The discovery of Mohenjo-Daro near the banks of Indus in the Larkana district of Sindh by R.D. Banerjee in 1922 and that of Harappa in Sahiwal district of west Punjab, Pakistan led to the recognition that they were the earliest cities of the Indian sub-continent and two of the earliest in the world. Sir John Marshall, then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India used the term ‘Indus Civilization’ for the culture discovered at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Others, including the Archaeological Survey of India after independence have called it “Harappan” or “Mature Harappan”.
The Saraswati river has fascinated historians, archaeologists, geologists and scholars throughout the world. Empirical evidence corroborated by archaeological findings has revealed that only three percent of the Indus Civilization settlements are located on river Indus while more than eighty percent settlements are located on the vast plain between the Indus and the Ganges comprising mainly the Saraswati and its tributaries.
After originating from the glaciers of Himalayas near Naitwar, the Saraswati flowed majestically in the South-Westerly direction through the present day Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat before joining the Arabian sea near the Rann of Kutch.
In Haryana itself more than hundred early Harappan sites (2500-2200 BC) related to river Saraswati have been identified by archaeologists in the districts of Kurukshetra, Ambala, Sonepat, Rohtak, Bhiwani and Hisar. Some of the prominent pre-Harappan and Harappan sites in Haryana include Adi-Badri near Yamuna Nagar, Bhagwanpura, Mirzapur and Daulatpur near Kurukshetra, Balu near Kalayat and Kunal, Bhirrana, Banawali near Fatehabad, Farmana and Girawad near Rohtak, Mitathal near Bhiwani and Pouli and Shamlo Kalan near Jind.
The settlements belonging to the Indus Civilization are found in a contiguous zone spread over the Pakistan plains, parts of Baluchistan, the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, North-Western Uttar Pradesh, Northern Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Indus Civilization covered a geographical area of 700,000 square kilometres with one to five million inhabitants. It has been estimated that the city of Mohenjo-Daro had 2000-3000 houses with a population of 85,000. By contemporary standards Mohenjo-Daro may appear as a small town, but in its own times, it was one of the great cities of the world. Harappa was probably slightly smaller than Mohenjo-Daro.
RakhiGarhi (Hisar) one of the four largest townships of the Indus Civilization (others include Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa in Pakistan and Dholavira (Kutch, Gujarat) in India) too flourished in the valley between the mighty Saraswati and Drishadvati. While the occupied area of Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and Dholavira is estimated at 200, 150 and 60 hectares respectively, according to some archaeologists at 220 hectares, the area and dimensions of RakhiGarhi make it possibly the largest Indus Civilization site in the Indian sub-continent.
According to archaeologists, the Indus Civilization had a life-span of atleast 500 years. The best method to assign to the Indus Civilization is a period in which most carbon dates are concentrated i.e. 2500-2000 BC. We could take the century preceding 2500 BC as a period of ‘transition’ when the Indus Civilization spread from its nucleus to other parts. Excavations conducted at RakhiGarhi indicate that the settlement witnessed all the phases of the Harappan Civilization – the early Harappan (3200-2700 BC) as well as the Mature Harappan (2700-1800 BC). This positions RakhiGarhi as a unique Harappan site which promises to reveal new civilization contours by pushing the Indus Valley Civilization by a thousand years or more.
Archaeological excavations at RakhiGarhi have revealed all the defining features of the Indus Civilization such as potters kiln, wheel made pottery baked to a red colour, the Indus script appearing on its seals, baked bricks in the ratio of 1:2:4, a tendency to layout straight roads, an elaborate drainage system, a granary, citadel, ritualistic platforms, terracotta figurines and burying the dead, laid supine, North-South in cemeteries