spears and arrows, but they were used more to protect themselves from animals or stuff rather than war.

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Harappans are thought to have been part of the vast Aryan invasions which began around 2200BCE in Anatolia and extended, over centuries, into the Indus River valley. Their most effective weapon was the horse which they had domesticated and herded for millenniums back and forth across northern Europe and Asia before invading the ‘sweet water’ river cultures of South Asia. Understandably, Harappans worshiped the horse as a god and other important weapons were the battle axe (thunderer) and equivalent deification.

Perhaps their most important and long lasting weapon was a culture which was rooted in movement. Nomadic societies are almost always more warlike than established agricultural peoples who are generally quite happy with their stable, even idyllic surroundings. Herds of horses, cattle, sheep, etal, require ever more land to increase their numbers and frequently overgraze it. Razing forests and pushing other groups out of the way is one strategy for survival. Groups continually ‘on the move’ and ‘in conflict’ always favor the warrior, consequently the patriarch and a system of governance which subjugates women and children. Furthermore, such societies are prone to enslave those they conquer and to keep them in an inferior position generation after generation. Thus the caste system invaded the region along with severe destruction of ‘natural’, i.e., feminine resources, such as forests, rivers and wildlife.

One of the more interesting legends of the Indus is of the river itself. In those days, before the invasion, the river was called Trisaris, a goddess who provided wonderful abundance for all, human and animal, who lived in her long wide heavily forested embrace. From her three lush ‘heads’ she gushed treasured blessings into the wide blue sea and fed its creatures, too.

One day a strange new deity came and claimed Valley Trisaris for himself. He was a northern god accustomed to bleak winters and vast open spaces. He had given his people but two commandments – to multiply and subdue the Earth.

His name was Brahma and in his realm he was omnipotent. Beautiful Trisaris was too busy to notice the new god and he was greatly offended. He spoke to her in a deep arrogant voice but she would not acknowledge him. Angry the god followed his own commandment and created a great hero-self to make war upon Trisaris. He named this hero Indra and was pleased.

Dutiful, Indra fought bravely to defeat Trisaris, to bend her to his will. But no matter what he did the goddess continued in her own way, The Old Way. “She is incorrigible,” Indra told his father. “I believe that unbound she will dominate our entire new world.”

Brahma agreed and permitted Indra to kill the goddess with his thunderbolt.

The people were stunned with dread and admiration, but the elemental mother of Trisaris, Tvashtri the Rain, was furious with outrage. Tvashtri breathed new life into her daughter making her even more powerful than before and now fully conscious of her enemy. With natural cunning she opposed Indra, frustrated his ambitions.

Indra attacked again. This time he commanded his woodsmen to cut off the three brilliant heads of Trisaris with their axes. The instant this was done great clouds of flashing birds rose out of the writhing corpse and fled skyward. The body of Trisaris, deprived of it life flow, lay swollen and putrid. In a short time it grew poisonous.

The fleeing birds awakened Vritra, the Sky Serpent, who directed the rain and was Trisaris’ grandmother. Tvashtri came running, crying “See what Indra has done to my daughter, O Mother!”

Vritra saw and was horrified. “I will avenge your daughter!” She promised Tvastri and at once lay siege to the constricted valley.

“Father,” Indra complained, “It is just as we feared. Not Trisaris, but her grandmother, Vritra has become the Enveloper, the Obstructor. For she withholds the rain and sends fierce winds and clouds of dust upon the land. Your people cower in their cities. I must fight this demon!”

And so Indra came skyward to challenge Vritra and a terrible battle raged upon the Earth and in the Heavens. In this fight Vritra was victorious. She seized the Avatar of Brahma and stuffed him into her mouth, then swallowed him into her coils.

Even so, her vengeance was incomplete. She refused to stop the raging dust or ease the blistering heat. She kept the rain away so up and down the long valley life of every kind was hard pressed to survive. Brahma’s priests and nobles were terrified. What could they do now?

After much recrimination and debate, they came up with a plan. It was risky but other gods had been neutralized by similar schemes. Relentlessly, by rite and celebration and prayer, all in praise of Vritra, the people sought to appease the powerful monster. For months, perhaps years, they wept and made themselves prostrate. They threw flowers into the sky and sang in sweet voices. At last Vritra grew bored and her eyes became heavy with slumber. She gave a great yawn and when she did an enraged, vengeful Indra leaped from her mouth.

The war began all over again.

But Indra was defeated again and fled back to his father-self in humiliation. Another great conference was held, and these were the results.

1. Brahma, The Creator, was forced to create two other aspects of himself, both of equal power and authority. They were Vishnu, the Preserver and Siva, The Destroyer. As a trinity-in-tension, they would rule the cosmos.

2. Vritra was persuaded to make peace but she laid down these conditions –
a. The Brahman must give their solemn promise that Indra would not attack her with anything made of wood or stone or metal …
b. … or anything wet or dry …
c. … or during daytime or night time.

Satisfied, the Brahmans agreed and thus the Great Treaty was concluded. For a time peace did reign in the valley, but it was an uneasy peace.

Indra was not happy, for he had been created to be victorious and so he stewed and schemed to fulfill his destiny. One evening as he was kicking sea shells on the poisoned river’s delta he noticed that the wind was blowing sudsy surf along the sand. He picked it up and felt that it was neither wet nor dry. He saw that it was not dark yet, but no longer daytime. So he gathered up a huge circle of the poisoned suds and leaped into the heavens where Vritra lay asleep on her bed of stars. Deftly, Indra placed the suds around her neck like a necklace and watched as she writhed and screamed ’til the acid burned through her and she died.

And so the river valley came to belong to Indra.

This story illustrates the struggle of a people with an attitude which says that nature is not good enough and must be forced to surrender and change to suit humanity’s whim/need. Without forests to slow and spread the great river, it flooded time and again wiping out crops and mud-brick cities. Without forests to generate daily rains, only monsoons which dumped hundreds of inches of water in a short time could be depended upon but that only added to the destruction.
And yet more and more people were needed to repair cities and waterworks, and to grow crops to feed more and more people. Eventually, by modern times, the Indus Valley became the world’s most heavily populated desert.

Weapons work both ways. Imagine the misery of a nomadic people now anchored to a fixed location, their inherited restlessness frustrated by the mandate to administer an agricultural society they neither understood nor wanted. Like many ‘conquistadors’ they found themselves entrapped by their own successes. Much as the jailer is as emotionally and spiritually caged as his prisoners.

(To be continued)

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