Cultural Continuity Of Indus Valley Civilization

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Cultural continuity is the transmission of cultural heritage, tradition, customs and values in a society across time. It is the idea of the repetition of patterns of thinking and behavior over a long period of time. It builds a connection between the past and the present. The Indus valley civilization has the distinction of being the earliest civilization. There is evidence of the persistence of many aspects and traditions of the Indus valley civilization into more recent times. Ceremonial bathing, ritual burning, yogic positions on seals, the important roles of bulls and elephants, distinctive ornamentations and distinctive headgear are all important attributes of ancient Indus society that to this date remains in the heart of contemporary Hinduism. In this essay we will look into the practice of ceremonial bathing, ritual burning and yogic positions on soapstone seals and its practice in Hinduism today.

There appears to be a continuity between Indus valley civilization and now in contemporary Hinduism, as evident by the emphasis on ritual bathing. One of the major structures is the Great bath, which might have been used for ceremonial bathing. This bath is probably the first large water tank in the world. A remarkable feature is that residences had private bathing areas and toilets connected to a central drainage system built partially underground. The Great Bath stands testimony to the importance of ritual bathing and water in the life of the Harrapan society. The extravagant and sophisticated provision for bathing and drainage throughout the city provides a link with present day Hinduism. The importance of daily bathing as a part of life and as a prelude to religious activity is very much an integral part of contemporary Hinduism. Today many Hindu temples have tanks or reservoirs that function as ritual baths. The river Ganges is sacred and revered among Hindus, rituals performed on the banks of the river or in its waters is said to wash away impurities and bestow heavenly blessings. This ritual purification is an important aspect of the religious practice among Hindus. The Kumbh mela, a major festival among Hindus, where pilgrims bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges, to purify themselves and cure physical ailments.

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The origins of yoga can be traced back to the Indus valley civilization. Excavations of the Indus valley have also revealed many intriguing artefacts. One of the most important relics are square soapstone seals. A common theme on this seal is the figure seated in a yogic posture with heals pressed under the groin, surrounded by various animals and wearing a water buffalo horned headdress. Archaeologists have suggested that the figure seated in the yogic posture, which is the fundamental pose in the Hindu practise of yoga and meditation, may be the prototype of Shiva, Lord of the Beasts in Hinduism. The figures on the seal seems to be meditating oblivious to the surroundings. This helps prove that yoga was known and practised during the time of the Indus valley civilization. Yoga is a tradition of spiritual practices, now developed into the framework of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain thought.

There are seals displaying imaginary creatures like the unihorned bull, being the most common one images on the seals. The bull is often shown with a brazier or censor which could have been used ritual practices, censors are receptacles for burning incense. The burning of incense has been a long tradition within the Indian culture, perfumed incense sticks are an integral part of Hindu rituals today. The aroma of the incense sticks help enhances your mood and help focus the mind. Incense sticks are also used in Indian households, as the aromas of the sticks are said to have a soothing and calming effects.

The Indus Valley Civilization has the distinction of being one of the world’s oldest civilizations. However, many details of the Indus valley civilization are elusive due to inability to decipher the Indus script. The cultural continuity evident from the Great Bath, the ritual burnings and artefacts such as the soapstone seals The aspects of continuity between the civilization that flourished along the Indus river and that of the Indian sub-continent, especially Hinduism suggests that the influence of the people of the Indus civilization is continuing long after their cities cease to exist.


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