The discovery of two more mounds in January at the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi in Hisar district, Haryana, has led to archaeologists establishing it as the biggest Harappan civilisation site. Until now, specialists in the Harappan civilisation had argued that Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan was the largest among the 2,000 Harappan sites known to exist in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The archaeological remains at Mohenjo-daro extend around 300 hectares. Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Ganweriwala (all in Pakistan) and Rakhigarhi and Dholavira (both in India) are ranked as the first to the fifth biggest Harappan sites.
“With the discovery of two additional mounds, the total area of the Rakhigarhi site will be 350 hectares,” asserted Professor Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor/Director, Deccan College Post-Graduate & Research Institute, a deemed-to-be university in Pune. The two mounds are in addition to the seven mounds already discovered at Rakhigarhi, about 160 km from New Delhi. The eighth and ninth mounds, spread over 25 hectares each, are situated to the east and west of the main site. Villagers have destroyed much of these two mounds for cultivation. A team of archaeology teachers and students of the Deccan College discovered them when they surveyed the site in January.
Dr. Shinde, a specialist in Harappan civilisation and Director of the current excavation at Rakhigarhi, called it “an important discovery.” He said: “Our discovery makes Rakhigarhi the biggest Harappan site, bigger than Mohenjo-daro. The two new mounds show that the Rakhigarhi site was quite extensive. They have the same material as the main site. So they are part of the main site. On the surface of mound nine, we noticed some burnt clay clots and circular furnaces, indicating this was the industrial area of the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi.”
Dr. Shinde had earlier led the excavations done by the Deccan College at the Harappan sites of Farmana, Girawad and Mitathal, all in Haryana.
On the surface of mound eight were found terracotta bangles, cakes, and pottery pieces, typical of the Harappan civilisation, said Nilesh P. Jadhav, Research Assistant, Department of Archaeology, Deccan College.
From January 10, the Deccan College team has excavated five trenches on the slope of the mound four and another trench in the burial mound numbered seven. The excavation in mound four has yielded a cornucopia of artefacts, including a seal and a potsherd, both inscribed with the Harappan script; potsherds painted with concentric circles, fish-net designs, wavy patterns, floral designs and geometric designs; terracotta animal figurines, cakes, hopscotches and shell bangles, all belonging to the Mature Harappan phase of the civilisation. The five trenches have revealed residential rooms, a bathroom with a soak jar, drainages, a hearth, a platform etc … The residential rooms were built with mud bricks. The complex revealed different structural phases, said Kanti Pawar, assistant professor, Department of Archaeology, Deccan College.
Much of the Harappan site at Rakhigarhi lies buried under the present-day village, with several hundreds of houses built on the archaeological remains. The villagers’ main occupation is cultivation of wheat and mustard, and rearing of buffaloes.
Making cow dung cakes is a flourishing industry. There is rampant encroachment on all the mounds despite the Archaeological Survey of India fencing them. Amarendra Nath of the ASI had excavated the Rakhigarhi site from 1997 to 2000.
An important problem about the Harappan civilisation is the origin of its culture, Dr. Shinde said. The Harappan civilisation had three phases: the early Harappan from circa 3,500 BCE to circa 2,600 BCE, the mature Harappan which lasted from circa 2,600 BCE to circa 2000 BCE, and the late Harappan from circa 2000 BCE to 1,600 BCE.
Dr. Shinde said: “It was earlier thought that the origin of the early Harappan phase took place in Sind, in present-day Pakistan, because many sites had not been discovered then. In the last ten years, we have discovered many sites in this part [Haryana] and there are at least five Harappan sites such as Kunal, Bhirrana, Farmana, Girawad and Mitathal, which are producing early dates and where the early Harappan phase could go back to 5000 BCE. We want to confirm it. Rakhigarhi is an ideal candidate to believe that the beginning of the Harappan civilisation took place in the Ghaggar basin in Haryana and it gradually grew from here. If we get the confirmation, it will be interesting because the origin would have taken place in the Ghaggar basin in India and slowly moved to the Indus valley. That is one of the important aims of our current excavation at Rakhigarhi.”