Educational & Professional | 12 Chapters
Author: M. Jankiraman Ph.D.
Perspectives in Indian History deals with the history of India from 10,000 BC until 1857 AD. It delves into the story of the Indus-Saraswati civilization and the development of the Vedas. Such a book has been written for the first time, wherein India’s history has been analyzed from the early Hindu period. Hitherto most history books have emphasized the Muslim period or the British period. These have been written by Muslim historians or Europea....
The great beast stirred. It was considered a giant amongst dinosaurs and was aptly called Titanosaurus. This was an herbivore belonging to the genus of Sauropod dinosaurs. The Titanosaurus was the first Indian dinosaur fossil to be discovered. Based on fossil studies from the late Cretaceous period (about 145 million years ago), Titanosaurus is estimated to have grown up to 9–12 meters (30–40 ft) long and up to approximately 13 tons in weight and is considered the biggest dinosaur ever discovered.
The time was some 140 million years ago in Late Cretaceous. A severe volcanic activity shook the ground. Supercontinent Gondwana was in the throes of splitting up into its future constituents of India, modern Africa, Australia, Antarctica, and South America. This split was occasioned by the spin of the earth, while the supercontinent rested on fluidic magma, causing the various plates to gravitate outwards and splitting Gondwanaland. This phenomenon is called continental drift and was discovered by the German geophysicist Alfred Wegener in 1912. He was intrigued as to why a look-alike animal or a plant fossil or a similar rock formation are found on different continents. Furthermore, the coastlines of these continents looked similar. For example, the west coast of Africa seemed to fit in like a jig-saw with the east coast of South America and so on. Wegener postulated that all these continents were once joined together as an “Urkocontinent” before breaking up and taking their current positions. He was initially ridiculed when he published his 1915 book “The Origin of Continents and Oceans.” Part of the problem was that Wegener could not explain as to why the continents moved apart in the first place. Decades later he was vindicated when the idea of a supercontinent called Pangaea took shape. This continent was supposed to have existed 250 million years ago.
Our concern is the Indian plate, which then began its long journey to its present position. See Figure 1.1. It began moving north, at about 20 centimeters (7.9 in) per year, and is believed to have begun colliding with Asia as early as 55 million years ago in the Eocene period. This is considered an impressive speed and geologists believe that this is due to the relatively smaller thickness of the Indian plate at 100 Km compared to other plates that formerly constituted Gondwanaland. The collision with the Eurasian Plate along the boundary between India and Nepal formed the orogenic belt that created the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains, as sediment bunched up like earth before a plow.
Figure 1.1: Tectonic plates of the Earth 140 million years ago
Figure 1.2: Tectonic plates of the Earth. Present-day.
Figure 1.3: Indian plate drifts towards the Eurasian plate. The map on the left is Pangea and shows Gondwanaland before the split. The Tethys sea now occupies the area of the Himalayas.
The Indian Plate is currently moving north-east at five centimeters (2.0 in) per year, while the Eurasian Plate is moving north at only two centimeters (0.79 in) per year. This is causing the Eurasian Plate to deform, and the Indian Plate to compress at a rate of four millimeters (0.16 in) per year. This causes the Himalayas to rise further, a fact that has been verified by many mountaineering expeditions. This continental drift will continue and will one day converge into a second Pangea some 250 million years in the future. Then the process will start all over again. It is to be noted that at the time of the formation of Pangea, the Earth’s spin was wobbly due to a dynamic imbalance. This is what triggered the continental drift in the first place since Pangea was sitting on fluidic magma.
By the time the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate, the dinosaurs had become extinct due to the Chixulub asteroid impact 65 million years ago. This Chixulub asteroid was the size of Mount Everest and hit the Yucatan peninsula, in Central America and wreaked untold devastation killing all the reptiles and ushering in the age of mammals. Modern experts believe that there were other reasons also other than Chixulub, but the latter was mainly responsible for making the world habitable for mammals like us.
Gradually mammals became the dominant species and mankind appeared some 3 million years ago. This asteroid was what we call a global killer. It wiped out 75% of all living creatures including mammals larger than a rat. Half the plant species died out. The dinosaurs were wiped out and, in their place, mammals expanded to become the dominant species. There was a surge in the growth of ferns that thrive in disturbed environments. However, for 1000 years afterward no creature bigger than a rat roamed the earth. This was because there were scarcely any flowering plants with their nutritious seeds and fruits, but only ferns.
By 100,000 years later, twice as many mammal species roamed, and they were back to raccoon size. After about 700,000 years, legumes showed up; their fossil pea pods are North America’s oldest discovered to date. Pea and bean species from the “protein bar period” provided protein-rich meals that further boosted mammalian size and diversity, The biggest message is how fast the recovery was…and how closely the vegetation and fauna are tied together,” says Vivi Vajda, a paleobiologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm (from )
Evolutionary history shows that human populations likely originated in Africa, and the Genographic Project, the most extensive survey of human population genetic data to date, suggests where they went next . It became clear to scientists that modern humans migrated out of Africa using the southern route through Arabia rather than the northern route via Egypt. These findings were highlighted at a conference by the National Geographic Society. Genome studies have established that the African population is the most diverse on Earth and that the diversity of lineages outside of Africa is a subset of the African lineages. This supports a southern route of migration from Africa via the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in Arabia before any movement heading north and suggests a special role for South Asia in the “Out of Africa” (OoA) expansion of modern humans. A glance at Figure 1.6 suggests that the cradle of human civilization appears to be Masai Mara in Tanzania. It is from there that the great migrations took place. Their route took them past Aden and then on to Persia and then India. It is from India that the migration took place towards South East Asia and on to the Philippines. Simultaneously, another stream left India and headed for Europe and North Africa These migrations of Homo Sapiens commenced some 70 to 50,000 years ago and spreading along the southern coast of Asia and to Oceania by about 50,000 years ago. Modern humans spread across Europe about 40,000 years ago. These migrations were preceded by the migrations of early man, viz. Homo Erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis.
Figure 1.4: Supercontinent Pangea 250 million years ago with modern political borders.
Figure 1.5: Stepwise recovery of mammals. After an asteroid wiped out much of life on Earth, mammals—responding to changes in plants—grew in size and diversity surprisingly quickly. ((Reprinted with permission, from )
Figure 1.6: Out of Africa (OoA) migration routes. Based on genetic analysis. (Reprinted with permission, from IBM)
Tragically, none of these primitive species survived in India except Homo Sapiens, namely us. We come to this conclusion because we do not have any genes from these earlier species of men. We are through and through Homo Sapiens.
Around 10,000 BCE Indians embarked upon an agricultural revolution. The British contention was that this came in from Levant and Mesopotamia, the so-called cradle of human civilization.
The techniques of domesticating animals and plants and adopting a sedentary lifestyle were the sole intellectual property (IPR) of the people of Levant and Mesopotamia. They had pioneered and initiated the agricultural revolution and then went on a crusade to spread it to the civilizational backward regions of Iran, India, Central Asia, and even Europe. It was part, apparently, of a West Asian civilizing mission for mankind. An early form, so to speak, of the White man’s burden. (Major General Bakshi )
Major General G.D. Bakshi is retired from the Indian army and is a prolific author. He has done some seminal work on the Indus-Saraswati civilization .
Such misguided people contend that large-scale migration of Iranian agriculturists made this possible in 7000 BCE, to save Indians from only hunting and gathering. This argument fails when we look at the excavations in Mehrgarh (Baluchistan) which shows clear evidence of an agrarian society from as early as 7500 BCE. These are discussed in subsequent chapters. Large sedentary settlements had come up and goats and cattle had been domesticated along with wheat and barley cereals. Also, rice was grown in the Ganga valley at that time.
The DNA evidence has been conclusive that modern humans outside of Africa are all descendants of a single population of Out of Africa (OoA) migrants who moved into Asia sometime after 70,000 years ago and then spread around the world, perhaps replacing their genetic cousins such as Homo neanderthalensis along the way. All recent discoveries have gone on to reaffirm the African origins of all modern humans.
The British when they ruled India came up with a theory called Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). They contended that Aryans invaded India around 2000 BCE, from the steppes, bringing with them the Vedas and the Sanskrit language, thereby “civilizing” Indians. But Bakshi  points out that by then the Saraswati river had become dry and that region was no more fertile as to justify an Aryan incursion. Nor did the digs in the Indus Valley sites show any evidence of large-scale casualties and damage due to war. So, it begs the question, “Why would anyone want to invade a desert region?” Rather, it was an outward migration to the Middle East.
Figure 1.7: Homo Erectus. (lived approximately 700,000 to 200,000 years ago in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe)
Figure 1.8: Homo heidelbergensis (lived approximately 700,000 to 200,000 years ago in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe)
Figure 1.9: Homo neanderthalensis (lived approximately 400,000 to 40,000 years ago in Europe and south-western and central Asia)
For example, the Mitanni from the Bible was a Sanskrit speaking people from Punjab. The ancient kingdom of Mitanni, located in present-day Syria and Anatolia, had an Indo-Aryan, Sanskrit-speaking ruling class. Mitanni kings had Indo-Aryan names.
The Hittite and the Mittanis people fought a major war. A tablet has been discovered which records the treaty between the two people. It calls upon Indra-Mitra-Varuna-Nasatya, the Vedic Gods, to bear witness to their treaty. This should be concrete evidence of a westward movement of the Vedic people induced by the eco-catastrophe that had overtaken the Sarasvati. (Bakshi )
All the above arguments render meaningless, the Aryan invasion theory.
The Hittite and Mitanni when they came from India, brought with them superior technology, warfare tactics and chariots, far superior to anything seen in the Middle East. As a result, they ruled the roost for a long-time over all countries in that region. For a long time, western archeologists thought that Indians lacked horses and chariots and hence, were a primitive society. They were wrong. We got our horses from Bactria and made the best chariots in the world. This was substantiated during archeological digs in Sinauli in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh. Readers will recall that this was one of the five villages asked for by Lord Krishna from the Kauravas, prior to the war. Hence, this place has close ties with the Mahabharata war.
Sinauli was exceptionally exciting, because three chariots were discovered there inside a gravesite, found virtually intact. They were carbon dated as 2000 BCE.
Each chariot had two solid wheels (not spoked). The wheels rotated on a fixed axle linked by a shaft to the yoke. The chassis of the chariots were made of wood and covered with thick copper sheets. The wheels were decorated with triangles made of copper (fastened on the wheel with copper nails). The triangles were distributed in three concentric circles from the hub flange of the wheel. The seat seemed to be semi-circular. The frame of the seat was made of copper pipes. A pipe for the attachment of the umbrella was also visible. (Bakshi ).
Perhaps this was the world’s most advanced chariot of its time. Since this is 1000 years after the Kurukshetra war, it is possible, that the chariots that took part in that famous battlefield (3138 BCE) of Kurukshetra, were like this.
This also disproves one long-held theory in that the Indus civilization lacked chariots and horses. Therefore, it was a primitive civilization. Chariots and horses were supposed to have come from the Aryan invaders from Central Asia. Now we know that in fact, this was the most advanced civilization at that time.
The Indus-Valley civilization should rightly be called the Indus-Saraswati Civilization, considering that it was sustained and watered by not only the Indus but by that mightiest of India’s rivers the Saraswati. Today that river is no more and it had been confined to legends until now. Satellite surveys have revealed its dried-up watercourse and brought her back into history. We will discuss its travails in subsequent chapters.
The Saraswati river dried up around 2200 BCE. There were prolonged droughts for as much as 12 years. This forced people to move out of their ancestral lands. Droughts that lasted 12 years were forcing people to move out of their ancestral lands. This drying up of Saraswati started as early as 3160 BCE. The time of the Mahabharata war. Sri Krishna’s brother Balaram traveled extensively in this area instead of taking part in that war. He reported that in many places the Saraswati had become lakes.
Figure 1.10: Sinauli chariot. Circa 2000 BCE.
So where did the people migrate to? They migrated to Anatolia (Turkey) and had set up kingdoms of Hittite and Mitanni as shown in Figure 1.11. In fact, in parts of Turkey, Mitanni cuneiform tablets have been discovered (dated around 1380 BCE) with a few words in Vedic Sanskrit for lack of local words. All this says that unlike the western belief, the Aryan homeland was the Indus-Saraswati Civilization and not Central Asia or the Middle East.
Bakshi says that the traditional Armenian name for Mt. Ararat is Masis. It is named after the legendary Armenian King Amasya. Now the name Amasya is linguistically related to the name Amavasu, the Indian King spoken about in the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra, a Vedic text. The sutra stated that Amavasu’s people migrated westwards and that his people were Gandharas (Afghans), Parshus (Persians) and Arattas (people from around Mount Ararat, Turkey)
Major General G.D. Bakshi aptly summed it up:
A study of the Indian scriptures evidently seems to substantiate this Grand Westward movement of the Indo-Aryans around 2200 – 1900 BCE—the time an eco-catastrophe overtook the Sarasvati civilization and caused a gradual but complete desiccation of this once mighty river.
One can get a close insight into early humans in India. The place to go is Bhimbetka, in Raisen district, Madhya Pradesh about 45 km from the state capital, Bhopal. It is spread across seven hills and is full of naturally occurring rock shelters. There are lots of streams full of fish and plenty of fruit, tubers, and roots. There are plenty of prey animals as fauna and lots of quartz for tool making. It has been continuously occupied for 100,000 years and all the Homo species have lived there some time or the other, including Homo Sapiens, our ancestors. This place is famous for her petroglyphs dating back 10,000 years. The petroglyphs depict hunting scenes, pastoral scenes, and dancing. (See Figures 1.15 through 1.17 for pictures.).
The first settlers in Bhimbetka who were Homo Sapiens probably moved in some 80,000 years ago after the primitive hominids like Homo Erectus. They were wiped out by the Toba volcano explosion in Indonesia, in 74000 BCE. This was followed by a second group, 50,000 years ago. They constituted the early Indians and are our ancestors.
Figure 1.11: Mitanni empire in 1400 BCE. Hatti is the Hittite empire.
India experienced early development of cultures and civilizations. Since the Old Stone Age, several groups in India had migrated multiple times and made cultural adaptations to diverse eco-zones. Each group evolved its own culture responding to their living experience in each place, which eventually led to pluralistic beliefs and systems. From a life of foraging through nomadic pastoralism, the settlers in the Indus region reached a mature stage of living in the Bronze Age.