September 23: A newcomer has joined the exhibits at Delhi’s prestigious National Museum. She is all of 5000 years old, from the time of the Harappan Valley civilisation, and in skeletal form.

Discovered from Rakhigarhi, in the northern Indian state of Haryana, the skeleton is
remarkably well-preserved. Even the shell bangles in her left hand, are still intact, says a report in ‘The Hindustan Times’. Several pots were found arranged around her, hinting that the Harappans may have believed in life after death.

The museum has an entire gallery dedicated to artefacts or objects belonging to the sites of one of the world’s earliest urban civilisations that started in Harappa and Mohenjodaro (now in Pakistan) and spread to large areas of north-west and northern India.

Prized Skeleton in Museum Closet [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
Prized Skeleton in Museum Closet [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

Set up jointly by the National Museum and the Archaeological Survey of India, whose teams are constantly digging into the past, the gallery has nearly 1,025 items. These include a decorative pot showing a horned motif from Burzahom (Srinagar), a double-faced human head, a copper bull from Kalibangan (Rajasthan), gold jewellery from Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), a stone Shiva linga from Dholavira (Haryana).

Earlier collections include the famous ‘dancing girl’ statuette, the bust of a bearded ‘priest’ from Mohenjodaro, huge burial urns, exquisite ornaments, seals – and many toys and objects of play for children that are remarkably similar to the clay toys that are made in rural areas and small towns of India to this day.

The genius of the Harappan civilisation of India spread across areas that span India and Pakistan now. It included the states of Punjab, Sind, northern Rajasthan and Kathiawar.

After the partition of India in 1947, both Harappa, and Mohenjodaro, its other important city, passed into Pakistan. Excavations in recent years have thrown up fascinating facts about the spread of the Harappan culture – right up to Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, as this latest find, shows.

What has fascinated people from all over the world is the high degree of sophistication and advancement of the Harappan civilisation. These characteristics are particularly evident in the town planning of Harappan cities, especially their sanitation.

Ever since its discovery by the modern world in the 1920s, the Harappan civilisation hasn’t ceased to amaze us. Earlier, it was thought that the civilisation was limited to fertile areas around the Indus river, and was named the Indus Valley civilisation.

Subsequent discoveries of other sites made the historians change the name to Harappan civilisation. These sites were fed by many other river systems.

In fact, with each find from the Harappan ruins, archaeologists confront yet another unknown facet of the civilisation, and the frontiers of what the Harappans knew, are pushed further.

For example, polished pillars were thought to be Greek or Persian in origin, until a polished pillar was discovered from Harappan site, Dholavira. Similarly, it was believed that the technology of rock-cut architecture was not known to Harappans, that it came about much later in 300 BC.

But recent discoveries of rock-cut architectural pieces in a water reservoir at a Harappan site, point not only to the fact that the Harappans knew of the technology, but also that they knew the importance of water conservation, says the report.

The gallery’s aim is to showcase the Harappan civilisation among the world’s most magnificent ancient civilisations, like the ones that arose in ancient Mesopotamia (now in Iraq) and around the Nile, in Egypt.

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Filed under: world news
Tags: #india, #valley, #pakistan, #civilisation, #harappan civilisation, #museum

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