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Archaeologists and Sanskrit Scholars Decipher Rigveda for Historical Links


Archaeologists are collaborating with Sanskrit scholars to decipher the Rigveda, conducting research that aims to uncover potential relationships between the people of the Vedic age and the Harappan civilization.


GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) / Harappa Civilisation (3300 – 1300 BCE)
  2. The Vedic Age (1500 – 600 BCE)
  3. How Archaeologists are Establishing Relationships Between the Harappan and the Vedic Age?
  4. Evidence Supporting the Relationship

Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) / Harappa Civilisation (3300 – 1300 BCE)

  • Overview: The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Harappan Civilisation, was a prominent Bronze Age civilisation located in the northwestern regions of South Asia.
  • Historical Significance: The IVC is notable for being one of the three early civilisations of the Near East and South Asia, alongside ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was the most extensive of the three.
  • Geographical Spread: Its sites span from present-day northeast Afghanistan, across Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India.
  • Flourishing Areas: It thrived in the basins of the Indus River and along river systems near the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.
  • Urban Features: The cities were well-planned with baked brick houses, advanced drainage systems, water supply networks, clusters of large non-residential buildings, new handicraft techniques (such as carnelian products and seal carving), and metallurgical advancements (copper, bronze, lead, and tin).
  • Decline: The civilisation’s urbanisation might have been influenced by the gradual drying of the region’s soil. Eventually, the civilisation declined, and its population moved eastward and southward due to weakened monsoons and reduced water supply.

The Vedic Age (1500 – 600 BCE)

  • Historical Context: The Vedic Age marks the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age in Indian history, characterised by the composition of Vedic literature, including the Vedas, in northern India.
  • Timeline Position: This period falls between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and the beginning of the second urbanisation in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain around 600 BCE.
  • Literary and Cultural Evolution: The Vedic Age is divided into two periods:
    • The Rigvedic Period / Early Vedic Period (1500 – 1000 BCE)
    • The Later Vedic Period (1000 – 600 BCE)
  • Early Vedic Aryans: Initially, the early Vedic Aryans lived in the region known as Sapta-Sindhu, which encompassed areas around present-day Punjab.
  • Later Vedic Migration: During the Later Vedic Period, they gradually expanded eastward, occupying areas in eastern Uttar Pradesh (Kosala) and north Bihar (Videha).

How Archaeologists are Establishing Relationships Between the Harappan and the Vedic Age?

Recent Findings by NCERT:

  • The NCERT has recently updated the Class 12 History textbook based on DNA evidence from the 4,600-year-old remains of a woman, suggesting that the Harappans were indigenous to the region.
  • However, NCERT has included a disclaimer that further research is required to confirm this relationship.
  • Some historians propose that the Vedas could date back to 2,500 BC (4,500 years ago), aligning them with the Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC).

Current Archaeological Research:

  • Archaeologists are exploring the hypothesis that the Harappans and the Vedic people might have been the same.
  • Renowned archaeologist Vasant Shinde emphasizes the importance of understanding references in the Rigveda to correlate them with archaeological discoveries from Harappan sites.

Evidence Supporting the Relationship:

Rakhigarhi Excavations:

  • Excavations at Rakhigarhi in Haryana revealed ritual platforms and fire altars, which are also mentioned in Rigvedic texts as part of fire worship.

Saraswati River:

  • The Rigveda mentions the Saraswati River (modern Ghagghar-Hakra river) at least 71 times.
  • Archaeological excavations have found that many Harappan settlements were located along the banks of this river.

Animal Bones in Surkotada:

  • A set of animal bones discovered in Surkotada, Kutch, Gujarat, was studied by archaeo-zoologists.
  • Some researchers believe these bones belong to a domesticated horse, as referenced in Rigvedic texts.
  • Others argue that the bones could be from a wild ass, highlighting the need for further investigation.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024