Category Archives: History

Who owns the land?

There are certain questions that evade clear answers; the question of the ownership of land is a similar one. Land is a part of the natural resources of the category of water and air, both of which don’t have clearly marked ownership. It is because of this ambiguity that different civilizations have looked at land in different manners. Some provided certain individuals with absolute private proprietorship rights while others kept the rights fluid. The Indian civilization belongs to the latter category.

There was a never a clear idea of the land being a private property in India. However there were certain theoretical notions about the sacrality and divine ownership of land which were sometimes different from ground realities.

The theoretical aspects of the land ownership involved the divine attributions and the kingly supervision on the basis of divine rhetoric of kingship. Through ancient and medieval ages in the Indian history these notions have time and again propped up. It can be safely said though, that whenever there was a centralised rule the theoretical aspect of king being the caretaker of the land on behalf of the Almighty was asserted. During times of decentralization this notion couldn’t have been asserted. However even during the times when divine authority over land was expounded, the practical realities remained different. The peasant or the local land tiller and holder on the ground exercised more immediate proprietary rights. However absolute proprietorship did not rest with any authority. The peasant held the land on the ground, the king held the right to extract revenue due to his divine association and due to the fact that he provided protection to the given piece of land.

 

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia

Ancient Period

For ancient India nature of land use has been divided into three types by scholars:

  1. The land being owned by the sovereign
  2. The land being communally owned by the village, these later developed as feudal centres
  3. The land being owned by the peasant

None of these however were applied exclusively to a piece of land and the major phenomenon was the King regulating and governing the land which was essentially under peasant proprietorship.

A brief look at the role of the ruler in managing the land would be helpful. In ancient India it was understood that the king had the right to confiscate and to transfer land from one person to another. This understanding is supported by a quote from the Arthashastra, which says ‘lands may be confiscated from those who do not cultivate them, and given to others’. In fact in the absence of the owner of land it went to the King. These two things can be used to conclude that the King is only the in-charge as long as there is no claimant to the land and that the propriety rights rested at local level. Junnar inscriptions has example of private transfers of land owned by individual proprietors

Counter to this narrative there is another interesting aspect that has been reported in Mimasa texts of ancient times. There the question ‘What can a man legally give as his own?’ comes up to which the answer is given that Land can not be transferred, for it belongs equally to all and men enjoy lordship over the fields but not the whole earth. The aspect of divine right  and protective custody over the land also can be made out from a reference in the Narasihtha Purana which states, ‘By conquest, the earth became the property of the holy Parasurama; by gift, the property of the sage Kasyapa; and committed by him to Ksatriyas for the sake of protection’.

Both the trends of thought, on suggesting divine authority over land and the other suggesting private proprietorship existed in ancient India. The King was allowed to manage and extract revenue by the virtue of him protecting the domain.

 

 Medieval Period

 In the Medieval period the theoretical aspect of divine attribute of land and king’s right to manage and protect it was properly formalised. Bernier and certain other European travellers call the king, the owner of the land, which is a wrongly placed notion, coming up due to their European understanding of land ownership. The Mughal Emperor was not the owner of the land but merely an in-charge. The European travellers misunderstood the Indian land system as they understood it to be like European feudal system where lord had absolute proprietorship rights.  The land in medieval Indian understanding truly belonged to God. The King didn’t take a rent on land from the people instead he took a tax on the crop. According to Abul Fazl, he did so only as remuneration for his services of providing protection and justice to the subjects. The concept of rent on an owned entity was completely absent in Indian scenario as was the case with the feudal Europe. The absence of any absolute authority over land can be made out from the fact that there was provision known as ihya land which was a piece of unclaimed fallow land which became the domain of anyone who cultivated it.

 

Having established this the ground realities were slightly different and despite his justified claims over the tax which made him de facto manager of the land of his domain, the king dare not disturb the local potentates who commanded ground level authority. Thus we see that it was more often than not that the local zamindars with roots and links with the peasants and workers on ground were incorporated in state machinery. Rajputs were not shifted from their homelands when they were inducted in the government services and were mostly assigned lands in their ancestral areas. The workers at the immediate ground level, muqaddams (village headmen) and patwaris (village accountant) were not state appointed but locally chosen. The local potentates like zamindars could even sell their zamindari rights. The same cannot be said about Iqta or Jagirdari rights, which bestowed economic and administrative authority over a piece of land given to a noble by the Emperor for a limited time.  In fact the developed system of Iqta or Jagirdari land grants had an inherent element of shifting where the authority over the resources of these lands was subjective to the King’s will.

 

Thus in Medieval era too there were notions of divinity associated with land and similarly there were certain proprietorship rights that could be exercised by private individuals on ground.

 

 Colonial Period

 This ancient and medieval understanding of land ownership changed with the coming of the colonizers. The British drastically changed the way of looking at land which till now was as an entity with fluid proprietorship with divine attributes and multiple claimants. They had the concept of feudal ownership in their minds where the feudal lord was considered the ultimate authority over land. And having seen that system they understood the Indian subcontinent’s land tenure to be of the same nature, and thus they claimed rent from the land and not taxes. The rent presupposes the notion of absolute ownership. On their arrival to the Indian subcontinent they couldn’t really identify the owner of land and the first thing they did was to assign an absolute owner of land and then extract the revenue. They auctioned the land on the basis of who can make the payment of revenue to the British government. Their extraction from the land became rigorous by the day because of the colonial parasitic nature.

The coming of concepts of western modernity where the state was supposed to be completely divorced from religious elements discounted all the notions of the divinity of land and it solely became a property of the private individuals. It is a version of this idea of land ownership that has come down to present.

Thus it can be said that the pre-modern concepts of ownership of land, did not divorce the land from the divine attribute that it had because of it being a natural and not a man-made entity. With the coming of the  ideas of western modernity to the Indian subcontinent in the form of colonial hegemony, the land now developed the nature of a property completely alienable,  devoid of its sacred nature.

 

 

Water aesthetics: Life around water structures in Medieval India

Water as a utilitarian and ritualistic element has been important throughout the history of the Indian subcontinent. Rgveda has associated water with the idea of creation and so has the Islamic doctrine.  This association of water with the divine attribute of creation in almost all the pre-modern civilizations seems to have been the result of the life sustaining quality of this natural element.  Apart from acquiring it from natural sources, civilizations have also succeeded in controlling, diverting and manipulating water. The architecture used in this process is called water architecture and in Indian context this architecture manifested in many building types including wells, step-wells (baolis), well houses, ponds, reservoirs, pools, tanks etc.

These water structures were not only spaces of utilitarian and economic activity but they also emerged as upholders of many socio-cultural aspects of public life like pleasure and entertainment. The architecture and the presence of the element of water made these structures visually appealing which must have been an important factor in the arrangements of pleasantries around them.

A Sultanate period baoli known as Ghandak ki Baoli in Mehrauli.

A Sultanate period baoli known as Ghandak ki Baoli in Mehrauli.

 

Social gatherings and parties:

There is a considerable information about the social gatherings that were organized around water architecture.  Ibn Batuta writing in the 14th century AD talks about Tank of Sultan Iltutmish at Delhi. He tells that it was the place on the western side of which were two built platforms. These platforms had stairs which led to the water of the tank and beside the platforms were domes containing seats for the people to sit and enjoy the view. These domes were the haven of pleasure and amusement seekers reports Ibn Batuta. Further in the centre of this tank was a great pavilion built of squared stones which was two storeys high. This structure could only be reached by boats when the tank was filled with water but at other times it could be walked to and inside the domed structure there used to live world renowned fakirs. This reference comments upon the nature of social gathering at such water structures and their public spirit. The other major tank at Delhi is also mentioned by Ibn Batuta, regarding which he writes that this Hauz-khas was larger than the Hauz of Iltutmish and on its sides were about forty domes and around it the musicians lived and performed and such was the significance of the presence of musicians there that the place had come to be known as Tarababad (House of musicians). This was a site of organization of a large market as well which was described to be one of the largest in the world. The space around the hauz was also marked by a number of mosques including the one congregational mosque and many smaller ones. In these mosques female and male reciters used to perform the tarawih prayers during the month of Ramazan and there were a considerable number of women who attended the prayers. These references hint upon the essence of public pleasantries as experienced in the vicinity of the visually relieving and physically soothing structure of a tank.

Hauz Khas, originally Hauz-i-Alai. (Source: Wikepedia)

Hauz Khas, originally Hauz-i-Alai. (Source: Wikepedia)

The pleasurable element associate with these tanks at Delhi seems to have survived till much later time. There is mention of this tank as a space for parties and gatherings during the Lodi period (16th century AD). A source reports that one of the nobles under Sultan Sikandar Lodi, Miyan Zabar-ud-Din used to spend 8 months of his year in Delhi. About his stay at Delhi it is said, “… he used to go on every Monday to the Hauz-i-Shamsi (Shamsi tank) along with his friends, among whom were included the scholars, Mashaikh, Sufis (Saints), poets, scientists, Qawals (singers) and musicians and held a party on its bank. He maintained a large kitchen from where victuals were freely distributed.” This reference acts as an important marker of the persistence of the nature of the pleasantries as was experienced around the Hauz of Delhi from Tughlaq to Lodi period. Further the presence of Jahaz Mahal on the bank of the Hauz-i-Shamsi with its clearly Lodi architectural features also asserts the continued occupation of the site and most probably it was this structure or a similar structure that must have been used by Miyan-Zabar-ud-Din for his extravagant parties.

A glimpse of public pleasantries along the water bodies can be had from a reference to a later Mughal Shahjahanabad. It is informed that the bank of dariya (river/ lake) was an important space of gathering of the crowd and of performers for showing off their skills.

Jahaz Mahal, a Lodi period water pavilion on the tank Hauz-i-Shamsi

Jahaz Mahal, a Lodi period water pavilion on the tank Hauz-i-Shamsi

 

 

Sports and Hunting:

Apart from the parties, performances and public gathering that went on in the vicinity of the water structures, they were also sites where the sport of hunting could be pursued. This pursuit could be made both by the royals and by the common travelers. It is significant to note that when passing through the country of Champarin, Peter Mundy came across two large tanks which were lying on the outskirts of the establishments he visited. He informs that there was abundance of fowl in both these tanks and when they stopped by them on their journey, they did manage to kill some of these fowls. Not only did the fowling take place in such structures but there was scope for fishing as well which was an important activity undertaken. Mention can be made here of a town which is called by Peter Mundy as Puttatalaw (Patthar-talao, Patari), it is said that by the side of this town was a Large Tank where the king used to stop by on his journey from Agra to Burhanpur. And it was in this tank that the Emperor enjoyed the sport of fowling and fishing. The lake under the city of Fatehpur Sikri is reported to have a store of fishes as well.

The water aesthetics along with public gathering, music, food, sport and parties present an interesting picture of public pleasure as was experienced around water structures.

A Sultanate period baoli at R.K. Puram Delhi

A Sultanate period baoli at R.K. Puram Delhi

 

 

Women and water architecture:

On the front of gender these spaces became domains of female expression and also acted as sites of gender interactions. The public nature of the spaces made these interactions discreet. Anecdotes mentioned in Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi , an important source of Afghan history, mentions many stories of forbidden love and most of them unfold in the theater of water structures. One of these stories takes place at the site of a well at Bhogaon, which was the stronghold of Rai Pratap the Rajput chief during the reign of Sultan Bahlul Lodi. It is reported that there was a girl who was drawing water from this well and a student who was passing by the place stopped by to have some water. On looking at this beautiful girl the student was captivated by her beauty and fell in love and refused to take water to drink from any other women who were present there but this woman. She agreed to give him water but got irritate because of the fact that he couldn’t drink water and continued to stare at her face, this made the woman angry and she asked him to jump in to the well. The lovestruck man soon jumped into the well and ended his life. There are more such anecdotes reported.  Ovington, a traveler in Mughal India gives a detailed analyses of the ornamentation and beauty of the Bania women who used to come to collect water from the well. He writes about their gold rings, bracelets and anklets which they show off when they go to collect water. These women might have come to well to collect water and gossip with the other women but they also were visible and accessible in these public spaces. These references  suggest that the public water structures were spaces of interaction of genders and of discreet, forbidden love in addition to being sites of regular mundane life activities.

Water spaces of medieval times then can be understood to have been lively places of much public activity, party and other pleasures and pleasantries. They also sometimes acted as means of subversion of social norms regarding gender.

What did the Mughals eat?

While most of the historical narratives give detailed information about political developments under the Mughal Empire, there are certain aspects that have not been much touched upon regarding the Mughal past, Mughal eating habit is one of such topic.

In this article, we try to partly answer the question: What did the Mughals eat, with the help of information contained in an important Mughal source, Zakhiratul Khwanin.  This work forms an important source for understanding and reconstructing certain socio-cultural aspects of the Mughal Empire.  It is a biographical dictionary of Mughal nobles and forms part of Biographical Literature (Rijal).  It covers a range of nobles from Akbar’s reign to that of Shah Jahaan’s, till 1651 (A.H. 1061), when the work was completed.  Its author is Shaikh Farid Bhakkari who had joined Mughal service sometime before 1592, and having served under several important nobles retired after 1649.

Farid Bhakkari refers to various kinds of eatables laid out during feasts and special occasions and also the kinds which were consumed on a day to day basis. Mention is also found of the cultural underpinnings of the Mughal Nobility where pan, opium and wine appear to be an important part of the Mughal culture.

 

Babur feasting at Kohat, Baburnama, fol. 137r, AD 1597. National Museum, New Delhi.

Babur feasting at Kohat, Baburnama, fol. 137r, AD 1597. National Museum, New Delhi.

Mughal Feasts

It has been informed that Said Khan Chaghata, an important amir (noble) of Akbar’s time who used to organize for the first twelve days of the month of Rabiul Awwal , the death/birth  anniversary of the Prophet dinners of  lavish nature. In these feasts each person was served a meal of nine shirmal loaves and nine trays of dishes as well as a packet of five seers of sweets, wrapped in white cloth with velvet outer cover, to be taken home. There are also references in Zakhiratul Khwanin to other kinds of feasts which were held in the Mughal society amongst these the commemoration (urs) celebrations appear an important occasion for holding feasts. Feasts were also organized by nobles on special orders of the Emperor. Farid Bhakkari informs us of one such feast held on the orders of Akbar by Abul Fazl for Khudawand Khan Dakani, who used to hold a high position in the Nizamul Mulk regime of Ahmadnagar and had risen to a mansab of 3000 under Akbar. In this feast in front of each of Khudawand Khan’s servants nine trays of dishes and one roasted sheep with one hundred loaves were served, while in front of Khudawand Khan, various dishes like roast of fat fowl, partridge, titar (fowl), leafy vegetables (sag) and curries were laid. Farid Bhakkari also mentions that regarding this dinner Akbar said that ‘in India there is no feast more honourable and more elaborate than this.’

 

Daily Cuisine of Mughals

From Zakhiratul Khwanin we also come to know of the daily cuisine of the nobles. For Example  Farid Bhakkari mentions the food consumed by Nawwab Islam Khan Fathpuri, foster brother of Jahangir and governor of Orissa and Bengal, who took millet(jowar and bajra) bread, vegetables or spinach (sag) and dry rice (bhat) of the variety called sathi. Mention of food consumption by Mahabat Khan, an important noble under Jahangir and Shah Jahan, shows how elaborate the daily meals of nobles were. Mahabat Khan’s one-time meal consisted of two trays of pulao (fried rice cooked with meat), two trays of khishka (fried rice) made of  kamod rice, thirteen seers of melted butter, two trays of rice-khichri and two trays of millet-khichri  and a seer and a half sugar and a dish of meat, spinach (sag) and vegetable curry (salan). One very interesting observation that comes up from reading the text is that khichri figured as an important element in Mughal eating habit. We find a number of examples in the text, one of them being the khichri that was cooked the entire day in Abul Fazl’s establishment during the Deccan Expedition. Among the common dishes mentioned by Farid Bhakkari we also find reference to dal, for which hing was used as a frying condiment.

 

Pan, Wine and Opium

In addition it appears that certain edibles formed an important part of Mughal cultural life; a number of references in Zakhiratul Khwanin are made to pan, wine and opium consumption which must have become symbols of high cultural life of Mughal society. Itiqad Khan Mirza Shahpur, son of Itimadud-Daula, who was considered a person of the most refined taste in India, had a liking of pan and Farid Bhakkari informs that for him kangiri pan were sent from Burhanpur. Pan as an important element of eating habit of Mughal nobles is also reflected in the incidence where Raja Man Singh proposed paying the Muslim nobles money equivalent to a pan-leaf every day as a compensation for him not being able to dine with them due to his caste. Thus pan appears an important element of consumption by the nobility. There are also a number of references to wine drinking by nobles in Zakhiratul Khwanin, Farid Bhakkari mentions the tempting wine parties of Nawwab Mirza Ghazi Baig Tarkhan, a noble of Jahangir. According to Shaikh Farid these parties were held in such a way that if a hundred year old ascetic would have passed by, even he would have forsaken prayer and fast to join this assembly. From the account of nobles mentioned by Farid Bhakkari it appears that Mughal Emperor had elaborate arrangements for wine drinking, with certain timings fixed for it. Wine and wine drinking also appear to have ceremonial significance, Khan Jahan Lodi was offered the cup of Ram-rangi wine by Jahangir before any other grandees, this, Shaikh Farid informs us, was an expression of the favours enjoyed by Khan Jahan Lodi.

Another element which we find considerable mention of in Zakhiratul Khwanin, is opium. Quite a few nobles are mentioned to be addicted to this intoxicant. Examples of this can be  Mirza Ali, an important noble of Akbar, who was addicted to opium and Safdar Khan who was sent as an envoy to the King of  Iran during Shah Jahan’s reign, was offered poppy fruit by Shah Safi, and eventually formed a habit of taking opium.

 

These references to not only the daily food habits of Mughal nobility but to the food served during feasts and the intoxicating edibles like opium and wine help us develop an idea of how the life of the Mughals were in context of food and hunger. The preference given to khichri by Mughals and their love for wine are points of interest.

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The Faqir who Read Half the Kalma

The complex of the Jama Masjid, Delhi, a symbol of one of the most glorious times witnessed by the Indian civilization houses the grave of a heretic. The alleged Jewish priest who read half the qalma and got executed by Aurangzeb, the alleged Muslim bigot, Sa’id Sarmad, lies beneath the sacred earth of the great congregational mosque, listening to and crying at, the enormous amount of  pain and prayers hurled at him every day, coming from all faiths and none. Saint Sarmad is remembered as one of the intellectual companions of another heretic, Dara Shikoh, the could-have-been philosopher king of India. Though it is well known that Dara had serious leanings towards comparative study in religions yet what is little known is that a Jewish priest who went about naked had a role in the formation of his intellectual imagination.

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It is claimed by scholars that Sarmad was an atheist and agnostic of sorts who didn’t believe in God and went about naked dismantling the social set up of his times. Ones’ mind wanders to what the “Saint” would have felt at being classified with atheists and at becoming the object of being prayed at and to, the collection of his verses which are known to the world by the name of Rubaiyat-i-Sarmad (1949) gives a slight peek into the working of the mind of this intriguing man. To stay true to the spirit of the time, it would be unjust to take his words literally when Sarmad claims to be a Sufi, a Catholic priest, a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and a Muslim at the same time. This might also suggest that the man belonged to all religions and none. And it can be agreed too that the naked fakir was a critical thinker of the highest order. He, when presented before the court of the newly enthroned Aurangzeb, and asked to read the Kalma to save his life, read half of it. La Ilaha, meaning, there is no god. And left it at that and when further questioned about it he claimed that he had till then reached only that stage of knowing god that he knows none and once he knows It he would recite the entire Kalma. This kind of critical spirit was the most dangerous weapon that could have existed, and it still is the most dangerous one to those who want to maintain the status quo and who feed off the ignorance of the minds of the people, be it the political establishment or the religious superstructures, nothing troubles them more than a man who could dare to think on his own without intermediaries. Thus execution of Sarmad was necessary. It would be unjust to not mention how Sarmad writes about his relation with God, his attitude towards God, seems definitely of the order of one of a Sufi in real search of truth, he claims that his poor heart desires nothing but union with the God. But his idea of God, wasn’t the idea that was being shoved down his throat by the orthodoxy.

On reading Sarmad it clearly surfaces that his battle was with the great bearded obnoxious orthodox Mullas who had caused the decay of the innocent minds, he says it clearly, “He who understands the secrets of the Truth, became vaster than the vast heaven; Mulla says, Ahmad went to heaven; Sarmad says, ‘Nay heaven came down to Ahmad”’. In these verses, giving his apparently heretical remark about the contested issue of Prophet Muhammad’s Miraj, he clearly seems disillusioned from the Mullas who do not really as much worry to seek the truth but to gain on their personal level from political establishment and the common ignorant folks.

He also comes close to the stand of Mansur Al Hallaj’s ‘I am the truth’ (An’al Haq) in his quest, he claims, that if your faith is pure than the entire world would be in your control. Thus execution of Sarmad becomes even more necessary than had been the execution of Mansur Al Hallaj, the 10th century mystic who was killed on the grounds that he claimed himself to be the God, because the latter had already found the answer, An’al Haq, and that answer didn’t match the established idea of truth, with Sarmad however the issue is even more dangerous he hadn’t found the truth, he was looking for it. He was looking for answers to believe in the remaining half of the Qalma and that was to come through, through a critical evaluation of every established structure around him, including the political one.

Thus for the survival of the establishment, Sarmad had to die and he was executed in 1660. Sarmad died a death where he was lost also because of the meager amount of information left behind about him; his ideas have been lately rediscovered and rethought about.

The question whether Sarmad was an example of a Saint which wanted to find the God and Truth in it through his own way or if he was a heretic anarchist who aimed at disrupting the established social and political order is a question that needs to be asked, thought and rethought again and again till one can come to a conclusion, but there are serious reasons to believe that he was a man who had had enough of the religious and even spiritual deterioration that had set in during the 17th century India and that is why though he speaks more or less the same things that the great sufi mystics of earlier times say yet he leaves no reason to be associated with them, he claims, “Whether an ascetic or anything else, I’m concerned with the Beloved only(God); Really I have no business with rosary or sacred thread. This woollen cloak (suf) which conceals hundreds of evils under it, I shall never put it on, as it is a disgrace”.

To sum up it needs to be said in defense of the saint who read half the Kalma that his actions were probably motivated by the most serious issue that ruins any society, the decay and rotting of its intellectual class. Sarmad was probably closer to the true idea of God than the idea the people who killed him had, people who killed him claiming he believed in none.

NIO discovers world’s first ancient settlement destroyed by tsunami

Marine archaeologists on Monday claimed to have discovered the world’s first ancient urban settlement, which could have been destroyed by a tsunami.dholavira map

Addressing a press conference here, National Institute of Oceanography Director S.W.A. Naqvi said that the archaeological site of Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, which was a well-planned urban settlement then, was destroyed by a tsunami around 3,450 years ago.

“This is the oldest site known to the world which we believe was hit by a tsunami,” he said.

Dholavira is a site of an ancient metropolitan town of the Harappan period and was known as the largest port-town of the Harappans which flourished around 5,000 years ago, until the tsunami destroyed it 3,450 years ago.

Dholavira, the second largest Harappan site located within the present borders of India, comprises three parts including a castle, the middle town and the lower town. A

“A unique feature of Dholavira is the presence of a 14-18 meters thick wall, apparently built as a protective measure against tsunamis,” said Rajiv Nigam, a lead scientist at the NIO.

Oldest human bone discovered in Tabuk

RIYADH: A joint research team comprising Saudi archaeologists and experts from Oxford University discovered the oldest human bone during an excavation at Tayma in Tabuk, a large oasis in the Nafud Desert with a long history of settlement.Tabuk
The bone found is the middle part of the middle finger of a human being who lived 90,000 years ago, the oldest human trace found to date in the Arabian Peninsula, an official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) said. The announcement about the finding was recently made by SCTNH President Prince Sultan bin Salman during a speech at the Académie des Beaux-Arts (French Academy of Fine Arts), Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News, reported.
According to the SCTNH, this archaeological finding is an important phase in research and excavation being carried out by the authorities with the help of the joint team that comprises experts from Oxford University, King Saud University, King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Saudi Geological Survey, University of Hail and Saudi Aramco.
It is indeed an important achievement for the Saudi researchers and also an important outcome of Prince Sultan’s support and care for the archaeological sector in the Kingdom, the SCTNH said.
The project is part of the Green Arabia Project, which is a Saudi-British unddertaking for survey and excavation to implement environmental and archaeological studies of many historical sites in the Kingdom.
The project is being carried out by the SCTNH and the University of Oxford and its implementation will take five years (2012-2017) with the objective to study the likelihoods of expansion or extinction of humans and animals and their adaptation to living conditions. This joint project has led to many other significant discoveries of animals and mammal fossils in the Saudi deserts including a giant 300,000-year-old elephant tusk belonging to an extinct species of elephant from the Nafud Desert suggesting a greener, wetter Arabian desert in the past. An elephant’s carpal bone, located five meters from the pieces of tusk, was also discovered from the same sand layer at the excavation site in the Nafud Desert.

A new study indicates that the Ancient Indus Valley Civilization is around 8,000 years old and predates Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian by thousands of years.

A new study indicates that the Indus Valley civilization predates the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilization.

Indus-Valley-Civilization-1024x640Based on a new study, researchers have come to the conclusion that the ancient Indus Valley civilization –best known for their well-planed cities—is around 8000 years old predating Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamian civilizations

The Indus Valley Civilization has already been considered by researchers as one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, but it turns out they date further back then scientists previously believed.

While many people around the globe consider the Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian civilization as one of the most complex civilization to have developed in the distant past, the truth is that the Indus Valley Civilization might predate them by some 2,500 years.

But not only does the new study reveal fascinating details about this ancient civilization, but it also sheds light on why the flourishing ancient civilization eventually collapsed.

In order to come to this conclusion, researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Institute of Archaeology, Deccan College Pune, and IIT Kharagpur gathered a number of pottery fragments and animal bones from Bhirrana in the north of the country and submitted the items to carbon dating.

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Researchers also used ‘optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) method’ to see whether or not climate change could be responsible for the eventual fall of the Indus Valley civilization.

‘Based on radiocarbon ages from different trenches and levels the settlement at Bhirrana has been inferred to be the oldest (>9 ka BP) in the Indian sub-continent,’ the experts wrote in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal.

While there are still a number of tests required, the new study clearly indicates that the Indus Valley civilization predates the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilization, which were also considered extremely sophisticated architects and engineers.

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Researchers believed that civilization spread across parts f modern-day Pakistan and northwestern India during the Peak of the Bronze age when a staggering five million people inhabited one million square miles along ancient citadels erected at the basin of the Indus River.

Thanks to the number of artifacts and pottery fragments recovered from several ancient sites, researchers found out that ancient people were extremely skilled craftsmen and metallurgists with advanced knowledge of metallurgy that allowed them to work copper, bronze, lead and tin with ease. Thousands of years ago, people mastered brick-backing techniques which allowed them to control the supply and drainage of water.indus-boat-tablet_0

‘Our study pushes back the antiquity to as old as 8th millennium before present and will have major implications on the evolution of human settlements in Indian sub-continent,’ said Anindya Sarkar, a professor at the department of geology and geophysics at IIT Kharagpur, in an interview with International Business Times.

Further evidence discovered at ancient sites such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro prove that ancient people were adept town planners, engineers, and farmers.

Interestingly, Mohenjo-Daro was one of the most important cities of South Asia and the Indus Civilization together with Harappa, which was one of the first and most important ancient settlements of the world.

According to some researchers, densely populated Mohenjo-Daro was destroyed nearly instantly over 2000 years ago by a huge explosion which, according to ancient alien theorists and other researchers, was caused by the detonation of a nuclear bomb. It is estimated that at its peak, Mohenjo-Daro was inhabited by 40,00 inhabitants even though some scholars have come up with a much larger number saying that it was inhabited by over 100,000 inhabitants in the past.

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The Collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization

In the past, researchers thought that one of the main factors that lead to the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization was climate change and the eventual decrease in water levels of the Indus River. However, this might not have been the cause after all.

‘Our study suggests that the climate was probably not the cause of Harappan decline,’ researchers wrote.

While there is evidence of different weather patterns in the distant past, there is evidence at Bhirrana, which suggests that people continued to survive despite changing weather patterns.

 

‘Increasing evidence suggests that these people shifted their crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley during the early part of intensified monsoon to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice in the later part of declining monsoon and thereby changed their subsistence strategy,’ added researchers in their study.

What probably caused the demise of ancient metropolises was the change in crops harvested by people thousands of years ago. Deurbanization of major ancient sites were caused due to the lack of large food storage facilities. People decided to swap to personal storage spaces

which allowed families to be taken care of.

‘Because these later crops generally have much lower yield, the organized large storage system of mature Harappan period was abandoned giving rise to smaller more individual household based crop processing and storage system and could act as a catalyst for the de-urbanisation of the Harappan civilization rather than an abrupt collapse,’ the team concluded.

The acquisition is symbolic of the rise of Dalits and the fall of Muslims in India. That’s how Sadia Dehlvi, the writer who was born in the Shama Ghar in 1957, describes it.

Shama Ghar  – Sardar Patel Marg a street occupied by the Delhi’s powerful elite Now owned by Mayawati of BSP. Shama Ghar — named after the Urdu magazine Shama that its previous owners published — that occupied the corner spot on the famed road.

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Outside, in his little paan and bidi shop, Mohammed Sultan recalls the transformation. Running the shop from the same spot for 25 years, he has seen it all — celebrities like Meena Kumari, Nargis and other Bollywood actors who filtered in and out of the famous landmark building that was also once referred to as Delhi’s Taj Mahal, the numerous mushaira sessions and parties in those days, and then the packing and moving, the demolition, and the trumpet of the elephant. Sultan lived in the help’s quarters those days. “It was a beautiful white house. It was painful for the family to sell it. I have never seen any of the members come back again,” he said.

The acquisition is symbolic of the rise of Dalits and the fall of Muslims in India. That’s how Sadia Dehlvi, the writer who was born in the Shama Ghar in 1957, describes it.

Her father Yusuf Dehlvi owned the house, but had to sell it to the BSP around 2002 after he fell on hard times and the Urdu film magazine, Shama, brought out by Shama Publishing House, was no longer a profitable venture. The glorious tradition of a house that was a culture hub ended in 1987 when there was a rift in the family and its fortunes took a beating. It’s a hard subject for her to revisit. She hasn’t even crossed the street since the house was sold.

“Life has to go on. Nobody in the family wants to talk about it. I will say one thing. The house has been lucky for Mayawati,” said Dehlvi. “You have to respect her as a woman who came from nowhere. It is a symbol of social mobility.” “Dalits have done better. They have moved one notch up,” she said.

There are rumours that the house was sold for Rs 22 crore. While Dehlvi said she could not confirm the figure as she wasn’t part of the negotiations, she added it was sold for “very little.” “Mayawati has struck gold with it,” Dehlvi said.

 

 

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

Plans for a corridor stretching from the Chinese border to Pakistan’s deep water ports on the Arabian Sea date back to the 1950s, and motivated construction of the Karakoram Highway beginning in 1959. Chinese interest in Pakistan’s deep-water harbour at Gwadar had been rekindled by 2000, and in 2002 China began construction at Gwadar port which was completed in 2006. Expansion of Gwadar Port then ceased thereafter owing to political instability in Pakistan following the fall of General Pervez Musharraf.A-rock-near-Pishkun-Balochistan

The current form of the project was first proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Nawaz Sharif on 22 May 2013 in Islamabad, resulting in the establishment of The Pak-China Economic Corridor Secretariat on 27 August 2013.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)  is a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of $46 billion which is intended to rapidly expand and upgrade Pakistani infrastructure, as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China. The corridor is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative, and is considered central to China Pakistan relations.IMG_0176

While economic opportunities and development will largely benefit Pakistan, CPEC’s importance to China’s geopolitical and economic goals is reflected by the inclusion of the project as part of China’s 13th five-year development plan. Should all the planned projects be implemented, the value of those projects would be equal to all foreign direct investment in Pakistan since 1970,  and would be equivalent to 17% of Pakistan’s 2015 gross domestic product. Pakistan estimates the corridor project will create some 700,000 direct jobs between 2015–2030 and add up to 2.5 percentage points to the country’s growth rate.

Infrastructure projects under the aegis of CPEC will span the length and breadth of Pakistan, and will eventually link the Pakistani city of Gwadar in southwestern to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways.  Proposed infrastructure projects are worth approximately $11 billion, and will be financed by heavily-subsidized concessionary loans at an interest rate of 1.6% that will be dispersed to the Government of Pakistan by the Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.Makran-Coastal-Highway-Project

As part of infrastructure projects worth approximately $11 billion, an 1,100 kilometre long motorway will be constructed between the cities of Karachi and Lahore, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 kilometres per hour by December 2019. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. A network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will also be laid as part of the project, including a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to transport gas from Iran.

Over $33 billion worth of energy infrastructure will be constructed by private consortia to help alleviate Pakistan’s chronic energy shortages, which regularly amount to over 4,500MW, and have shed an estimated 2-2.5% off Pakistan’s annual GDP. With approximately $33 billion expected to be invested in energy sector projects, power generation assumes an important role in the CPEC project. Over 10,400MW of energy generating capacity is to be developed between 2018 and 2020 as part of the corridor’s fast-tracked “Early Harvest” projects. Projects in Gwadar Port and City.Golden Ark Highway

Gwadar Port has been partially operational since 2007.
Gwadar forms the crux of the CPEC project, as it is envisaged to be the link between China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project, and its Maritime Silk Road project. In total, more than $1 billion worth of projects are to be developed around the port of Gwadar by December 2017.

Project financing

Loans to the Pakistani Government

Approximately $11 billion worth of infrastructure projects being developed by the Pakistani government will be financed by concessionary loans, with interest rates of 1.6%, after Pakistan successfully lobbied the Chinese government to reduce interest rates from an initial 3%.The loans are subsidised by the government of China, and are to be dispersed by the Exim Bank of China and the China Development Bank. For comparison, loans for previous Pakistani infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank carried an interest rate between 5% and 8.5%, while interest rates on market loans approach 12%.

The loan money would be used to finance projects which are planned and executed by the Pakistani government. Portions of the approximately $6.6 billion Karachi–Lahore Motorway are already under construction. The $2.5 billion phase which will connect the city of Multan to the city of Sukkur over a distance of 387 kilometres has also been approved, with 90% of costs to be financed by the Chinese government at 1.6% interest rates, while the remaining 10% is to be financed by the Public Sector Development Programme of the Pakistani government.

The 487 kilometre portion of the Northern Alignment between Burhan and Raikot will be reconstructed at a cost of $920 million, and will be financed by the China Development Bank.

The long-planned 27.1 km long $1.6 billion Orange Line of the Lahore Metro is regarded as a commercial project project, and does not qualify for the Exim Bank’s 1.6% interest rate. It will instead by financed at a 2.4% interest rate after China agreed to reduce interest rates from an originally planned rate of 3.4%.

The $44 million Cross Border Optic Fiber Project, a 1,300 km long fibre optic wire connecting Pakistan and China, will be constructed using concessionary loans at an interest rate of 2%, rather than the 1.6% rate applied to other projects.

Special interest-free loans for Gwadar

The government of China in August 2015 announced that concessionary loans for several projects in Gwadar totalling $757 million would be converted 0% interest loans. The projects which are now to financed by the 0% interest loans include: the construction of the $140 million Eastbay Expressway project, installation of breakwaters in Gwadar which will cost $130 million, a $360 million coal power plant in Gwadar, a $27 million project to dredge berths in Gwadar harbour, and a $100 million 300-bed hospital in Gwadar. Pakistan will only repay the principle on these loans.

In September 2015, the government of China also announced that the $230 million Gwadar International Airport project would no longer be financed by loans, but would instead be constructed by grants which the government of Pakistan will not be required to repay.

Loans to private consortia

$15.5 billion worth of energy projects are to be constructed by joint Chinese-Pakistani firms, rather than by the governments of either China or Pakistan. The Exim Bank of China will finance those investments at 5–6% interest rates, while the government of Pakistan will be contractually obliged to purchase electricity from those firms at pre-negotiated rates.

As an example, the 1,223MW Balloki Power Plant does not fall under the concessionary loan rate of 1.6%, as the project is not being developed by the Pakistani government. Instead, it is considered to be a private sector investment as its construction will be undertaken by a consortium of Harbin Electric and Habib Rafiq Limited after they successfully bid against international competitors. Chinese state-owned banks will provide loans to the consortium that are subsidised by the Chinese government. In the case of the Balloki Power Plant, state-owned banks will finance the project at an interest rate of 5%, while the Pakistani government will purchase electricity at the lowest bid rate of 7.973 cents per unit.

Asian Development Bank assistance

While the E-35 expressway is considered to be a crucial part of the route between Gwadar and China, the E35 will not be financed by CPEC funds. The project will instead be financed by the Asian Development Bank.

The N70 project is not officially a part of CPEC but will connect the CPEC’s Western Alignment to the Karachi-Lahore Motorway at Multan. The project will be financed as part of a $195 million package by the Asian Development Bank announced in May 2015 to upgrade the N70 National Highway and N50 National Highway. In January 2016, The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development announced a $72.4 million grant to Pakistan for roadway improvements in the province of Balochistan, thereby reducing the total Asian Development Bank loan from $195 million to $122.6 million.

The M-4 Motorway between Faisalabad and Multan is not to be financed by the Chinese government as part of CPEC, but will instead be the first infrastructure project partially financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and will be co-financed along with the Asian Development Bank for a total of approximately $275 million. Portions of the project will also be funded by a $90.7 million grant announced in October 2015 by the government of the United Kingdom towards the construction of the Gojra-Shorkot section of the M4 Motorway project.

 

Controversy over finances

In addition to the aforementioned issues, some sources have inappropriately suggested that the interest rate for CPEC related loans would be high, with one Indian source suggesting that Pakistan had unwittingly accepted loans that would “be offered at very high rates of interest,” although the actual interest rates were negotiated prior to acceptance, and for most projects will be 1.6% Several articles in Pakistan have criticised the project’s finances as being shrouded in mystery, while one article suggested that “there is far too much secrecy and far too little transparency.” The Private Power and Infrastructure Board has also been accused of irregularities in the approval process for coal power plants and the tariffs at which Pakistan is contractually obliged to purchase electricity from those plants, with special concern regarding potential irregularities in the tariff approved for the 300MW coal power plant to be built in Pind Dadan Khan by China Machinery Engineering Corporation.

Geopolitical impact

CPEC is considered economically vital to Pakistan in helping it drive economic growth. China has expressed concern that some separatist groups in Xinjiang may be collaborating with insurgents in Pakistan, and has expressed a desire to strengthen security ties.6086978

Opposition from Baloch nationalists

Baloch nationalists have expressed opposition to the project, stating that any large-scale development in the province would eventually lead to local residents “losing control” over natural resources. Other Baloch nationalists view it as a “conspiracy” that would stimulate migration of people from other provinces and make the Baloch a minority in the province.

Former Chief Minister of Balochistan province, Akhtar Mengal, suggested at a political rally in November 2015, that execution of CPEC projects would eventually result in ethnic Baloch being denied entry into the city, though no statements have been made in either Pakistan or China that would suggest such an outcome. He did, however, clarify that he would not oppose development projects in the province that he believed would uplift the plight of local residents. Shortly thereafter, the Pakistani government announced its intention to establish a training institute named Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar which is to be completed by March 2016 at the cost of 943 million rupees to impart skills to local residents to train them to operate machinery at the port.

Indian objections to CPEC

The Government of India, which shares tense relations with Pakistan, regards portions of the CPEC project negatively as they pass through disputed territory which is claimed by India. Former Indian ambassador, Phunchok Stobdan, alleged that China and Pakistan intended to develop the corridor not just for its economic benefits, but also is motivated by the “strategic intent of besieging India,” though he also stated that India can do little to scuttle CPEC, and that avoiding China’s One Road One Belt project altogether would be to the detriment of India.

During the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China in 2015, the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj reportedly told Chinese Premier Xi Jinping that projects passing through Gilgit-Baltistan are “unacceptable” as they require road construction in territory India regards as its own. India’s Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also confirmed that the issue had been raised with the Chinese government on the trip.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in May 2015 also summoned the Chinese envoy in New Delhi to lodge India’s opposition to the project. The Chinese Premier dismissed the concerns, describing CPEC as a “commercial project” that would not target any third party.

In March 2016, Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in reference to China’s ambitions One Road One Belt project and CPEC, stated that India’s vision of Asian connectivity was that of a consultative process rather than that of “unilateral decisions,” and that they should not “add to regional tensions.”

Despite objections, segments of the Indian public, as exemplified by former Indian Ambassador Melkulangara Bhadrakumar, regard the project as in India’s interest vis-a-vis Central Asia, and warn that India might “lose heavily” were India to remain opposed and isolated from the project.

In March 2016, Pakistan announced that it had arrested a suspected spy from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, Kulbhushan Yadav, who Pakistan accused of entering Pakistan from Iran specifically to destabilise regions in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province to hinder implementation of CPEC projects.

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