When I saw the book Indus Civilization by Andrew Robinson reviewed and recommended by the good folks at www.harappa.com, I ordered the book immediately to add to few other books which I have on this topic in my bookshelf.


While the reviewers on harappa.com were truthful about this book being the most recent and most comprehensive in giving a good overview of the topic, I was quite disappointed in the end for several reasons that I will explain a bit later.Having read many other books about Indus, I must say that I was expecting a better product!

But  I do agree that the book is quite readable for anyone who has no introduction to the subject, and does not drag into too many details for a first time reader (which first time readers on any subject hard to deal with).

Now coming to my major reasons for being dissatisfied with the book:

* Given so much new data is available compared to what was available for Mortimer Wheeler, the white and black pictures in the book are unpardonable in 2016!

* The author completely assumes that the Aryan Invasion or migration (or whatever theory they call it these days) theory as a fact

* The author completely downplays the number of Indus sites, unearthed on the Sarawathi river bed in the 20th century and casually mentions that the shifting of Saraswati river could have had some effect in the downfall of the civilization

* While sticking firmly to the dating of Rig Veda to be post 1500 BC as proposed by Max Muller and Co, the author offers no explanation why the river Saraswati which had already disappeared by 1500BC is mentioned and glorified in Rg Veda, and does not even think twice about the occurence so many “Saraswati” sites

* Other casual errors such as name of Shiva not occurring in the Vedas have crept up in the book

  •  Well, one may argue the name Shiva is not found  Rig Veda, but the word Shiva does show up in Yajurveda as anyone who knows the Rudraprashna can attest

* The author totally dismisses S R Rao’s theory of alphabetical Indus script, without batting an eyelid  – Actually he gives it as an example of four deciphering hypothesis totally gone astray

  • While I’m with the author if he said the final word about the Indus script is not out, I find it strange that he jumps in with the min-meen equation, and identifying the fish sign as a star
  • S R Rao’s hypothesis was that the Indus script was alphabetic and it did assign the phonetic values similar to those for the  Semetic script.  Let’s for the moment leave aside whether Indus script influenced Semetic script or vice versa.  Andrew Robinson says that one can’t apply the phonetic values of an unrelated script/language to a  totally different language (such as whatever would have been spoken in the Indus valley), and debunks S R Rao’s hypothesis
  • However, we have evidence of the very same thing happening in India! The Brahmi script, (which was used for prAkrtas) was used with the same phonetic (or very similar) values for writing early Tamizh, Kannada etc around 2000 years ago

While this is not a comprehensive review, but hope this is good enough for anyone interested in the topic to read more on this very interesting civilization from India. Sorry folks, it is not South Asia by any means🙂

If you have come this far, you may be interested to read this old posts of mine: