Spirituality and Shamanism in the Indus Valley Culture

By: Matthew Brown  

The sophisticated Indus valley culture flourished for over 700 years before inexplicably abandoning their cities to return to ways more pastoral, even in the face of great regional climatic changes. Many scholars have made attempts to account for this abandonment, citing varying factors, yet these people were some of the most adaptable communities of their time and seemingly the least susceptible to collapse. Thus the effects that the transposition of earlier shamanistic beliefs and practices had on the latter cultural cosmography could go some way to explaining this reversion to the pastoral lifestyle. Hence a framework will be outlined for the presence of shamanism and folk magic within the culture of the earliest known people in the region, those of Mehrgarh, Balochistan. Connections explored between their shamanistic relationship with nature, the spirits that occupied the higher realms in these regions and perception of time and space. Giving an overview of some uses of folk magic and shamanism within this context allows for the elucidation of advantages these practices would have afforded them, hence diminished, during their oppidan existence. The continuum this talk promotes is one that begins with exploration of folk magic and the presence of shamanistic practices to attain alternate states of consciousness. The decline of culture through global meteorological and botanical changes and how a newly developed methodology to access higher plains of consciousness became a catalyst for the reversion, from their more materialistically-complex societies in favour of reconnecting with folk magic, shamanism and Nature herself.

Shamanism, Religion, Spirituality, Society, India
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mr. Matthew Brown

Czech Republic
Czech Republic

An Astrophysicist and educator by profession, I have had a longstanding interest in how spirituality, shamanism and other indigeneous practices shape the relationship of societies to nature, time and the cosmos. Not only in terms of their rites and rituals, but also in terms of the cosmographies, heterotopias and their usage of entheogenic substances to access these realms, unaccessible to the sciencetific method. In my pursuit of an understanding of the beginning of the universe, I have tried to unpack the cosmology of many cultures, putting them into context with the lives of the people withing their societies and time frame. As an outdoorsman I have great reverence and respect for nature, whether experienced when paragliding above Mont Blanc, or during the seamless integration that occurs when moved by the mountains on a backcountry snowboard run. It is the attainment of what Zen Buddhism refers to as samādhi and the amalgamation with what these cultures would loosely term 'The spirits of nature', that drives me to discover how these much earlier cultures initiated and experienced these connections. These connections are an important part of the social and religious structure of these cultures and a major impetus in their cultural, social and spiritual evolution and hence understanding these structures helps us to elucidate factors about the people in place and time.