Context: The Dancing Girl figurine, which was unearthed in Mohenjodaro in 1926, has recently become the focal point of a heated debate.
What is dancing girl?
- During an event, the Prime Minister, revealed the mascot for the International Museum Expo, which was a modernized rendition of the iconic Dancing Girl from Mohenjodaro.
- While the ancient bronze figure stands at a mere height of 10.5 cm, with a dark complexion and being completely nude except for bangles and a necklace, the adapted mascot stands over five feet tall, has fairer skin, and is adorned in a bright pink blouse and an off-white waist-coat.
- The Ministry of Culture maintains that the adaptation is not a transformation or reimagining of the original artwork but rather an inspired craftwork.
- The traditional craft of Channapatna toys, protected by a geographical indication (GI) tag, was employed in creating this mascot.
Discovering the Dancing Girl
- The Indus Civilization, also known as the Harappa-Mohenjodaro Civilization, thrived from 3300 to 1300 BC, with its mature stage dating from 2600 to 1900 BC.
- This ancient civilization had been largely forgotten until its discovery was officially announced in 1924.
- It was during one of these excavations in 1926, conducted by British archaeologist Ernest McKay, that the Dancing Girl figurine was discovered within the citadel of Mohenjodaro.
- The Dancing Girl:
- It is an extraordinary bronze statuette, crafted more than 4,500 years ago, and stands as a rare and exceptional masterpiece.
- The statue holds immense cultural significance as it reflects the artistic aesthetics associated with the female form during that particular historical era.
- It is constructed through the intricate lost-wax casting technique which showcases the remarkable skill and craftsmanship of the people of that time in working with bronze materials.
- Standing tall, she displays long limbs, including legs and arms, a graceful neck, a subtle abdomen, and sensuous contours. The girl wears an assortment of bangles and a necklace, with her left arm adorned with bracelets and her right arm embellished with bangles.
- Today, this bronze figurine is housed in the National Museum of India, serving as a valuable artifact that offers insight into the rich history of the Indus Civilization.
Inferences drawn from the figurine
- As a dancer: John Marshall, the Director-General of the ASI from 1902 to 1928, suggested dancing pose of the figurine, which ed historians to believe that the woman was a dancer, although there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.
- As a Goddess: Historian, Thakur Prasad Verma in Itihaas, claimed that the figurine actually depicted the Hindu goddess Parvati, attempting to establish a connection between the Indus Civilization and Vedic Hinduism. However, most historians have dismissed this claim, as there is insufficient evidence to confirm the presence of Hindu deity worship in the Harappa Mohenjodaro Civilization.
- Artistic sophistication and knowledge of metallurgy:
- It showcases the civilization’s knowledge of metal blending and the complex process of lost-wax casting, which allows for the creation of intricately detailed metallic artifacts.
- Evidently, the statue was not crafted for utilitarian purposes, but rather as a symbolically and aesthetically valuable artifact. It suggests that entertainment, particularly dance, held a significant role in their culture.
- The site Mohenjodaro (Mound of the Dead Men) is be found on the western bank of the lower Indus River, situated in Pakistan.
- It is the largest settlement of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and ranks among the earliest major cities worldwide, contemporary with other civilizations such as ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Minoan Crete.
- The city flourished around 1700 BCE. As the Indus Valley Civilization experienced a decline, Mohenjodaro was eventually abandoned in the 19th century BCE.
- Rediscovery and excavation:
- R. D. Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, explored the site in 1919-1920.
- Subsequent excavations were conducted in 1945 by Mortimer Wheeler.
- Extensive excavation work has led to its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
- It holds the distinction of being the first South Asian site to receive such a designation.
Findings at the site
The Great Bath:
- Sir Mortimer Wheeler identified a prominent building in Mohenjodaro as a ‘Great Granary.’ Adjacent to it stands a large and intricate public bath, often referred to as the Great Bath. The bath was made waterproof with a lining of bitumen.
- The pool measures 12 meters (39 feet) in length, 7 meters (23 feet) in width, and 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in depth. It is speculated that the bath may have been used for religious purification.
- Water supply and wells:
- Mohenjodaro boasts an astonishing number of over 700 wells, along with well-structured drainage and bathing systems.
- The sheer quantity of wells suggests that the inhabitants relied predominantly on annual rainfall, as well as the proximity of the Indus River to the site.
- It is noteworthy that the circular brick well design, prevalent at Mohenjodaro and other Harappan sites, appears to be an innovation credited to the Indus civilization.
- There is no existing evidence of this particular design in Mesopotamia or Egypt during that era or even later.
Mother Goddess Idol:
- Discovered by John Marshall, the idol exhibits certain characteristics that resemble the Mother Goddess belief, which was prevalent in numerous early Near East civilizations.
- The idol prominently displays symbol of fertility and motherhood.
- This sculpture was discovered in a building characterized by remarkably ornamental brickwork and a wall-niche.
- Although there is no concrete evidence supporting the notion that priests or monarchs held authority in Mohenjodaro, archaeologists bestowed the title of ‘Priest-King’ upon this dignified figure.
- The sculpture portrays a well-groomed man with a neatly trimmed beard, pierced earlobes, and a fillet encircling his head, possibly remnants of a once-elaborate hairstyle or headpiece.
- A seal depicting a seated figure in a cross-legged position, with animals surrounding it.
- The interpretation of this figure varies among scholars, with some considering it to represent a yogi, while others identify it as a three-headed ‘proto-Shiva,’ symbolizing the ‘Lord of Animals.’
The Mohenjo-Daro Ruler:
- Around 1500 BCE, the Indus Valley civilization employed ivory rulers for measuring length.
- The ruler discovered in Mohenjo-Daro is divided into unit equivalent to 34 millimeters, with decimal subdivisions marked with remarkable precision, accurate to within 0.13 mm.
- Similarly, a ruler found at Lothal (2400 BCE) is calibrated to approximately 1.6 mm (1/16 inch).
- Additionally, ancient bricks discovered in the region exhibit dimensions corresponding to these standardized units.