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Indus Valley Civilazation

Indus Valley Civilization

Read about the history of most ancient civilization of Indian Subcontinent : The Indus Valley/ Harappa Civilization.

Table of Contents

What is Indus Valley Civilization ?

Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age Civilization that flourished between 2500-1750 BC in the north western parts of India and present-day Pakistan.

It is also called the ‘Harappan Civilization’ after the name of its first discovered site.

The term “Indus Valley Civilization” was  first used by John Marshall.

Origin and Evolution of Indus Valley Civilization:

There are four important stages or phases of evolution:

  1. Pre-Harappan stage :
    Located in eastern Balochistan at Mehrgarh. In this stage, people began to lead a settled agricultural life.

  2. Early-Harappan stage :
    The transition from rural to urban life happened during this period which led to gradual growth of towns. 
    Example – Sites of Amri and Kot Diji(Sindh).

  3. Mature-Harappan stage :
    Great cities emerged with elaborate town planning and urban features.
    Ex. – Sites of Mohenjodaro in Sindh, Kalibangan in Rajasthan.

  4. Late-Harappan stage : 
    Decline of the Indus culture started.
    Ex. –  Lothal (Gujrat).

Geographical Extent of Indus Valley Civilization :

Its westernmost point was Suktagendor in South Baluchistan while easternmost point was Alamgirpur in Meerut district of UP.

In North, it extended upto Manda in J&K while in South it extended upto Daimabad in Maharashtra.

Salient Features of the Harappan Culture :

Important features of Harappan Civilization are as follows :

Town Planning in Harappan Civilization:

This is most unique feature of this civilization.

Whole settlement was divided into two sections:

  1. Citadel – Smaller but built on higher platform
  2. Lower Town – Much larger but lower 

Citadel :

This was constructed on mud brick platform. Therefore it was higher than rest of the town.

There are evidence of structures which were probably used for special public purposes.
Ex. – Warehouse, The granary,  The Great Bath(The most important public place of Mohenjodaro – must have served as a ritual bathing site).

Lower Town :

Town planning was on the lines of the grid system with streets and lanes cutting across one another almost at right angles.

Houses were made of burnt bricks which were inhabited by the common people. There is large-scale use of burnt bricks and absence of any stone buildings.

Every house had its own bathroom paved with bricks. There was underground drainage system that connected all houses to the street drains. Drains were covered by stone slabs or bricks.

Economic life in Indus Valley Civilization :

A great progress was made in all spheres of economic activity such as agriculture, industry and art and crafts and trade.

Wheat and barley were the main crops grown besides sesame, mustard and cotton.  Evidence of rice cultivation has also been found from  few sites.

Animals like sheep, goats and buffalo were domesticated. However, The use of horse is not firmly established. Fishing was also a regular occupation

Bronze and copper vessels are the outstanding examples of the Harappan metal craft. People of this civilization did not know about Iron. Copper was the most widely used metal. It was obtained from the Khetri copper mines of Rajasthan. Tin was possibly brought from Afghanistan.

Internal trade was extensive with other parts of India and had a guild system. Trade was based on barter system. The measurements were standardized with precise system of weights. Weights were usually made of a stone called chert and were usually cubical in shape.

Foreign trade was mainly conducted with Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, Iran and Oman. Many seals of Indus valley have been found in Mesopotamia which suggest close trade link between both the civilizations.

Gold, copper, tin and  semi-precious stones were major imports. Main exports were several agricultural products and  cotton goods, pottery, beads, terracotta figures and ivory products.

Art and Crafts of Indus Valley Civilization :

The Harappans had a great sense of arts and crafts which is proved by the evidences of stone/metal statues, toys, figurines, beads, seals etc.

The Harappan sculpture reveals the high degree of proficiency. A remarkable example of this is a bronze figure of dancing girl found from Mohenjodaro.

They were experts in bead-making. Beads were extensively made and worn by men and women. Steatite, a very soft stone was extensively used for bead making. Use of ornaments made of gold, silver, copper, bronze and semi precious stones was also common.

The pottery of Indus valley civilization is another specimen of the fine arts of the Indus people. It is distributed throughout settlements. Pottery was generally plain however in some places red and black painted pottery is found.

Their notable artistic achievement was also in seal making. There are engravings on both sides of the seals ( especially those of animals ).

Thousands of seals have been discovered by archaeologists from various Indus valley sites. Most famous among them is the Pashupati Seal from Mohenjo Daro

Religion in Indus Valley Civilization :

The chief male deity was Pasupati (proto-Siva). He is represented in various seals as sitting in a yogic posture with three faces and two horns( See Image Above). He is surrounded by four animals (elephant, rhino, tiger and buffalo ). Two deer can be seen on his feet. 

The chief female deity was the Mother Goddess who is represented in numerous terracotta figurines. 

Linga worship and yoni worship( female sex organ ) was prevalent. Trees( Peepal tree ) and animals (Unicorn, Humped Bull etc.) were also worshipped by the Harappans. However,  No temples or religious monuments have been found in the whole Civilization. This shows their architecture was completely utilitarian.

They believed in ghosts and used amulets as protection against them.

Script of Harappan Civilization :

The Harappan script is still not fully deciphered. This is one of the reasons that we don’t know much about this civilisation. 

The script was mostly written from right to left. In few seals the boustrophedon method ( written from right to left in first line and from left to right in second line ) was also adopted. Script was pictographic and was engraved on various seals.

Social Life of Harappan Civilization:

The people at Indus Valley Civilization had a very organised way of living.

The dress of both men and women was divided into two pieces, one upper garment and the other lower garment. A figure of a bearded man which has been found in Mohenjo-Daro indicate that they used sewn clothing.

Use of Beads, ornaments and cosmetics was common. Various household articles made of pottery, stone, shells, ivory and metal have been found.

The large number of terracotta figurines and Children’s toys such as cart, bull, elephant, monkeys, chariots have been found. Favorite pastimes for elders were hunting and bull fighting.

Various burial practices have been noticed at different sites. For example, evidence of complete burial and post-cremation burial were have been found at Mohenjodaro. At Lothal and  Harappa, evidence of use of coffins has been found. Practice of pot burials is also found at Lothal

Political Authority of Harappan Civilization:

The extraordinary uniformity of Harappan artefacts such as seals, weights and bricks across the various sites indicate that the civilization was very well organised and administered. Despite this, there is no evidence of any ruler or any governing system for the Harappan civilisation.

Some archaeologists believe that Harappan society had no rulers, and that everybody enjoyed equal status. While some feel there was no single ruler but several.

Some other suggest that Harappa was possibly ruled by a class of merchants.

Although some weapons like axes, spears, daggers,and arrow-heads have been excavated from various sites, there is no evidence of warfare

Important Indus Valley Sites :

Harappa is the first discovered site of this civilization.

Excavators –  Daya Ram Sahni
Year – 1921 
Location – Montgomery district of Punjab (Now in Pak) on the left bank of Ravi

Important Features:

  1. A major urban center.
  2. City followed grid pattern
  3. A citadel on elevated platform
  4. Row of six granaries

Important Findings:

  1. Evidences of coffin burial.
  2. Painted Pottery

Mohenjo-Daro (mound of dead) is the largest urban centre of the civilization.

Excavators – R.D.Banarjee
Year – 1922
Location – Larkana district in Sind on the right bank of Indus(Now in Pak).

Important Features:

  1. City followed grid pattern
  2. A large granary
  3. The Great Bath
    • Most famous building found at Mohenjo-Daro
    • A specimen of beautiful brick work
    • The water for the bath was provided from a well in an adjacent room.
    • The floor was made up of bricks.
    • Floor and outer walls were bituminized so that there is no leakage of water.
    • No use of stone.

Important Findings:

  1. The famous bronze dancing girl.
  2. Seal of  Pashupati
  3. Steatite statue of bearded priest
  4. Numerous terracotta figurines 
  5. Human skeletons showing invasion and massacre.

City without Citadel.

Excavators – N. Gopal Majumdar, Mackey
Year – 1931
Location – Situated in Sindh on the bank of river Indus.

Important Features:

  1. The city had no Citadal.
  2. Famous for bead makers shop
  3. A a settlement with lots of artisans and was an industrial town.

Important Findings:

  1. Evidence of factories of various figurines, seals, toys, bone implements.

Kalibangan means ‘Black Bangles’.

Excavators – A. Ghosh
Year – 1953
Location – Situated in  Hanumangarh district of  Rajasthan on the Bank of River Ghaggar.

Important Features:

  1. Shows signs of both Pre-Harappan and Early-Harappan phases of the civilization.
  2. Kalibangan bricks were earthen ones where as bricks in other sites were baked ones.
  3. There was no drainage system in Kalibangan.
  4. Many houses had their own well.

Important Findings:

  1. Evidence of seven Fire-Altars
  2. Evidence of ploughed field
  3. Evidence of earliest recorded Earthquake
  4. Evidence of wooden furrow

A relatively new discovery, excavated in 1990s.

Excavators – R.S. Bisht
Year – Around 1990
Location – Situated in Gujarat.

Important Features:

  1. Three parts of the city – Unlike the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro where there are two settlements( Citadel and Lower Town ), in Dholavira, 3 divisions have been found which have been protected by fortifications.
  2. Unique water management system.

Important Findings:

  1. Several large reservoirs
  2. Signboard with Indus Script.

It was a coastal town with a dockyard.

Excavators – S.R. Rao
Year – 1953
Location – Situated in Gujarat on Bhogava river.

Important Features:

  1. City was divided into six sections.
  2. Entry to the houses were on main street whereas houses on the other sites have lateral entry.

Important Findings:

  1. Artificial dockyard
  2. Remains of rice husk (Rice husk has also been found only at Rangpur, Gujrat)
  3. Evidence of horse from a terracotta figurine
  4. Iranian seal

Located near Ahmadabad in Gujarat.

Important Findings:

  1. Rice husk

Located in the Bhuj area of Gujarat.

Important Findings:

  1. Evidence of the first actual remains of the horse bones.

Pre-harappan site and located on the left bank of River Indus.

Important Features:

  1. City is seems to be destructed by some fire.

Located in Hissar district of Haryana.

Important Features:

  1. One of the largest sites of Indus Valley.
  2. Largest Indus Valley site in India

Located in Hissar district of Haryana.

Located in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.

Important Features:

  1. Easternmost boundary of Indus Valley Civilization

Located in Punjab.

Located near the Pak-Iran Border.

Important Features:

  1. Important coastal town along with Lothal, Balakot.
  2. Western border of Indus Valley Civilization

Decline of Indus Valley Civilization

Decline started around 1900 BC and by 1750 BC, very little remained of this civilization.

Historians are not unanimous about the causes for the decline of Harappan civilization.

Some scholars believe that a combination of natural factors were responsible for the decline of the Civilization. 

Natural calamities like recurring floods, drying up of rivers, dramatic shifts in the river courses,  changes in patterns of rainfall, decreasing fertility of the soil due to excessive exploitation and occasional earthquakes might have caused the decline of the Harappan cities.

Some other scholars believe that invasion of Aryans was the major cause of decline. ( Aryan invasion theory – Sir Mortimer Wheeler).

This theory is based on two findings :

  1. There is a reference in the Rig-Veda, that Indra destroyed the forts of Hariyuppa (Probably Harappa). People of  Hariyuppa has been called ‘Dasyus’ and forts have been called ‘Pur’ ( Indra has been called Purandhar, destroyer of Pur).
  2. The discovery of human skeletons huddled together at Mohenjodaro indicates that the city was invaded. The Aryans had superior weapons as well as fast horses which might have enabled them to conquer this region.

However, many scholars dismiss the Wheeler’s theory based on the argument that a ‘Pur’ of Rigveda was not a fort of Indus Valley. Rig-Veda has not mentioned anything about the recognizable features of the Indus valley sites such as streets, houses, granaries, wells, drains,  etc.

With this, We have completed the study of Indus Valley Civilization . However, we are not done yet. 

Revision is the key to success in Civil Services exam. We understand this very well. Therefore we have included a quick revision guide and mini mock test to help you revise quickly and effectively. Enjoy !!!

 

In the next post, we will study about the Vedic Civilization..

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