The Indus Irony
The Indus. The Sindhu. The River which gave a country its name. The River which gave a religion its name. The River where the earliest recorded organised human settlements were created. The River around which the most ancient of all the Religious scriptures (in a sense) were written. A river that drains the Western Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Hindu Kush. A River than dumps twice the amount of water that the Nile does in into the Ocean.
In the most mystical of lands that it gives its name to, where Rivers and Mountains are worshipped, the Indus should have been the Deity number 1. But its not. It’s not even a Deity. It isn’t even sacred. So what happened ? Why did the Indus lose all its “religious” (deemed) significance ? I will try and give my view on that. Now if you are a particularly religious person I would suggest you stop reading and go on to the next Post.
Let’s go back to the Indus Valley civilization. The Indus Valley Civilization arose in the Indus and the Ghaggar Hakra (Saraswati) basin. The Sutlej at one time flowed into Ghaggar Hakra system and not into the Indus as it does today but scientists don’t agree on when actual change took place. It should be remembered that the Satluj is today the easternmost tributary of the of the Indus. This is where the most developed civilization of the ancient world developed. Permanent settlements, planned sanitation and the works. And this advanced civilization was called the Indus Valley Civilization. Of course like all civilizations it came to an end due to reasons we will not dwell into.
And then it was in North Western Pakistan, in the Indus basin, just as the Indus enters the plains down from the might Himalayas, that the most sacred of the Vedic scriptures (I’m deliberately not using the term Hindu as in my view these aren’t the same things in the religious sense though Hindu itself is a geographic term), the Rig Veda was composed. The main “Devas” were Indra, Soma and Agni. The main River mentioned was the Sapta Sindhu (The Indus and its seven tributaries). The main Gods of the “Hindu” pantheon as it is today were hardly even mentioned. The holiest of the holy, the Ganges just gets two passing references and that too in the later Hymns.
The Rig Veda, as those of you who ever tried giving it a go is quite an enigma. Many a times I have tried but failed unless we have an accompanying translation (transliteration works to a limited extent). Now translations unlike transliterations are not mathematical. It is more or less what it is the translators perceives a Hymn to be. So you have to rely on the Translator’s interpretation of it. But until and unless you master the language of the Rig Veda and read it for yourself the only tools available are translation and transliteration.
That being said the Rig Veda has a very wide latitude, it included Monotheism, Pantheism, Animism, Agnosticism even Atheism (as put by my friend of mine). Yes Athieism. In today’s world order of rigid Religious beliefs, it is remarkable that the Rig Veda even questioned the existence of God itself. Yes you heard me right. I quote Rig Veda Hymn 10:129 also called the Hymn of Creation (Just the last two stanzas). Make whatever you want of this
But, after all, who knows, and who can say
Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the Devas (gods) themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know.
The point I’m trying to make is that it was very different from the Hindu religion of today. Over a period of time the Vedic religion began to be codified into the Upanishads called the Vedanta. Religious rituals and hierarchies were created. The breathing space in which the Rig Veda was created started to get muzzled. And in a reaction to this there arose different schools of thoughts like Buddhism and Jainism (these were Godless religions) and these began to challenge the dogmas of what the Vedic religion had become. Of course the different Kings/ Kingdoms of that time also played favorites with the Rulers using Religion as a powerful political tool. a
And in turn the institutionalisation of the Vedic religion got even stronger and this was particularly true in the Gangetic basin. A shift happened. The epicenter shifted to the Gangetic plains with the evolution of Brahmanism. A new trinity of Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh came up. The Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati became the Holy Rivers. The Gods of the Rig Veda were all but forgotten and the same happened with the River of the Vedas, the mighty Indus. As it happened the Indus basin became a stronghold of Buddhism and that is from where Buddhism spread all around Asia. It made sense for the “Institutionalisers” of the religion to associate what was formerly the Vedic religion with Geographics to the East of the place where it originated. And slowly “the sense” of importance of the Indus was diluted over a period of time. All the focus was on the heartland River than the borderland River. We were told a certain River was more sacred than the other River though both of them performed exactly the same function like all Rivers.
And this I call the Indus Irony. It isn’t sacred. It’s not revered. It’s not worshipped. Not that it will make a difference.
It’s the mighty Indus. As mighty as the Mountains that it comes down from. It will keep flowing.
PS I just read this on Wiki : In November 2011, satellite images showed that the Indus river had re-entered India, feeding Great Rann of Kutch, Little Rann of Kutch and a lake near Ahmedabad known as Nal Sarovar.
Disclaimer : This is entirely my own personal theory. No disrespect is meant towards any religious belief or any river or any scripture. It is a linear mathematical study trying to establish the facts keeping out the “God’s will” factor. In the spirit of the Rig Veda Hymn 10:129