Cultivation of rice in India predates the IVC.
The currently available proof of the domestication of rice goes up to 9000 years ago in the Gangetic plain. Excavations were done at Lahuradewa in the trans- Sarayū region showed that rice was the staple food for the people. Cultivation of wild rice in Lahuradewa dates back to an early period of Holocene. One can see the limits of rice cultivation in the figure given below, with the Indus region falling outside.
Map of wild rice zones since 20,000 BP (marked as P) in comparion to expansion since 9,000 BP (marked as H). Recent populations are marked in crosses and circles. (Fuller 2011)
The tropical climate and wetness have favoured domestication of rice in south-east and eastern parts of India in the riverside regions from times before Indus civilization. This is proof of settled habitation in the Gangetic region much before Indus Valley Civilization started. Indus region is out of place in the rice map of early Holocene days.
The author (Fuller 2011) of the study (above figure) says in the abstract that ‘much dispersal of rice took place after Indo-Aryans and Dravidian speakers adopted rice from speakers of lost languages of Northern India’. This observation is influenced by the faulty and hypothetical division of people of India as Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. Like human genetics, rice-genetics is also assumed to reveal the speech of the people of the region! How unscientific!
Research by Upinder Singh (Singh 2008:110) has revealed the presence of cultivated rice of the variety Oryza sativa from the northern fringes of Vindhyas on the banks of Belan river up to Allahabad in the trans- Sarayū region. While Koldihwa and Mahagara in Allahabad show independent domestication of rice from 8th to 6th millennium BCE, the Neolithic sites in Son Valley in Madhya Pradesh has shown rice cultivation from 6th to 5th millennium BCE. Thus the Vindhya- Ganga- Ghaghara region is found to be the nuclear zone of rice domestication and cultivation from10,000 years BP. Delving on the same subject, Varma (2008:40-41) opines that this was not due to cultural diffusion from West Asia and South East Asia as one can find layers of evolution in the sites from Mesolithic to Neolithic culture.
The continuity or rather the spread of rice cultivation from east India to the Indus regions in the west was established by Petrie et al. The proof comes from Rakhigarhi!
In their paper Petrie et al established that rice was cultivated in Rakhigarhi even before the Indus Urban phase and observed that proximity of this region to the Ganges where the earliest domestication of rice was found in 7th millennium BCE “prompts the re-evaluation of the role of rice for Indus populations, and the way that it was transmitted from farther east”. This is a direct challenge to the view in support of AIT (Gangal et al. 2014) that farming entered India through Iran and Central Asia.
All the rice growing regions mentioned above were home to the Ikśvāku-s of Sarayū, Kuśikā-s of Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni-s of Vindhyas – the last two being Rig Vedic sages having a close blood relationship. Jamadagni was Viśvāmitra’s sister’s son and they both were of same age. (MB 13.4, VP 4.7)
The trans- Sarayū region had shown human settlements as early as 6th to 5th millennium BCE along with evidence of rice cultivation. It is significant that the birth date of Rama established by Puṣkar Bhaṭnāgar in his book “Dating the Era of Lord Ram” using astronomy software on the planetary position given in Valmiki Ramayana falls on 5114 BCE, within this period.
Ramayana period falling within 6th -5th Millennium BCE perfectly matches with archaeo-genetic of rice domestication in the trans-Sarayu region. The same period witnessed rice domestication in Vindhya-Ganga-Ghaghara region lending cross-referential support for the contemporariness of Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni with Rama – a feature well attested through another cross-referential source, namely Ramayana.
Rice domestication in Vindhya-Ganga-Ghaghara-trans Sarayū region strengthens the case for a Vedic society at that time. There is literary evidence for rice in Valmiki Ramayana (Iyengar 1997:31). A sage by name Trijaṭa used to collect a rice variety called ‘lāṅgalī’ scattered in the forest. Twice it is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana about this sage subsisting on rice grains collected this way (VR 2.32.29 & 34). This rice could be either a wild variety growing in the forest or the left-over’s of cultivated variety after harvest.
The date of rice cultivation in Rakhigarhi a millennia later to trans-Sarayū –Vindhya region establishes the route of movement of cultivation of rice that forms the heart of the Vedic yajna.
What is the more rational of the two – the chariot driving Central Asians of the mid-2nd Millennium BCE, after halting at the IVC grabbing the rice from the indigenous people and inventing Vedic fire ritual or a continuing indigenous population, growing rice since 7th Millennium BCE and gradually developing Vedic culture where rice is central to fire rituals? Those in the know of Vedas would attest that Vedas and Vedic rituals could not have been developed in a few centuries but over a larger span of time (which would take another article to explain). So it is not nationalistic, but rationalistic to claim that Rakhigarhi was indigenously Vedic, and therefore Aryan!
Fuller, D.Q. (2011). “Pathways to Asian Civilizations: Tracing the Origins and Spread of Rice and Rice Cultures”. RICE. 4(3-4). pp78-92. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12284-011-9078-7
Gangal K, Sarson GR, Shukurov A (2014) “The Near-Eastern Roots of the Neolithic in South Asia”. PLoS ONE 9(5): e95714. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095714
Ganguli, Kisari Mohan (Trans) (1883-1896). Mahabharata http://ancientvoice.wikidot.com/source:mahabharata
Griffith, Ralph T. H. (Trans) (1870-1874). Ramayan of Valmiki. http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rama/index.htm
Iyengar, Srinivasa C.R. (1997) (Trans). “Sakala Kāriya Siddhiyum, Srimad Rāmāayaṇamum” LIFCO Publication, Chennai. pp 29-32
Petrie, C., Bates, J., Higham, T., & Singh, R. (2016). “Feeding Ancient Cities in South Asia: Dating the Adoption of Rice, Millet and Tropical Pulses in the Indus Civilisation.” Antiquity. 90 (394). pp1489-1504. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2016.210
Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. Delhi. pp 110-111.
Varma, Radha Kant (2008). “Beginnings of Agriculture in the Vindhya-Ganga Region” History of Agriculture in India (up to c.1200 A.D). Concept Publishing Company. New Delhi. pp 31-46