Saraswati – Sindhu Civilization
By Dr. Hiro Badlani
As members of Sindhi community, have you ever wondered, why Sindhis, so small in numbers, have been able to achieve so much? Why after the catastrophic perils of the partition, they were able to rebound with such great resilience? Why are Sindhis generally peaceful and non-violent? Why are they considered great business-men? Why are they financially to advanced? The simple and obvious answer is – it is all in our genes. With utmost humility and gratitude, I narrate the ancestry and heritage of the community.
Around 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, a cluster of seven rivers, the Sapta Sindhu – Sindhu (Indus), Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas, Kubha and the now extinct Saraswati – emerged from the great Himalayas in the North, and travelling across the western part of the Indian sub-continent, finally merged with the Arabian Sea in the South, the colossal civilization—the Saraswati-Sindhu civilization, developed along this verdant belt, which was more widely spread than the civilizations of Egypt or Greece. The Saraswati River ran parallel to the Sindhu River, about two hundred miles east of it. This civilization reached its zenith in the period between 2500 BCE and 1700 BCE. More than fifteen hundred cities developed on the banks of these two great rivers. In these cities, road were sixty feet wide and there were brick and stone two-story houses, large community baths, and excellent gravity-operated drainage systems. There is evidence of art pieces, silk and metal articles, crafts, leather seals, and a large variety of agricultural product and storage facilities. These ancient people established reliable marine transport and conducted a trade and cultural relationship with such distant land as Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, Babylon, and other, thus making it an honored member of the earliest group of civilizations on Earth. The seeds of International Commerce were shown here. Money transactions, including the Hundi Havala, again began at their hands. It is said that cotton and textiles were first produced in the region, and the art of navigation too was born here six thousand years ago. It is noteworthy that during this time period, when mankind still lived in caves in most parts of the world, these people were highly advanced. Written script also has been discovered on the seal pertaining to this ancient period, although proper deciphering of these writings still remains uncertain. Why and hoe this once-great civilization disappeared remains speculative. New evidence suggests it was due the gradual drying up of the Saraswati River because of some structural changes in north in the Himalayas.
For long, this great civilization remained buried and hidden. In 1922, it was discovered by British archeologists and new concepts about the history, culture and religion of India became known to the world. Mohan-Jo-Daro, or perhaps more correctly, Moen-Jo-Daro (the mound of the dead), was the epicenter of this highly developed society. This ancient site is in the central part of a small state of Sind, which was earlier in the western corner of the undivided India, and after the partition in 1947 become part of the new country Pakistan. Sindhis originally hail from this land.
The excavation of the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization, show evidence of the carving of Shiva in his proto from as Pasupati, the lord of all animal kingdoms, and also in the yoga asanas, or yoga positions. There are also carving of exuberant feminine deities, which would later be known as various from the Mother Goddess, Shakti. The naked figurines, in meditative poses of the lotus position and standing Kayotsarga (relaxation with self-awareness), are very similar to those later adopted by the Buddha and the Tirthankars (humans who achieved enlightenment) of the Jain community. These carvings are said to point towards the concept of God, were as prevalent in that period. The concepts of Yoga and meditation too were probably born in this area.
Although Hinduism recognizes the Vedic teachings as its basic principles, the roots of this religion go back a long way, much earlier than the inception of the Vedas, probably in this period of this ancient Saraswati – Sindhu culture. It is now believed that the Vedas too were created on the banks of Sindhu River is mentioned no less than 176 times in the Vedas. No other river has been enumerated close to this!
Religion, spiritually and culture have flown through the veins of Sindhis for millennia of years. Today many are astonished at the extra-ordinary success of the microscopic community of Sindhi traders, establishing large business empires on all five continents of the World! The answer may be traced to the Golden roots-links a t the past. They are the inheritors of the grand society, which flourished in the peace, and not in blood-shed. They encouraged arts, crafts, jewelry, and other fine things of life. But above all, they were earliest amongst the humans to search for spirituals answers to the mundane problems of mankind; they became fully anchored to faith in the Supreme God. Thus they blended rather splendidly the material and the spiritual aspects of life, which would sustain them through thick and thin.
From ancient times, India became a prosperous nation, bathed in milk and bedecked in gold. Prosperity however, is like honey, and always attracts the invading ants. These ancient people, living in high culture and peaceful pursuits, did not know much about self-defense and became easy prey for repeated attacks. Sindh became a portal of entry for the invaders; the Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Arabs, and Moguls invaded Sindh one after another, and plundered mercilessly. Many were converted; language changed as per the dictate of the rulers, the ancient Saraswati River dried up and Sindhu too changed its course time and again; the fertile land became part desert and a poor country. But surprisingly the character of the inhabitants remained stable; they remained peaceful, humble, and fully anchored to faith. Despite related assaults, they did not become violent and hateful; they preferred to remain resilient and rise as the phoenix every time. They learnt the art of adoption and adaption in the most trying situations; they also became very pragmatic and realistic in their approach.
The religious pattern of Sindh has seen many ups and downs. The pre-historic religion of the Saraswati-Sindhu civilization was more in the nature of tribal character, with and open arms approach. When the nomadic people of this region developed agriculture, they tended to settle down to more peaceful pursuits, opting for more refined activities of arts and culture in place of stressful behaviour of hunting, roaming, and fighting for survival. Their earliest encounter with religion would have been in the form of viewing natural phenomena as magical and mystical occurrences. Their thinking might have posed questions such as “Who brings sun in the morning?” man started to attribute superior powers to an unknown command, beyond his strength and energy. He considered a sun, the sky, the fire, the wind, and other natural elements of Gods, the supreme authorities. These nature gods became prominent in the earliest Vedic scriptures. Soon they would realize that behind all these nature gods, there is mystic, formless, supreme divine power. They called it Brahman, the transcendental, universal Supreme God, who was one without the second. The Upanishads hailed this concept which would bring forth the idea of universal brotherhood, and the philosophy of all creation being one family of God Vasudhaiva Kutumbkum. Down the road, through millennia, more religious influences percolated in the religion; the Buddhists, Muslims, and Sikhs had their sway. A major portion of population got converted to the Islamic religion because of the ruling clout. Even so the region remained rather peaceful and non-violent for most period; the idea of all creation as one family of God prevailed deeply.
In his famous book Return of the Aryans, Bhagwan Gidwani presented a magnificent concept of the origin of Hindu clan in the region of this grand civilization. In the “Song of the Sindhu Hindu,” he lays out the principle of the ancient Indian culture of all-inclusiveness, excluding none from God’s grace whatever his faith. Clearly, it says, “God’s gracious purpose includes all human being and all Creation, for God is the creator of the Creator and God is the Creation, and that all are blessed and whatever God you choose he is that God and Dharma, righteousness or good conduct.” The seed of plural and infinite Divine was sown in this holy land.
Some think that there is a link between the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization and the Dravidian culture, the exact of which has not been fully assessed. The terracotta seals and sculptures of the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization indicate the introduction of Neolithic culture, which has remained very dominant in India, has seen in the temple sculptures through millennia. Strong association of the Dravidian society with the stone sculpture in suggestive of a close link between these two ancient civilizations. The history of Indian civilization beings in the Neolithic cultures dating back to the late eighth millennium B.C. Advancing from the hunter’s life to agriculture and vegetarianism in India brought about the major cultural pursuits. The stone cutting techniques were modified from the hunting tools towards sculpture, which became a great obsession with Indian people in the past and has continued to be an artistic passion even now. Up North, another equally impressive and even more widely spread Harappan civilization has also been discovered. More recently (1947-1986), another important excavation of Mehrgarh (Pakistan), close to the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization has brought new evidence of even earlier (7000-2500 B.C.E.) development to light. Undoubtedly all these civilizations were but part of one mega culture with extensions in many different directions.
Aldous Huxley, the philosopher, was no impressed by the peaceful character of Mohan-jo-daro that he wrote: “The civilization of the Indus Valley was as rich and elaborates as those of Sumer and Egypt. But it was a civilization that knew nothing of war. No weapons have been found in its buried cities, nor any trace of fortification. This fact is of the highest significance. It proves that it is possible for men to enjoy the advantages of a complex urban civilization without having to pay for them by periodicals mass-murders.”
Sir John Marshall, then director-general of the archeological department, noted: “The old ornaments are so well finished and so highly polished that they might have come out of a Bond Street jeweller rather than from a prehistoric house of 5000 years ago.”
At first some westerners tried to prove that this Sindh had been sacked by “Aryans”. But evidence soon turned up to show that Sindh itself was “Aryan”. Here are Shiva Pashupatinath and Kali, the worship of Linga and Peepal. And in front of the temple, topped by the stupa, is the huge tank for ceremonial bathing by pilgrims!
All over the world, there is now a trend to find the roots; the roots produce the plants. In Salt Lack city of USA, the Mormons have established a huge data bank center, which caters to individuals to trace his or her ancestry. Knowing the past helps in building the future. The Sega of evolution is based on choosing the good and discarding the bad over long periods of time. Sindhis have a magnificent heritage; not knowing it and running after quick money may be like throwing away the gold and collecting the dust!
(Dr. hiro Badlani is the author of Hinduism: Path of the Ancient Wisdom www. Hinduismpath.com. He lives at Los Angeles and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).