Some called it an artificial creation while others grieved on the vivisection of an ancient land. Yet, no one realized on that fateful night of 14th of August in 1947, that an ancient land has resurrected itself from the ashes of a lost civilization. That night the people of Meluhha came to life again as Pakistan. It was celebrated as an emergence of a new nation on the world map, least realizing that with minor differences in boundaries, the map which housed the people of Meluhha for over 9000 years, simply reclaimed its heritage as Pakistan. Meluhha were the people of Indus Valley Civilization.
The sub-continent has geographically been divided into two major regions since thousands of years; the Indus Valley with its tributaries and the Ganges Valley with its tributaries, separated by the watershed created by Gurdaspur-Kathiawar Salient. The maps of these two regions roughly align with the maps of present day Pakistan and India.
Historically also these two regions have remained separate entities for most part of known history. The only period when these two regions even remained as one political unit in over 9000 years of known history, were during the era of Mauryan, Muslim and British rule. The major historic difference between the two regions was that while the people of Indus Valley created one of the oldest unified civilizations of the world and those of Ganges Valley remained separated and segregated. The Two Nations Theory which became one of the founding principles of creation of Pakistan and partition of British India in 1947, in historical hindsight, helped create status quo ante where history merely repeated itself.
During 1920s when the excavations at Harappa (Punjab, Pakistan) began, despite the veil of obscurity, British Indian establishment called Indus Valley Civilization as Indian civilization. However, later research and emergence of additional archeological, geological, historical and genetic evidence cleared much of the ambiguity. It was confirmed that not only the core of this civilization lay in modern day Pakistan but the civilization itself had its mooring deeply embedded there. And therefore it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the people of Pakistan are the true embodiment of the ancient Meluhha.
The true impact of this great civilization can not be ascertained only through its intrinsic and internal virtues. The influence it had, which profoundly impacted and transformed the later world, can only be understood in its entirety through identifying and recognizing its linkages with religio-political evolutionary progression and subsequent development and growth. The linkages of Indus Valley Civilization with Sumer (Mesopotamia), ancient Egypt and Central Asia are accepted archeological and historical facts as does the overlap in time period of existence of these civilizations. Thus the occurrence of major events of historical impact and value related to that era can not be isolated to only one of these civilizations alone.
Major events of religio-political virtue impacted the period of existence of Indus Valley Civilization (7000 – 1300) which peaked between 3000 – 2000 BC and having declined from 1900 BC onwards till losing its trace around 1300 BC. This time period was laden with probable emergence of Prophets Nuh (Noah), Hud (Eber), Saleh (Shela) and certainly according to most scholars, the emergence of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) around 2000 BC, till Prophets Musa (Moses) 1436 – 1316 BC and Haroon (Aaron) 1439 – 1317 BC. All these Prophets spread the belief in one God (monotheism) and interestingly, as accepted by most scholars, the people of Indus Valley Civilization were the only ones who believed in monotheism out of the three contemporary civilizations.
The unified system of governance and integrated and fused economic system, peaceful nature of living and lack of identifiable war fighting and war material, the remarkably similar construction and construction methodology and unified measuring system, all point towards a unitary and inclusive way of life. In addition to this, the absence of religious places and temples, lack of clearly identifiable deities and other polytheist artifacts are but some of the examples that make Indus Valley Civilization one of the few known civilizations of that era to have practiced monotheism. This also is reflective of the fact that monotheism acted as a unifying, integrated and a cohesive societal influence impacting the people of Indus Valley Civilization.
The linkages and influence, people of this civilization had with Sumer (Mesopotamia) are fairly well pronounced. Surprisingly though, such influences are also more pronounced by the absence of Mesopotamian linkages with Indus Valley. This is reflective of their maturity and also highlights their resolve in maintaining societal independence against foreign influences, wherein the practice of monotheism was upheld against polytheism practiced in the adjoining contemporary civilizations, despite the regular contacts and interactions even through enhanced trade linkages.
This also brings out the question as to why these people practiced monotheism when the other contemporary civilizations practiced polytheism. One may find the answer within the known historical aspects related to the spread of early monotheism. The time period of its emergence, its precursor, the peak and the decline of Indus Valley Civilization clearly relates it to the probable known historical influence of Prophets of that era, who spread monotheism. The possibility that there may have been a Prophet present amongst them, whose influence chartered the course of this remarkable civilization, can not be thus completely ruled out.
These societal influences may also help solve the riddle as to why this civilization started declining after 1900 BC. Were there any linkages between the birth of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) around 2000 BC in Sumer (Mesopotamia), who also spread monotheism. If such a probability has a measure of belief, the priests, the governing elite and a part of the population may have migrated to Sumer (Mesopotamia) after the news of Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham) proclamations would have reached Indus Valley. The remaining population, leaving those who could not and did not follow them to Sumer in search of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), were left ungoverned and thus initiated the gradual collapse of Indus Valley Civilization which many have attributed to various natural calamities, indications of which have never been confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the decline and fading out of Indus Valley Civilization, it took many more centuries in formation of an alternative local culture and life style. This apparently took the form of ancient Vedic Hindu culture which emerged during its declining period or after the civilization had faded out. The influence was quite apparent in the then emerging Vedic Hindu culture and was pronounced by the fact that it also propagated monotheism in its earlier instance, which however was later diluted to polytheism.
It took many more centuries to bring the Ganges Valley and its adjoining planes under this new found influence. Monotheism, though in a different format, did stretch its wings again and again during the course of later history, in the form of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, though majority continued to revert back or follow Vedic Hindu culture. The arrival of Muslims however, effected a gradual and major change and the people of Indus Valley Civilization again accepted the virtues of monotheism which they had followed thousands of years earlier.
It was this civilizational clash between monotheism and polytheism which brought to fore the Meluhha in the form of Pakistan in 1947 and re-enacted it as an embodiment of a long lost great civilization.
About the author: Khan A. Sufyan
Khan A. Sufyan is a security analyst on South Asia and has advised government, semi-government and private organizations and institutions on national and international security issues, as well as participating in number of national and international seminars and presented papers on various regional and global security issues.