Sindhu, A Closer Look
Democracy in Sindhu Saraswati Region 101
In place of a president, the Harappans of 6,000 BC elected a Karkarta as supreme chief and selected village elders to serve in governing assemblies.
Under the administration of Bharat, the 19th Karkarta, the Sindhu Saraswati culture more fully embraced the principles of Sanatana Dharma. (See explanation below.) In his honor, the Indian subcontinent became known as Bharat Varsha from 5,000 BC, and Bharat is the official name of the Republic of India today.
Not only were Bharat and his clansmen some of the world’s earliest democrats, they tackled many of the problems which complicate today’s election process:
Suffrage: Every adult, both male and female, was obligated to vote. The failure to vote, except in case of an illness or emergency, resulted in a fine and disqualification from holding public office.
Future Benefit: Adults cast votes on their own behalf and that of their children, because it was recognized that people must vote not only for the present, but also for future of their children.
No Nepotism: No son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter of a previous Karkarta could stand for election as Karkarta.
Campaigns and Campaign Finances: Candidates could address the crowds at scheduled meetings. Supporters could canvas for their candidates, but they could not offer any financial or material inducement to influence voter choice.
Super Majority: A candidate had to receive three fourth of cast votes to be elected Karkarta, even when he or she ran unopposed.
Stability: A Karkarta was elected for a term of seven years. There were no term limits. A Karkarta could stand for a second and even third term.
Mandatory Retirement Age: A Karkarta had to retire as a hermit at the age of sixty — sixty was a lot older back. He retired in isolation so as not to influence (or interfere) with the new administration.
A Universal Belief System
The ideals of democracy, equality and human rights which took root 8,000 years ago provided the foundation of Sanatana Dharma, which is commonly called Hinduism or Hindu Dharma today. Roughly translated as the natural and eternal way, Sanatana Dharma is devoid of sectarian leanings or ideological divisions.
Rather than a religion, it is a code of conduct and a value system that recognizes our spiritual nature, no matter where we come from or what we believe. We live in the natural world in relationship to all other living things and fulfill our dharma (or duty) by assuming responibility for the care of the earth, it’s waterways, trees and creatures.
By its nature, Sanatana Dharma is:
- God rather than prophet-centered.
- Experience rather than belief based.
- Inherent in, and inclusive of all.
- In the world, while above the world.
- Both immanent and transcendent.
- The whole and the parts.
- Loving of all and excluding of none.
It recognizes that the eternal spiritual laws, which govern human existence, exist beyond any institutionalized belief system, and respects all faiths.
“Whatever god you choose, He is that God, and Dharma (Righteousness) is His Will”.
Like other ancient people, the Harappans recognized the fertility vested in women as key to their survival. They even believed that before God created the Universe, the Mother created Him. According to the whimsical Hymn of Creation, Mother came first:
“Did First Mother create the one God!
And gladly gave Him the Creator’s rod!
But so refashioned Time and Space
That He was more, and She was less?
Did She turn future into past?
So He came first and She, last!
But surely, She told Him all, all!
Then how could He not know at all?
Or perhaps He knows it not, and cannot tell
Oh! He knows, He knows, but will not tell…”
Women, More Equal than Men
In the very early, pre-Vedic days women were held in high esteem and were equal, if not ahead, in all important spheres of civic affairs, politics, administration, art, philosophy, architecture, education and justice system, not on basis of any quota but by sheer merit. Women were also elected Karkarta and tribal chiefs.
If there was discrimination in those days (from 8,000 BC), it may have been against men. While the male Karkarta was forced to retire in isolation at the age of 60, there were no such requirements for women. According to Karkarta Bharat:
“A woman cannot be asked to retire because her work never ceases. From being a wife, she moves smoothly, selflessly into role of a mother and grandmother, giving all of herself in the service of generations that follow, until her dying day.
“Man’s tragedy, on the other hand, is that he lives for himself, with his ego centered around his own self, and if he loves his children, he loves them merely as extensions of himself; and the older he grows, the more demanding he gets, with his ideas fixed and mind closed. All that grows within him is lust for power, while his advancing age renders him incapable of wielding it honorably.
“Happiness for man depends on what he could get; for a woman, on what she could give. Retirement at the age of sixty was, therefore, intended to save man from himself and also to protect society.”
Trial by Fire
Slander against women was severely punished. In 5030 BC,Hermit Parikshahari declared that a woman, whose virtue or chastity is questioned, must walk 10 steps through fire to prove her innocence, but only after the slanderer walked 30 steps through fire to show that he had honorable motives for making the charge.
The Five Ps
A bridegroom would take a five-fold marriage vow to offer his wife permanence, piety, pleasure, property and progeny. (Do such bridegrooms exist anymore?)
Always Respected, But Not as Equal
By the time Harappan civilization peaked, 2600 – 1900 BC, women were still well regarded and respected, if no longer on an equal footing with men. Women maintained many rights, including the right to election as tribal chief, but only men could inherit property. And men studied the Vedas, which few women did. Of course, women bore children. And were largely responsible for their households, which meant managing household finances in addition to child-raising and household chores, which consumed a lot more time back then. Imagine spinning your own thread and weaving your own cloth to keep your family clothed. And cooking from scratch everyday from grinding the flour for bread to killing the meat for stew.