“The plain of the river Indus (Sindhu) was a fertile land. Civilised life took shape there nearly 5,000 years ago. This is called Sindhu civilisation,” states the lesson titled ‘Our Ancient Cities’ of Class V, published by the Karnataka Textbook Society.

The next lesson titled ‘India of Vedic Times’ states: “Aryans were those people who had lived before five thousand years in the plains of the rivers Sindhu and Saraswathi.”

The Class V Social Science textbook, introduced this year, on the one hand, divides the Indus and Vedic periods into separate chapters. On the other hand, it suggests through these statements that they co-existed in the same period and in the same space.

Elsewhere in the lesson it is stated, in vague terms, that the “close relationship of Sindhu civilisation and Vedic civilisation could be clear” when presence of sacrificial fire-pits at Sindhu city sites are considered, without elaborating further.

Expert committee

Class V and VIII History syllabus had stirred up a hornet’s nest last year while it was being framed since it had elements perceived as an attempt at giving a “saffron” tint to the text by the BJP government. An expert committee was appointed to look into these objections and some changes made relating to the glaring omissions and commissions.

However, the collapsing of time and space of the Indus and Aryan periods of history had then not been pointed out.

Interestingly, in 2002, during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime at the Centre, an NCERT textbook titled ‘India and the World’ created a controversy for attempts to suggest that the Vedic and Harappan civilisations were the same in the chapter titled ‘Indian Civilisation-Harappan Civilisation’. This was opposed by several historians who saw it as a right-wing effort to establish Aryans as natives.

‘Desperate attempts’

Eminent historian Romila Thapar — who disputed the “Aryan invasion” theory, but argued that Aryans arrived in India from the Indo-Iranian border through a gradual migration — stated in an article in the journal Seminar in 2003: “Desperate attempts are being made to prove that the Vedic people and the Harappans were identical.”

Prof. Thapar said that “they [Aryans] are now being equated with the authors of the Indus civilisation, even though the Indus civilisation was pre-Aryan.” She says that “it was a mercantile culture focusing on many cities and artisanal production and trade, whereas the Vedic corpus depicts a cattle-keeping society unfamiliar with urban culture. The Vedic corpus is rich in its depiction of an agro-pastoral culture, but this is in no way the same as the urban sophistication of the Indus cities.”

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