Akhnoor and Indus Valley Civilization

Sudershan Kumar, KAS

Indus Valley Civilization, Indus Civilization or Harappan Civilization are three names of one and the same civilization. Now it is established fact that this civilization is not limited to Indus Valley region as was supposed earlier. Therefore it is now thought to be more appropriate to call it the Harappan Civilization because Harappa is the first site, the excavation of which brought this civilization to light.
Harappa was excavated in 1921 and was followed by Mohanjodaro in 1922. Both these sites are now in Pakistan. Besides Mohanjodaro and Harappa, the remains of this civilization have been discovered at a number of places in Pakistan like Sindh (Chahnudaro, Jhukar), Baluchisthan (Nal, Kalat). In India, a ruined city was discovered at Lothal, Gujrat. Another buried city was excavated in Kalibangan in Ganganagar District of Rajasthan. In nutshell, the civilization was spread over a vast area in the Northwestern part of the Indian sub-continent, in parts of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchisthan, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and outlying areas of Western Uttar Pradesh, stretching from Ropar in Punjab to Bhagatrav in Gujarat and Sutkagendor in Baluchisthan to Alamgirpur in Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. According to the latest excavations the Northern most site of Harappan civilization is Manda, Akhnoor in Jammu & Kashmir and the southern most Diamabad in Maharashtra. Thus it can be concluded that the region in which sites of Harappan civilization have been found out is spread from Akhnoor in the north to mouth of river Narmada in the south and Bluchisthan in the west to Alamgirpur, Meerut in the east covering a length of almost 1600 km east-west and 1400 km north-south. The Harappan civilization covers an area of about 12,50,000 sq.km. The geographical expansion shows that in its spread, this civilization was most extensive of all ancient civilizations and bigger than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations.
Approximately, more than one thousand cities and settlements belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization have been discovered till date. These settlements are mostly located on river banks mainly in the general region of the Ghaggar and Indus Rivers and their tributaries. The artifacts discovered in these cities suggest a sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture. The concept of urban planning is also widely evident. There is also the existence of the first urban sanitation systems in the world. The sewerage and drainage system found in the each and every city of Indus Valley comes across as even more efficient than those in some areas today of the subcontinent. Dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms and protective walls have been found in almost all the cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. The earliest cities became integrated into an extensive urban culture and continued to dominate the region for at least 700 years, from 2600 to 1900 B.C. The peoples who built and ruled these cities belong to what archaeologists refer to as the Harappan Culture or Indus Civilization and evidence suggests that these city dwellers were traders or artisans, who lived with others belonging to the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. It was only in the 1920’s that the buried cities and villages of the Indus valley were recognized by archaeologists as representing an undiscovered civilization which was in fact one of the world’s first great urban civilizations. The discovery has pushed back the history of ancient India by approximately 1500 years. Supported by radio-carbon dating theory, its time has been calculated as 2300 BC – 1750 BC.
Amongst various Harappan cities and settlements discovered so far, Akhnoor is one of them and has been regarded as the northernmost point of this civilization.
Akhnoor lies about 30 Km to the north-west of Jammu on the Rajouri, Poonch road and connects to old historical route to Kashmir i.e. the Mughal Road which was established by Emperor Jehangir. This is a picturesque town with the river Chenab in the front and the rolling hills of the Shivaliks in the backdrop. Archaeological excavations carried out at various places in and around Akhnoor reveal that, Akhnoor was the last Harappan city from where the Harappans used to collect timber.
The Akhnoor fort which lies towards east of the town, on the bank of the Chenab river holds great significance and is extremely important for reconstruction of the past history. The fort was built by Raja Alam Singh in 1802. Work on the fort, actually began in 1762 at the behest of Raja Tegh Singh and was completed by his son Raja Alam Singh in 1802. This two-storeyed fort which is perched on a cliff overlooking river Chenab is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) since 1982 and has been declared a national monument protected under the Monument Act, 1958. There are two-storeyed watch-towers at corners. The fort also has an access through the river side. This fort, where excavation is still in progress in a phased manner, is perched upon an ancient site depicting three periods of history. The first period is represented by the Harappan red and grey earthenware that include jars, beakers and goblets. The second period is marked by the presence of early historic pottery and the third period is represented by Kushana objects and an impressive wall of rubble diaper masonry flanked on both sides by a 3-metre wide street.
Another important site from the archeological point of view is the ancient site of Manda. It lies on the right bank of Chenab in the Shivaliks foothills. It is believed that Harappans had reached Manda in the 4th century B.C. Their culture continued to evolve at Manda till 1st century B.C. Excavations were carried out here by ASI in 1977. Archeologists found Harappan and black-slipped ware as well as late Harappan red ware and plain grey-ware. Bangles and triangular tiles both made of terracotta, potshards with Harappan writings and bone arrow heads have also been found. Manda has already been mapped as the northern outpost of the Indus Valley Civilization. Besides the discovery of Harrapan red ware including jars, dishes stands etc. grey ware and black slipped ware, the proto-historic site at Manda has also proved the existence of the pottery remains of the Kushan period both incised and plain including terracotta figurines, bone arrow heads, iron daggers and copper antimony rods. These materials having cultural significance have also been discovered at various other places like Tikri, Guru Baba Ka Tibba, Jhiri, Jaffarchak, on the other side of the Chenab River which proved to be proto-historic sites with evidences of Buddhist-related antiquities also. These archaeological findings highlight the cultural development and evolution of Akhnoor from the Harrapan Age to the early Christian era.
The excavation done at Guru Baba Ka Tibba, a few kilometres from Akhnoor across the Chenab, yielded terracotta items of the Harappan period. ASI has also successfully excavated earthenware of the same period at Jaffarchak, also near the town. This has further strengthened the claim that Akhnoor and its surrounding areas was the last bastion of Harappans. Beyond Akhnoor, there has been no trace of any object that could show that Harappans were spread beyond this town.
On the basis of all these findings, Akhnoor has been accepted as one of the prominent centres of Harappan civilizations by the historians and the scholars. This has resulted in an extention of the hitherto known frontiers of Harappans as it is the first on the Chenab and also the first in the state. What is of still greater importance is the discovery at Akhnoor of a sequence of artifacts belonging to different periods from Harappa through Mouryans, Kushans and Gupta period. Akhnoor has perhaps become the most important place in the Jammu region if one goes by the historical and archaeological facts attached to the town.