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Harappa: The Indus Valley and the Raj in India and Pakistan
Omar Khan, Jim McCall, and Andrew Deonarine
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Reviewed by:
Robert DeCaroli
George Mason University
October 2002

Omar Khan created and runs this site out of San Francisco, with the help of programmer Andrew Deonarine and graphic artist Jim McCall. Although the site was first designed as a way for Mr. Khan to share his personal interest in South Asian history with a wider audience, it has become one of the most impressive collections of South Asian primary sources on the Internet. This success is due in part to the fact that the content for the Indus Valley section comes from the leading scholars in the field like Dr. J.M. Kenoyer (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and Dr. Richard Meadow (Harvard University). The site was first established in 1995 and grows by approximately 30 new pages each month.

This extremely well-maintained and useful site contains a variety of sources related to two disparate periods in the history of South Asia. About half of the material relates to the Indus Valley Civilization (ca. 2000-1500 BCE) while the rest comprises of records from the Raj, Independence, and Partition (19th-20th c. CE). Although the vast amount of material on this site can be confusing to navigate (1,791 pages and growing), it is well worth the effort. Of particular note is the selection of newsreel footage depicting important leaders, like Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah, as well as key moments in the early history of modern South Asia. There is also a selection of World War II era clips depicting both public events and private scenes of family life. In all, the site has about 40 film clips; however, this number will undoubtedly rise due to updates and additions.

The 700 plus images of 19th-century photographs, prints, engravings, postcards, and lithographs are a fantastic record of life during the Raj and would be helpful in any classroom discussion of colonialism, orientalism, and the British desire to attract more countrymen (or, more specifically, countrywomen) to the subcontinent. Most of these images are linked to the lives of individual artists or photographers, which allows students to get a sense of the kinds of images that became popular among certain European audiences at particular moments in history. This can lead to fruitful discussions about the kinds of places and people that are specifically not being represented. The short essays that accompany most of the images do an excellent job of providing context.

A portion of the site, dedicated to “Sounds,” contains almost 50 audio files of public speeches by Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah and is an important supplement to the newsreel footage mentioned above. But perhaps the most interesting feature in the “sounds” section is a series of interviews conducted by the producer of the site, Omar Khan, in which he interviews important but less well-know men and women who participated in significant events in the early modern history of India and Pakistan. These oral histories provide a personalized and poignant look at the role of the individual in history and can be a great entry point to further classroom discussion or writing projects.

As for the Indus material, the 270 images that are part of the three “Indus Tour” slide shows provide a comprehensive introduction to this ancient culture and are complete with both maps and reconstructive drawings. The link to the “latest discoveries“ section provides current information from recent excavations in the region and also has a “map game” for younger students.

Other sections of the site deal with the thorny issue of the Indus script, bibliographic and web-related resources, and life in a contemporary fishing village along the Indus. They have also added a small commercial section to the site that sells educational goods. Proceeds from the sales go to the non-profit Harappa Archaeological Research Project, which supports archaeological work in the region.

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