they functioned wonderfully. Maybe they slept for 12-14 hours, working from dawn, with a calming break around noon time, to early evening. Not rushing or worrying when at work.

And so, well rested, they loved water – fresh, salty, rainy (and were also aware about floods; they constantly rebuilt their buildings in cities like Mohenjo-Daro), and fire – for they loved baking bricks, and music and art – for ahm…The Dancing Girl, the ornaments and toys. They loved to work.

Every task was a joint venture, everything done together with nothing but the Sunny/Rainy/Cloudy day in front of them. And then the starry and peaceful night, when the wind played a lullaby and one with nature, they slept.

Good sleep made them bright and happy.

The Pashupati seal, showing a seated figure surrounded by animals.
[Source – Wikipedia]

Read further –

Rediscovering the magic of Mohenjo-Daro

Indus Valley Civilisation, Mohenjo-Daro and the Cradle of Civilisation

Watch to learn –
At the Great Bath, Bollywood style… enjoy –

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What the Indian History tells us about the Present

Intricate works, intricate stories.
Image by lapping from Pixabay.

What is history? Does the dictionary tell us everything about it?

History is the branch of knowledge dealing with past events; a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account; the aggregate of past events.

While such definitions are important, especially for students and for others to have a basic idea about this field of study, but surely history is more than just a record book.

History tells us about the unapproachable yet important past for generations have lived this life we are now living, on this very planet before we were born and to understand how they succeeded, failed, survived or thrived is a piece of valuable information as then we can prepare well for what is coming in the future.

Talking about future, what will be the future of India, this great country that was once called the golden bird and was the centre of worldwide trade, that was once colonized and had to struggle hard for its freedom, that is now developing into becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and an emerging superpower, what does the future hold for it?

Let us go back in time and see how this land managed so well with its rise and fall to become the India of the present times.

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Painting of a horned boar in Rock Shelter 15, Bhimbetka, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

Indus Valley Civilisation is the first name that comes to our minds when we turn to the ancient past of our country, but what is not known to everyone is the fact that there lived people long before the Harappan and Mohanjo-Daro cities were even conceived.

Archaeological studies have proved that human species were present in the Indian sub-continent since over 250,000 years ago and it is, therefore, one of the oldest inhabited regions on the planet.

The earliest records of the Indian history exist in the form of the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh (9000 BCE to 7000 BCE) from the prehistoric Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period. Another site belongs to the Neolithic Age, Mehrgarh (7000 BCE to 3300 BCE), Pakistan. Archaeologists have not only found Stone Age weapons here but also cave paintings depicting hunters, animals and people dancing.

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Dholavira in Gujarat, India, is one of the largest cities of Indus Valley Civilisation, with step-well steps to reach the water level in artificially constructed reservoirs. 
[Source – Wikipedia]

It was around 5000 BCE that Indus Valley Civilization started shaping throughout the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys (now in Pakistan), along with the northwestern parts of India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The well-developed cities of this period, especially the Harappa, Ganeriwala and Mohenjo-Daro, with houses built of kiln-fired mud bricks, the streets laid out evenly at right angles and a sophisticated drainage system, the Great Bath (it may have been a public bath), bronze and copper items like the statue of the Dancing Girl, of Indra (the god of storm and war), terracotta pieces depicting the Shakti (the Mother Goddess) and the cultivation of barley, wheat, peas, sesame and cotton, show how successful a civilization it was.

Also, seals belonging to Indus Valley Civilization have been found at sites in Mesopotamia (another one of the oldest civilizations), meaning that trade was an important source of commerce.

Such details not only highlights the fact that we are a very old civilization that had flourishing art and culture, but it also tells us that our land is ideally located for people to thrive, geographically India is more of a mini world – we have oceans, rivers, deserts, islands and mountains; rich flora and fauna that is supported by six seasons (while there are only four in most of the other countries) – and these favourable conditions were majorly responsible for the early hunters and gatherers to survive.

Knowing then the fact that India’s land is very fertile, that the present situation where our oceans are polluted, rivers dried up, deserts have become harsher, islands are frequently under tsunami threats and mountains are getting much populated, it becomes the duty of every Indian to not exploit, but value the gifts of this land.

After the Indus Valley Civilisation ended, a group of small settlements of different tribes appeared in the North-Western regions of India until the arrival of the Aryans who become responsible for ushering the new age in Indian History – the Vedic Age.

In this period, along with the archaeological legacy, India also got a source of literary legacy – The Vedas (collections of hymns, prayers, and liturgy) are the earliest record of Indian culture. These texts composed in Sanskrit comprises of four major texts – the Rigveda, the Samveda, the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda. Also, the great religious and literary works of The Upanishads (commentaries on Vedic rituals and philosophical treatises), The Puranas (traditional mythical works), and the two epics – The Mahabharata and The Ramayana – all come from this period.

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Rigveda manuscript in Sanskrit. [Source – Wikipedia]

The Vedas put forth the concept of varnashramadharma, the bedrock of Indian traditional social organization, is built on these three fundamental ideas: varna (social class), ashrama (stages of life), and dharma (duty or righteousness).

The Varna system divided the society into four classes – Brahmana at the top (priests and scholars), the Kshatriya next (the warriors), then the Vaishya (farmers and merchants), and last, the Shudra (labourers). Initially, this system proved good for all as everyone worked according to their capability, but gradually it degenerated to become a corrupt, biased, rigid and false law.

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Vardhaman (Mahavira) sculpture at Keezhakuyilkudi, Madurai, Tamilnadu, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

Then came two religious reformers Vardhaman Mahavira (549-477 BCE) and Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE) who completely rejected the orthodox, repressive ideas that Hinduism had then started fostering. Both these belief systems emphasised on renouncing the world and opposed the ritualistic Brahmanic schools that enjoyed the exclusive status of being the interpreters of the ancient Sanskrit texts.

Jainism and Buddhism, formed by the followers of these two reformers, promoted asceticism, the abandonment of ritual, domestic and social action, and the attainment of spiritual illumination in an attempt to win, through one’s efforts, freedom from repeated rebirth.

Not only religion was undergoing such changes, the society as a whole was facing many alterations then like the rise of many powerful kingdoms; while urbanization and wealth of these kingdoms multiplied, it also started attracting attention from the outside.

Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire invaded India in 530 BCE and also tried to spread his religious ideas. In 327 BCE came Alexander the Great, who continued his winning streak by conquering some regions of Northern India before his army mutinied. Again, Greek culture influenced all areas of culture in Northern India from art to religion to attire.

With Alexander’s departure from India, the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE) rose under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 BCE), a significant period in Indian History as it became the first pan-Indian empire. The Mauryan dynasty ruled almost the entire subcontinent (except the area south of present-day Karnataka; Chera, Chola and Pandya dynasties were ruling the south), as well as substantial parts of present-day Afghanistan.

In the 100 years of the successful Mauryan imperial system, the one king who is the most popular even today is Ashoka the Great (269-232 BCE), under whose rule the empire flourished at its height. After the bloody battle of Kalinga, in which more than 100,000 people died, Ashoka had a change of heart; he accepted Buddhism and focused on maintaining peace in his kingdom. He also sent missionaries to spread the teachings of Buddhism in far North, South and even overseas.

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Ashoka pillar
 at Vaishali, Bihar, India.
[Source – Wikipedia]

With years passing by India saw new empires rising and facing a downfall. In the 3rd century CE to 590 CE, arose the glorious Gupta Empire and under their rule, India witnessed its Golden Age. Philosophy, literature, science, mathematics, architecture, technology, art, engineering, religion, and astronomy, among other fields, all flourished during the Gupta rule, resulting in some of the greatest of human achievements.

Aryabhatta, Kalidasa, Varahamihira and Vatsyayana were some of the many scholars who made a significant contribution during this age; decimal system, the concept of zero and chess came into existence. The Gupta philosophers also discovered that the Earth is not flat but round and that it rotates on its own axis causing lunar eclipse; discoveries regarding gravity and the planets were also made during this period.

The famous caves of Ajanta and Ellora, with their elaborate carvings and vaulted rooms, belong to this age. The Gupta rulers advocated and propagated Buddhism as the national belief and this is the reason for the plentitude of Buddhist works of art, as opposed to Hindu, at sites such as Ajanta and Ellora.

The empire declined slowly under a succession of weak rulers until it collapsed around 550 CE. After this period various dynasties ruled different regions, all contributing to social, economic and cultural changes.

With such a lengthy list of invasions and battles, the Indian battleground had just been prepared for what was yet to come.

The Muslim general Muhammed bin Qasim, in 712 CE, conquered northern India (modern-day Pakistan) and thus, ushered the beginning of Mughal rule in India – invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni, the battle of Tarain between Mohammed Ghori & Prithivi Raj Chauhan, the establishment of the Khilji Dynasty, the seven main Mughal rulers: Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Bahadur Shah – that lasted for 331 years, modifying the Indian society to a great scale, merging their culture in the heart and soul of this land and making it a truly diverse country.

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 Qutb complex, with the Qutb Minar and some ruins.
[Source – Wikipedia]
Taj Mahal, Agra.
[Source – Wikipedia]

While the Mughals ruled and expanded their reign, explorers from the West like Marco Polo and Vasco-da-Gama also visited this country and empires like the Vijayanagar Empire and Maratha Empire saw many successful decades. Many battles were fought by each to expand and save their respective kingdoms, but what ultimately beat them all was the coming of British East India Company.

European countries all scuffled for a piece of rich Asia and thus, originally arriving as traders (of silk, cotton, tea and opium) the British soon started functioning as the military authority in growing sections of India.

From the battle of Plassey (1757) to the revolt of 1857, the British had established themselves rather comfortably in India. Though Queen Victoria promised that the British government would work to “better” its Indian subjects, the British successfully tried to ‘divide and rule’ this diverse country.

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Two silver one rupee coins used in India during the British Raj, showing Victoria, Queen, 1862 (left) and Victoria, Empress, 1886 (right).
[Source – Wikipedia]

Independence movement started and great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi demanded the British government to ‘quit India’. And as it became difficult for the British officials to handle the violent outbreaks that took place in between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, they decided to leave the country once and for all.

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 Jawaharlal Nehru sharing a joke with Mahatma Gandhi, during a meeting of the All India Congress, Mumbai, July 6, 1946.
[Source –Wikipedia]

India, in 1947, became a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. From the year of Independence to the present times, India has been fighting its way through communal riots, poverty, famines, unemployment, corruption, illiteracy, population, pollution, gender inequality, terrorism and more such issues.

And yet, its booming economy, geographical location suitable for world trade, young population, good foreign relations, advancement in science and technology, a strong military force are some of the factors that make it a strong contender to become a superpower in future.

History proves that Indian civilization has stood the test of time and survived against all odds. This fact in itself is an indicator that the future holds good things for this country, but what history also shows is that more than often we have been conquered, sometimes by weapons and sometimes by ruses.

We need to remember this lesson from our Modern History class – ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.

Rather than falling prey to the ideas that lead to communal unrest and disputes, today’s India needs to be tolerant and broad-minded, its leaders should not worry about power, but should work for the public interest, its industrialists should enforce transparency and generosity, and its public should become aware, responsible and hardworking citizens, for this ancient land has nurtured those who have valued it.

History is a guidebook, it shows the magnificent rise and tragic fall of civilizations, for both are a possibility at any given period of time.

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For a better world, let the children also befriend History books.
Image by AkshayaPatra Foundation from Pixabay

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