The Indus Civilization: Interview with Shereen Ratnagar

The Indus Civilization: Interview with Shereen Ratnagar

in Interview
Published on: 27 March 2017
Prof. Shereen Ratnagar, archaeologist on India and Mesopotamia, speaking on 'The Indus Civilization' in Mumbai, November 2016

Sahapedia: Dr Ratnagar, how does one introduce the layperson to a topic such as yours—a civilization that endured at least 6000 years, and one that covered a truly vast area?


Shereen Ratnagar: It is a very vast topic. One usually begins with some map work. The Harappa civilization covered a swathe of land from the Baluchistan mountain frontiers of South Asia, across the Indus valley below Lahore, the flat land between the Indus tributaries’ plains and the Gangetic drainage, and a swathe of land from southern Sind across Kutch, to north Gujarat and Saurashtra.


This is a good starting point because we see a huge area and are taught that this was the widest spread of the river-valley civilizations, which is true. However, in doing that sometimes we forget that on the ground, in terms of city size and number of settlements, the Harappa civilization is on a smaller scale than its contemporaries, like the Mesopotamian civilization. E.g. Mohenjo daro is a maximum 200 hectares in size; Mesopotamian Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh, was 450 hectares.



S.: But some books say there were more than 1000 Harappan sites?


S.R.: I have heard and read that said very often. One can get a figure of 1000 sites only if one incorporates all known sites of late fourth millennium, third millennium and second millennium BCE—all the early sites of Kulli culture, neighbours of Harappans, Neolithic sites of Kashmir, Sothi sites of the incorporated Haryana region—and so on. But if we rigorously define the Harappan culture as sites with assemblages that have certain kind of pottery, baked clay ‘cakes’ or pavers, toy carts and wheels, miniature clay animals, cubical weights of chert, long and thin blades of the same chert for cutting plants, rectangular stamp seals with protruding (rather odd shaped) boss and script and emblem carved in intaglios, the total number of sites is far lower.  Professor V.H. Sonawane of the MS University Baroda estimates that the total number of Harappan sites in Kutch and Saurashtra, for instance, sites of the urban period—are not more than 30 in number.



S.:Please explain ‘the urban period’.


S.R.: Urban, in archaeological terms, is the period when Mohenjo daro was occupied for a long period of some centuries, say 2600 to 1800 or 1700 BCE.  At Mohenjo daro in that period there were solid brick buildings, streets and alleys, wells amongst the houses, a high citadel with a public structure housing a water tank, lots of seals and inscribed tablets, uniform-value weights, and a whole range of stone and bronze tools, that is clearly urban. Many other sites had some of these kinds of artefacts and therefore belong to the urban period. Now, sites that may be smaller, which we may not want to label as urban because their population does not seem to be very high, but if they have these kinds of artefacts―some of them at least that I just talked about, then we can say that these belong to the urban period.


A caveat has to be lodged at this stage is that we have no internal chronology of this period. Except for a very few artefacts, we cannot separate out the earlier period material, near 2600 BCE, from material of a period closer to 1800 BCE.



S.:You have spoken about Bronze Age. Was there no iron in use? Why not?


A.: In the sense that iron is the most abundant metal in the crust of the earth, this is certainly a puzzle. Once it is in use, iron became the ‘Industrial metal’, it replaces copper and bronze and stone as working tools―for building tools, cutting tools, heavy-duty work, and so on. But it happened everywhere so there must be a major reason for it. Only in Africa iron succeed stone as the widely-used material. Everywhere else, it is stone, bronze and then iron. Although iron was the heavy-duty metal of history, and being plentiful, also cheap—they say it was maybe 1/5th to even 1/20th the cost of bronze. You again have, paradoxically, people using bronze over iron.


I think, the reason for this is technical and technological. Bronze came before iron probably because it was easier to shape into objects like knife heads, arrowheads and vessels. Because once you have an alloy of about 11% of tin with the rest in copper, it is liquid and you can pour it into moulds and casts. And you can cast it. You cannot do that with iron because tin-bronze melts at 1,000º C, whereas iron melts at 1,537º C. And this temperature is a little too high for a pre-industrial kiln to take. For bronze tools, you can put up a series of moulds and pour molten metal into them. But iron ore is different and no pre-industrial kiln can reduce iron to liquid—when hot, iron has to be beaten on the forge to shape each tool individually once it is smelted.  A pre-industrial charcoal kiln (which reaches a temperature of say 1,300º cannot extract iron from its ore and rock matrix in a liquid state, in fact the two, metal and matrix will separate—usually—only when a large measure of carbon monoxide (CO) is produced in the kiln to enable a chemical reaction to take place.  So, CO2 has to get away with a lot of its oxygen to become CO. For this, a ‘reducing kiln’ is necessary and I think it is the mystery behind its late appearance.


You pound the iron-ore rock into small pieces, roast them for hours, and construct furnaces of particular shape and size for the ‘reduction’ to produce CO.  Hot gas rises in the kiln from the ore, which gives up its oxygen—and the metal separates out—or can be hammered out.



S.: Is this term ‘Bronze Age’, therefore, used for that period because it was alloys of copper-tin, copper-lead that were the industrial material?


S.R.: Yes. Up to a point stone continued to be used for tools along with bronze. Only when iron came, stone got replaced altogether by metal. And in the Harappan case, as in the earlier centuries of Pharaonic Egypt, unalloyed copper was in use. For a long time they did not use tin-bronze and used only that unalloyed copper. They must have built those pyramids with those copper tools.


‘The Bronze Age’ was Gordon Childe’s term for the early river-valley civilizations: A stage when metal was in regular use for the tools of production (craft production) and it is stage where metallurgy became a sphere of specialized knowledge. Not everyone would be able to recognise the copper ore, which was available there on the ground. Not everyone would be able to smelt or cast or alloy metal, and for use on a regular scale, prospection was necessary outside the river alluvium, or else exchanges with peoples of the deserts or mountains.



S.: Was specialization, then, the cause or the trigger? Does the appearance of full-fledged bronze metallurgy at early sites signal the coming of the Harappa civilization?


S.R.: We have no archaeological sequence in which we can detect ‘the first’ alloying or complex casting that co-occurs with Harappan pottery and seals or terracottas and so on. Unlike iron tools, broken or discarded bronze or copper objects can be melted and re-cast into new shapes. Copper and tin are rare in the earth’s crust. And these two reasons made them precious: that you cannot replace the raw material easily, and that you can reuse the material. So, people would not leave them for archaeologists to find. Archaeologists have found some fantastic metalware (tools or weapons) in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Anatolia very largely because they were buried with the dead or else they were buried as sacred foundations in temples, ancestor memorials, and so on. So, what are the dictum is that bronze artefacts are under-represented in the archaeological record.


This under-representation, incidentally, is the reason why we think there were no weapons of war, and therefore, no warfare! But there is the Kalibangan cylinder that shows two warriors with buns flanking a third person, probably a woman, with their arms raised, holding long-handled pointed weapons, probably swords or daggers. It is quite stunning to see that cylinder. There are ballista or baked clay missiles (that could be thrown at the enemy from the inside of a fort) found by Mortimer Wheeler on the parapet of the citadel wall of Mohenjo daro. J.P. Joshi carefully kept and counted the sling shots of stone that were lying around in the ruins of the small fortress of Surkotada, in eastern Kutch―300 stone ballistas, more than there were bangles. And, let us not forget, the elaborate gateway of that site (no enemy could rush in) where there are several turns in the entry ways. I think if students do not know they should keep in mind that ballista are known as late as the Roman empire and they were very common in Roman warfare. The massive and defended citadel of Dholavira, finally for now, is the most powerful argument against the rather silly statement that there was ‘no warfare’.


S: Let us stay with origins and ‘triggers’ for a bit. Was there an older stage from which the urban, Harappan culture grew? Was there a continuity with older ways of doing things like building houses or making pottery?


S.R.: The earlier cultures did anticipate the mature Harappan use of bricks and the method of brick laying. Professor Jonathan Mark Kenoyer found evidence that in the Early Harappan period there was—perhaps, nothing of this can be proved—that there was spinning of very fine thread—judging by the forms of the spindle whorls found at the pre-urban Harappa itself. Very, very small steatite beads, that are one of the signatures of Harappan ornamentations, have an old history. There was use of copper, not always cast, often beaten copper (treated like a stone—beaten), plus shankh shells and cryptocrystalline stones like agate and carnelian also used in the earlier period.  


Most importantly, the earlier period set the subsistence system in place with certain crops, all come from west Asian package. It was in the formative period that agriculture set in, with barley, wheat, peas, lentil—and these became the Harappan staples. At Kalibangan a field showed cross furrows as if there had been inter-cropping―one cropping one direction, another cropping another direction―which seems to indicate intensive agricultural use.


But writing, the inscribed intaglios seals with animal emblems and perforated bosses, cubical chert weights with precise weight-values, perhaps the spinning wheel (says Kenoyer), and full-fledged metallurgy with open-cast tools, bronze alloys, lost-wax casting (the Dancing Girl is an example of lost-wax casting which is a very intricate procedure in metallurgy), soldering, and even gold granulation―all of these come only in the Mature Harappan period. In the 1920s, people tried to copy this technique and after great efforts, they were able to find the granulation techniques. Also the allied technology of faience production, and a greater use of shell and ivory. In brief, there was a lot of innovation and a lot of new materials―there were more crafts and more craft skills, and the hallmarks of civilization like writing, seals, figurative sculpture and monumental buildings prevalent in the urban life. So, there were major changes amidst continuity.


We need to consider social change. There were major settlement shifts in the transition. Muhammad Rafique Mughal, the Pakistani archaeologist, made a detailed survey of the plains of Cholistan in Pakistan, the region south of the international frontier and around Fort Derawar. Settlement there was feasible because of the river (now dry) which is called Hakra. It is a downstream continuation of, what we call, the Ghaggar river in Haryana. Mughal’s survey identified sites of the earliest or Hakra period―the Early Harappan or formative stage, the Mature Harappan or urban stage, and the Post-Harappan period. What is interesting is that there were 37 Early Harappan sites out of which only three, later, had continued into the Mature Harappan habitation over the Early Harappan. The others were deserted. And there were 83 Mature Harappan sites. So, in the urban period most villages or towns were settled de novo in Cholistan. That means, people have had to move. It’s not such a long distance that you can say that they were pushed out because of the climate change or there was an invasion. I think a ruling class was forming or there was enmity; for some reason, people took refuge in larger settlements.   


Another important feature of the transition from the Early Harappan to late is that at three sites (Kot Diji, Gumla and Nausharo) there are destruction levels between the two phases—a thick layer of charcoal, ash, broken potsherds, broken bangles and burnt debris across these initially ‘Kot Dijian’ settlements—that precedes the level with Mature Harappan buildings and artefacts. So, some violence, some degree of forcible occupation, is thus evident; either there was warfare or a struggle for power. So, Harappan occupation on top, in one way, would have been a forcible occupation.


Also, there is an intriguing geographic pattern: Kot Dijian sites have been found in northern Pakistan on the Potwar plateau, and later, it was thickly populated during the Early Historic period also. With its good winter rainfall for the wheat and barley crops, this region attracted settlement, but not Mature Harappan settlement. North of Harappa there are no Harappan villages or towns on the Indus plain. Why not, in this productive land? I would guess that the Kot Dijian sites represent the territory of a chiefdom that in some way is a rival for trade routes to the Harappan system and blocking Harappan expansion northward. So, the important point is that C14 dating here represents that the Kot Dijian culture, which continued to flourish after 2600 BCE, was contemporary of the Harappan. The Harappan presence does not wipe out the Kot Diji culture, and it seems to wipe out the Amrian culture in Sindh.


So, there is the expected innovation in the midst of continuity during the transition, but also signals of political happenings.



S: In what kind of social ‘world’ did such major transformation―technological, social, cultural—come about?


S.R.​: First, there were regional cultures with their own pottery traditions that were incorporated into the Harappan system. That system would be part economic, part political and part cultural. I am not talking about the Kot Dijian culture of Punjab and the western hills, but there were others in Sind, the Sothi-Siswal culture in Rajasthan and Haryana, which is a kind of absorbed or interstitial culture within the Indus Ganga divide. There was the Anarta tradition of north Gujarat, and so on. In these areas Harappan artefacts are in use with the occasional glimpses of bead-type, bangles and pottery, spouts or a particular way of treating the surface of the pottery, of the local kind.


Then there were also the neighbours. In south Baluchistan, the Kulli culture settlements with stone houses and humped bulls painted on pots were influenced by the Harappan material culture. Carnelian beads, perforated cylindrical jars, a weight, the stray seal, are Harappan elements that were found in the Kulli territory. Maybe, there is some Kulli ceramic influence also in Harappan territory. This was, maybe, because a Harappan land route would have crossed southern Baluchistran for access to the port near Gwadar (the site is Sutkagen-dor). And we know the importance of Gwadar, which was a seaport―the westernmost known Harappan seaport for the trade to Oman and Mesopotamia.


There are other neighbours also. In the Jhelum valley near Srinagar was Burzahom, a neolithic settlement where people first lived in subterranean pit houses, the floors sunk into the plain and the walls provided by wooden posts. Later, they learnt to build sturdy houses above ground. It is the most beautiful archaeological site I have ever seen. Here too people learnt to grow wheat, barley and peas. And a pot was found at this site, which you can see in the National Museum (Delhi), containing about 900 carnelians. The beads appear to have been a gift of precious items from the Indus plains. Going into economic anthropology, would this be a gift of precious items for someone who was trying to contact the chief of Burzahom and trying to look around for fine wood and gold in Kashmir?


There is Kunal near Hissar on the plains, which has similar stuff. Here amongst the chalcolithic-neolithic remains that they had laid out in a pottery yard, pieces of Harappan pottery, thousands of small lapis lazuli and carnelian beads, and some silver and gold ornaments were found—again evidences of, probably, a gift from a Harappan visitor―a dignitary visiting a local dignitary. So, that is what I was saying, that to see this kind of reach, you have to get out of the river alluvium.


There was also Kayatha near Ujjain, also a chalcolithic site. Professor Dhavlikar says that in one house here, three different jars were buried under the floor, each with a different kind of Harappan type bead. So, he is not sure if these are definitely Harappan, that’s why he says Harappan type. I wonder, if it is a coincidence or whether it is significant that no etched carnelian bead—the Harappan attire of the highest prestige, we think―occurs amongst these simple villages.


All this aside, we must also give credence to the reality—albeit invisible—of pastoral movements in the spaces between Harappan settlements. Professor Gregory Possehl has said this in the beginning, and we had also worked on the pastoralists in the prehistory: Mehrgarh, e.g., cannot have been so important and have had so much exotic material if it had not been a winter staging post for pastoralists coming down from Baluchistan. In north Gujarat, along the eastern peripheries of the Little Rann of Kutch, occur animal-breeding stations which show some ceramic influence from Early Harappan Sind, i.e., Amrian culture. It must have been Sind from where the sheep and goats were brought to north Gujarat—no wild sheep/ goat ever roamed here. Only buffalos were probably the local wild animals of Kutch and north Gujarat that were domesticated and bred here.



​S.: We say our cultural roots lie in the Harappan age, and in South Asia through history, where the temple has been the node of cultural life in many ways. Yet there is no identifiable temple in the Harappan world. What shall we make of this?


S.R.​: The temple appears relatively late in South Asia, say in the late first millennium BCE, say the 2nd century BCE. Before that, the known ritual was the householder’s sacrifice. In the Rgveda, a householder calls a deity like Indra or Agni to a sacrifice, performed by a priest. The suktas of the Rgveda are invocations to the gods, only to be recited by a select few or specialists. But the whole country from 1700 BCE to 200 BCE could not have been organizing sacrifices of soma, milk, ghee and animals for the gods. Simple folk practices, we assume, would have been the usual form of religious expression.


Anthropologists have a degree of agreement on folk or popular religious practice, before formalization, before the advent of sacred texts and powerful priests. All polytheist or popular religions have life-cycle transitions such as birth, adulthood, marriage, death—rites of passage—with rituals enacted at those times.


All people left to themselves to face the challenges of life, believe in supernatural beings who bring health or disease, good fortune or bad. These beings are somewhat like humans but with special qualities like a deep understanding, or wisdom, or great speed, or invisibility. They reside in rocks or forest groves or in the foliage of trees. There are a few Harappan seals with the images of beings with horns and long hair, in tree branches. There are also some beings carved on seals or tablets that are part-animal and part-human. These kinds of things would have been part of the popular culture. There would be magical rites in a popular religion to influence such supernatural beings, say the goddess of safe child-birth. Magic and religion blend together.


There are practices that bring communities together. Dr Shubhangana Atre suggested there is an area on the Mohenjo daro citadel where remains of feasts are deposited. People also participate in processions. When R.S. Bisht dug Dholavira, he named certain low line area as ‘stadium’. The area is flanked on two sides with seats. It may have been a processional way because it is directly below that public inscription that stands at the north gateway of Dholavira citadel. There are pits at Kalibangan citadel with lots of animal bones: were these the places where animal sacrifice was conducted?


In days of yore, there were learned priests who exercised power and influence. There were shamans—men or women who had the skill to go into a trance and commune with the supernatural, to learn about how to heal a person, to ask who was guilty of a theft, and so on. These are not people who were possessed―shamans go themselves to gods and commune with them. (My theory is that the ‘Pashupati’ on the famous seal is a shaman in the forest. I may be wrong.)


Instead of gods carved in stone or metal and established in temples, there were tutelary spirits or gods who were often not present in human form—just certain stones, or the sound of the wind in a forest, indicated their presence. At the boundary of a village, there could be a tree or a hill where the guardian god protected the people from enemies.


So testimony to Harappan religion is sometimes just logical, in the nature of popular religion, it sometimes lies in small things like imagery on seals, or votive items like beads, or amulets or apotropaic items like small engraved copper sheets with signs of the script on one side, and animal images on the other face.


And there are urban spaces: processional ways, the remains of feasts, and the Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro where royalty may have gone for anniversaries; for rituals of rejuvenation (immersion in water). It is not like a south Indian temple tank. There are a few steps at opposite ends of the tank. It’s not a very deep tank. And there is a fenestrated courtyard around it. So, perhaps priests in procession would go around, or some kind of holy man, or royalty going for annual rejuvenation, coronation or inauguration proceedings. 



S.: Your research began with investigations of the Harappan sea trade with southern Mesopotamia and the Gulf.  Do you stand by the connection you made between the end of this trade and the decline of the Harappan civilization?


S.R.​: People have criticised this idea. The thinking behind my idea was that, although, the list of Harappan imports is not long, we have evidences of bronze, silver, wool and woollen cloth (mentioned in cuneiform texts), intricately carved stone vessels with mythological scenes (that we are not able to decipher so far, excavated in Mohenjo daro) of ritual use, the odd pearl or mother-of-pearl from the waters of Bahrain, and so on. And there is also archaeological evidence of the other kind: there is scrappy but real Harappan material in Oman. There are black-slipped jars in which people may have carried liquids, the odd Harappan bead, etched carnelian beads, inscribed sherds, etc. For centuries, the peninsula of Oman was a copper-rich area. It was thickly forested; nothing of that forest and very little of the copper remains now.


The value of copper or bronze would have been of very high value in a system where it was needed for wood-cutting tools, for boat and cart building, for long roof beams in the Mohenjo daro houses, for fine-edged saws for slicing shells to make bangles. So, I was thinking it could have been the core of the external trade to keep the flows coming in. Also, it is a very intricate system: if you are trading abroad you have to set up a knowledge of needed specialities which is a most powerful indicator of the earliest states and the knowledge system that they had to have. In a civilization it is the state administration which gathered knowledge of the world outside, equipped expeditions for extracting material or for exchanging things with others (as at Burzahom). In Mesopotamia, a seal was found with a person’s name and his title: ‘Official Interpreter or Dragoman of Meluhha’. Dragoman is one rare Sumerian word, which has continued into the English vocabulary. What was an official interpreter of Meluhha doing there? So, knowledge gaining is also there. And what happens if the trade fizzles out? Then this kind of intricate system also fizzles out. One could also reverse the causation and hold that once the state and its institutions of co-ordination and diplomacy and workshops began to fizzle out, so did their overseas trade. 


I think trade could have fizzled out at the Mesopotamian end because there was an economic decline: around 1800 BCE: the yields of agriculture had fallen to about 35% per hectare of the yields in 2800 BCE. It is because of the salinity in the soil and over-tilling of the soil for the purposes of the state and temple. So, Ur and other southern cities, which actually saw Harappan ports sailing in to the mouth of Euphrates, were superseded by other political centres further north. Ur was attacked and its palace reduced to ruin. And in place of Indian wood it was now the Lebanon ranges that supplied cedar wood, metals and stones from the Zagros mountains and Anatolian plateau. The Euphrates, in fact, became a busy trade route. So, it can work out both ways―trade is the cause of the state, and its decline is the cause of the end of the trade.


I am willing to be corrected on this causation.



S.: When our data come from things in the ground, not from any written sources, where do you think the scope lies for further research?


S.R.​: I think the scope lies in these data from the ground. We can do research with many of the artefacts that have been excavated, comparing the artefacts from one site with those of another site to explain the similarities and the differences. Someone could do some experimental work with steatite carving. What shape of bronze tools were used to carve the seals in negative relief?  What kind of visual skills does a person need to write something in mirror-image, so that a seal when impressed will bring the writing in readable form? But this is all possible if proper records are kept―in the trench, when they are found—of whether they occurred in a hearth or in a pit, the location of that pit, whether it was in the courtyard of the house, what is the number of that house, what other things did that house produce, and so on.


​So then I think we would have to go to other kinds of research and exercise our minds. I wonder if I will one day do this: you look at all the animals that have been portrayed on the seals. They are dangerous animals, animals of the forest: tigers, elephant, rhino… You list the animals that have been portrayed in clay. This will not be an easy task, because they tend to be very roughly portrayed, you can’t identify the species often, but one can guess at it. Then look at all the bones that the archaeo-zoologists have identified in the wild category and see how do they match up. Was there really forest encroaching on Mohenjo daro in those days, or were they going out? How do they portray the tiger so superbly? Did the tiger encroach because its own forest had been eaten up by human beings? We don’t know.


I think it is time archaeologists and geologists came together, and the geologists guided us on the perviousness of that Khadir Island rock. And the well on Dholavira citadel is the biggest known Harappan well. It has a diameter of four and a half metres, which is twice as large as the biggest Mohenjo daro well. They didn’t find its lowest level—they couldn’t, someone would have died if they went on digging down there. But how far down could it have gone, and would it have tapped the same aquifer as the tanks at Dholavira which lie just below the citadel? Would their water have ensured seepage and replenishing of the well?


We could take a site where the excavated material has been carefully recorded and study the pottery from the functional angle—eating, eating together, cooking, bowls for milk, jars for cheese, serving food at ceremonial occasions, etc.  The Khirsara Netra finds of reserve-slip ware are fascinating, though small and not easily reconstructed.


And we should be digging sites with an open mind, so that stone and clay spheres are not thrown out as ‘primitive hunter’s’ weapons! 



S.: What do you explain to your students in terms of the relevance of studying these sites, the archaeology, the linkages? How do you excite them about this, what is it that you say as to this is why we do this kind of research?


S.R.: I think one way is not to make it too gas and theory, so that, as human beings, they can relate to it. If you are living in Dholavira, let’s say it really is an island, you cannot replenish its water supply easily, then what would you do? How would you cater for the future, as once in every 12 years there will be no rainfall at all there? This kind of thing can excite them.


The other thing is that they should be digging in the way in which Mr. Bisht made them do in Dholavira, he said you haven't learned to dig until the skin of your fingers has come off. But also record, write as you dig. And read—you do not know everything because you have been excavating at a site. You must read also, and know what people before you have said, and connect up. In this way, you can excite them. It doesn't have to be remote.



S.: And in terms of the relevance of the study?


S.R.: For me, the most relevant thing I have seen in Mohenjo daro and the area of the Indus plain, is that the greatest valued resource was the water underground. And what do we do? We have pulled it up, even the Pakistanis today. The water has come up, and it all began in Pakistan with the British period canals. They kept canals without any drainage. They just let them be open canals, so if the Indus or any river overflowed, the water went out, then it went out anywhere. There was salinization. It was so ill conceived, that this precious resource has been lost.



S.: In terms of popular representation, since we had that film Mohenjo daro recently, what do you feel, when something like that comes out, about the role of popular culture to bring out more information? Is there a possibility?


S.R.: Popular culture wants instant bytes. If they are willing to sit, discuss and read, then why not. I saw a clip of the Mohenjo daro film, the varieties of dress and hairstyles. I was looking because the clay figurines have N-number of hairstyles. And when I am on international flights, I am surprised to see girls with those varieties of hairstyles, two plaits, ringlets or high in a bun. So, I was looking at that in the Mohenjo daro film, but it just went beserk with everything.


You just need to connect. And don’t connect saying that I am a Hindu and that man in Mohenjo daro was a Hindu. That is silly. And don’t try to play games with Pakistan, and say that Rakhigarhi was a more important and bigger site than Mohenjo daro. That is nonsense. Rakhigarhi has, first of all, occupation of later periods. It is a disjointed site. How can you say it is bigger? How much have you found there? How much written material have you found in Rakhigarhi? Not so much. And how does it matter if Pakistan has better sites? We will go and work there. Why do we feel so intimidated?



S.: That is actually an interesting point you are making. Your experience in terms of field work, looking at history like this also, in a way erases the borders as well. So, from that perspective of being there, having travelled there, worked there, what would say about the role history can play in re-forming our narratives?


S.R.: I think history can play a very big role. I will give very anecdotal examples: when I stepped off the plain at Karachi to Mohenjo daro, I saw two men, and I said, 'These are the representatives of the Pakistan Archaeological Service.' And they said, 'When we saw you we also knew.' Out of the whole crowd, we identified each other. Then I spent three days and three nights just talking to them. They said that they wanted some books on Indian numismatics, which I was able to send them. And when I went to Lahore, they asked me, 'How did you like it?' and I said, 'I can’t tell you how wonderful that experience was.' A young man got up and said, 'I went out to see your country to study the Mughal gardens in Kashmir and I had the same thrill.' This is what we get from a past, which we know is a common past, when we can observe it from his point of view for a change.



S.: That is wonderful. Thank you so much.


S.R.: Thank you.