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Buried Treasure, Mohenjo daro

This is a 30-minute guide to the Indus Valley Civilisation, which was the largest of the civilisations in antiquity. It is presented by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who was one of the great popularisers of archeology as part of his Buried Treasures series.

The film focuses on Mohenjo daro, which along with Harappa, was one of the main cities founded by this civilisation. The following facts are mentioned in the film, but perhaps not given the prominence they deserve, so I think it worthwhile emphasising some of the peculiar characteristics of this civilisation:

1) It doesn’t seem to have evolved gradually, the cities show an amazing regularity, characteristic of central planning, and have not grown organically. It was also very well planned with wide roads, good water supplies and drainage.

2) The civilisation shows none of the normal signs of cultural evolution during its 1,000+ year existence, its writing, for instance, which is still undeciphered, never changed over that long period of time (unlike later Indian writing, which evolved so quickly it is possible to date manuscripts by that means).

3) It had virtually nothing that can be identified as weaponry, and presumably didn’t need to keep its own populace suppressed, or fend off enemies.

4) It collapsed as quickly as it appeared, but we still do not know why or how that happened. It may be it was overrun by invading Aryan hordes, as suggested here, but that is not proved.

The interest for Buddhists is that it seems nearly all samaṇa culture, of which Buddhism is a part, must have come down, not from the Aryans, but from a different source, and the indications are that it is remnant from the Indus Valley civilisation.

Asceticsim and its practices like meditation and tantrism; egalitarian social organisation, which doesn’t know of, or acknowledge, caste hierarchy; and even such doctrines that are characteristic of the samaṇa culture, like rebirth, kamma, etc. may have originated in this civilisation, even if they found their fulfilment in the later cultures of India.

For those who might like to see a more modern appraisal of one of the other cities in the civilisation, Dholavira, I previously published The Indus Valley (The Masters of the River).

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