Harappa: The Lure of Soma – a preface.


There has been a controversy raging over the years as to who were the people living in the Indus Valley ruins.  It ranged from native “Dravidians” to “Aryans” from the steppes of Russia.  Evidence is emerging over the last few years for natives who might have developed what we know of as “Aryan culture.”

Middle of the third millennium BC was the golden era of Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan Civilization.  It stretched from the river Indus and Hindu Kush mountains in the west to the Ganges-Yamuna doab in the east, Himalayas in the north and the Arabian Ocean in the south.  The area was over a million square miles and the biggest empire of the time, bigger than Sumerian or Egyptian civilizations put together.   

After the Last Glacial Maximum about 13,000 years ago, the Himalayan glaciers receded just far enough north to leave a vast fertile alluvial plain between the Hindukush mountains in the north west and the Aravalli hills in the east.  This area was flooded every year like a clock work by the river Indus.  This vast land was fed by waters of seven great rivers – Sindhu (Indus), Parushni (Ravi), Vitasta (Jhelum), Vipasa (Beas), Sutudri (Sutlej), Asikni (Chenab) and Saraswathi (Gaggar-Hakra).

The Indus Valley civilization was at the peak of development in the middle of the third millennium BCE with several large urban centers such as Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rupar.   ImageThe excavations show uniform developments across the area, suggesting area wide communications, exchange of ideas and resources across the vast land. Image The Harappan seals have been discovered as far away as Mesopotamia and Egypt in the west and in places at the southern tip of Indian sub-continent, suggesting travel and communications over vast distances.  This vast civilization appears to have disappeared around 1900 BCE.  There are several theories for their demise.  Image

The question of who were these people has been asked for centuries.  Not many people subscribe to the “Aryan Invasion” theory anymore.  It is now generally accepted that the population of Indus Valley civilization was made up of indigenous people and there was a gradual migration and integration of Indo-European speaking people from the central Asia.  During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was probably difficult for scholars to accept that such an advanced civilization could have pre-dated a population which they considered lacking in cultural development.   The conclusion that there was an “invasion” of the Aryans from the steppes of central Asia was drawn based on tenuous philological evidence.  So far there has not been any evidence to suggest mass destruction or warfare among the ruins that have been excavated so far to suggest any invasion.  There is, however, a grain of truth in that the warfare was conducted in battle fields rather than the cities being attacked or ransacked during the pre-history. 

There are still thousands of sites waiting to be excavated.  The excavations so far have revealed a highly advanced civilization with well-developed city planning, including roads, engineering, water supply and drainage.  Some of the discoveries show that the system of drainage could be compared to modern day.   The IndusValley script still defies our experts and remains a mystery.  Very little was known about the people who lived in these cities until recently.  Now we know what they looked like, what kind of clothes they wore, their jewellery, their food habits and religious practices to some extent. Image

All the cities of Indus Valley Civilization show an extremely high standard of engineering and mathematical skills not seen in any other contemporary civilization elsewhere in the world.  For example, all the high streets of the large cities such as Harappa and Mohenjodaro were set in major cardinal axes.  For such an achievement a sound knowledge of astronomy and mathematics along with engineering skill was essential.  Mathematical texts ‘written’ by eminent sages such a Baudhayana, Apastambha, Manava and Katyana have been placed between 800 BCE and 200 BCE.  The dating again is based purely on linguistic evidence comparing with other contemporary texts.  Apasthambha described both Pythagorean Theorem and Pythagorean triples dating at least 200 years before Pythagoras.

There is a school of thought, which subscribes to the idea that the Vedas were composed by the Harappans or the Meluhhans as the Meopotamians called them.  Rig Veda is the oldest of the Vedas and has been dated to have been composed around 1700 BCE.  Niraj Mohanka of New Dharma takes it even further to 4000 BCE as the timeline for Rigveda.  There was no archaeological evidence to suggest the dating of the Vedas until recently.  This was based purely on linguistic and philological evidence.  The evidence, hence is within the books themselves.  However, evidence is emerging now that the Vedas might have been written a long time ago during the Bronze Age dating back to 3000 BCE.  There is now both archaeological and textual evidence emerging which show that both the Vedas and Harappans belong to the same time period.   One of the grammar texts – Rigveda Pratisakya – used for analysis and understanding of Rigveda has been dated back to between 3100 and 800 BCE.  New evidence is emerging all the time, which is putting our history further and further back.  It will not be long before the Indus script is unravelled and we may get an answer to if the Harappans wrote the Vedas.

Rig Veda is the oldest of four Vedas – Sama, Yajur and Atharvana.  It is organised into ten books or ‘Mandalas’ and consists of 1028 hymns.  The numbering of the books is rather arbitrary and again based on linguistics.  For example, the first book of the Rigveda in considered much younger than the second.  The language of the Vedas was considered ‘archaic’ as long ago as the time of the great grammarian, Panini, who has been dated to have been around the sixth century BCE.   Dr David Frawley suggests that the positioning of the vernal equinox in the Vedic scriptures suggests that the authors were from 6000 BCE.  Astronomical configurations shown in the Vedas and Bramhanas suggest that these were written well before 3000 BCE.  I recommend a visit to www.Indiahistoryonline.com.  It has an excellent link to an extremely well researched chronology of history, not only the Vedic people but also other religions of the world.

Zarathustra (Zoroaster) is considered to be the author of religious text of the Avestans, Yasna Haptanghaiti.  This has been dated to around the middle of the second millennium BCE.    Geography of Ariana is quite clear in the book and puts in squarely in present day Iran and to some extent Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan.  There is very little known about people who lived in these parts before Zoroaster.  According to the Avestan Gathas, he teaches the Avestan King Vishtaspa and overcomes obstacles placed by other priests and ruling classes.  The dating of both these individuals has been severely contested, some placing Zoroaster from 700 BCE to as far back as 7000 BCE.  The language used in the Yasna Haptanghaiti is old Avestan and the date of the language is still contested.

There is archaeological evidence to show that there were significant tectonic activity in the area and several of the rivers were diverted during the second and the third millennium BCE.  Diversion of several major rivers left parts of the country barren and unliveable.  Even now, Greater Iran shows seismic activity with regular earthquakes. 

It is in this context that the lives and trials and tribulations of people living in the Indus valley during the middle of the third millennium BCE are tackled in this book.  I have used existing archaeological evidence along with known historical evidence in writing this book.  I have used some poetic license to accommodate the dates and times of various individuals and events to suit the story telling.  The book tries to portray the life of ordinary people during the period of the Harappans, while trying to tell the tale of the priestly kings, Magi, Rishis and Sages of the great Indus Valley Civilization during the middle of the third millennium BCE.  This is the story of our hero, Upaas, a trainee physician from Harappa.  It is a story of a young man growing up, falling in love, getting involved in adventures and finally fighting for the city he loves most – Harappa.  The story shows the human elements of people around him.  He faces friendship, love, hate, jealousy, treachery and deceit in day to day life.  There is generous sprinkling of magic and sorcery.  As the country of Ariana, west of Hindukush dries up, the Avestans facing with near extinction take up arms against their neighbours to obtain the precious Soma.  The tactics used include deceit, sorcery and finally a war between the Meluhhans and Avestans.  Image

The Soma plant has been the centre piece of several hymns in the Vedic scriptures.  It is a plant still not accurately recognized.  The Vedic people revered it as a God, drank the extract from the stalk of the plant, used the plant for medicinal purposes and it is supposed to have magical properties.  The Avestan had a similar plant and called it Haoma and their scriptures also revered the plant for its spiritual properties.  Vedas describe it as growing in a sacred mountain around a sacred lake (Mount Mujavant and Lake Sharynavat). Avestan scriptures describe a similar sacred mountain and a sacred lake in Sistan where the Haoma plant grew.  Similar to the Soma of Indus valley, we still do not know exactly what this plant was as it disappeared at the same time as the Harappans.

This is the first book of the Harappa Series and was launched in New Delhi in October 2013.  It is now available on line at http://www.amazon.co.uk and ebook can be downloaded from Kindle to your PC/Tablet/Laptop/Smartphone.

Second book of the series, Harappa2: The Fall of Shuruppak is due for release in spring/summer of 2014.


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