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the-south-asian.com                         7  August   2000

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Harappan Civilization -  Haryana, Rajasthan & Beyond?

by  Saikat Neogi


L to R: The Rakhigarhi site in Haryana; Jewellery recovered from the site; an almost intact earthenware pot.

Excavations at the village of Rakhigarhi in Haryana, about 150 kilometers from Delhi,  are expected to reveal important  information on the  Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilizations, dating between 2800 BC and 3500 BC. The Rakhigarhi site was first discovered in 1963 but it was in 1997 that the actual excavation work started. In the interim period  new settlements, which sprouted on the site,  partially destroyed and plundered important artifacts of the civilisation. It was with great difficulty that the Archaeological Survey of India acquired the 224 hectare of land where the remains have been found. The excavation began a couple of years ago and the recovered relics will establish a number of unknown facts and unearth important connections with ancient Indian history and on the 5000 year old civilisation. 

 The Rakhigarhi relics were first discovered by archaeologist Acharya Bhagwan Dev and subsequently, in 1963, another noted Indian archaeologist, Suraj Bhan confirmed that the origins were indeed Harappan. He revisited the site and ascertained that the site contained both early or pre Harappan culture zone.  Copper fishing hooks found at the site confirm the presence of a river. Fossils indicate that the people of the Harappan civilisation reared cattle and other livestock. The drainage also throws light on the advanced sewage disposal system.  Other important relics include a large quantity of Indus seals and inscriptions.  A large number of steatite beads and jewellery, belonging to the early Harappan period, have also been discovered. 

The site is in three layers - early, mature and late phases of the Indus Valley civilisation. The excavation team  have found thick layers of 'Hakra Ware' Harappan bricks and other construction material. Carbon  dating on the Hakra Ware will establish the actual period of the civilisation. Based on the density of houses in the excavated areas at Rakhigarhi, it was earlier estimated that the population here was just under 50,000 - but the area now under excavation is an expanse  of 224 hectares - much larger than the earlier estimates - the demographics of this ancient settlement could well exceed the 50,000 number.  

 Major excavations have been undertaken at Mohenjodaro, Harappa [Pakistan]  and Dholavira [ Gujarat, India] - all important centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation. However, only a small area of each site has been excavated. Rakhigarhi is yet another site of the Harappan era. 

Recent excavations in the Bhilwada district of Rajasthan indicate that the area may also well belong to the Harappan age.  The excavation team found traces of major fires that could have destroyed this civilisation. Apart from other charred remains, many burnt wheat grains have also been found, giving credence to the belief that wheat was cultivated even in those times. The floors of the houses were packed down so as to prevent any water seepage. Dining chambers, with three styles of cooking hearths, and a grinding stone attached to the walls, possibly to prevent it from moving while being used, have also been found. About 50 such grinding stones have been recovered. Excavations also dug up skeletal remains of animals, huge copper utensils, over 300 mud statues of oxen and other animals,  and also copper bangles. This  excavation in Ojhiana, Bhilwada, is  the fourth in Rajasthan - the other three sites are at Aaharad, Balathal and Trilund.


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