Dashrath Manjhi, Indus Valley Civilization and Dalit Heritage

Dashrath Manjhi, a dalit, who built a road single handedly through a rocky mountain with just a chisel and hammer by toiling 22 years, showed what dalits are made of and mental toughness they inherit. The peace loving and hardworking dalits had built Indus Valley Civilization some 5000 BC ago, which started experiencing decline with the arrival of barbaric and wicked Aryans nomad, who looted and gutted wherever they went.

Of course, the decline of Indus Valley Civilization was certainly not due to invasion by the heathen Aryans. But their arrival triggered a collapse of balance in the peaceful social life of the original inhabitants. The warring Aryans indulged in small scale invasions and looting of cattle and property when they started pushing into the territory of original inhabitants and even after settling down near modern day Punjab.

The Aryans have killed the talents of Dalits for centuries by subjecting them to their most brutal invention in world history – Caste system – which still goes unabated on various pockets of the country. The result of subjugation is devastating. Because of continuous subjugation, the genes of dalits not only have gone modification over centuries but they have also developed an inferiority complex, which restricts their thinking and emancipation from the chain of bondage. They are despised by the so-called upper castes (the mixed breeds possessing Aryan genes).

Time has come for Dalits to look back at their history and derive inspiration. They have a heritage unparalleled in the world. They must take inspiration from it and achieve unbelievable feet like Dasaratha Manjhi.

Ancient Dalit History and Heritage

Dalits and tribal before arrival of barbaric Aryans formed a homogenous stock of people and the South Asian subcontinent was their natural abode. Remarkable cave painting from Mesolithic sites dating from 3000 BC have been discovered in Bhimbetak, near present-day Bhopal, give glimpse of their life. These paintings depict animals like deer, boars, elephants, leopards, tigers, panthers, rhinoceroses, antelope, fish, frogs, lizards, squirrels and birds, which are home to South Asian region. One of the paintings even depicts a man walking a dog on a leash.

The Dalit civilization reached the nadir of zenith when our dalit forefathers founded Indus Valley Civilization. The civilization of Indus Valley extended over more than thousand sites, stretching over 750, 000 square miles. The population estimated to be around 50000 in these cities. Two biggest cities were Harappa and Mohenjodaro, situated 400 miles apart.

The IVC people even had a port city called Lothal and had trading relations with places like Crete, Sumer, Egypt and Central Asia. The Indus people used bricks for construction of houses. William Brunton, a British Engineer, who was tasked to build rail lines between Multan and Lahore, founds bricks belong IVC era.

Sir J. H. Marshall, who was director of Archeological Survey of India from 1902 to 1931 found many cubical terra-cotta dice with one to six dots at Mohenjodaro. A number of other dices have been discovered from various sites of IVC. This suggests that gambling was form of entrainment for our forefathers.

Our IVC forefathers were such visionary and such knowledgeable that they had huge wheat and barley storage system to meet unforeseen contingencies. The household and public drainage system had been superiors to other parts of the world. Most of the buildings were constructed from bricks. These bricks are either sun burned or kiln fired. They had even private bathrooms. The roads are carefully laid out in the same proportion and arranged as grid (north-south and east-west). The uniformities and styles of settlement across hundreds of miles clearly implies considerable and planning.

Our Indus Valley forefathers have domesticated various animals including dogs and it is very clear from the seals that have been discovered. They used Dravidian language.

They grew rice and other summer and monsoon crops. Barely and wheat were the major Indus crops. They were the first to use wheeled transport in the world. They spun, wove and dyed cotton; probably the first in the world. They ate meat and fish. They domesticated many tamed animals (camels, dogs, sheep, pigs, chickens, and goats; main paintings and scripts bear testimony to the fact.

They had special fondness for cleanliness and hygienic and it is evidenced from discovery of swimming pools, bathing tanks and great sewerage system. The very large swimming pool that was discovered in the citadel at Mohejno-Daro is approximately 40 feet by 23 feet and 8 feet deep. There were wide steps leading down to it. Cleanliness for them is next to godliness. The way they paid attention to sewage system suggests their hard-headed approach to hygiene.

IVC people were secular and had no state enforced religion. Worship of nature and evidence of cults have been found but they were strictly in the realm of personal sphere. No great temple of place of worship has been discovered in the IVC sites.

Finally, the great civilization ran its course because of host of reasons. The civilization may have gone but still it has left enough evidence for us to get a portrayal of the kind of life our proud forefathers lived.

Dalits Represent the Indigenous Tradition of India

Even we go by the modern day situations in India; it is not difficult to see a lifestyle that is different from the so-called lives of upper castes. Indian tradition can be divided into two parts: Vedic and non-Vedic. The Vedic tradition started only after arrival and settlement of Aryans in the subcontinents. The so-called minority upper castes are the part of this tradition. The non-Vedic is the real indigenous tradition of India, which has a hoary and great past. Dalits, tribal, OBCs (only the so-called shudra) religious minorities (converted from the first two) are the part of this great tradition. The distinction is not clear cut as in between India witnessed a great stream of migration from Europe and some parts of East Asia later on.

The word “Hindu” has been hijacked and made synonymous with Vedic tradition. The inclusion of people belonging to Non-Vedic tradition into Hindu mold has obliterated the identity of non-Vedic people. Non-Vedic people over centuries have been Hinduized covertly and overtly. Take the example of a tribal kid living in inaccessible area. He is worshipper of nature and doesn’t know anything about any Vedic Gods. When he is enrolled in school, he is given the tag of Hindu. The celebration of pujas(worship) of vedic Gods like Ganesh and Saraswati in school act as a process of Hindunization. This is what precisely happened to me.

We are in great need to  coin a new word and get new classification that truly represents our non-Vedic identity. Here is my schema of classification:

  1. Indigenous tradition: Dalits and Tribals
  2. Exogenous tradition: Vedic Hindus (includes Buddhists, Sikh and Jains), Muslims, Christians

This is a broad classification and certainly overlaps a lot in many aspects. For example, many dalits and tribal have been converted to Islam and Christianity though they belong to former tradition. The classification proposed above must be viewed in the context of Vedic Hindus’ attempt to subsume dalits and tribal and take over the indigenous tradition as their own. I will put a refined version of my theory in another blog post in future.

Anyway, it is right time that we realize our great past and asserts our own identity. This is very difficult no doubt but certainly not impossible. Each of us need to a person like Dasarath Manjhi who truly embodies a typical IVC person. How can we become like him? Of course by achieving something more than excellence in our chosen profession.

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