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People of the Indus

and the birth of civilisation in South Asia

People of the Indus is a non-fiction graphic novel that tells the history of the Indus Civilisation.

Available for purchase here.

Toy cart from Mohenjo Daro

Around 5000 years ago, civilisation developed for the first time in human history. This was a time of great change in the way humans lived their lives, a time when we invented governments and bureaucracies, pioneered the use of metals and the wheel, developed organised religion and high fashion, and came up with the idea of writing. In addition, we also devised taxation and slavery, warfare and mass-murder. The world would never be the same again.

Book Cover.jpeg

Draft cover

Civilisation first appeared in three places around the world — Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Indian subcontinent. All three places saw the advent of highly complex societies within a few centuries of each other. However, the nature and character of the civilisation that developed in South Asia was strikingly different from the other two.

Seals and Pottery from the Indus Civilisation

The Indus (or Harappan) Civilisation, as it is known, had no kings. Warfare too was completely absent. In addition, its people built no grand monuments to glorify their rulers. This was in stark contrast to Egypt and Mesopotamia where warfare was common and kings routinely built great palaces, tombs (like the Pyramids) and temples (Ziggurats).

What was going on? If there were no kings in the Indus civilization how was society organised? What were people’s lives like? What were they doing if not building giant structures like the Pyramids?

Screenshots from the book

This graphic novel will take you through the course of the Indus Civilisation. We will visit some of the ruins of these ancient cities and talk about what life was like here. Along the way we will meet its people, travel over trade routes and explore the role of writing. Finally, we will discuss how people's lives changed after one of the major rivers on which this civilization was based (Ghaggar-Hakra, also identified by many scholars as the Saraswati river of Vedic lore) went dry and urbanism shifted geographically to the Ganga-Yamuna river valleys.

The People of the Indus has been conceptualised, written and illustrated by myself, Nikhil Gulati, a graphic novel and comic book artist.

Key insights into the interpretation of the academic literature as well as visual reconstructions of the constumes, hairstyles and architecture came from Dr. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, a professor of archaeology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison (link), who has excavated the site of Harappa for more than 30 years. He is one of the foremost authorities in the field.

We are both very excited to be presenting a rigorously researched book that is conveyed in a way that will appeal to a wide audience.

The People of the Indus has been published by Penguin Random House India and was released in October, 2022. It is available for purchase in bookstores all over India and on Amazon here.

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