Sunday, February 23, 2014

Indus Valley (Smart Green Civilizations)

Indus Valley: Key stage 2 (Smart Green Civilizations)
2 stars
Kid-friendly introduction, but marred by selective omissions. Also leaves out the truly spectacular achievements of the people

One-line review: Parents are advised to read out and share this book with children, but are also forewarned that they will need to spend considerable time in correcting the several errors - of commission and omission - in the book.

Longer Review:
The Indus Valley Civilization, more accurately known as the Indus Valley Saraswati Civilization, was the largest and most advanced ancient civilization that existed. This short illustrated book does a good job of introducing the reader - children - to this civilization. It tells us that the Indus people were the first to develop the concept of urban town planning, and were the first to trade with the world. The generous availability of wells meant that people were never far away from access to clean water. Children will like the simple and full-colour illustrations in this book, and the easy style of writing. At the bottom of each page is a short line that has a lesson on environmentalism.

However, this book also falls into the trap of sticking with discredited falsehoods for the sake of political correctness. A few examples will suffice. While the book briefly touches upon the discovery of the pashupati Shiva at the site, it fails to mention that the Indus Valley civilization was the birthplace of Hinduism, and that most likely the Rig Veda was written during the heydays of this civilization.

The book does not mention that more than one-third of all sites of the civilization have been unearthed near the banks of the now dried up Saraswati River. Any book, even one for children, that leaves out this fact does its credibility little good. Evidence pointing to the existence of this river, long suspected on the basis of literary, archaeological, and scientific facts, has opened up a valuable new chapter in the understanding of the roots of Indian civilization. This book owed it to its children audience to have brought this up.

Perhaps the most egregious act of political correctness is when the book mentions the Aryan Invasion Theory as one that enjoys mainstream acceptability. Worse, there is an entire two-page illustration with hordes of these mythical "Aryan" invaders massed outside an Indus Valley settlement. The Aryan Invasion theory has long been discredited, and even Western and Communist historians have had to, albeit grudgingly, abandon the Aryan Invasion Theory. This theory today has as much credibility as the Flat Earth theory. For this book to include it as a plausible explanation for the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization is a shocking act of negligence, ignorance, or worse.

© 2014, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.