It was in 1922 when an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, R D Banerji, found the well-planned ancient city of Mohenjo Daro. Its strategically planned streets and canals indicate that the early occupants of the lost city were skilled urban planners who knew how to protect the city from excessive rains and floods. But there has been constant scepticism around the naming of this Indus Valley civilization.

Over the years many researchers tried to decrypt the name of this ancient city but among them, only three remained as the top contenders, which are: Moenjo Daro (Mound of the Dead), Mohanjo Daro (Mound of Mohan) and Mohenjo Daro (Mound of Krishna).

The claim on the name

Recently Pakistan People's Party MPA Qasim Siraj Soomro moved a resolution in the Sindh Assembly to declare the site's official name as Mohenjo Daro while defying other names, Moenjo Daro and Mohanjo Daro.

As per the Soomro, the name Mohenjo Daro was presented by the director of the excavation, John Marshal. He mentioned that the local inhabitants of the area also called it the same and "It must be read and written as it was quoted by the first excavator of this site and those who have been living here for centuries." Over the years even after conducting research on the site as well as the discovered artefacts, the archaeologists, historians and linguists have failed to agree on what will be the site's official name.

But a local journalist, Abdul Haq Pirzado, who lives a kilometre away from the thousands of year old historic site, claimed that the name Mohenjo Daro is derived from the Sindhi word Mohain. He added that "In Sindhi, 'Mohain' refers to the view of a mound. There was once a huge mound in front of the villages, which could be seen from afar that is how the locals came to know the site as Mohenjo Daro." But, Dr Ishaq Samejo, who has a PhD in the Sindhi Language stated that there is no such word in Sindhi which relates to the name of the site.

Mohenjo Daro
Mohenjo Daro Wikimedia Commons

Mohenjo Daro: The name in focus

It should be mentioned that in January this year, during a three-day international conference, organized by the Sindh government on Indus Script, several archaeologists and linguists from all over the world presented their studies on the ancient site. At the end of the conference more parts of Mohenjo Dao were asked to be excavated to justify or prove any claim related to the name of the site.

While talking about the official name of the site, an anthropologist, Sikandar Hullio, who is the member of the technical committee of Pakistan's Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Department, said that when there is no verdict from the experts on the name of any archaeological site or place, it is mostly referred to by the local name.

He said that the name Mohenjo Daro means the 'village of the fishermen.' In addition, Hullio "Phonetically, words are changed with the passage of time. The word Mohen means 'fisherman'. John Marshall, with the help of the locals, named the site Mohenjo Daro, but it was later changed to Moenjo Daro (Mound of the Dead) while some people call it Mohanjo Daro, but we have to follow what John Marshall referred to it as."

Mohenjo Daro
Mohenjo Daro Wikimedia commons

Earlier a seal of Mohenjo Daro has been found from the ancient site of Mesopotamian Civilisation in Iraq and as per Altaf Aseem, the erstwhile director of the Sachal Chair at Shah Abdul Latif University said that it showed the trade relationship between these two ancient cities. Latif said, "They have deciphered the seal and translated it as 'Meluha'. The word Meluha refers to fishermen, while those who use the word, Mohan, associate it to the Hindu god of the same name."

The Express Tribune reported that Dr Michael Jansen, a German scholar has taken around 50,000 photos of walls and bricks of the ancient site, believe that it is quite impossible to interpret the exact meaning of the Mohenjo Daro because the language is not readable. He said that "The spelling of this site stems from John Marshall's publication in 1931 and his interpretation of Mohenjo Daro is 'hill of the dead'."

He also mentioned that if someone wants to know about Mohenjo Daro, the government, as well as the international experts, must invest in further excavating the site. There are many archaeological experts who have expressed their concern on the present conditions of Mohenjo Daro suggesting that the remains of this city should be reburied to save them from further decay as the climate change and human intervention have become the two threats for the site.

Mojenjo Daro abandonment

It was in 1911 that archaeologists first visited the site and later, in the 1920s, the excavation started in the region. Further excavation projects continued in 1950 and in 1964, revealing some details about the inhabitants.

The researchers also found monuments such as palaces, temples or monuments from the archaeological site. But even after so many years since its discovery, archaeologists could not find any answer as to who occupied this city during the third millennium BC.