Selected Abstracts from
International conference on
Revisiting Indus-sarasvati Age & Ancient India
Atlanta (Georgia, USA), October 4-6, 1996
India Adds New Dimensions to the Indus Civilization
B. B. Lal,
M. A. (Sans.), D.Litt. (Institute of Archaeology, St. Petersburg, Russia, honoris causa)
Vidya Varidhi (Nalanda Mahavihar), Mahamahopadhyaya Mithila Vishvavidyalaya, honoris causa
President, World Archaeological Congress
Former Director General
Archaeological Survey of India
History has to put up with many paradoxes. One such paradox is that the very river which gave its name to India, viz. the Indus, is no longer within its bounds. As a sequel to the partition of the country in 1947, not only did the Indus disappear from the map of present-day India but also the well-known civilization named after the river -- the Indus Civilization. Only two very small sites were left on the Indian side and even their Indus-character was debated.
Indian archaeologists, however, took up the challenge and by 1980 as many as 700 sites, associated with various phases, viz. Early, Mature, and Late, of the Indus Civilization were put on the map of the country, and the search is still on. This aforesaid number far exceeds that of such sites in Pakistan. It is now abundantly clear that this civilization was not confined to the Indus valley, but exceeded far beyond its limits -- to the upper Gan'ga-Yamuna doaab in the northeast and to as far southeast as the upper reaches of the Godaavari in Maharashtra. On account of this eastward extension, particularly because of the presence of a large number of the sites in the Ghaggar-Sarasvati valley, some scholars have already started calling it as the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization.
It may be stressed that it not just the number or extent that matters. What makes the Indian discoveries so important is that they have added new dimensions to the basics of this great civilization. For example, Lothal in Gujrat has brought to the light the earliest (ca. 2500 BC) dockyard known to humanity. Kalibangan in Rajasthan has given the evidence of the earliest (ca. 2800 BC) ploughed agricultural field ever revealed through an excavation. The same site has also shown that there occurred an earthquake around 2600 BC, which brought to an end the Early Indus settlement at the site. This is perhaps the earliest archaeologically recorded earthquake. Kalibangan has also thrown up evidence of a new kind of ritual associated with a cult of 'fire alters'. Dholavira in Kutch has shown that the city was divided into three parts, viz., a Citadel, a Middle Town, and a Lower Town, instead of the usual two. It has also brought to light stone pillars which are almost as highly polished as the well-known Ashokan pillars 2000 years later. The colossal copper figures recovered from Daimabad in Maharashtra are indeed unparalleled in the entire gamut of protohistoric art of the subcontinent.
The presentation, illustrated with slides, seeks to deal with these and many more discoveries relating to this grand civilization of South Asia. It will also analyze why this civilization cannot be regarded as an import from Western Asia, as held by some scholars in the past. It is now clear that it had an indigenous origin and development. The lecture will further deal with factors leading to the degeneration of this civilization, showing at the same time that it was not an Aryan invasion, as held by some, that brought about its end.
The Sarasvati River: Textual and Physical Ecidence
Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies
University of California, Berkeley, CA
In the Rg-veda, the Sarasvati is a mighty river that runs from the mountains all the way to the sea (RV 7.95.2). It is also a major protogonist in the confrontations between aryas and non-aryas, always on the side of aryas. It is praised in several hymns as a powerful deity and a secure refuge for her devotees. From a list of rivers given in RV 10.75.5-7, we can gather that the Sarasvati River was to be found west of Yamuna and east of the Sindhu.
Yet nowadays nowhere in the Panjab such a powerful and lengthy river is not to be found. Are we to conclude that the Sarasvati River is merely a mythological entity with no geographical reality.
In this paper, I review some of the pertinent passages in the Rg-veda and Mahabharata, after bringing in some modern archaeological and geological findings. I can thus define three ages in Sarasvati's life span: her young Rg-vedic age; her middle age characterized by her disappearance spoken in Mahabharata; and her current traces in a desert area. I rely on textual analysis to describe and contextualize some of the features of Sarasvati's first and second ages. And I wrap up the discussion with a tentative explanation for the river changes that reconcile the textual and the achaeological/geological views.
Anomalous Textual Artifacts in Archeo-Astronomy
Richard Thompson, Ph. D.
P.O. Box 1920,
Alachua, FL 32616
It is well understood that ancient artifacts can survive within written texts, as well as within the strata of the earth. Also, an old manuscript or diagram may be datable to a recent historical period, but it may contain material that is much older.
One type of textual artifact consists of knowledge that seems too advanced for the historical period of the text. In cases where comparable knowledge was acquired only in modern times through extensive scientific efforts, it can be argued that the knowledge may be a remnant from an earlier, advanced civilization that is lost to historical memory.
In this paper, I discuss two examples of anomalous textual artifacts. They are:
(i) Accurate values of the diameters of the planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, as found in the Indian astronomical text, Surya-Siddhanta. This information can be found in a manuscript dating to A.D. 1431, long before modern knowledge of planetary distances and diameters was acquired using telescopic observation.
(ii) The geocentric ring system described in the cosmological section of the Bhagavata Purana correlates closely with the distance of the Sun from the Earth and with the geocentric distances of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The traditional date of the Bhagvata Purana is about 3,000 B.C., and some scholars date it to the 10th century A.D. Either way, this is long before the development of modern astronomy.
The patterns of correlation found in (i) and (ii) can be shown to be statistically significant. I discuss these correlations in relation to the controversial claim that there existed an ancient civilization with advanced astronomical knowledge.
The Status of Women in the Rigveda
Shashi Tiwari, Ph. D.
Department of Sanskrit,
Maitaiye Colleage (University of Delhi), Chanakya Puri, New Delhi - 110020, INDIA
The condition and status of women in Indian society changed substantially from the early period to the beginning of the present century. Vedic literature depicts an ideal society, where women enjoyed an honorable and high status. Like every patriarchal society here also the father is the commanding authority, but in the household affairs the mother is considered to be supreme. Though limited in numbers, Vedic goddesses were as powerful as the gods. In the Rigveda, there is no reference to an instance where the birth of a girl was considered inauspicious. That the girl received education is evident from the composition of hymns by the female seers. The daughter of the Rigvedic times was bold, strong and free. The maiden seems to have been free to make her choice of husband as appears in the verse (RV. X-27-12), and was supported in her choice by her parents. Probably a maiden having no brother had her legal right to inherit the paternal property. The wife was a partner in the performance of sacrifices. She was the empress in her home. In the Rigveda we get few references to polygamy because monogamy was the rule. On the basis of some verses it can be said that the custom of widow remarriage existed. Other social evils relating to women, such as burning of widows, purdah system and child marriage were not found in the Rigvedic society. Hence, this Rigvedic picture of womanhood is the real heritage of India.