When the pall of darkness recedes from the firmament of the past unfolding the first pre-historic vision of Pakistan, we descry the imposing spectacle of a splendid Civilization spread over a thousand-mile length from the glistening snow-capped mountains of Kashmir to the glittering sand dunes facing the Arabian Sea. This was Indus Valley Civilization, one of whose distinguishing characteristics was its independent existence, completely detached from what is today known as India. This independent entity had its own government, its own culture, its own religion, its own history, its own art and architecture, rules and regulations. From this centre radiated great ideas and ideologies, techniques and trades, which enriched every aspect of human life. Taking this period as the starting point of our known past till our own times the land of Pakistan has invariably led an independent existence.
Another unique aspect of Indus Valley Civilization was that it embraced within its fold almost the entire country now known as Pakistan, with two important centres of culture and administration-one at Harappa on the bank of Ravi in Sahiwal District of the Punjab and another at Moenjo Daro on River Indus in the Larkana District of Sind. According to more recent discoveries other important centres and sizeable towns of Indus Valley Civilization were situated at Chanhu Daro in Nawabshah District, Judeiro-daro near Quetta and Shahi Tump in the Valley of the Kej (Mekran). Modern archaeological research has brought to light a large number of smaller centres spread over Baluchistan, Frontier and Kashmir. And at it’s peak this Pakistani civilization stretched from parts of northwest India to southern Afghanistan. It’s colonies have been found as far away as Turkmenistan in the north, Bahrain and southeast Iran in the west, near Bombay (India) in the south, and in western U.P.(India) in the east.
Thus, the very first pre-historic picture of Pakistan emerging before our eyes presents the twin aspects of (a) separate independent country, and (b) a common culture with a common government. I shall dilate a bit here on the uniformity in various fields of life that prevailed in Pakistan during the Indus Valley Civilization.
From time immemorial the world has known two different countries and cultures in the sub-continent; one based on the Indus and its five tributaries known as Sindhu and the other on the Ganges Valley known as Bharatvarta. “Herodotus did not reckon among the ‘Indoi’ any of the people then in occupation of the Indus basin…. In thus excluding from the limits of India proper the Punjab as well as Gadara, Herodotus was in agreement with the Sanskrit scriptures; and there is a piece of evidence which suggests that, without knowing it, he may have been following Vedic authority through a chain of intermediate informants.” (A Study of History, Vol. III, By A.J. Toynbee). The Sindhu country with its Indus Valley Civilization – also known as Harappa culture – had its sway from Rupar on upper Sutlej to the lower reaches of the Indus on the Arabian Sea, a distance of about a thousand miles – almost the same territory now covered by Pakistan.
“About 2000 B.C. it would have been possible to travel from Sutkagen-dot near the shores of the Arabian Sea over 300 miles west of Karachi (in Baluchistan) to the village of Rupar near the foot of the Simla hills – a distance of 1000 miles and to see on all sides men living in various degrees the same mode of life, making the same kind of pots and tools and ornaments and possibly administered by the same government.
“It will be observed that this great stretch of country coincides very nearly with the present Pakistan, and for a significant reason: Pakistan, like the Indus Civilization, belongs essentially to the vast fertile valley of the Indus and its tributaries, sheltered by hills, sea and desert from its less favoured neighbours save where in the Punjab, the northern plains continuously fringe the foot-hills of the Himalayas. The Indus Civilization can thus be claimed in a real sense as a pre-historic prototype of Pakistan.
“Within this immense territory, archaeologists have found no fewer than thirty-seven town or village sites (tells) representing this civilization, and many more un-doubtedly await discovery.” (Pakistan before the Aryans, By Sir Mortimer Wheeler).
The pattern of civilization in this country was so uniform that even the bricks were usually of the same size and shape from one end to the other. A very large number of weights all belonging to a uniform system have been found in the two capital cities as well as at Chanhu-daro and other smaller cities in Sind, at Mehi in Baluchistan and at Sutkagen-Dot in Makran. “The regular planning of the streets, the layout of cities and the common weights and measures suggest a single state covering the entire area.” (The Wonder that was India, By A.L. Bhasham)
“At a certain period, diversity is replaced by uniformity over an area incomparably vaster than anything we have yet seen in pre-historic south Asia. A complete agreement in details of material culture is found over an area stretching from the Makran coast to Kathiawar and northwards to the Himalyan foothills, a huge irregular triangle with the sizes measuring 950 by 700 by 550 miles. From end to end of this territory, from some forty settlement-sites come pottery vessels of identical mass-produced types; houses are built of baked bricks of standard dimensions, stamp-seals are engraved with similar scenes, a uniform script which is yet unread prevails and a standard system of weights is recognizable. While some sites are villages, others are towns and 350 miles apart stand two cities (Harappa and Moenjo Daro) twin capitals of an empire. Under the jejune archaeological nomenclature of Harappa culture there lies concealed one of the greatest nameless kingdoms of Asia”.(Pre-historic India, By Stuart Piggot)
“The overriding fact remains that they (Harappa in the Punjab and Moenjo Daro in Sind) are situated upon the same river system and are culturally identical. That identity extends throughout the immense territory of the Indus civilization from Kashmir to Karachi…. The Indus Civilization exemplifies the vastest political experiment before the advent of the Roman Empire……. Whatever the political implications, the cultural unity of the civilization is itself a sufficiently imposing phenomenon……” (Early India and Pakistan to Ashoka, By Sir Mortimer Wheeler)
One of the most interesting crops grown by the people of the Harappa culture was cotton, of which a fortunate single find at Moenjo Daro has given conclusive evidence. Extensive trade in cotton and cotton cloth is a strong possibility particularly with Mesopotamia where cotton was known as Sindhu and this word later passed into Greek as ‘sindon’.
“As to the peculiar products of India it is interesting that Herodotus told the Greek world, perhaps for the first time, of the trees that bore wool, surpassing in beauty and in quality the wool of sheep; and the Indians wear clothing from these trees.” (The Cambridge history of India, Vol. I, By E.J. Rapson)
The climate of major portion of Pakistan during the long period of this civilization was different from what it is today. The whole of Indus region was well-forested providing fuel to burn bricks; and Baluchistan, now almost a waterless desert, was rich in rivers. This region supported a sizeable agricultural population which lived in a large number of villages.
The archaeological evidence of continuous occupation of the city sites over centuries shows that continuity of government was somehow assured throughout the long period that its civilization lasted from say 3,000 B.C. to 1,500 B.C.- for over fifteen hundred years. There are strong indications of this culture being deeply religious where tradition was transmitted unimpaired for centuries. The remarkable conservatism and scrupulous preservation of even the details of every-day life for long periods proves that the civilization was theocratic based on religion and ideology. It would not be far wrong to call it an ideological state. That was Pakistan 5,000 years ago.
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