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Home >> History Himalayas >> Rupar
On The Left Bank Of Sutlej River
Harappan Civilisation

The Ancient Cultural Crucible
River valleys played an important role with diversity and inter-relationship. It is along the river valleys that major civilisations took birth and thrived. The Indus Valley civilisation also known as the Harappan Civilisation flourished between 3rd millennium BC to 1st millennium BC and covered an area of 3,50,000-sq-kms under undivided India. Its area of influence was larger than the combined area of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations.

Common Characteristics Of Indus Valley Civilisation
Among the general characteristics of the civilisation were the gridiron pattern of the cities, the fortifications, the elaborate drainage system and management. There are evidences that the Harappan people knew Bitumen. It was used in the Great bath of Mohenjodaro (now in Sind) that was constructed with beautiful well-baked brickwork and made water tight with bitumen. The technical advancement and uniformity of Harappan culture has no parallel.

People of Harappan times had a distinctive script, sculptures and pottery. Large-scale excavations of the Harappan sites, both in India and Pakistan, reveal an uncompromising uniformity in pottery, trading seals, brick size, etc. It is another matter that their script has largely remained undeciphered in spite of tremendous research.

Originators Of Town Planning
The architecture and city planning are the most striking features of this civilisation. Excavations and reconstruction of the sites reveal a continuity of styles. Cities were planned at two distinct levels: the citadel and the lower town. All streets were cut at right angles running north to south and east to west to facilitate the passage of breeze thus keeping the city cool.

The size of bricks also determines a particular era. In every era there has been a standardized measurement of the brick. So the brick is one method for an archaeologist to identify the probable date of a structure. Indus valley civilisation bricks were made in the ratio of 4:2:1. The bricks made of mud and clay were used as mortar. The system of laying bricks that continues even today and known as the "English Bond System" has been known to Indians for 5,000 years.

Timber was available in plenty in the Indus and Ganges Valleys but stone was rare. Thousands of bricks were burnt/ baked for construction in the Harappan empire. Perhaps that was one of the reasons for its downfall as they played havoc with the environment.

After partition, explorations and excavations in Punjab by the archaeological survey of India have given a matrix of proto historic culture, which filled the vacuum in understanding the development of the history of man in Punjab.

Rupar - Witness To Six Ancient Civilisations
Rupar is a 21 metre high ancient mound overlaying the Shiwalik (also spelt as Sivalik or Shivalik) deposition on the left bank of the river Sutlej where it emerges into the lains. It has yielded a sequence of six cultural periods or phases with some breaks from the Harappan times to the present day. The excavations were carried out by Dr. Y.D. Sharma of ASI. The migration of the Harappans to Rupar has been postulated through the lost Saraswati River to the Sutlej as both the river once belonged to one system.

Period I
At Rupar excavation, the lowest levels yielded the Harappan traits in Period 1, which falls in the proto-historic period. A major find was a stealite seal in the Indus script used for the authentication of trading goods, impression of seal on a terracotta lump of burnt clay, chert blades, copper implements, terracotta beads and bangles and typical standardised pottery of Indus Valley civilisation. They flourished in all the Harappan cities and townships.

The earliest houses at Rupar were built with river pebbles available in abundance but soon they made use of cut slabs of lime with the same ratio of 4:2:1. Sun baked bricks were sometimes used in the foundations. Houses were built to suit climatic conditions. Walls were plastered with built to suit climatic conditions. Walls were plastered with water repelling sticky clay. In the north, flat roofs were common but deep-pitched roofs were used along the west coast - Bengal and Assam - due to heavy rainfall.

The dead were buried with head generally to the north and with funerary vessels as unearthed in cemetery R-37 at Harappa (Sind, Pakistan). What led the Harappans to desert the site is not known.

Period II
Period II belongs to Painted grey ware people who followed the Harappans. Typical pottery of this period consisted of fine greyware painted black, terracotta bangles, semi precious stones, glass, bone arrowheads, ivory kohl sticks and copper implements. This period is identified as the period belonging to the Great War Epic - Mahabharata.

A new settlement sprang up here by about 600 BC - chronologically Period III at Rupar. Grey pottery of Period II still continued. This period belongs to circa 600 BC to 200 BC. It yielded the earlier coins (punch marked and uninscribed cast coins), copper and implements. An important find was an ivory seal inscribed in Mauryan Brahmi script (4th and 3rd century BC)

Minutely carved and polished stone discs with a figure and motif associated with the cult of the Mother goddess of fertility have also been unearthed in the excavations from Taxila (now in Pakistan), Patna in the state of Bihar and other Mauryan sites. Houses of mud and kiln burnt bricks were by no means rare. A 3.6 metre wide burnt brick wall traced to a length of about 75 mts probably endorsed a tank which collected water through inlets. The upper levels have soak wells lined with terracotta rings of Sunga and Kushana periods.

Period III To V
From Period III to V there are fairly rich dwelling complexes with houses of stone and mud bricks. The full plans of the houses could not be exposed owing to the vertical nature of excavations carried out.

Period IV
The next phase, Period IV revealed the evidence of the Sungas, Kushans (also spelt as Kushana) and Guptas and their successors. Excavations also revealed successive building levels of various dynasties. In the upper levels a hoard of copper coins of Kushan and Gupta rules were found. This includes a gold coin issued by Chandragupta-Kumerdevi of the Gupta dynasty, which is also known as the golden age in ancient Indian history.

A large number of terracotta figurines of Sunga, Kushana and Gupta periods were also discovered. Among them was a Yakshi figure with cherubic expression and a beautiful seated figure of a lady playing on the lyre reminiscent of Samudragupta's figure in a similar position on the famous gold coins of the Gupta dynasty. A set of three silver utensils for ritualistic purpose with Greek influence depicts the fine craftsmanship of the Gupta dynasty in its chased decoration.

The pottery of this period in the upper levels is for the most part red ware and is frequently decorated with incised motifs. After a short break, there is evidence of a fresh occupation identified as Period V commencing around the early 6th century and continuing for three or four centuries. The coins of Toramana (circa AD 500) and Mihirakula (circa 510-40) have been recovered from these levels. The spacious brick building of the fifth period were constricted neatly and evidences showed a good measure of prosperity during this period.

Probably after desertion, a new town sprang up here around 13th century AD on the same site named Period VI and it continues to flourish to the present day.

An archaeological site museum has been set up to house some of the antiquities of Rupar along with the photographs displaying excavation material.