Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

I, Maha Sapta Sindhu

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I am Maha Sapta Sindhu, the Great River [comprised] of Seven Rivers. That is what I was called by the earliest ancestors of those of you who claim to be of Indo-Aryan origin. When they arrived here in my land four thousand years ago, the great cities that I had fathered were still living. Moen jo Daro and Harappa and several small satellites were peopled by the race that you in your parochial and mindless racism today list as the Scheduled or Untouchable castes. They were my real progeny; you adopted.
Mind, as they are my real children, so too does their blood run in your veins even when you insist on your pure Indo-Aryan ancestry. Never forget that your ancestors that you hold so dear as superior to my first-borns, did not come here to destroy my cities. They came to mix and adapt. Their gods Shiva, Hanuman and Ganesh are the same that my children worshipped ten thousand years ago. They wedded too, albeit rarely, my dark-skinned to create what you are today.

My children who built wonderful city states and traded with distant Mesopotamia as many as seven millenniums ago, called me by another name. for them I was Meluha, the giver of life and fertility. That is the name you will learn only when you one day decipher their script that so far oh so tantalises you. For the time being, suffice it to say that my original name was preserved in a boast of Sargon (2334-2279 BCE), the king of Akkad on the banks of the Euphrates.

He was, he bragged, the king of a land in whose ports the trading ships of distant Meluha called. For him it was a matter of pride to host my children when they went voyaging. Such then was the grandeur of my land and such the cultural refinement that the Mesopotamians prided their relationship with my children. Indeed, it was from them that the Westerners acquired many of their fine arts.

Then your second ancestors arrived in this great and wonderful land. They came by horseback in huge numbers with their felt tents and households carried on ox and horse-drawn wagons. Vast this multitude was and the followers straggled mile after mile behind their leaders. They were overwhelmed by what they saw. In their distant land of grassy, treeless steppes of midsummer snowstorms, there flowed only minor streams. Theirs was a land of lakes and their rivers, be it the Irtysh or the Ob; the Syr or the Vaksh, were but mere piddles that their caravans had easily waded across.

When they crossed the Suleman highlands and arrived on my banks, I was in the full glory of my summer spate. I spread across the land as far as their eye could see. Wordless, in utter awe, they stood by my flood wherein the mud-coloured eddies gurgled and mewed as living beings, sucking in the detritus I had gathered in the highlands.

Let me digress here a bit and reiterate that your Indo-Aryan ancestors were not the blood-thirsty savages you have so long imagined them to be. They did not destroy Moen jo Daro or Harappa. They were homesteaders looking for a land where their herds would fatten and where their mares foal regularly. They yet knew little of agriculture, but mine was the land that could feed that innumerable host.

They called me Sindhu. In their language, Sanskrit, it was as apt a name as could be for it meant ocean or great river. In a frenzy of joyous wonder, they sang hymns to me, hymns that were to be preserved two thousand years later in writing in their Rig Veda – literature that is surely the highest and most beautiful ever crafted by humans for it loses none of its splendour even in translation. ‘His roar is lifted up to heaven above the earth; he puts forth endless vigour with a flash of light, Like floods of rain that fall in thunder from the cloud, so Sindhu rushes on bellowing like a bull.’

Yet again in the selfsame hymn, unable to resolve if this mighty flowing torrent, the colour of coffee, is a woman or a man thing: ‘Flashing and whitely-gleaming in her mightiness, she moves along her ample volumes through the realms, Most active of the active, Sindhu, unrestrained, like to a dappled mare, beautiful, fair to see.’

Mark: Sindhu, unrestrained, like to a dappled mare, beautiful, fair to see. If that does not raise goose bumps and mist your eyes, you are as good as dead. You have not seen my splendour; you have never stood by my shores rapt; in awe in wonderment.

Such then was their reverence for me. But even before they arrived on my shores, they had passed through the valleys of the Krumu (Kurrum) and Shubhavastu (Swat) that pay tribute to me. And after I had permitted them to cross over when the summer floods abated, they learned of my other tributaries and realised that I was the Great River that absorbed seven other streams.

I, the adoptive father of the newcomers, took them in, letting them proliferate and prosper. From the name they gave me, I, in turn, gave a name to this wonderland of the subcontinent. But that is another story.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 14 June 2013 at 10:57, Anonymous Ali Raza Zaidi on FB said...

Agreed, but why ash layer found on last and lower layers of mound, I saw my own eyes at Bawanni, Talumba, Kasur and even at Harrapa, even at the back side of Pakpaatan Mound (Dakkhi). Sometimes I am thinking that burning the cities was brought here by Turks and Arabs, stories of burning the cites also belongs to Alexander.

At 14 June 2013 at 12:37, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

The ash that you mention comes from the early Middle Ages. That was the doing of the Huns under Tor Aman and his son Mehr Gul in the period between 490-520 CE.

At 18 June 2013 at 02:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice writing; however, there is no genetic or archaeological evidence for huge numbers of these second ancestors coming to this land. The ancestral north Indian gene pool has existed in the region since the Holocene. Linguistic relationships posit the existence of ancestors speaking these tongues, but they do not indicate where they arose or how many there were or whether they were different from the peoples of the Saraswati-Sindhu valley civilization. At the moment it is just as possible that these second ancestors spread out of the subcontinent to populate Persia and Europe. Also, while Shiva may have been worshiped by the peoples of the Saraswati-Sindhu civilization, Hanuman and Ganesh came about at a later time.

At 24 June 2013 at 23:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just don't understand when Vedas talks about Baluchistan as the origin. Why is it that you keep talking about later sites.
Please look up Mehrgarh which is much older than Indus Valley. Merhagarh timlines is 7000BCE to 2600 BCE.

Now they have found a bigger Indus site in Harayana so the whole narrative has to shift form Aryan invasion.
Aryan Invasion is based on the flaw of Indo-European Language and Proto Language. When they just traced it to Turkey where Farming started. So there was no invasion.

At 29 June 2013 at 02:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole discussion is very interesting. I recently read "Shiva Trilogy" a fiction work of Amish Tripathi, the first book named "Legends of Melhua" Does the narration in the book match with what you have come across. Can you please give more insight of 'Sapt Sindhu'

At 29 June 2013 at 12:48, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

I have not read Tripathi's trilogy therefore cannot comment on what he says. We have some inference that the Sindhu was called Meluhha by the ancient people of this land. Anything more on Sapta Sindhu is a separate article.


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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