Hodder & Stoughton
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The river Indus has links with ancient civilizations, and it plays a major role in the cultural history of the region. It starts in the Tibetan plateau, travels through the Ladakh region in India, and flows through the entire length of Pakistan.
The author of Empires Of The Indus: The Story Of A River begins her journey in the lower stretches of the river and travels upstream. Along the way, she encounters many different communities who live near the river, and also tracks their history.
The Indus' links to humanity go back to the times of the Harappan civilization. It is referred to as Sapta Sindhu in the Vedas. Through millennia, it has played a major role in the history of this region. Now, this glorious river is no longer so revered. In fact, deforestation, too many dams along its way, and other such factors now mean a muddy death in the sands for the once great river.
The author traces a dual history, the history of the human inhabitants along the river's banks, and the story of the river itself. As she does this, she travels back in time from the present. Along the way, she finds cultures and communities that are diverse, yet somehow united in their deeper beliefs by close proximity to each other.
She visits a shrine of a mystic, Shah Inayat, who preached a message of love and equality during the Mughal rule, and for this was killed by the rulers. She highlights the irony of his descendants being part of a system that he loathed. They were landlords who became rich by exploiting landless peasants. She comes across the Sheedis, a community of people who were originally brought as slaves from Africa by Muslim traders. Now, through social and historical conditioning, these people are ashamed of their own history, preferring to forget their links with the land of their origin.
She meets the Bhangi people, who still clean the sewers. Upstream, she discovers the remains of tombs commemorating the Kalkhoras of Sindh, who resisted the advance of the British for a long time in the 18th century.
Empires Of The Indus: The Story Of A River traces the story of the river, which begins as a pristine and flowing body of water, that later becomes muddy and degenerates into a trickle that dries up in sand, through mismanagement of precious resources. Along the way, humanity's history is also traced, from the ancient centers of culture and glory, to the contemporary division and strife as the river progresses towards its lower reaches.