The Story of India (2007) s01e01 Episode Script

Beginnings (50,000 BCE - 1000 BCE)

60 years ago, India threw off the chains of the British empire and became a free nation.
And now the world's largest democracy is rushing headlong into the future.
As the brief heyday of the West draws to a close, one of the greatest players in history is rising again.
India has seen the ebb and flow of huge events since the beginning of history.
Its tale is one of incredible drama and the biggest ideas.
It's a place whose children will grow up in a global superpower and yet still know what it means to belong to an ancient civilization.
This is the story of a land where all human pasts are still alive.
A 10,000-year epic that continues today.
The story of India.
In the tale of life on earth, the human story is brief.
A few hundred generations cover humanity's attempts to create order, beauty, and happiness on the face of the earth.
The beginnings to most of us are lost in time, beyond memory.
Only India has preserved the unbroken thread of the human story that binds us all.
According to the oldest Indian myths, the first humans came from a golden egg laid by the king of the gods in the churning of the cosmic ocean.
Modern science, of course, works in a less poetic vein, but no less thrilling to the imagination.
For, what science tells us is that our ancestors first walked out of Africa only 70,000 or 80,000 years ago: round the shores of the Arabian sea and down into South India.
They were beachcombers, barefoot hunter-gatherers.
Driven as human beings always have been, by chance and necessity but also surely by curiosity, that most human of qualities.
When they came here to India, they must have been overwhelmed by the fertility.
Here down south, you throw a mango away and a tree will grow.
Life is superabundant.
So here some of them stayed, and they were the first Indians.
And all non-Africans on the planet can trace their descent from those early migrations into India.
The rest of the world was populated from here Mother India, indeed! And amazingly for so long ago, those first Indians have left their trail.
If you go inland from the beaches of Kerala into the maze of backwaters, deep in the rainforests, you'll still find their traces clues to what lies beneath all the later layers of Indian history clues that till recently were completely unsuspected.
For, here, you can even hear their voices sounds from the beginning of human time.
An ancient clan of Brahmins lives here, priests, ritual specialists.
They alone can perform the religious rituals.
They're preparing an ancient ceremony for the god of fire that will take 12 days to perform.
For centuries, these incantations, or mantras, have been passed down from father to son only among Brahmins exact in every sound.
But some of the mantras are in no known language.
Only recently have outsiders been allowed to record them and to try to make sense of the Brahmins' chants.
To their amazement, they discovered whole tracts of the ritual were sounds that followed rules and patterns but had no meaning.
There was no parallel for these patterns within any human activity, not even music.
The nearest analogue came from the animal kingdom it was birdsong.
These sounds are perhaps tens of thousands of years old, passed down from before human speech.
There are certain patterns of sounds preceding and succeeding texts.
That is what is called oral tradition.
You can't write those patterns in book.
It's unprintable, so only orally it can be transmitted through generations, and this oral tradition is still alive in Kerala.
For 12 days, the priests and their wives must stay inside the enclosure, and then, when the ritual is over and the world purified, the huts are burned down, all trace obliterated, save in the memory of the Brahmin reciters.
Down in India's deep south, free from foreign invasions, such things have survived as in few places on the planet, and just over the mountains in Tamil Nadu are more clues to India's deepest roots.
Here, geneticists from the University of Madurai testing the DNA of tribal villagers have made an astonishing discovery.
First, we isolate the DNA from the solution and we look for specific markers in the solution, ancient markers, which can give you the clue about the migrational history of people.
It's a direct evidence that we are out of Africa and it's all a brotherlyhood; we are all the same.
Here among the Kallar people, Professor Ramsamy Pitchappan recently tested a man called Virumandi.
In his DNA was the marker of that first human migration.
Virumandi's wife? Very nice to meet you Since the migration of the first man, 70,000 years ago, and which Virumandi probably carries that gene m130, right? Correct, correct.
So, Virumandi, how does it feel to be the first Indian? I am very happy for this That you have this gene.
Virumandi's tribe practice South India's and the world's oldest form of marriage with first cousins.
That way, they've handed down some of mankind's earliest genes.
Some 50,000-60,000 years ago, this m130 gene pool came over here, and luckily somebody stayed in this village and expanded, then we could identify.
You know, to our surprise, you know that the whole village is of m130.
Everybody around us here? Everybody around us here carries m130, so you call it as a ponder fact what will be that.
You've got the early migrations in at least 2 waves.
Language is only developing later? Yes, the scholars feel that it is only just 10,000 years old, the spoken language maybe only 10,000-15,000 maximum.
Language is not the same as ethnicity.
We need to make that clear, don't we? Yes, it is absolutely essential, yes, it is not.
The language can easily be adopted.
The same is true with the religion, too it's a kind of belief system.
You believe in your system, in your education or in your capacity, or in your family, whatever way you feel like.
You have every liberty to feel proud of what you are.
This is because of this reason I believe that India has become such a cosmos of humanity with the diversity but still with the unity.
Is that what makes you an Indian, then? Yeah, probably, yes, a human being all the more, I would say, rather than Indian.
And despite all the later migrations and invasions, India's gene pool has remained largely constant.
It's one of the unchanging roots of India.
Languages and religions came only later and they are always subject to change.
But here in the south, they've passed down humanity's oldest religion, too.
In the great temple of Madurai, they still worship the female principle, the mother goddess, as Indian people have done for tens of thousands of years.
And alongside her are countless other deities that link humanity with the magical power of the natural world.
Over the ages, thousands of gods will emerge, always adding to what had been before.
So the roots of Indian religion, too, will grow over a vast period of time as India's expression of the multiplicity of the universe.
Here, the Divine has not one form, but millions.
So, India's famous unity and diversity goes back to customs and beliefs and habits that lie deep in prehistory like the worship of the goddess here in Madurai.
And when you look at all the tides of Indian history that follow, you can see that identity is never static, always in the making and never made.
So, that's the first chapter in the story of India.
It's almost the first chapter in the story of humanity.
For tens of thousands of years, human beings lived as hunter-gatherers.
And then in the Stone Age, starting in the Near East, came the invention of agriculture.
And once bigger populations could be supported, that led to the creation of India's first cities in around 3,000 B.
in the valley of the river Indus.
To find out about those first cities, I traveled 1,500 miles north to today's capitalDelhi.
Delhi's been the site of 7 Indian capitals over the last 3,000 years, and the layers of the Indian past are visible all around you.
But 5,000 years ago, the powerhouse of Indian history lay far to the west, across the modern border of Pakistan.
This was the scene of a new phase in human development: what we now call civilization.
Salaam alaikum.
How much is that? So, Multan is your native place? Multan your native place? Yes.
Very nice.
What work are you in? Making historical film for London.
These days, "civilization" is a very problematical word with many shades of meaning, but to historians and archaeologists, it means living in cities, large-scale, highly organized societies, monumental architecture, law and writing.
And to find the origins of Indian civilization, we need to come first of all to Pakistan, once part of India but split to become a separate country in 1947.
Because it was here in the valley of the Indus River, comparatively recently, a series of amazing discoveries revealed a hitherto completely unknown ancient civilization.
Those first discoveries took place in the 1920s at a little halt on the railway line between Multan and Lahore: Harappa.
At that time, the Indian subcontinent was under British rule.
And then the idea that the people of what is now Pakistan and India might be heirs to an ancient civilization far older than the Bible, Greece, and Rome would have seemed incredible.
The Europeans saw India as a primitive, backward place.
They believed civilization was the product of the classical world for whom they were the modern standard-bearers.
And nobody even suspected that India had a prehistory.
But all that changed in 1921 when British and Indian archaeologists arrived at this little place in the Punjab.
Alaikum salaam.
How are you? Thank you for having us.
That's wonderful.
The archaeologists camped in tents here, and they were plagued by mosquitoes, too.
That night in the dig hut, I read again the romantic account of those first discoveries, at the same time as the finding of Tutankhamen in Egypt.
"Not often is it given to archaeologists," wrote the British excavator John Marshall, "as it was given to Schliemann at Mycenae, "to light upon the remains of a forgotten civilization.
"It looks, however, at the moment, "as if we are on the threshold of such a discovery here in the plains of the Indus.
" Like the other great ancient civilizations in Iraq, Egypt, and China, India's first cities had grown up on a river.
The ruins of Harappa stood on the dried-up bed of a tributary of the river Indus.
Its huge citadel walls had been quarried away by Victorian railway contractors, but there was still evidence of industry and trade, of writing and high-level organization and a huge population.
Harappa was far older than anything previously known in India.
Amazingly, at the time of the building of the pyramids of Egypt, there had been vast cities here in India.
When does Harappa begin? Harappa was beginning 3,500 B.
, 5,000 years ago from here.
Right, 3,500 B.
, so this is very, very long-lasting place.
And when was the heyday, the high period of the Indus civilization? The high period of Indus civilization started around 2,900 B.
to 1,900 B.
This is the highest period; we call it "mature Harappan period.
" And how many people do you think lived here in the height of its power? I think about 2 lakh peoples.
200,000 people? Yes, according to their houses and streets, it is estimated guess.
Wow, but it's a big city for the ancient world.
The next year, 1922, British and Indian archaeologists targeted an untouched site to the southMohenjo-daro.
By ancient standards, it was an urban giant, a Bronze-Age Manhattan.
Just like the modern Indians and Pakistanis, the Indus people were traders.
From here, their boats sailed to the Persian Gulf and Iraq carrying cargoes of ivory, teak, and lapis lazuli.
The city appeared to be the capital of a great empire, which we now know extended from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.
With over 2,000 towns and villages, it was the largest civilization in the ancient world, and with up to 5 million people, the world's biggest population.
But then after flourishing for several centuries, the cities declined, trade collapsed, and the people went back to the land.
Why the Indus cities died is one of the greatest mysteries in archaeology.
Back in London, I went to see Dr.
Sanjeev Gupta, who offered me a much bigger picture as to why civilizations rise and fall.
About 180 million years ago, India was actually an island floating in this vast ocean that we call Tethys, and it was moving northwards for about 130 million years.
Eventually, about 50 million years ago, it actually rammed into Asia, collided with Asia to produce the world's largest mountain beltthe Himalayas.
And the Himalayas created the monsoons.
The mountains draw the warm air from the south, which is precipitated in rain.
It was the monsoons that made the first Indian civilization when they failed, it did, too.
So, there's a longer perspective to the historians' view civilizations come and go; environment and climate are what shape our human story in the long-term as we're discovering now to our cost.
And the key to the collapse of the Indus cities was the shifting and drying up of the rivers.
In the last 10,000 years, we have actually seen a progressive decline in the strength of the Indian summer monsoon and particularly around, some people suggest, that around 3,500 years ago, there was actually a major decrease in the strength of the monsoon.
Climate change isn't just happening now, it's happened in the past.
All these early settlements made mature Harappan civilization settlements just completely disappear, and we see this major shift eastwards into the central part of the Ganges Plain.
And ever since, from sacred songs to Bollywood movies, Indian people have loved the monsoon.
The coming of the monsoon has an almost erotic charge.
It's the giver of life itself.
So climate change shifted the center of gravity of Indian history.
The Indus cities died, but many of the people migrated eastwards, following the rivers to new lands that have been sacred from that day to this: the plain of the river Ganges.
And that's the scene of the next chapter in the story of India.
Hi, sir.
How are you? Hi.
How are you? How is the water? The water is good? Yeah, good.
So, the first great Indian civilization died out.
Or did it? The mystery of the Indus cities is so tantalizing, and the differences with later Indian civilization apparently so great, that it's easy to think that there was a major break in continuity of Indian civilization.
But history's not like that, especially Indian history, and it's only a very short time after the end of the last of the Indus cities, let's say around 1,500 B.
, that we get the first definite evidence of an Indian language and an Indian literature.
That language is India's ancient classical language Sanskrit.
It's the ancestor of most of the modern dialects spoken today across northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
It's the root of the languages spoken by almost a billion people.
But there's a great mystery: where did Sanskrit come from? Was it the language of the Indus civilization, did it grow up here in the Ganges Plain, or did it come from somewhere outside India? Like Latin, Sanskrit is no longer a spoken language, but here in the holy city of Varanasi, young Brahmin boys still learn it to recite their earliest scriptures: the Vedas.
For traditional Hindus, these are the most ancient scriptures in the world older by far than the Bible.
The Vedas have been orally transmitted down the ages as accurately as a recording.
And it's because they're so perfectly preserved that linguists can date them.
The oldest is a collection of 1,000 hymns called the Rig Veda, which start around 1,500 B.
, a time when Stonehenge was still in use.
It's quite a thought, isn't it? In this room, you've got a living link with India's deep past.
What you're listening to are the sounds and the words of the Bronze Age.
As with the mantras in Kerala, the archaic verses of the Rig Veda have been passed down word for word only within families of Brahmin priests.
So the challenge is to unravel the mystery of the Brahmins' chants: the secret code of the Rig Veda! The songs of the Rig Veda tell of warlike tribes who conquered North India.
Their leaders spoke Sanskrit and they called themselves Aryans.
But who were the Aryans? The first clues emerged in the 18th century, when the British ruled here in Calcuttathe great trading port of eastern India.
The key figure was a Welsh judge called William Jones, who founded the Asiatic Society.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Jones admired Indian civilization.
He persuaded a Brahmin scholar to teach him Sanskrit.
And what he found would rewrite the history of the world's languages, including our own.
On February the 2nd, 1786, Jones gave a lecture here to the Society.
Like others before him, he noticed a very close similarity between Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek.
And even to English and his native Welsh.
Take the word for father: pater in Greek and pater in Latin is pitar in Sanskrit.
The word for mother: mater in Latin, meter in Greekin Sanskrit is Matar.
And most amazing, the key word for horse in Sanskritaszwa is exactly the same thousands of miles away in Lithuania.
"No philologer could examine all 3," said Jones, "without believing them to have sprung from some common source.
" We now know Jones was right, and though this is now hugely controversial in the Subcontinent, most linguists agree the common source lay outside India.
Oh, thank you very much.
This is very exciting.
So where had Sanskrit come from? In the Rig Veda lies the key to the next phase of the story.
So, Professor Biswas, this isI'm looking in the modern catalogue6608, and we're looking for bundle 14.
Bundle 14, this one.
It says here, copied in Samvat the year 1418, which is A.
Appearance very old.
Yeah, and probably this is the earliest manuscript of Padapatha.
The earliest manuscript.
When this text was written down, it had already been passed down orally for more than 2,500 years.
The first verse of the Rig Veda In the Rig Veda, there are clues to the origin of the Sanskrit speakersthe Aryans.
First, their gods were not originally Indian gods.
The most important god was Indra.
Indra was the god of thunder.
He was the god of rain.
The god of thunder and the god of rain.
He brought down the water from the sky to earth.
He brought down the water from the sky.
From sky.
Then the chariots and horses.
They didn't have horses in the Indus civilization, but they were sacred to the Aryans.
Chariots were drawn by the horses.
They used to ride the horses, and it was very familiar animal to them, and I think that they tamed the horse at a very early period.
And the last clue: hints that the Aryans had migrated into India.
So a movement eastwards can be determined.
And some of the rivers are identified with rivers almost towards the Afghan border? The Swat, Suvastu, and the Kabul river? This is the first movement of Aryans.
Is this the name they called themselves, and what does it mean? It actually means the civilized: the socialized, the civilized person.
Refined person and so the use of the word Arya.
Following the clues in the Rig Veda, the next stage of my search was to journey up to the northwest frontier of Pakistan, back to the places where the Aryans are first recorded within the Indian subcontinent.
The Rig Veda says they settled in the valley of the Indus the river that gave India its name.
It tells of battles on the Kabul River, which flows down from Afghanistan.
The Aryans herded their cattle on the river Swat, now in Pakistan's northwest frontier.
The heart of the early Aryan territory was the region of Peshawar in Pakistan.
Always a crossroads, it's now a hotspot in the war against Al Qaeda.
And here I followed up another clue: the Rig Veda talks about a sacred drink used in the Aryans' rituals: soma.
The Rig Veda says it was taken from a mountain plant.
It didn't have leaves or berries.
It was a brown, twig-like plant, which you crushed to create a kind of distillation.
Now, in the mountains of Afghanistan there's still a drink called som today, and if we're likely to find it anywhere, it'll be here in the bazaar at Peshawar.
Just off the street of storytellers is the alley of the apothecaries.
And here I tried out the Rig Veda's recipe for somathe plant that gave the Aryan poets their visions.
A long stalk, no leaves, makes bitter, very bitter taste.
Like this.
Like this.
You have?! Yeah.
Ah, fantastic, fantastic! He has the natural plant here? It can be 1 foot, 2 foot, 3 feet long, scented likeah! Mahooey mohoo! This is it.
This is it.
Smells slightly like pine.
If I boil this up in water, I should be able to taste the bitter taste of it.
Yeah, OK.
We don't know exactly how soma was prepared, although we do know that they sweetened its bitter taste with honey.
What we want is a pot of this, full boiling water but a lot of it so it's strong.
Som is still used as a medicine in Central Asia.
The active element in the plant is ephedrine, and the effect that it has, according to the Rig Veda is, well, if you take too much of it, it can cause nausea, it can be frightening, it can give you vertigo, sickness, vomiting.
If you take it in the right measure, it enlivens the senses, sharpens you up, keeps you awake.
The poets in the Rig Veda composed their songs often at night having drunk soma, and of course Indra, king of the gods, drinks vast quantities of this, perhaps because it's thought to be an aphrodisiac as well.
My god, look at the color of it! Ha ha! But soma's not an Indian plant.
It doesn't grow in the humid plains, and today it's no longer part of Hindu religion.
It came from outside.
This is a really important aspect of the Rig Veda.
There are many, many of the thousands of the poems devoted to the merits of drinking soma almost as an elixir of the gods and chiefly the king of the gods himself.
It also makes you talk too much.
So the border of today's Pakistan and Afghanistan was the first home of the Aryans inside India.
But there are hints in the Rig Veda that they'd come from much further afield, even beyond the Afghan mountains.
So we followed the clues northwards into Central Asia.
And my search for the Aryans now led into the secret world of Turkmenistan, only now emerging from decades of communist rule.
Out here on the ancient silk road, great civilizations have risen and fallen.
The desert is littered with the ruins of lost cities millennia of human habitation.
4,000 years ago, this desert was a fertile oasis, home to thousands of settlementsall of them destroyed by climate change at the same time as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, India's first cities.
And out here we made our rendezvous with the legendary Russian archaeologist Victor Sarianidi.
So Professor Sarianidi is, to say the least, a living legend.
One of the great Russian archaeologists, he's been excavating out here in the wilds for many years and found what few archaeologists are ever lucky enough to find a lost civilization.
Sarianidi is excavating a vast fortified mud brick enclosure and a huge sacred precinct with tombs and fire altars.
The material culture here is the mirror image of the Aryans of the Rig Veda and their ancient Iranian cousins who followed the Zoroastrian religion.
What date does the site finish, stop being used? So change of river, climate change, moves the population? Yes.
This is where the soma was prepared, the sacred drink, in this kind of bowl? Da.
What were the ingredients of the sacred drink? What went into it? Have you tasted? - Have you made today? - No! Probably.
Too early in the morning.
Well, it certainly is for me, I'll tell you that! When you look at the connections, you've got the sacred drink here, the soma, you've got the fire altars, you've got the beginnings of very close similarities with what we heard in the Rig Veda.
What about horses then, Victor? Have you found evidence of horses? The horse was first domesticated in Central Asia and chariots first used.
So this is a foal, for a king's mausoleum? Yes.
The horse sacrifice was the greatest ritual an Aryan king could do.
All of these are royal tombs, and in these tombs you found wheeled vehicles like carts.
With 4 wheels? Yes.
With 4 wheels.
It's really interesting.
Isn't it? The Rig Vedawhen they talk about the wheeled vehicles in the early Rig Veda, they used this word raathr.
In Sanskritraathr, and it is not a chariot.
It is actually a cart and here they have actually found the cart.
The origin of the Aryans must lie much further into Central Asia.
This was perhaps a staging post for one group out of many on the way to Iran and India.
It's great to finally get here.
That night we made our toasts to friends and ancestors in vodka, not soma, but the spirit was the same.
And the next day, I found myself reflecting on the legacy of those times: the languages we still speak around the world today.
It's a wonderful, tantalizing mystery, isn't it? The Aryans, or to be more precise, the cluster of languages that would become modern English, German, French, Latin and Greek, Persian, and Sanskrit.
Where did they come from, and how did they spread? Well, it mayjust be that here in the deserts of Turkmenistan, for the first time we can pin these people down on their migration.
Many experts now think that the ancestral language of the Indo-Europeans spread out of what's now Turkey maybe 9,000 years ago.
And then, around 2,000 B.
, from Central Asia into Iran and India and the Ganges Plain.
The Aryans left little mark in the DNA of India, but over time they made a profound change in her language and culture.
Sanskrit-speaking tribes settled along the North Indian rivers, conquering the native peoples and, in time, imposing their own speech and values.
By around 1,000 B.
, the chief Aryan clans were fighting each other for supremacy, and that period of heroic warfare, just like the Greek tale of Troy, was eventually crystallized in a great myth: the Mahabharata.
Composed in Sanskrit, the Mahabharata is the longest poem in the world, and for all Indians, the greatest story ever told.
Like Homer's tale of Troy, which is from roughly the same time, the Mahabharata is a story of war and tragedyan archetypal tale of family feud that ends in an apocalyptic battle here at Kurukshetra.
It's dawn on the festival of the great god Shiva, and pilgrims are gathering here by the enormous sacred pool at Kurukshetra.
The story of the rival families, the Kurus and the Pandavas, would permeate Indian culture in all Indian languages, becoming a fundamental guide on how to live your life and how to do your duty.
For Indian people, the battle has always marked the divide between the time of myth and the beginning of real history.
It's the last time when men and gods walked the earth together.
It's a battlefield for Kuras and the Pandavas at the time of Dawapar.
Dawapar is a Krishna time, Lord Krishna's time.
All the warriors, they belong to his own family, all family relatives.
He doesn't want to do war with his whole family.
He doesn't want to fight against his own people.
And what did Krishna say to him? Then Krishna, he teach, advise him, how the performance of duty, importance of performing duty for a king.
Your duty is to fight? The performance of duty is must.
It's really an epic that speaks to every age.
It's an epic full of stories of human beings with feet of clay, with lust and lechery and ambitions and fears people who have committed acts of betrayal and sold each other down the river.
There's a tremendous amount of it.
To read the Mahabharat today is to recognize how thrilling it must have been to hear it the first time, somewhere between 400 B.
And 400 A.
, which is roughly the 800-year span during which it was composed.
During that period, the tale was told and retold to a point where it became a sort of national library of India where every tale had to be told was incorporated into a retelling of the Mahabharata.
All sorts of things got tossed into this.
Literally every single thing that people wanted to talk about at that time was interpolated into a retelling of the epic.
So for 800 years, the Mahabharat became the story of India.
And stories, too, become part of a nation's identity, for they help create a shared past that binds us all, irrespective of language or religion, making an allegiance to the idea of India itself.
But was the war more than just myth? So these are all places that were famous in the legend? These names have not changed.
Till today they bear the same name.
The reason is that In 1949, 2 years after independence, a young archaeologist, B.
Lal, went to the citadel of the warring clans at Hastinapur to see if real history lay behind the myth.
This is a view of the Hastinapur mound, and we put a long trench right across the mound.
We are looking at this mound from the west.
On the eastern side, the river used to flow.
Right by the side of the old river Ganges, in ancient times.
His guide was not only archaeological science but the tradition handed down in the Mahabharata.
On the western side of the mound we were getting the painted gray ware, on the eastern side we were not getting it.
And the texts say that during the time of Nichakshu, a great flood came in the Ganga and washed away Hastinapur.
A great flood washed away the Hastinapur? And you can see the man in this figure is pointing to the erosion mark left by the river.
It's very clear, isn't it? Yeah.
So you'd found the key evidence that the tradition had, was correct, that there had been a flood that had destroyed part of the city? Yes.
When you go to Hastinapur today, you'd almost think it could be then.
What Lal found under the ground was so similar to what is still above it.
The country people of India live the same way.
They build the same kind of houses.
Ancient Hastinapur was recognizable in the India of today.
This is the trench that Professor Lal dug through the mound nearly 60 years ago.
It's crumbling now, but you can still make out the different layers of the city.
It's a bit bigger than Troy for the sake of comparison about 700 yards across: the royal citadel of one of these early kings of the Ganges Valley.
With mud brick defenses, store rooms, rooms for the warriors who were their armed following, and somewhere here presumably a palace, although Professor Lal never found that.
Now, what connected this place with the war in the Mahabharata? Well, remember 3 things: the legend which named the place, the story of the flood, and the pottery.
And here's the pottery.
This kind of stuff you can pick up even today after the rains all over the site.
They call it "painted gray ware.
" You can see why.
It's gray, beautifully turned on a wheel, and it's painted.
That was the evidence that led Professor Lal to believe that there was truth behind the legend and that the great war of the Mahabharata really took place.
Remember, this was the first great excavation done after independence, and it was of crucial importance for the Indian people's view of their own history.
The Mahabharata was their greatest and most loved epic, and here this excavation seemed to prove that long before all the colonial periods which had dominated India, there was a real history and it was their own.
Over the next 3,000 years, Greeks and Huns, Turks and Afghans, Moghuls and British, Alexander, Tamburlaine, Babur, will all come and fall under India's spell.
And India's greatest strength, as the oldest civilizations know, will be to adapt and change, to absorb the wounds of history and to use its gifts but somehow magically always remain India.
And that, I suppose, is what makes India so unique, for here the modern world still happily coexists with its deep past.
This is the sacred city of Mathura, home of the divine hero of the Mahabharta: Krishna.
The cool season is over now, the rains are finishing, and the heat is beginning to rise.
The festival of Holi celebrates the coming of light, the triumph of good and the growth of life.
Down there there's bank managers and I.
boffins rubbing shoulders with farmers and rickshaw men, all of them dancing for a god from prehistory.
This amazing journey has already taken us from the deep south of India to the wilds of the Hindu Kush in Central Asia and here to the heart of the Ganges Plain.
And already, you can see the cultures and the languages and the religions of India have been built up over tens of thousands of years.
They're the deep current on which events, the great events of history are just the surface movements.
And they make up that deep core of the identity of India.
And this and this is just the beginning! Next in "The Story of India": Tales of war and peace, and the power of ideas.
The greatest warriors, the greatest thinkers, and the most dangerous idea in the world!