The Sorry Fate of Mohenjo-Daro

The Sorry Fate of Mohenjo-Daro

The trip to Mohenjo-Daro is assuredly arduous, but it is nonetheless worthwhile. Rising tall above the mist enveloped and fertile plains of rural Sindh, Mohenjo-Daro is a breathtaking spectacle, a reminder of the historical might and significance of our country.


Startling a person at first sight by its immense splendor, Mohenjo-Daro compels us to imagine for a moment the sheer intellect the ancient dwellers of this city had for their times. If the ruins are this majestic, one  imagines, how magnificent would the city have been at its zenith?


Striking Grandeur and Magnificence: 


Mohenjo-Daro, once a symbol of the wealth and grandeur of the Indus Valley civilization, is slowly reducing to dust, and if it stands unattended for another few years, we might lose one of the most treasured assets of our nation’s historical legacy.


Mohenjo-Daro was constructed around 2600 BC and many experts believe that a considerable portion of it is still buried, about 65-70% of it. Mohenjo-Daro was discovered in 1922, much to the astonishment of European scientists who had downplayed the theory of ancient civilizations originating in South Asia for a long time.


Yesterday’s Best Preserved Ancient Settlement:


It was, at least when discovered, considered the best-preserved ancient settlement in the Indian Subcontinent. This 5000-year-old city stands as a testament to the great Indus Valley Civilization. The Civilization flourished on both sides of the Indus River across the vast Indus river plateau and beyond it.


At its peak, hundreds of cities flourished in the Indus Plateau, crammed with complex structures such as dams and aqueducts, inhabited by up to 40000 people. It is nothing less than thrilling to walk through 5000-year-old rooms that are still surprisingly discernible.


One is  amazed to walk through the splendid wide streets lined with precisely cut bricks baked thousands of years ago yet still astonishingly sturdy. A rare commodity in even modern villages of Pakistan, bathrooms existed in just about every dwelling, connecting to one of the most elaborate and complex ancient drainage systems, almost all of them underground. One can’t help but think how intelligent these people would’ve been, after all, we are talking of a time 5000 years ago.


As one walks through the city, fragments of brick can be seen scattered across the ruins and now one side of the wall of the city’s center, the Great Bath, a symbol of purity, is also dilapidating. Before long, this side of the bath will crumble, and would eventually weaken the most remarkable and marvelous structures of the ancient city.


Our Brave Ancestors: 


The thing that surprises many archaeologists is the ingenuity of the residents of this Bronze Age city, an attribute that perhaps allowed these ancient people to brave through the harsh conditions of Sindh and Indus Delta in general.


At a time when other civilizations struggled at producing weapons out of metal, the people of this civilization made sophisticated razors and scissors for every day use. The residents of Mohenjo-Daro planted wheat and barley. At a time when the concept of jewelry was limited to metals such as copper elsewhere,the people of this civilization encrusted gold and silver with precious stones.


The unusually advanced human ingenuity of these people still embezzles many. The extent of the development of this ancient civilization has made many experts to make the Indus valley civilization a contender for the title of “cradle of civilization”, rivaling the civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Egypt.



Incompetence of PPP Government to Preserve the Asset:



In 2011, the responsibility of the conservation of the ruins was laid at the shoulders of the Sindh government along with $ 10 Million worth of funds being donated by UNESCO for preservation. By this time, the salinity of the soil below had led to salt encrustation on the brickwork.


As a last resort to protect the already decaying brickwork, the decision of applying mud slurry on the decaying brickwork was made. It was a disaster. As soon as the mud dried, it crumbled and with it, the millenniums old bricks chipped off as well. The incompetency of the government to handle the issue could be comprehended by the fact that rather than preserving old bricks in some parts of the city, they were simply removed and newly baked bricks were placed to replace them.



A Fraction of Investment over Bhutto Family Tomb is Enough to Preserve MJD:



The city is a few miles away from Larkana, the stronghold of the current ruling party of Sindh, the PPP. In Larkana, a colossal tomb has been constructed over the graves of the Bhutto family that has become a rather insipid mockery of Mughal and Sindhi architecture. Only a fraction of the cost required to construct this monument to the Bhuttos is required to preserve Mohenjo-Daro.



Where is Benazir’s Ideology Lost?


The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in her autobiography, Daughter of East, fondly recalled her fascination with the city, “As a small child I thought the ancient city was called ‘Munj Jo Dero,’ which in Sindhi means ‘my place.’ My brothers, sister, and I took great pride that we had been raised in the shadow of Moenjodaro, that we lived on the bank of the Indus, which had been bringing life to the land since the beginning of time”.



Had she been alive today, perhaps she herself would’ve made sure that this essential part of her country’s heritage was preserved. It is absolutely horrible to see the PPP, which claims to be the flag-bearer of Miss Bhutto’s legacy, allowing what she considered a cultural and historical asset of Pakistan be left to ruin.



Precious Artifacts Stolen:


In 2004, 40 precious artifacts found in the city were stolen from a nearby museum and were never returned. An old man and once a farmer Ahmed Bashir recalls “Our parents used to tell us that when the foreigners excavated the city, many of the precious items made out of gold and silver were already stolen by the locals”.



Some of these stolen pieces still adorn the showcases of local landlords. At a time when our monuments and heritage sites face the ever-growing threat of terrorism, Mohenjo-Daro is no exception. Security arrangements at the site are next to nothing.



Not every country is blessed enough to be the inheritor of so rich a historical heritage and we ought to protest again the blind eye consecutive governments of Pakistan as well as the opposition parties have turned towards this issue.



As a 16-year-old, perhaps I’m too young to comprehend the political dimension to this, too young to understand why political parties hesitate to bring up this issue in all the numerous heated debates on a plethora of Pakistani news channels. Perhaps it is not politically rewarding, perhaps it is irrelevant, i don’t know.



Nevertheless, I do know that it is simply  painful for any true Pakistani to see Mohenjo-Daro, an asset of our nation, a city that once rivaled the great cities of civilizations of the likes of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt losing its greatness, its glory, its beauty, in an utterly degrading manner.

The 16-year-old author, Bilal Akbar, an overseas Pakistani, was part of a recent campaign to raise funds for the cause of the preservation of Pakistan’s historical sites. He was also a youth representative at United Nations COP 18.

Bilal Akbar

A 16-year old proud oversees-Pakistani author was recently a part of a fundraising campaign to help prevent the deterioration of Pakistan's heritage sites. Also, appointed a Youth Representative in the United Nations COP 18 and is a strong advocate of equal rights for women in Pakistan

  • M.Saeed

    This reminds me of an old personal experience.
    As one of the engineers who initiated works on the UNESCO’s sponsored Moenjodaro Preservation Plan, I was staying in the Moenjodaro Rest House. One morning on may way to work site, I was dumbfounded to see a Boeing 707 parked on the Moenjodaro Airport Runway and a large group of young Japanese students happily going through the ruins and collecting from the ground, pieces of scattered stones and discarded left-outs of artefacts. On inquiry, I was told that they were the students of Tokyo University and were on a study tour. I observed them collecting small pieces from ground and keeping in their bags as prized collections.
    Not suspecting anything wrong, as I was sure they were on a legitimate visit and were collecting only what we had discarded I asked one of the students about his interest in those pieces and was amazed on his reply. He was exited and tried to explain to me in his deficient facility in English, intricate details of human endeavours left in the small smoothing contours on the pieces of broken pottery. But, it was even evident to me that, it was a signature mark of a man from 4500 years in our history and a student from Japan was interested to study and establish some missing links in our History of Civilization.
    During my stay, I came across another interesting aspect of the site, which appears to have since been lost due to our lack of interest in History. I came to know from the available record that, at the time of excavations in the early 20th century, initially Moenjodaro was a Buddhist mound. It was only during actual excavations that, a second level of civilization was discovered below the Buddhist (about 2200 years) civilization.
    Naturally, efforts were made to go below present level of excavation at Moenjodaro, to see if there was yet another level of civilization. Unfortunately, water-table was encountered, which restricted any further excavation.
    UNESCO’s Preservation Plan was a very comprehensive (which also issued postage stamps for ” Save Moenjodaro” campaign) and comprised lowering the water table to save the Site from water-logging and also to excavate further to explore possibilities of a third layer of civilization of which some indications were have already appeared.
    Unfortunately, after transfer of the work to the Provincial Government of Sindh, funds have been misappropriated and all international efforts defeated.

  • M.Saeed

    Dhilmilyakeen! You are being unfaithful to all of 124,000 plus Prophets of Allah (SWT) deputed to this Planet for establishing “Humanity”, starting from Hazrat Adam (A.I)!

  • M.Saeed

    Government of Pakistan had started a gigantic plan to save Sindh from the horrible flood devastations by providing large Outfall Drains on the left and right banks of River Indus. Unfortunately, politics consumed all mega-billion funds and sensibilities, leaving intriguing blame-games to further devastate the hapless people and paving the way for scores of new Moenjodaros to be born.

  • M.Saeed

    I have a startling observation from Moenjodaro during my 5 week’s working stay there. It relates to the famous artefact “toy bullock-cart”, showing the 5,000 years old design features and carrying capacity indications. What is amazing is the fact that, even today, the same design is being used. When I enquired about the similarity in design from one of the farmers using it, his answer was real surprise. He boasted that, it was the best practical design because, he was able to dismantle all components and carry them on his shoulders one by one including the “four sacks of load” across the streams, tow the bullocks through the stream, reassemble components, reload and continue his journey to the market.

    In contrast, I had a picture in mind of Bullock carts in Punjab that can only enter cities like Lahore after the mid-night because, they carry such a huge load (even wider in than Trucks) that they obstruct traffic flow, covering more than a lane of road.

  • Bilal Aftab Usman

    Sums up my thoughts perfectly!