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(PDF) Harappan Civilization and Vaishali Bricks
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Harappan civilization and the Vaishali bricks
Research Scholar, Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta
The discovery of some Harappan-type bricks from Raghopur Diara of Vaishali district near
Patna, which was published in The Telegraph on April 8, 2017, is of immense importance to
the country from both archaeological and historiographical perspectives. The findings may not
only answer many hitherto unsolved questions that shrouded the last phase of the great
Harappan civilization, but may also force us write our early-period history afresh as well.
The director of Bihar’s state archaeological directorate, Atul Verma, visited the place some six
months ago and collected two bricks. He examined the bricks himself and also showed it to the
former joint director general of the Archaeological Survey of India K.N. Dikshit. Mr Dikshit
confirmed the Harappan identity of the bricks after checking their thickness, width and length
ratio which is 1:2:4, a typical “mature Harappan” trait.
Scholars have divided the entire Harappa era broadly into three phases — early, mature and
late. The early phase spans from 3500BC to 2800/2700BC (from the beginning of village
farming to the beginning of urbanisation). Mature phase was from 2700BC to the 2000/1900BC
(from the beginning of urbanisation to the starting of the devolution of the urbanism). The late
phase was spanned between 2000/1900BC and 1400/1300BC (post-urban Harappan).
In the mature phase, there was a standard ratio of the Harappan bricks as mentioned above. The
kiln fired bricks which were recovered from Raghopur Diara was exactly the same as the
mature Harappan bricks. This is quite startling as mature Harappan kiln fired bricks were never
found in east India so far. Till date, the easternmost Harappan site has been identified as
Alamgirpur of the Ganga-Yamuna doab area of Uttar Pradesh. Other prominent Harappan sites
which were situated in the vicinity of Alamgirpur are Hulas, Mandi, Sanauli and so on.
Alamgirpur and Hulas are late Harappan sites although some mature Harappan materials —
mud bricks, burnt brick (burnt bricks were not found in Hulas though unearthed in limited
numbers from Alamgirpur), pottery pieces, stone and bone implements and some Harappan
mud and mud brick structures have been excavated from there. The earliest dates, measured
through the C14 method (a method to ascertain the date of an organic material using the
radioactive isotope of carbon) of those sites go back to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.
Though some mature Harappan materials were found from these sites, any sign of mature
Harappan urban prosperity has always eluded these areas.
Sanauli is a late Harappan burial site. Some 125 graves have been discovered here. The site is
very important because of the scarcity of the late Harappan burial sites. Mandi is famous for
its Harappan jewellery hoard. The hoard was found accidentally in the course of a ground
levelling operation. After the discovery, the villagers there began a hunt for more jewellery
which was continued for the next four to five days. The news reached the Uttar Pradesh
archaeology department only after a few more days. Some 10 kilograms of jewellery were
recovered from the site when Uttar Pradesh state archaeology department and the
Archaeological Survey of India sent teams to survey the village.
Archaeologists identified Mandi as a late Harappan site. The treasury consists of two copper
containers and a large number of beads made of gold, banded agate, onyx and copper. These
types of materials were found earlier in sites, such as Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Lothal,
Kalibangan, Allahdino, Chanhudaro, Surokotada and Kunal, though not in hoards.
Archaeology scholars are yet to come to a conclusion as to how this jewellery hoard could be
related to an otherwise “unimpressive” late Harappan site as Mandi. However, what is
strikingly significant here is that in none of the above mentioned eastern Harappan sites did
archaeologists ever recover large number of Harappan kiln burnt brick as found at Raghopur
The late phase of the Harappan civilization has long been a subject of scholarly debates and
theories. What were the causes of the decline of the Harappan civilization? Where did the
Harappans go after the decline of the civilization? Scholars such as Mortimer Wheeler and
Gordon Childe believed that the invasion of the Aryans caused a civilizational downfall in
Harappa. Because Wheeler discovered some scattered human skeletons at Mohenjodaro. But
this theory lost its validity after a close scrutiny of those 37 scattered skeletons of Mohenjodaro
by archaeologist G.F. Dales of the University of California at Berkeley(he was one of the co-
directors of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project). The study was published in the
journal ‘Expedition’(May, 1964 issue). And he described the whole issue as a ’Mythical
Floods in the river Indus and several other natural calamities such as drought, earthquake and
decline in the external trade of the Harappan civilization – are various other theories propagated
by various scholars that dot scholarly materials regarding the decline of the Harappan
civilization. In recent times, the most-discussed theory on the decline of Harappa has been that
of the drying up of the Ghaggar-Hakra rivers which are often identified with the Rigvedic
Now, many archaeologists feel that we should look at the decline of Harappa from an altogether
different angle. They believe that instead of downfall of the civilization, we could perhaps
simply call it a process of gradual de-urbanisation Harappan civilization. Whatever may be the
cause behind this de-urbanisation, scholars have always remained sure that a group of
Harappan people had migrated towards the east. The discovery of late Harappan sites, such as
Alamgirpur, Hulas, Mandi, Sanauli and so on, are nothing but examples of eastward migration
of the civilization.
But the unique case of finding of mature Harappan kiln fired bricks at Raghopur Diara, about
1100 kilometres southeast of Alamgirpur, is sure to perplex archaeologists. The main question
doing the rounds is that if the sites in Uttar Pradesh are known as late Harappan sites, how can
mature Harappan civilization travel further eastward?
Therefore, scholars may now have to trace the entire course and span of Harappan civilization
anew if more associated Harappan materials are excavated from Raghopur Diara or its
surroundings that authenticate the importance of the primary finding. The context of the
archaeological material is of utmost importance in archaeology. The findings have sent
archaeologists across the country in a tizzy and many of them are already set to go to Raghopur
Diara to survey the area in search of more clues.
If Raghopur Diara is established as a mature Harappan site, it will not only throw in the bin
many theories on the civilization and its decline but will also warrant a great deal of rewriting
of the course of the civilization, and therefore our history. But for now, we will have to wait
for the results of the explorations which are going to be conducted by archaeologists.
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