The Indus Sarasvati People

The Mahabharata Age ended with a third global superflood around 5,500 BC that sunk the coastal, offshore island city state of Dwarka. The epic speaks about its tragic fallout and debilitating effects symbolically, in the way the great warrior Arjuna lost his abilities while battling with armed robbers and vagrant militia to save Dwarka refugee relatives he was escorting to Hastinapur. The catastrophe, preceded by mass mutual killing of the whole Yadava clan, would have felt unbearably heavy after the great destruction, loss of lives and depletion of state powers on account of the Great War.

Vedic civilisation went through a long process of recovery and restoration, borne forward spiritually by Yoga and Vedanta in part, but adopting Charvaka ways significantly due to intense nihilistic surge in the wake of people’s widespread despair. One can imagine the massive appeal of Krishna’s radically simple and fulfilling message upon their hearts, to shore the people up and pull the entire population from its brink. The materialism however was there to stay in their lives, moderated only by the knowledge simply presented in Vedanta texts authored by Ved Vyasa, the divine narratives in epics and Puranas, and by the ringing stream of life perspective, liberating values and ways lucidly presented in Bhagavad Gita.

During over a thousand years after the Great War, people inched and crawled through for long before regaining their own respect for themselves, with a vengeance I speculate, compared to the massively breached trust they had reposed on kings and elite wise men. There was a perceptible preference among people everywhere for egalitarian values and democratic organisation in village communities and, in time, in their trade guilds and many industrial and commercial centres that sprung up with well designed layout, housing and civic amenities.

Trade along sea routes, earlier established by flourishing economic hubs like Dwarka, once again came alive. Knowledge and skills of the Mahabharata Age were remembered and revived and men and women returned to their professions with competence and vigour. They gave themselves to action, as Krishna had exhorted, and kept their religion personal and understated.

What followed, between 5th and 3rd Millennium BC, was the urban Indus Saraswati civilisation spread over a million sq km in the west and northwestern parts of the subcontinent, along two major rivers that could support navigation down to ports, from where laden ships departed regularly for far coasta! lands in Middle East and Africa, and over land to Central Asia. Raw materials for workshops in over 1000 cities were imported : minerals from Iran and Afghanistan, jade from China, cedar wood from the mountainous regions in the north, and lead and copper from other parts within the subcontinent.

The traded goods from urban settlements in Indus Saraswati valleys were much valued in markets abroad : terracotta pots, gold, silver, metals, beads, flints for tools, seashells, pearls, and coloured gemstones like lapis lazuli and turquoise. Other trade goods included terracotta pots, gold, silver, metals, beads, flints for making tools, seashells, pearls, and colored gemstones, such as lapis lazuli and turquoise.

It was a civilisation found on trade, commerce, agriculture and industry, of people who were hard working and generally at peace. It is interesting to note that archaeological excavations over the last hundred years show no evidence of palaces or temples in their settlements; or of kings, armies and the priestly class. Perhaps, the largest structures in their cities were granaries and the Great Bath, which reflects governance priorities that contrast sharply with the elaborate, ostentatiously built palaces and rigid, elitist ministerial setup in Mahabharata Age.

It can be seen today, in the excavated settlements, how the Indus Saraswati people survived the double scourge of flooding and arid spells over the region, of which effects they were weakened and worn out. Then, they had to helplessly watch massive backflows of seawater destroy their lands with its salinity. The Rann of Kutch in western India was once inhabited, with Dholavira, a major Saraswati civilisation city, situated in it; it is a saline soil desert since. People built walls to protect the city core, and even raised the level of the city itself, but to no avail.

Perhaps economic disruptions, both on the supply side and in the markets abroad, intensified the civilisational decline. In its late period, their pottery is more plain than painted. Their exquisite stone stamp seals, with animal representations executed in intaglio, were no longer made in the late period; instead, the expensive seals were replaced with those made cheaply, of paste or frit, with bare geometric designs on them. And gone were the clay animal figurines that spelled ceramic artistry. Late period finds have figurines in abundance, to cater to an overpopulated city perhaps; or because they had remained unsold due to their crude make, poor proportions, and shapes that appeared more comic or grotesque than pleasant.

When the end came, around 1800 BC, the worn out people of that once grand civilisation abandoned their cities; those who couldn’t, or would not, allowed themselves to die in their despair. The advanced drainage systems and baths of the great cities were built over or blocked. Writing began to disappear, and the standardized weights and measures used for trade and taxation fell out of use. People, who could, migrated east or north, living in small villages or isolated farms. They had little agricultural surplus, and no manufacturing base, to support large cities.

However, the relocation meant more than mere poverty or change of place; it was time to correct their spiritual course…

Extract from forthcomin work :

SORO USHA – A Millennial Work


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