Ancient Nile and Indus River Civilizationsby Rit Nosotro
Compare and contrast the Ancient Nile and Indus River Civilizations
Over time, people migrated from ancient Babylonia to River Valley regions, rising up to become what we know as empires. Two of them, the ancient Egyptian and early Indian civilizations, settled on river valleys where the land was fertile and suitable for agriculture. We see many similarities and differences between the two empires when we analyze various aspects of their cultures. Yet, despite all the greatness these civilizations once had, they ultimately fell like other nations before and after them. Psalms 82:7 tells us, "But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler." All rulers fall. It is only the Lord that stands the test of time (2 Samuel 22:32).
Scholars continue to debate the exact time frame of these river valley civilizations. From what we can discern, the Egyptian empire began around 3100 B.C., when Menes founded the first dynasty after he conquered Lower Egypt and united it with Upper Egypt. This started what is now known as the Dynastic Period. The Indian Valley civilization, commonly called the Indus River civilization, is believed to have been established around 3000 B.C. However, the Indian empire did not begin until several hundred years later, between 2500 and 2300 B.C. This particular civilization consisted of two major cities, Harappan and Mohenjadaro. If one was to realize the vastness and dominion Egypt and India once had, it would raise the question, why did these nations fall from their greatness? The Bible clearly states that no one is as great as the Lord. Nevertheless, one must ponder the circumstances that led to these empires' eventual collapse.
When studying the two river valley religions, we find much more information about the Egyptian religion, compared with the Indian religion. Ancient Egyptian religion consisted of several different traditions and beliefs. However, it was predominantly based upon polytheism, as they worshipped over two thousand gods and goddesses! They viewed their gods as deities who cared naught about the Egyptian people. Thus, it was believed that if they failed to pay homage to their gods, they would be afflicted with plagues such as floods, pestilence, and barbaric raids. The Egyptians also believed in an afterlife, trusting that they would live in a happy land, which they called 'the Kingdom of the West'. Believing that they could only enter this new 'world' if they had a morally sound past, Egyptians strived to live a virtuous life. Even if they made it to the next world, they would have to go through a series of tests before admitted into the glorious 'Kingdom'.
Similar to the Egyptians, we know that the ancient Indians were also polytheists. On the other hand, unlike the temples and royal tombs in Egypt, there have been virtually no discoveries of such structures in the Indus valley. From this, many make the assumption that people worshipped in their homes. While little is known about the early Indian religion, we do know that it was considerably different from the Hinduism we know of today. It has been said that Hinduism consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 B.C." Indeed, Hinduism involves a complex set of beliefs, consisting of ideas as far back as their ancient scriptures. Prior to Hinduism, Indians worshipped natural forces like wind and fire. As representations of their gods, Indians would use cattle, elephants, and other animals. Around the time of the Indus valley decline, near 1500 B.C., nomadic raiders from central Europe began to invade their land. These invaders, known as the Aryans, called themselves 'The Noble Ones'. Over time, the Vedic religion began to reshape Indian religion. The Aryans introduced the ancient Indians to the Vedas, the Hindu sacred texts. Regarded as an early version of Hinduism, the Vedic teachings began to take over as new Indus River religion.
In ancient Egypt, the economy thrived under the command of a specialized bureaucracy. Agriculture proved to be the main source of Egypt's wealth. In the marketplace, one could find cattle, goats, pigs, and fowl. The market was also home to a large variety of fish from the Nile, demonstrating the rewarding benefits that the world's largest river had to offer. The ancient Egyptians exploited the use of different kinds of energy to achieve their economic goals. Fire was used for cooking, smelting and casting metal, and burning pottery. They also used the sun's radiant heat to produce the majority of mud bricks, used to make virtually all of their buildings. Their technological prowess was put to the test in 2560 B.C. when the Great Pyramid, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was built.
As we look toward the economy of the Indus River civilization, we see that their economic wealth emanated primarily from horticulture. There were enormous granaries built in each village, and every year they drew in an abundance of grain. The Indian's dominant commodity was cotton, as the Indus people specialized in growing and spinning it quickly. According to research, the discoveries made thus far seem to imply that the Indus River civilization was more technologically advanced than the Egyptian civilization. Every street was carefully laid out in an efficient grid system, and each house had its own plumbing! One has to wonder how they designed and built the irrigation and plumbing system underneath the city. This intricate and intelligent planning might indicate that the Indians had a strong and healthy bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, apart from their intelligent design of the cities, very little is known about the Indian system of government. Some believe that it was an authoritarian government, due to the grid plan of their cities as well as other factors. However, many suggest that the political leaders were also priests. They believe that the Indian government was theocratic and that a conservative priesthood governed. On the other hand, we know much more about the political reign in ancient Egypt. They had a government system similar to a monarchy, where, as the head of state, the pharaoh had absolute power. However, he did not carry out the day-to-day duties; instead, he would assign a vizier to take responsibility of these daily affairs. In turn, the vizier would employ the services of hundreds of specialists, including administrators, priests, scribes, and merchants. Ranked immediately beneath the vizier was the chancellor, followed by the nomarchs, who assumed the role of the king's ambassadors.
Like all nations in history, both the ancient Egyptian and early Indian civilizations eventually fell. In the passages of Ezekiel, chapters 29 through 32, it talks of the decline of Egypt. Ezekiel 29:8-9 says, "So now the Sovereign Lord says: I will bring an army against you, O Egypt, and destroy both people and animals. The land of Egypt will become a desolate wasteland, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord. Because you said, 'The Nile River is mine; I made it,' I am now the enemy of both you and your river. I will utterly destroy the land of Egypt." The power and strength of Egypt proved to be their own downfall as the Egyptians became prideful and arrogant. History soon proved God correct. Assyria invaded Egypt around 650 B.C, resulting in the plundering and destruction of many temples. The Assyrians were eventually forced to retreat, but the Egyptians were devastated. Later, in the fifth century B.C., Persians invaders attacked and conquered Egypt.
In contrast, limited information is known about the reasons behind the decline of the Indus River civilization. Between 1700 and 1500 B.C., it seems that fewer and fewer people inhabited the region. Archaeologists found innumerable skeletons, many with visible cuts likely caused by a sword or axe-like weapon. Scholars suspect the Aryans to have been responsible for the final collapse, while others suggest that a flood destroyed them all. Hardly anything remained from the Indus civilization, and most of the knowledge about ancient India comes from archaeology finds.
When we take a look at these two ancient civilizations and the achievements they accomplished, it is easy to marvel at their accomplishments, such as the Great Pyramid and the Indian grid system. Each culture brought forth developments that have influenced world history. Yet, despite the greatness of these nations, they eventually faded from the world scene. One does not often take the time to look at the reason behind a nation's rise and fall. Few people today consider the current western civilization, in danger of a decline like those of past nations. Ancient civilizations, like the great Egyptian empire, probably never dreamed of their demise. They likely assumed that their empire would live on forever. It is because of pride that their civilization was thus blinded to the path they were taking-straight toward their demise. 1 John 2:17 tells us, "And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever." Though we may not live forever in this world, as long as we follow God's will, we will have eternal life in heaven.
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Harappan Civilization. June 1998. Related Essays
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