Punjab has been the cradle of many a civilization
and has a rich and hoary past. Mahatma Gandhi succinctly conveyed
Punjabs pre-eminence when he called it historically, the
most importan6t province of India. Punjabs fertile land
and its strategic position on the trade route between Africa, Europe
and Asia have enabled glorious civilizations to flourish here.
In the third and fourth
millennia, there flourished a great civilization in the Indus Valley
of Punjab. A contemporary of the ancient civilizations in Egypt and
Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization or the Harappa Culture is
today acknowledged as the third major civilization in the history of
mankind. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the people of
this culture enjoyed a life of luxury and refinement, with a highly
evolved civic system and prosperous trade links.
Harappa and Mohenjodaro,
the two cities excavated first, appear to have functioned as twin
capitals of this civilization. Later excavation revealed smaller
cities such as Kot Diji in Sindh, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Ropar in
Punjab and Lothal in Gujarat. Mohenjodaro and Harappa show a
surprising similarity despite being 350 miles apart. Both cities
consist of an acropolis and a lower city, each fortified separately.
The acropolis contains large assembly halls, granaries and edifices
for religious purposes. There are large public baths built on highly
scientific lines. The lower cities are divided into rectangles by
broad streets. All the houses were connected directly to the well
planned drainage system of covered drains and soak pits. Each house
had a courtyard, private wells and bathrooms and was built with well
baked standardized bricks. People of the Harappa Culture appear to
have known the use of the potters wheel. They were fond of
ornamentation as proved by a large number of necklaces, anklets,
rings, earning and nose studs recovered from the sites.
The most mystifying find
from the Harappa Culture sites is the large number of well carved
seals made of steatite. The seals bear representations of animals,
figures and symbols of the religious life of the people accompanied
by a pictorial script which has yet to be deciphered. One particular
seal bears an image of a male god who has been identified as the
prototype of God Siva as shown seated in a yogic posture surrounded
by animals. The seals may have been used for trade as some seals
have been found in Mesopotamia.
The people of the Harappa
Culture appear to have used both cotton and woollen textiles.
Skeletal remain from the different sites prove that animals like the
buffalo, sheep, elephant, bull and camel were domesticated. People
had the time and leisure to pursue fine arts the excellent
carvings on the seals and some exquisite stone sculptures from
Harappa show the high degree of development.
The Harappa Culture
declined suddenly between 1800-1700 B.C. and its end is as puzzling
as its beginning. How and why did this first great empire of South
Asia decay into oblivion? Was it due to massacres by marauders or
did the decay begin in the cities themselves? Or were there forces
against which man was helpless such as climatic changes and natural
calamities? Research has proved that the decline of the glorious
Harappa Culture was due to a variety of factors, both man-made and
natural. In the beginning of the second millennium B.C., there were
great changes in the environmental conditions the climate
changed and large parts of the plains were flooded when tectonic
changes threw up a dam in the lower Indus Valley. There were other
socio-economic factors which contributed to the decline.
Agricultural production perhaps declined with the changes in the
climate and the big cities could no longer sustain themselves.
People from the major centers perhaps left for the smaller outposts
of this great civilization and slowly riveted back to village life
when they could no longer maintain the prerequisites of an urban
Even today excavations at
the Harappa Culture sites throw up new facts not just about the great
civilization but also about mankinds evolution. The Harappa
man is a link to the past, a window into the life and history of our
ancestors. That he was a man of taste and culture and that he lived
a civilized life of sophistication is without doubt and a matter of
pride. Punjab is indeed, as Rabinder Nath Tagore called it the
land where the first civilized man trod on earth.