Updated: August 5, 2016 7:28:58 pm
Ever since Hrithik Roshan made an appearance on screen to give people a sneak peak into the ancient world of Mohenjo-daro, movie enthusiasts of the country have not been able to stop talking about it. However, for historians and history lovers, the sight of the actor dancing in the middle of a group of joyful young women, to the happy humming of ‘Mohenjo-daro’ in the background, is quite amusing. Amusing, for a simple reason that the word ‘Mohenjo-daro’ in Sindhi means ‘mound of the dead’.
As the lyrics of the song in the background goes:
“Chand aur suraj dono ne dekha
Mohenjodaro mein rangon ka mela”
(The sun and moon are witness to the colours at Mohenjodaro)
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The words would make Mohenjodaro appear like a city right out of a fairy tale. However, when one puts into perspective the fact that the word refers to remains of the dead, the whole construction of the song would seem ridiculous apart from of course being historically inaccurate. We need to remember though that it is not the name of the film, but rather the name of the city that the characters call their home which is problematic.
Director Ashutosh Gowariker is known for his love towards historical fiction. His previous two attempts at historical drama, Lagaan and Jodha Akbar, had earned huge success at the box office and was critically acclaimed by many. He is also known to be putting in huge amount of time conducting research for his films, which is precisely the reason behind the low frequency at which he makes movies. It is quite strange that a filmmaker of his stature, could miss out on such an essential detail behind the meaning of the name of his movie.
The story behind the name ‘Mohenjo-daro’
Historical facts are ultimately the construction of the present. It is through painstaking excavations, research and analysis that the story of the past is put forth in its present form. This is the case with this 5000-year-old city that goes by the name ‘Mohenjo-daro’ as well. It is hard to believe that humans living in any period of time would want to call their city ‘mound of the dead’.
The excavation of this site, located in Sind, happened in 1921-22 under the supervision of archaeologist Rakhal Das Banerji. Excavations continued through till 1930s and several times in the following decades as well which brought to light the remains of a highly planned city that consisted of brick built houses, a highly sophisticated drainage system, Great Bath and planned streets. However, a discovery that led to a full fledged scholarly debate was that of a series of 40 skeletons found in the streets and houses buried in the site. The discovery of the skeletons resulted in the name ‘Mohenjo-daro’ being given to the site, thereby naming it as the place where remains of the dead were found.
Originally historians like A L Basham and Mortimer Wheeler interpreted the skeletal remains as pointing towards an invasion at Mohenjo-Daro, leading to the destruction of the site. However, later historians like Romila Thapar and Upinder Singh went against this claim and stated that the skeletal remains are proof of the destruction of the site due to environmental reasons or the spread of some disease. Whatever be the case, it is definite that the naming of the site was based upon the discovery of the dead in it.
What the original inhabitants of the site called it remains to be deciphered. However, they certainly would not have liked to call their home ‘mound of the dead’. But Gowariker does not think that to be the case. As the trailer of the film ends with Hrithik Roshan making the proud claim that he wishes to serve Mohenjo-Daro as against the villain’s wish to rule over it, historians of ancient India are clearly amused at the ridiculous inaccuracy of the statement.
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