Harappan Seals, One With Horned God. Source.
Last week, we introduced the Indus Valley cities of Kalibangan and Lothal because of their unique religion, which ran contrary to the religion of the Neolithic town of Mehrgarh (see images) and the dominant religion of the subsequent Harappan stage of the Indus Valley Civilization. Kalibangan and Lothal worshiped a horned god at fire altars, revealed to us by artifacts: seals with the image of this fire god, and an abundance of fire altars and the remains of animal sacrifices. Neolithic Mehrgarh and Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Harappa and its sister cities, whose common culture is today named after Harappa, worshiped a female goddess, evidenced by an abundance of female figurines that are very similar to Mother Goddess figurines found elsewhere in Neolithic and Chalcolithic civilizations.
Terracotta Figurines From Harappa. Source.
The emergence of a distinct fire god amid the more ancient “mother goddess” worship of the Indus Valley provides us with an auspicious, artifactual link to the Proto-Indo-Europeans use of fire and animal sacrifice in their burial practices.
Ancient forms of worship of a Mother Goddess and/or a Mother Earth, fire itself, fire sacrifice, fire gods, and fire goddesses evolved through many unimaginably diverse forms over the past 5,000 years. I started to gather evidence of many of their intermediate and modern forms and, I confess, found myself entering into a study of comparative religions—something of great interest to some, but not to me. My interest at this stage in the Raising Up Pharaoh blog posts is in the process of the spreading of cultural practices over long distances, from the Kurgan Culture of the Steppes into unexpected places like Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt, here in south central Asia, and later into Anatolia and Europe. This transfer and its reception and subsequent morphing into something both unique and perhaps more powerful, but sometimes weaker, than its predecessors—this process is both beautiful and awe-inspiring to me. Trying to trace this phenomena through prehistory, from whence the only records are artifacts (including linguistic extrapolations), is perhaps ultimately impossible, yet it is to me equally irresistible.
Because we are dealing with prehistory in the Indus Valley (no recognizable written records), we don’t know how they worshiped, or even how they imagined, their goddess or god. From artifacts, we do know there were fire pits used for animal sacrifices. But we don’t know whether they were living in mortal fear of their gods and thus trying to placate them, or importuning their gods for future benefits, or thanking their gods for received benefits. We do know something about their use of fire in that they mostly used burial interment earlier and changed to mostly cremation in the later stages. Cremation certainly wouldn’t explain the multiplicity of fire altars, but adds another use beyond animal sacrifice.
A Hindu Cremation. Source.
To enable us to compare what evolved from Neolithic Mehrgarh into the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization, let’s examine two of the IVC’s major cities: Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. As an introduction, I include the following 52 minute video on the IVC, these two cities, and some cutting-edge archaeology in Dilmun, Bahrain where hundreds of IVC graves are being excavated in hopes of finding a key to the IVC language and script. Its narrator speaks in English, one archaeologist speaks in French and another in English, but there’s much in the video to reward you for your time spent.
We will assume that the Harappan culture evolved much as evidenced in the progressions through the six mounds at Mehrgarh, that it was home-grown in its entirety. There is no real evidence to the contrary among the IVC’s thousand cities and villages, other than the religious anomaly at Kalibangan and Lothal which we previously discussed. Two aberrations in a thousand doesn’t make much of a trend. But we would be correct that they portend the Vedic culture rising in the ruins of the Harappan culture.
That said, you should read the website The Harappan Civilization by Tarini Carr for a more regional bias and an argument that the entire Indus Valley Civilization from beginning to end was home grown, with not a scintilla of foreign influence. I’ve mentioned in prior posts similar arguments by others disputing the impact on early Egypt of the more advanced Mesopotamian civilization. There is a group of archaeologists that try to enforce that pacifistic and/or jingoistic view pretty much like the zealots who wrap themselves in the dogma of anthropogenic global warming in the face of scientific evidence that the earth has been cooling for the past 8,000 years—that is since the Holocene climatic optimum.
This widespread archaeological fantasy of entirely indigenous development insists (taking its argument ad absurdum) that warfare only started when man became literate and began to record the wars. Out of one side of its mouth, it says that the body of erstwhile oral-tradition Vedic literature dates back to 1500 BC and records previous events before the Sarasvati River dried up in 1900 BC. Out of the other side of its mouth, it expounds that the indisputably warlike Vedic culture is a natural outgrowth of the preceding pacifistic Harappan culture, ignores the implications of the fortification walls raised around previously unfortified Harappan cities in the last half of the 3rd millennium BC (“Flood control” with mud brick walls? Fortification walls erected at great expense in a “pacifistic” culture without enemies?). Then there are those fire altars and horned fire-god seals springing up in a Mother Goddess worshiping culture? And, finally, there is the argument that there is no evidence of an invasion of an Indo-European speaking people, which begs the question how linguistic descendants of that language are today spoken in most of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh?
The only way out of painting oneself into that corner (to justify that “we” accomplished all of this without any foreign influence) is to insist that the Indo-European languages originated in India. Voila! The circular reasoning of political correctness! Why would academics parrot such jingoistic nonsense? Because they want their excavation licenses renewed, their funding grants approved, and suffer more than a little fear for their lives in this part of the world at this time.
In the next post, we’ll dig further into Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, list the many accomplishments of the Indus Valley Civilization, observe its rapid decline, and the beginnings of its metamorphosis into the profoundly different Vedic culture.