The Indus Valley Civilization
“Indus Valley Civilization” refers to one of the most ancient and well-to-do civilizations that existed and developed along the banks and on the fertile flood plains of the “Sindhu River”, now known as the Mighty Indus River. Known as Indus Valley, the areas form part of the modern day Pakistan and have been the focus of attention of archeologists, anthropologists, geographers and social researchers from across the globe. The symbols, remnants, and remains of the prehistoric, middle age and contemporary eras can be found abundantly within and close to historically and culturally rich population centers along the Indus River. People of Pakistan consider themselves the rightful heirs of the Indus Valley Civilization and are proud flag bearers of cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity witnessed by the Indus Valley over the several millennia of recorded and unrecorded human history.
Evidence of religious practices in the Indus Valley dates back to 5000 BC while organized farming began in this region around 4000 BC. Earliest urban settlements began around 3000 BC and by 2600 BC many well planned towns and cities had been established in this part of the world. Between 2500 and 2000 BC, Indus Valley Civilization was height of its ancient glory, knowledge and culture.
The archeological evidence suggests that Indus Valley had a highly well developed urban life. Excavations at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa reveal that urban areas had walled houses with water-wells, bathrooms, and underground drainage system. The archeologists have concluded that living conditions in urban centers of Indus Valley compared well with those of Sumerians and were indeed far superior to Babylonians and Egyptians of the same era. The evidence points out to a well planned and administered urban system in the Indus Valley. Evidence also exists to show that residents of Indus Valley Civilization were in communication with Sumerians and had commercial, religious and cultural connections with them. Artifacts and stone and pottery inscriptions suggest that Indus Valley Civilization had a well developed system of writing which was well established throughout the valley but much of the writings remain un-deciphered as yet. It is believed that successful deciphering of writings found on different media will help learn about Indus Valley Civilization in greater details.
By 1800 BC the ancient Indus Valley Civilization witnessed its decline. The ancient writings declined and disappeared around 1500 BC. The earliest weights and measures fell out of practice and communications and connections with the Sumerians were severed. Although the exact reason for this decline is not clear there are two different theories exist to justify the decline of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. One theory attributes the disappearance of the urban and rural centers to fall in agriculture revenues due to drying down of the Sarswati River that served as one of the major water source. The other theory suggests that there had been mass scale flooding due to exceptional weather conditions. In either case the events led to decline of agriculture making the urban life unsustainable and in the process breaking the civil order of the cities within the Valley.
It is interesting to note that Aryans descended into the Indus Valley and further East around the same time that the Indus Valley Civilization experienced its decline around 1500 BC. Whether it was the breakdown of the civil order in the Indus Valley that prompted the Aryan invasion or the Aryan invasion led to fast decay of the already disintegrating civil order in these areas is not clear. The Aryans had their origin in the Southern Russia and Central Asian Steppes and spoke the Indo-European languages the variants of which are spoken in Europe, Iran and Pakistan-India Subcontinent. It is for this reason that some scholars theorize the Aryans were the descendants of the modern day Europeans although genetic research suggests their closer connection with Southern Russia and Central Asia. It is, however, evident that Aryans were more dynamic and enterprising people with better social skills including a writing system and used weapons made of metals. It is believed that Aryans rode on horse-driven chariots that provided them greater mobility in battles. It is also believed that Aryans first entered the Subcontinent with pastoral appeal and later resorted to more aggressive subjugation of the local populace. Whatever the method or approach was, it is clear that weakened by breakdown of civil order and a frail agriculture the local population was not able to fend against the Aryan incursions.
The Aryans established a politico-religious order in the Subcontinent based on scriptures they called Rigvedas. The Rigvedas places Aryans as superior to all the races within the Subcontinent and divides the society into a heinous, rather criminal caste system that associates social and societal privileges based on birth. Inter-caste mobility is non-existent. A large portion of the population is excluded from the social and economic benefits and is considered ‘untouchables’. The advent of Islam through Arabic Preachers and Muslim Rule in the Subcontinent was able to contain the damage done by the caste system to the Indian Society. However, the brutal caste system is once again on the rise in modern day India.
Islam was first introduced to the Indus Valley by the Arab Muslims traders between 500 and 700 AD. The universal message of peace, human equality and justice presented by Islam had a great appeal to a caste-ridden society established under the Aryan rule. Muslim conquests of Deabul (modern day Sindh), Makran Coast and later Central Punjab and establishment of a just and equitable political system regarding all human beings equal and freedom of religious practices had a great appeal to the people living in lower Indus valley. This led to spread of Islam as a religion at a phenomenal speed and set the pace for future conquests by Muslim invaders via Afghanistan. During the Muslim rule in India during 12th to 19th Century much of the population in Indus Valley and joining areas embraced Islam with the result that today Muslims constitute approximately 97% of the population of Pakistan