ADI A Story of Indus Valley Civilization

Adi is an engaging children's story that covers the journey of a young boy, Adi, son of a copper merchant in Nausharo to Mohenjo-daro with his father sometime during the height of the ancient Indus civilization. His experiences there feature many of the well-known Indus hallmarks like the Great Bath, the so-called Granary, and a festival that features - of course! - the dancing girl. As a fiction the book does a good job of imagining from what we know about Indus peoples to build a credible story, like the complex trade in copper from mine to manufacture and use, the likely interactions with different peoples along the way, visits to craft workshops, maybe even the way seals were worn by traders around their necks (or at least somewhere on their bodies).

"Peoples" is the right word here, because one of the best things about Adi's story is the emphasis on the cosmopolitan nature of Mohenjo-daro, the collection of different people from as far away as Dholavira and Central Asia (which matches the archaeological record) that populated its broad and narrow streets. Much Like South Asia today, this was a composite culture, with perhaps as great a set of differences between different tribes, nomads, craftspeople and religions as today. Imagining a single Indus culture, religion or even polity might be off the mark and not do justice to the richness of the times and people. There is no reason why this can't be the case even with certain broad similar features like seals, weights, ruling elites and so forth (see for example, Massimo Vidale's article Hetarchic Powers in Ancient Indus Cities). There may even have been a single ruler across a diverse set of people, languages and traditions, much as different portions of the subcontinent ever since have been "ruled" by one family, tribe or culture while within that polity there flourished a wide variety of people who bore much closer relationships to each other than to the putative "rulers."

In short, looking backwards into history is fraught, and the author does a good job of respecting differences instead of trying to erase them and this helps make his story compelling. Adi nicely uses the trade and transport of raw materials and goods as the theme around which to make what must have been an intricate web of relationships come alive.

The growth of Indus fiction in recent times, from graphic novels like The People of the Indus, to the similar children's trade and travel story Trade Winds to Melba is a most welcome development. It should help draw even more young audiences (adults are gladly invited too) into discovering the rich ancient heritage of the subcontinent, and the great benefits that trade and travel between places brought to everyone thousands of years ago, quite unlike the closed physical borders we mostly face throughout the region today.