The region of Gurugram and the state of Haryana at large present an interesting phenomenon of historical, archaeological and mythological facts that are yet to be completely deciphered and interpreted. One needs to realise that in today’s quest of making Gurugram and others smart cities in Haryana, we may need to pick up lessons from the smartly designed Harappan cities, now termed as the Sindhu Saraswati cities of this region.

Renowned archaeologist professor Vasant Shinde, in his recent book and Pupul Jayakar Memorial Lecture at INTACH, reiterates the ancient Indian knowledge system in terms of town planning principles, which are relevant for cities even today. “Excavations over three consecutive years (between 1997 and 2000) carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had uncovered evidence of a well-established road, drainage system, large rainwater storage facility, and additional city infrastructure in Rakhigarhi site.”, mentions professor Shinde.

There are several reasons why the town planners and designers are unable to capitalise on our own knowledge of these advanced traditional systems. To begin with, the hiatus created by our current colonial mindset leads us to believe that there is a total disconnect with our past and these principles cannot apply to the needs of the advanced societies today. Adding to this, there is a complete gap in a holistic approach towards understanding and interpreting these age-old town planning systems. The current bodies of knowledge exist in silos of various disciplines like archaeology, geology, anthropology and mythology, researching within their limited disciplinary frameworks with no attempt at convergence and absolutely no aim at linking with the current planning of cities and towns. Even though some later rural settlements in these archaeological areas existed on the footprints of the ancient Sindhu Saraswathi settlements and even though the rural-urban inhabitants of today reflect continuity in rituals from ancient times such as placing the bindi on the forehead, wearing of bangles, culinary practices, such as the use of herbs, and observance of Vedic fire rituals in most ceremonies, it is difficult for us to determine their connect and relevance for our future existence.

INTACH’s Haryana chapter is in the process of understanding and documenting the convergence of all the above strands of research to determine the extent, boundary and component of this ancient cultural landscape along with its alignment with the existing landscape with the aim of using this interpretation for a way forward in capitalising this knowledge for today’s planning and showcasing it as Haryana’s heritage for local, national and international audience.

INTACH is also working on the awareness of the Sindhu Saraswati heritage by collaborating with various institutions, such as the internship programme of Ashoka University. Listing of works is also being undertaken by the Sushant School of Art and Architecture. A picture book titled ‘Legend of Rakhigarhi’ designed and conceptualised by the interns of Ashoka University was released in 2017 and a heritage trail for Rakhigarhi was conducted by INTACH’s Hisar chapter on February 17, 2019, with the active involvement of local villagers and Ashoka University interns.

Working together with all stakeholders and Government organisations may help to create a deeper understanding of our past and possibly lead to some long-term, sensitive proposals for the future cities that are planned on these past foundations.

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