Chapter 1:OUR PASTS PART - I
Ideas about the ancient culture of Indus Valley Civilization or
Harappan age comes from studying the archaeological artifacts
found in a particular area at a period of time. The Harappan age
is called the Mature Harappan Age as it came between Early and
Later Harappan Age.
Early Harappan age is associated with distinctive pottery,
agriculture, pastoralism and crafts. There were no large buildings
and there was a break between Early and Matured period as burned
buildings and abandoned settlements were found. Harappa was highly
damaged by brick robbers and Mohenjo Daro was the most well known
and preserved site.
High degree of planning is seen in settlements as Citadel areas
for the elite were built on mud platforms and were confined by
walls. The lower non citadel areas were for other populations. All
bricks - sun dried or baked were of equal proportions and large
number of labor was mobilized for town building.
Drains were built and each house had a wall
adjacent to a drain. All roads and streets intersected at right
Domestic Architecture was well planned.
The buildings were centered around a courtyard. Lower
walls of the house had no windows and the main gate that opened in
front of the courtyard didn't give a direct view of the house.Well
is present that could be accessed even by passerby.
Social and Cultural Life
Practice of burials indicate that Harappan's didn't believe in
burying things with the dead. The script hasn't been deciphered
yet but evidence shows it may written from right to left.
Extraordinary uniformity shown on pottery, seals, bricks and
weights show that a central authority enforced standards. In the
later period the sign of standardization in various goods
disappeared and the civilization too weakened and later there was
a shift to other centers.
This vanishing of an entire civilization hasn't been explained
but some reasons attributed to it are shifting of rivers, drying
of rivers, deforestation, climate change and flooding.
Post Harappan Age
James Princep an officer in the English Mint was the first to
decipher Brahmi and Kharoshti script. He also deciphered the
Stone edicts of Emperor Ashok. Most Ashokan edicts were in
Prakrit language and written in Brahmi and Kharoshti script
[northwest region]. Edicts in the northwest were written in
Greek, Aramaic scripts and languages. Ashok was
the first to write messages to his subjects
in stone slabs or polished pillars.
The sixth century showed a large number of mahajanpadas in Indian
subcontinent. Total 16 were found and some were ruled by kings
while others were ruled by council. Kings were guided by Dharmasutras
which were written by Brahmans advising on how to
Magadha was the foremost mahajanpada as agriculture was
especially productive, iron mines were located in vicinity so a
source of tools and weapons, elephants needed for wars were also
found in nearby jungle and the river Ganga and its tributaries
also were an easy system of navigation. Some texts attribute
Magadha's success to the the policy of ruthless rulers.
The rulers of Post Mauryan age tried to claim high status by
identifying with a number of deities. Guptan kings had
inscriptions called Prashastis which were poems
written on them. The rulers were oppresive as they imposed taxes
on the subjects. However some also promoted adoption of iron
ploughing and transplation which enhanced agriculture
productivity. Land grants were given by Gahapati [headmen]. Agrahara
was land grant by King to Brahman who were exempt from
Coinage developed during 6th century BC. The copper and silver
coins were issued first and bearing names and image of rulers by
Indo - Greeks. The Kushanas were first to issue coins in Gold
None of Buddha's speeches or preaching's were recorded but after
his death the disciples of Buddha compiled these teachings as Tripitakas
- Three baskets to hold different types of texts.
- Vinay pitaka - rules for those who joined as
- Sutta pitaka -Buddha's teachings
- Abhidhamma pitaka - philosophical matters.
The ideas that conduct in life is more important that status at
birth and compassion towards other humans and compassion for the
younger and weaker brought people towards Buddhism. It also
appealed to the vaishyas and shudras as it preached equality.
People confused by the rapid social changes and dissatisfied by
existing practices joined Buddhism.
Mahayana or Greater vessel gave importance to Boddhisattvas
who were compassionate beings and who accumulated merit
but not to achieve Nirvana but to help others. Hinayana became the
Lesser vessel or older thought.
Temple building activity too started around 3nd century BC. The
oldest temples only had a Garbagriha which was
a sacred room in which the devotee would enter and worship the
idol inside. Later temples had a Shikhara, a
tall structure built over the Garbagriha.
Fig 1: Shikhar
Later on temples had decorated walls, pillared halls, gateways
and water supply arrangements. Construction of artificial
caves were method to build temples.
Fig 2: Rock cut temples