2ndlook

Military idiom in the Indus-Saraswati region

Posted in History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on February 25, 2010
Krishna-Balaram kill Kuvalayapida

Krishna-Balaram kill Kuvalayapida

Non-violent Indus Valley

The ‘official’ and ‘accepted’ version of Indian history, that is ‘taught’ starts with Alexander’s invasion. The dates of the Mauryan dynasts, Buddha’s birth have been arbitrarily decided to meet Western dating guidelines – especially the Bible.

By the time Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was officially announced, (interestingly, to coincide, with Boghazkoi decipherment), colonial history was set – and IVC at that time, was force-fitted into these datelines and ‘structures’. One ‘victim’ of this ‘blindness’ is the military paradigm of the IVC.

The public face of modern research on the Pakistani sites are three American researchers, Steven Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel, (FSW). In the background are RH Meadow and JM Keyoner.

Sitting ducks

“Three portions of the ancient city were surrounded by perimeter walls that served – what function?” asked Meadow, recently, while delivering “a standing-room-only talk at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology”, basking in the glory of Harappa excavations. Writes another specialist on Indus-Saraswati sites,

to the bafflement of scholars, they appear never to have developed any sort of standing army; neither has any evidence been found of militarism, battle damage, or even defensive fortifications in the Harappan domains. Instead, Kenoyer and others believe, the elite seems to have kept order by controlling and promoting trade, commerce and religion.(from Traders of the Plain, Written by Graham Chandler).

The most unnerving aspect, especially for believers in the Desert Bloc, is the complete lack of ‘usual’ markers. No emperors, no victory stele, no palaces, no prisons, very few weapons, no central authority – yet standard, weights, similar script’ signs, parallel evolution of city design and planning. As one writer proclaims, “An entirely peaceful state seems anomalous in the history of world civilization.” This makes the Indus-Saraswati model worthy of deeper study – and not an excuse to go into a catatonic state of denial.

Covering up this nervousness, and out of their depth, all these historians, seemingly want to make out that the Indus-Saraswati peoples were sitting ducks – waiting for ‘Aryans invaders’ to come and massacre them. Unfortunately, for the FSW (and their followers) the imagery of sitting ducks and Aryan invaders is fanciful imagery, based on zero evidence – as we will see.

Quiet neighbourhood!?

India then, like now, was not in the quietest of the neighbourhoods.  The carnage and wars in the neighbouring Elamite region, or in the further Hittite, Assyrian kingdoms, the Kassite wars, the Egyptian wars, to enslave peoples, would give you, Bhai Meadow, an indication of the loot-plunder-enslavement threat.

Indus-Saraswati’s good luck, is very similar to the argument used by Western historians to explain away why Genghis Khan’s armies bypassed India completely. Usually, and realistically, Bhai Meadow, a culture of the scale of Indus-Saraswati basin, does not depend on neighbours’ good-will or good luck for continued success, survival or existence.

Not for 2000 years.

Weapons, arms and armaments

The popular impression given by these ‘historians’ is that there were no weapons found in Indus-Saraswati sites. Archaeologists at Indus-Saraswati sites excavations found

Metal objects such as spearheads, daggers, arrowheads, and axes, were potentially weapons, though Wheeler noted that “a majority may have been used equally by the soldier, the huntsman, the craftsman, or even the ordinary householder”

Marshall writes of “Weapons of war or of chase comprised axes, spears, daggers, bows and arrows, maces, slings, and possibly-though not probably-catapults.” Interestingly, the Vedas refer “to ‘pur charishnu’ or a moving fort which was probably an engine for assaulting strongholds …” which may explain the lack of need for much armaments.

In 1880′s an European writer described how,

“Admirable bows of buffalo horn-small but throwing far, and strong-are still made in the Indus Valley about Multan. For this use the horns are cut, scraped, thinned to increase elasticity; joined at the bases by wooden splints, pegs, or nails, and made to adhere by glue and sinews.” (from The Book of the Sword, By Sir Richard F Burton).

And we know that the buffalo is represented in many of the Indus-Saraswati seals. Is that not right Witzel-bhai?

The volunteer army is the other answer. Large scale alliances, in warfare is the reason. Why is the absence of an extractive state to support an oppressive army, bothering all these historians so much? So, what do Western historians expect? A military-industrial complex? A conscript-slave army? We will see later, in the series, since there was a peaceful migration out of Indus-Saraswati basins, residents carried away all their useful belongings. Leaving behind little for the FSW!

A case of severe cynicismitis? Or is there is a problem because there are no nearby Greeks for 2000 kilometers for the next 2000 years?

Civil fortifications

Let us first look at some other low hanging fruits.

At different sites, fortified walls were an important aspect of various Indus-Saraswati sites. In some places, the city

“was surrounded by a very substantial fortification, as thick as 11 meters at its base (page 68)… (in one case) “a large residential area called the Middle Town was laid out, secured by the second fortification wall. This latter facility was provided with gates, bastions, and drains. (page 69) … Most of the people lived in lower town of Kalibangan. It was surrounded by a fortification wall ranging in thickness from 3.5 to 9 meters … The fortifications protected the town, which was laid out in a gridiron pattern, separating blocks of inhabitants … (page 76) … (At Sutkagen-dor, archaeologists), “unearthed a structure built against the Western fortification wall. This was made of both stone and mud bricks, some of the latter being rather large(50 centimeters long) and made without straw. A trench across the eastern fortification wall demonstrated that the inner face of the wall was vertical. It is estimated that the outer wall at this point would have been about 7.5 meters thick at the base (page 80) … (extracts from The Indus civilization: a contemporary perspective By Gregory L. Possehl, ellipses and underlined text supplied).

Significant measures, in that era, to deter attacking forces. Maybe FSW should study Tharro settlement (c.4000 BC), various Amri cities like Dhillanija Kot, Toji and Mazena-damb in South Baluchistan (of possibly Kulli culture), and at Siah-damb of Jhau. Mughal Ghundai is further evidence of fortifications in Saraswati-Indus belt. At “Kot Diji, some fifteen miles south of Khairpur and 25 miles east of Mohenjo-daro” of pre-Saraswati-Indus cultures.

And usually, Bhai Meadow, fortifications are a defensive feature! The large water storage systems and granaries(?) would have helped the city to weather a siege situation. So, why these numb questions?

Is it the simplicity of the culture or the grandeur of the achievement, which is causing this numbness?

An elephant toy, apparently! (Material: terra cotta Dimensions: 4.8 cm height, 5.4 cm width, 4.6 cm breadth Harappa, Lot 800-01 Harappa Museum, H87-348 ).

A toy elephant, apparently! (Material: terra cotta Dimensions: 4.8 cm height, 5.4 cm width, 4.6 cm breadth Harappa, Lot 800-01 Harappa Museum, H87-348 ).

Elephant seals, bones – and toys

Now, FSW-combine have indulged  in great debates on the mythical ‘Aryan Invader’ horse. Mythical, because there were no Aryan Invaders – and there cannot, therefore be an Aryan horse.

Between the Indian ‘khur’, or the mule, the wild ass and an actual horse. The equine vs asinine debate, about 13 ribs versus 14 ribs, with the false tones of certitude is a non-sequitur.

But, while demanding non-existent evidence, they cannot see the rich lode of markers, to construct credible historiography. For instance, the elephantine evidence.

At the various Saraswati Basin sites, clay seals are the earliest evidence of elephants. Clay elephant toys, copper elephant figures, clay elephants toys are some of the other items found at these sites. Elephant bones have also been found at various Indus-Saraswati sites. And these elephants were not bareback animals, but with a riding blankets on their backs. One seal shows an elephant with a feeding trough.

May I remind you that at one time, these elephants were used to frighten, intimidate people also – as the Kuvalayapida incident, at the time of Kamsa’s death. In the Battle of Mahabharata war elephants were in use. The Kuru capital city was Hastinapur – Elephant fortress.

So, while they demand evidence of the mythical Aryan Invaders’ horse in the Indus- Saraswati haystack, they cannot see evidence of elephantine proportions.

Elephants in later day history

The elephant story continued in post Indus-Saraswati Basin history also.

Semiramis (most probably, the Assyrian Queen, Shammu-ramat) and Cyrus paid heavy price when confronted by Indian elephants. Seleucos Nicator, ceded a large part of his kingdom – in exchange for some 500 elephants, which played a vital role in the Diadochi wars, at the Battle of Ipsus. Hannibal reached the gates of Rome, with his 37 elephants. Roman armies were beaten back by Persian armies, supported by Indian elephant units.

India till the nearly 1000 AD, were the only significant culture to capture, train, and utilize elephants. So, much so, there is an Indian medical treatise on the care and cure of elephants, Hastyayurveda. Or the Matanga-lila, a book on elephant lore and legends. Till about 1600 AD, Indian elephants corps were the envy of the world – and elephant training skills were not independently replicated anywhere else in the world. Did these skills come about as a result of some ‘spontaneous’ frisson of invention?

Or, do you, Mr.Meadow, think that Hastinapur, was named because the city-founders loved elephants, for the sake of elephants? A case of elephas gratia elephantis, you think? Elephants for elephants’ sake? Were these elephants seals proof of military use of elephants? In 2000 BC, were armoured elephants required? Says an old hand at Indus Saraswati sites

“There’s no evidence for armies or war or anything like that,” says archaeologist Jim Shaffer of Case Western Reserve University.

Surprised, Mr.Shaffer? I am not!

After all, wouldn’t the sight of trumpeting and rampaging elephants be enough to deter invaders?

Swing low, sweet chariot

Why would Indus-Saraswati valley people need chariots? To do wheelies? Or for use in Hollywood for Benhur prequel? Or because the Egyptians had them? Or should the Indus-Saraswati people have used horse-drawn chariots, to impress the firm of M/s Farmer, Sproat and Witzel? Talking of vehicles and motive power, “In the Atharvaveda we find that camels drew cars, mules were used … for drawing wagons and carrying loads … to be drawn by a single horse was considered no distinction at all.”Ravana fights Jatayu ... and his mules seem shaken

The reason why we see no ass-drawn or mule drawn chariot images, is because the same had negative associations. Trijata, the sympathetic demoness in Lanka, lifts Sita’s spirits by narrating her dream of Ravana being dragged down to narak, in ass-drawn chariot, by a devi, most probably a personification of Nirrti.

Not to forget the use of khara (khur in modern Hindi), used by Dhumraksha, the asur general, (meaning grey eyed) in Ravana’s army. His chariot drawn by khurs, was smashed by Hanuman, with a huge rock. Ravana’s chariot, in which he was carrying away Sita, was drawn by mules.

But, if it was rational uses like transport of soldiers, weapons, armour, food, camping equipment, bullock carts were good enough. The common Indian zebu bull was a prized possession, with enormous pulling power, can survive on anything, high resistance to diseases, long life – and can be easily trained. From carts to chariots would be, but a small step, with the arrival of horses – whether home-bred in the Asvakan (modern Afghanistan) region – or brought by India-Scythians, from Central Asian steppes. I wonder how many ribs the Marwari breed of horses have?

Remember, Alexander sent back some Indian zebu cattle to improve cattle breeds back home. At the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records, Alexander took some 230,000 Asiatic humped zebu cattle to, says Arrian, improve cattle stock in Macedonia.

A more modern example of this paradigm comes from Jan Hus. The Taborite faction, using ordinary wagons, modified with armour, routed the combined Christian armies of the Vatican, Germany and their European allies, in many battles, during the Hussite Wars. It were these lowly wagons, which put and end to Church tyranny. The only people living in Tabors (meaning mobile camps) at that time (and now) in Bohemia, were the Roma Gypsies, migrants from India to Europe. We will see later in the series, how the Roma Gypises were an important part of the Indus-Saraswati trade equation.

Interestingly, the Vedas refer “to ‘pur charishnu’ or a moving fort which was probably an engine for assaulting strongholds …”

Pashupati seal from one the Indus-Saraswati sites - another name for Shiva

Pashupati - another name for Shiva, in "yogi" pose with animals (seal from one the Indus-Saraswati sites - National Museum, New Delhi)0

Indus-Saraswati worship

Would worshipers of Thor, Mars and Apollo become non-violent protesters in the face of a military threat? Similarly, why do you think that worshipers of Shiva would be passive by-standers. Would they just lay down and die if looter-invaders and slave-raiders came calling?

A matter of co-incidence is how “bone dice have been unearthed at the ancient site of Mohenjo-Daro, ‘the city of the dead’, in the  Indus Valley.” In Mahabharata, Shakuni’s brothers were imprisoned and starved to death by Duryodhana.

Shakuni’s motive! Avenge the death of his brothers. Shakuni’s revenge? Bring about the downfall of Duryodhana! Gameplan? Foster conflict between Pandavas and Duryodhana. The tools – Shakuni’s dice were made from the bones of his brothers. And the dice obeyed his commands.

Unarmed combat

The other thing you must remember is that Balarama, the elder brother of Ghanshyam Krishna can be co-credited as pioneer of Indian wrestling and unarmed combat – and the plough. Bhima’s (the 2nd of the Pandava brothers) was known for his strength – and skills with unarmed combat. As was his primary adversary, Duryodhana. Bhima’s duel with Jarasandha, was again based on skills rather than brute force.

the established modes of wrestling amongst Hindu athletæ. 1. Sannipáta is described ‘mutual laying hold of.’ 2. Avadúta, ‘letting go of the adversary.’ g. Kshepańa, ‘pulling to, and casting back.’ 4. Musht́inipáta, ‘striking with fists.’ 5. Kílanipáta, ‘striking with the elbow.’ 6. Vajranipáta, ‘striking with the fore-arm.’ 7. Jánunirgháta, ‘pressing or striking with the knees.’ 8. Báhuvighat́t́ana, ‘interlacing the arms.’ 9. Pádoddhúta, kicking.’ 10. Prasrisht́á, ‘intertwining of the whole body.’ In some copies another term occurs, Aśmanirgháta, ‘striking with stones,’ or ‘striking blows as hard as with stones;’ for stones could scarcely be used in a contest specified as ‘one without weapons’ (from the Vishnupurana).

The transmission of unarmed combat systems to China, Japan, and the rest of South East Asia thereafter is well documented. On the other hand, the wrestling match between Sugreeva and Bali was based on brute force, as were Hanuman’s  duels.

Krishna and Balarama Fight Kamsa's Wrestlers: Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of Lord Vishnu) India (Madhya Pradesh, Malwa), ca. 1650 Ink and opaque watercolor on paper; 6 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (16.8 x 19.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin N. Haas, 1973 (1973.337)

Krishna and Balarama fight Kamsa's wrestlers: Page from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana (Ancient Stories of Lord Vishnu) India (Madhya Pradesh, Malwa), ca. 1650 Ink and opaque watercolor on paper; 6 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (16.8 x 19.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin N. Haas, 1973 (1973.337)

Drupad’s city

The Kampilya project shows, the Drupad city was about 2000 years after the Saraswati Basin sites. This site, being handled by ASI and two Italians archaeologists, Gian Giuseppe Filippi, Bruno Marcolongo shows significant continuity with the Dholavira site.

As for Kampilya, maybe Shri Meadow, you do know that Draupadi was born in Drupad. Draupadi’s brother, Dhrishtadyumna, was the general of the Pandava army, in the battle of Mahabharata.

So, instead of basking in the reflected glory, is it not time that you (Farmer and Meadow) got off your … whatever it is … and start doing something useful! Instead of asking such inane questions.

Coming to horse

The FSW school has stampeded Indian historians into a construct that horses and chariots (e.g. Rajaram and Jha) are essential to prove a continuity between ‘Vedic’ Indian and Indus-Saraswati culture. Between post-IVC and pre-Mauryan India. The hub of the FSW logic is the ‘Vedic’ horses.

On the importance of the horse, to ‘Vedic’ aryans, I have wondered why, none of the Vishnu dashavataras (except one) use horse as their ‘vahana’. Looking at the wide variety of  vahanas- animals used by the gods as their ‘vehicle’, is illustrative. Indra is airavata, (even though he owns the  the horse, Uchaishravas), Vishnu is garuda, Skanda is peacock, Durga’s lion, Saraswati rides a swan, Shiva the Nandi bull, Yama on the buffalo, Varuna on a makara, Vayu on a mriga (deer /antelope) or sometimes on a chariot pulled by  a thousand horses, Ganesh on a mouse, Lakshmi on gaja or uluka, Shani on a crow, Manmatha on a suka (parrot), et al. No god (except one) uses the horse as a vahana.

Consider that Indra and Lakshmi both use the airavata. Vishnu saves Indrayumna /Gajendra, as a gaja from the crocodile’s jaws. The eight guardian dieties, who protect the eight directions on the compass sit on an elephant – Kubera (north), Yama (south), Indra (east), Varuna (west), Isana (northeast), Agni (southeast), Vayu (northwest), and Nirrti (southwest).

Western ‘scholar’s’ of Indian texts and literature and historians keep on about the horse, while the horse does not have the centrality that they claim it does! The use of saddled horse in Indian texts is also a major element that goes against the ‘centrality of the horse’. The Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata do not use the saddled horse as a means of transport – which only reinforces that the saddled horse gained popular much later – maybe even a latter day ‘invention’. Unquantified Witzellian claims of Indian Sanskrit texts “teeming with horses as the Rigveda indeed is” are grossly misdirected, if not deliberately exaggerated.

Remember Witzelbhai, the Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, a first in the world, happened probably around 500 BC-300 BC, at the latest by 200BC.  The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, made horses easy to ride and manage. And made the Parthian cavalry into a fearsome fighting force. In 200BC. Well after the vedas were written.

So, much for the horse being central to ‘Vedic’ India.

Deconstructing Indian dates

All these theories rest on the axle of philological dating. Based on imprecise evidence, tools and estimates, of when various texts were ‘composed’ and ‘reduced’ to writing, and ‘frozen for ever’, which are based on stylistic changes in Sanskrit language. Looking at construction of Sanskrit language and texts, the logic of oral ‘composition’, ‘reduction’ to writing, ‘frozen for ever’ is a wrong model – and creates these false debates and dating models.

Sanskritic compositions were based on team effort, (picture Sage Durvasa travelling with his 1000′s of disciples), a vast body of argument and debate  (Kahoda-Vandin-Ashtavakra debate) over many hundreds – if not thousands, of years. Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Vashishtha, Narada were the most well known of the wandering monks of many Indian texts and scriptures. Appearing and disappearing at various points of time and events.

They could not have been the same person, because they appear at the beginning of Rahgukul (Vishwamitra at the Trishanku incident) and at the end of Raghukul (the marriage of Sita and Ram) – spanning more than 30 generations of kings. Was Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Vyasa, a titular  system, decided by a collegium of peer rishis. The ascension of Vishwamitra from a rishi-to-rajrishi-to-brahmarishi supports this.

FSW deny the theory of evolution

The HARP and FSW combine cannot accept that Indians evolved. Presumably, the evolution of horse usage in Indian geography went through simple four phases – wild-tame-rare-common phases. Why are horses essential to any history? Why do M/s Farmer, Sproat, Witzel assume that the Rig Veda was not ‘updated’.

Why this assumption that there were copyright laws? Where is a law which states that Indians cannot exist without horses – or write about these horses. In fact, in the entire Ramayana, the occurrence of chariots is rare and far in between. Raghu Ramachandra did not fight Ravana while mounted on chariots. Apparently, chariots were not a common occurrence when Ramayana was being written.

Interestingly, Ravana had chariots – as did Dashratha, while fighting Shambara /Samhasura. Sumantara, the minister was asked to prepare a chariot, by Dashratha, for Raghu Ram’s exile – which was sent sent back from the edge of the forest. Presumably because it was rare, considered a luxury and it was valuable. While the rest of the time Raghu Rama walked. While fighting asuras under Vishwamitra, or during his exile or during the campaign against Ravana. So, this basis that chariots were the beginning and the end of Indic texts is simply misplaced.

But in the Mahabaharata, the picture is completely different. We have Nala (of Damayanti fame), who was an expert charioteer. His exchange of ‘charioteering secrets’ for ‘secrets of the dice’ from King Rituparna is interesting – as it displays an understanding of permutations and combinations, and even maybe fractals. Adhiratha, a poor charioteer, was Karna’s foster father. During the 18-day Mahabharata war, chariots had a central place.

The evolution of chariots and horses in Indian society was gradual and slow – and not an ab initio aspect as claimed by ‘Aryan invader’ theoristas.

The face of Indus Valley’ research

Current research on Mohenjo-daro and Harappa  sites in Pakistan is controlled by a joint American-Pakistani project – Harappa Archaeological Research Project – HARP. Three American researchers, Steven Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel, (referred to as FSW) are the public face of this research. In the background are RH Meadow and JM Keyoner.

Any attempts to disagree with the HARP theories or introduction of  any Indic element is met with fierce personal attacks, withering criticism – marshaling, all the resources of the American establishment. At various stages, these three researchers (FSW) have raised the pitch of the debate to a point of shrillness which is puzzling.

So, M/s Farmer, Sproat and Wtzel, your relevance (FSW’s) is directly related to the attention that Indians give you.

Remember that Indian history is your meal ticket.

Elephants - 5000 years of Indian history

Elephants – 5000 years of Indian history (Prize winning photo of elephant from Chamarajendra Zoological Garden in Mysore, by NAGESH PANATHALE, Mysore bureau, Vijaya Karnataka at national photography salon 2008 -Photographic Society of Madras).

Kubera (north), Yama (south), Indra (east), Varuna (west), Isana (northeast), Agni (southeast), Vayu (northwest), and Nirrti/raksasa (southwest).
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