A 1998 article, by Padma Manian, on world history textbooks gives an idea of what we may have learned about the Indus Civilization in traditional courses, and debated areas:
"Harappans and Aryans: Old and New Perspectives of Ancient Indian History," by Padma Manian.
The History Teacher, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Nov., 1998), pp. 17-32.
Major CitiesAll the textbooks Manian examines mention the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, their urban features of ordered streets, sewers, citadels, granaries and the bath at Mohenjo-Daro, artifacts, including seals in a yet undeciphered language. Some authors mention the area of civilization was more than a million square kilometers. One author mentions another excavated city, Kalinagan, and most of the books mention the surrounding villages.
DatesMost date the Indus Valley civilization from 2500-1500 B.C., although there is an alternative, 3000-2000. The year 1500 is listed as the year of the Aryan (or Indo-Iranian) invasion.
Decline of the Indus Civilization
Some attribute the fall of the Indus civilization to the Aryans, destroyers and enslavers of the Indus people. Others say environmental changes caused the fall. Some say both.
Identification of the AryansThe books call the Aryans pastoral nomads. Their origins include grasslands of Eastern Europe/Western Asia, the Caspian Sea, Anatolia, and south-central Asia. The books also claim they came with cattle and some say they already had iron weapons, while others say they developed them in India. One claims they crossed the Himalayas in horse-drawn chariots.
Victory Over the Indigenous PeopleAll the textbooks assume the Aryans were victorious and regard the Vedas as written by these invaders.
- There are various interpretations of the caste system. In one, when the Aryans arrived on the scene there were already 3 castes in India. In another interpretation, the Aryans brought and imposed their own tripartite system. The dark-skinned people are generally considered the conquered people and the lighter skinned ones, the Aryans.
Problems With the Aryan Theory in the Typical Presentations
There are several problems with the components of the Aryan theory in the textbooks Manian cites:
ChronologyThe idea that Harappan civilization fell as a result of the arrival of the Aryans. Harappa had lost its urban character by 2000 B.C., 500 years before the Aryan arrival.
Traces of Harappa ElsewhereIndicators of refugees, including lustrous Red Ware, until about 1000 B.C. Refugees fled north-eastward; some residents east to the Gulf of Cambay.
Lack of Aryan TracesPainted Grey Ware pottery formerly attributed to the Aryans has not been found along their possible courses, but appears to be an outgrowth of earlier Indian styles.
LinguisticHistorical linguistic reasoning about the origin of the Aryans is faulty. (This is a complicated topic summarized by Kris Hirst.)
Nomad Status QuestionableArchaeologist Colin Renfrew denies that there is any evidence in the Rig Veda that Aryans were invaders or nomads.
Sarasvati ChronologySince the Rig Vedas refer to the Sarasvati as a large river, they must have been written before 1900 B.C., so the people mentioned in it must have already been there.