INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION:
- Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) holds a prominent place in the glorious history of India. IVC is also known as ‘Harappan Civilization’ as Harappa was the first city to be discovered along the banks of river Ravi by Daya Ram Sahni in 1921.
Background of IVC:
- Indus Valley Civilization flourished in around 2500 BCE, in the western part of South Asia, whose major part lies in present Pakistan & Western India.
- Indus Valley Civilization was one of the four largest ancient urban civilizations, namely – Egypt, Mesopotamia, India & China.
Discovery of IVC:
- The Archaeological Department of India carried out excavations of the Indus Valley in the 1920s, in which the ruins of the two oldest cities of IVC, namely Mohenjodaro & Harappa were unearthed.
- After the discovery of Harappa by Daya Ram Sahni in 1921, John Marshall, the Director- General of the ASI, announced that an urban civilization existed in the Indus Valley region in around 2500
Geographical Extent of IVC:
- Geographically, Indus Valley Civilization covered Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Rajasthan, Gujarat and, Western Uttar
- It extended from Sutkagendor (in Baluchistan, Pakistan) in the West to Alamgirpur (Western UP) in the East; and from Mandu (Jammu) in the North to Daimabad (Ahmednagar, Maharashtra) in the South.
- Some Indus Valley sites have also been found as far away as Afghanistan and
- Also, the Pre-Harappan civilization found in Mehrgarh, Pakistan shows the first evidence of cotton
Important Sites of Indus Valley Civilization:
- Indus Valley Civilization had many prominent sites in both Pakistan – Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Amri & India – Kalibangan, Lothal, Surkotada, Banawali, Chhanhudaro,
- Let us study some of the sites in detail:
|Few Important Sites of IVC
|Daya Ram Sahini in 1921
|Situated on the bank of river Ravi in the Montgomery district of Punjab (Pakistan).
|o Sandstone statues of Human anatomy
o Bullock carts
|Mohenjodaro (Mound of Dead)
|R.D Banerjee in 1922
|Situated on the Bank of river Indus in Larkana district of Punjab (Pakistan).
|o Great bath
o Bronze dancing girl
o Seal of
o Steatite statue of beard ma
o A piece of woven cotton
|Stein in 1929
|In southwestern Balochistan province,
Pakistan on Dast river
|o A trading point between Harappa
Majumdar in 1931
|Sindh on the Indus river
|o Bead makers shop
o The footprint of a dog chasing a cat
Majumdar in 1935
|On the bank of the Indus river – Sindh,
|o Antelope evidence
|Ghose in 1953
|Rajasthan on the bank of Ghaggar river
|o Fire altar
o Camel bone
o Wooden plough
|R.Rao in 1953
|Gujarat on Bhogavo river near Gulf of Cambay
|o First manmade port
o Rice husk
o Fire altars
|J.P Joshi in 1964
|o Bones of horses
|R.S Bisht in 1974
|Hisar district of Haryana
o Evidence of both pre- Harappan and Harappan culture
|R.S Bisht in 1985
|Gujarat in Rann of Kachchh
|o Water harnessing system
o Water reservoir
o 1st IVC Site in India to have received the ‘World Heritage Site’ Status by UNESCO
Features of IVC Society:
- IVC Society was urban in nature & was mainly divided into 3 sections à An elite class living in the citadel region on the western part of town, middle-class inhabitants (or rich merchants) & a relatively weaker section (labors) living in the lower towns.
- There was a division of labor and the IVC Society was diversified and stratified.
- The people were scholars, artisans, traders, warriors, and
- IVC Society is considered to be matriarchal in nature as a large number of terracotta (fire- baked earthen clay) female figurines have been found from various sites which represent the worship of Great Mother Goddess.
- The dressing style of both men & women of Indus Valley Civilization is also indicated from the terracotta & stone sculptures.
- Men are mostly shown wearing a dress wrapped around the lower half of the body with one end worn over the left shoulder & under the right
- Garments in Indus Valley Civilization were made from various materials like cotton, silk, wool,
- Also, the presence of woven cloth at Mohenjodaro indicates that the IVC inhabitants were well acquainted with spinning and weaving.
Techno-Cultural Aspects of Indus Valley Civilization:
- IVC inhabitants mainly used copper and bronze and were unaware of the use of
- Harappans obtained copper from the Khetri copper mines in Rajasthan & Tin was possibly brought from
- Harappans were generally peace-loving and had not many arms and weapons in their
- Several objects with ‘Textile Impressions’ have also been
- Huge brick structures found in various sites indicate that the existence of a class of masons was there & that brick-laying was an important craft.
- IVC inhabitants also practised boat-making, bead making & seal making.
- Bead-making shops have been excavated from Chanhudaro &
- IVC seals were mainly made of steatite which is a kind of soft
- Some seals were also made of gold, ivory, chert, agate, etc & it was mainly used for trade
- The presence of goldsmiths was there which made jewellery of silver, gold & precious
- Ornaments like necklaces, bracelets, pendants, brooches have been excavate
- IVC inhabitants also extensively used the pottery, in which the most characteristic one was both glossy &
- The redware pottery painted with black designs were popular & items like jars, plates, bowls & pots of different sizes were made from
- The people of the Indus valley civilization were aware of Bronze mirrors, Ivory Combs, antimony rods but not hair dyes.
- A large number of terracotta figurines and toys of cart, bulls, elephants, monkeys, chariots, whistles
- Discovery of Bronze Dancing Girl Sculpture from Mohenjodaro, Steatite Bearded Man from Mohenjodaro are some of the finest examples of Indus Valley Civilization’s cultural
- The Steatite Bearded Man has an embroidered cloak over his left shoulder and his eyes are half-closed indicating a posture of
Political Life of Indus Valley Civilization:
- The evidence of political organization isn’t found and hence it can’t be concluded which kind of political organization was followed in Indus Valley Civilization.
- Some archaeologists believe that Harappan society had no rulers, and that everybody enjoyed equal
- Another theory argues that there was no single ruler, but a number of rulers representing each of the urban
- However, the uniformity in tools, weapons, bricks, seals & urban style of construction
indicates a presence of a centralized political authority.
- A class of merchants could have ruled the Indus Valley Civilization unlike in Egypt & Mesopotamia which was ruled by the priestly class, as there is an absence of temples in IVC
- Also, the proper layout of streets, the presence of large-scale draining system, monumental citadels, all indicate the presence of a strong central
- But, no conclusive evidence is there.
Economic Life of Indus Valley Civilization:
- Trade held a very important place in the life of IVC people which is witnessed by the presence of numerous seals, uniform script & regulated weights &
Let us discuss the various economic aspects of the Indus Valley Civilization in detail:
- Agriculture flourished in IVC due to timely rains & fertile
- IVC inhabitants sowed many crops like rice, wheat, cotton, barley, dates, melon, pea, lentils, mustard, linseed, sesamum, ragi, bajra, jowar,
- Rainfed crops were pre-dominant as irrigation was based upon the rainwater.
- In Harappa, 3 main varieties of wheat & barley were
- Wooden plough found in Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Granary found in Mohenjodaro (Pakistan) & evidence of growing Barley found in Banawali (Rajasthan) all indicate the presence of agriculture.
- The Indus people were the earliest people to produce cotton.
- They used bulls & oxen for ploughing.
- Traces of canals have been found at the Harappan site of Shortughai in Afghanistan, but not in Punjab or Sindh.
Trade and Foreign Links:
- Harappans carried on substantial trade in the form of stone, metal, shells,
- Trade in Indus Valley Civilization was both inter-regional & intra-regional.
- Metal money was not used and instead, trade was carried by barter system.
- IVC inhabitants practised navigation on the coast of the Arabian Sea & had set up a trading colony in northern Afghanistan which helped them to trade with Central Asia.
- IVC people also had economic relations with the regions of Tigris, Euphrates & also with Mesopotamian and Persian
- Evidence is provided in the Mesopotamian records which indicate trade relations with ‘Meluha’ (Ancient name given to the Indus region) and also the presence of trading ports called ‘Dilmun’ and ‘Makan’.
- Mesopotamians imported copper, ivory, pearls & ebony from Meluha and exported garments, perfume, leather products & silver to IVC people.
- Harappans also did long-distance trade in lapiz lazuli; which contributed to the social prestige of the ruling
- Inland transport primarily employed bullock
- Possibly, Jade came from Central Asia, Turquoise came from Iran, Amethyst came from current Maharashtra and Lapis lazuli came from
- The carts and chariots were a means of transport & big boats were used for sea
- Seals are one of the greatest artistic creation of the Indus Valley
- About 2000 seals have been discovered and they carry short inscriptions with pictures of one-horned bull, buffalo, tiger, rhinoceros, goat, elephant, etc(excluding horse).
- In Mohenjo-Daro, three cylindrical seals of the Mesopotamian type have been found which depict their trading relations.
Weights & Measures:
- IVC people used weights & measures for trade and other
- Numerous articles used for weights have been found which show that in weighing mostly 16 or its multiples were used.
- Discovery of ivory scale at Lothal and shells for measuring angles at Saurashtra has been
- IVC people domesticated animals like a humped bull, buffalo, pigs, elephants, donkeys, goats, sheep,
- Evidence of Horse has been found only at Surkotada, which is otherwise absent from the Indus Valley
Religious Life of Indus Valley Civilization:
- Unicorn is the most prominent religious figures of Indus Valley
- Unicorn figures had different names like Pashupati/Proto-Shiva, Seven Mothers (Sapta-Matrika) & Compound
- These figurines are now largely inculcated into the Hindu
- The dominance of the terracotta mother goddess indicates that the IVC society was mainly
- Evidence that Harappans looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess and worshipped her similarly as the Egyptians worshipped the Nile Goddess ‘Isis’.
- Proto-Shiva or Pashupati Figurine appears to be the only male deity as depicted on the IVC Seals.
- Pashupati Figurine is surrounded by 4 wild animals, , elephant, tiger, buffalo & rhinoceros.
- The Pashupati figurine wears a number of bangles, had a headdress and there’s also an inscription of seven letters on the top.
- IVC inhabitants also believed in the worship of stones in the form of linga (phallus) and yoni (fertility) à Evident from a terracotta figurine found in Kalibangan (Rajasthan).
- IVC people also practised yoga for both physical exercise as well as performing religious
- Presence of Sacred Ritual Spot is evident from the excavation of Great Bath at Mohenjodaro, wherein, all the elites undertook religious baths.
- Also, tree worship is evident as peepal tree has been depicted on many IVC
- Evidence of snake worship & snake charmers is also
- Amulets have also been found in large
- No evidence of temples or a sophisticated caste system has been found in Indus Valley
Burial Practises of Indus Valley Civilization:
Three forms of burial have been found at Mohenjo- Daro:
- Complete burial – it means the burial of the whole
- Fractional burial – it means the collection of some bones after the exposure of the body to wild beasts and birds.
- Post cremation burial – cremation followed by burial of
- Dead bodies were placed in the North-South direction and food, pottery, and other items were also put in the grave along with the body.
- Coffins containing bodies have been found
- Small circular pits containing large urns and pottery have also been found in Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
- A triangular terracotta cake has been discovered which has a horned deity on one side and an animal on the other side which is an indication of animal
- At Lothal, a pair of male and female skeletons have been discovered together.
- Surkotada and Dholavira are two sites where the burial practice resembled the megalithic practice.
Scientific/Technological Achievements of Indus Valley Civilization:
- IVC can be called the ‘womb of mathematics’ from where both the concepts of numbers & numerical systems
- Harappan Numerical System is decimal-based & additive multiplicative in
- The numerical system which was first used by the Harappan later found its way into other ancient
- IVC inhabitants constructed the world’s first tidal port at Lothal which indicated they had a high degree of knowledge relating to the ebb and flow of tides.
- IVC people were also versed with medical sciences as they used many herbs & drugs to treat
- IVC inhabitants also practised ‘Trephination’ to treat migraines and other mental
Languages & Scripts of Indus Valley Civilization:
- We don’t have a great deal of knowledge about them as the Harappan Languages & Scripts haven’t been deciphered
- The style of Harappan Script was that of Boustrophedon, that is written from right to
- The language was mainly pictographic & and was engraved on seals, bones, ivory,
- Harappan Script virtually disappeared by 1700 BCE which indicates that the Indus Valley Script did not percolate downwards.
- However recently, archaeologists have increasingly been finding links between the Indus Script & Tamil-Brahmi Script
- In 2019, excavations carried out in the Keezadi site in Tamil Nadu’s Sivagangai district revealed graffiti dating back to 580 BC which bears a distinct resemblance to the Indus script.
Town Planning in Indus Valley Civilization:
- Indus Valley Civilization is known for its extensive urban outlook and sophisticated sense of town planning.
- Most cities of the IVC were divided into 2 parts à Smaller but Higher part on the Western side called ‘Citadel’ or ‘Acropolis’ and Larger but Shorter part on the Eastern side called the ‘Lower Town.’
- It is believed that the Citadel was possibly occupied by the members of the ruling class as buildings of prominence such as the Great Bath in Mohenjodaro are located in the
- The lower town had common residential buildings which as inhabited by the common people.
- The use of burnt bricks was common in the construction of houses.
- Also, the houses in the cities followed a grid system as the city was divided into many blocks.
- Houses were often of two or more storeys.
- Each house had its own courtyard, windows and bathrooms while some even had their own wells.
- However, no window faced the streets.
- Also, roads had cut across each other at right
- The drainage system of the Indus Valley Civilization was also very impressive.
- The drains were made of mortar, lime & gypsum, were slightly sloped and had manholes at regular intervals for cleaning purposes.
- Also, granaries have been discovered at sites like Mohenjodaro used to store
- At sites such as Dholavira and Lothal (Gujarat), the entire settlement was fortified, and sections within the town were also separated by walls.
- Chanhudaro was the only Indus Valley city without a citadel.
- IVC inhabitants are also known to have pioneered irrigation and water harvesting techniques.
- Thus, Indus Valley Civilization people can easily be called the best engineers of their times.
Various Phases of Indus Valley Civilization:
- Mainly, the Indus Valley Civilization is divided into 3 phases:
1. Early Harappan Phase à From 3300 BCE to 2600 BCE:
- This phase can also be related to the Hakra Phase, which is located in the Ghaggar- Hakra River Valley
- The earliest examples of the Indus Script dating back to 3000 BCE belong to this
- Presumably, this phase was characterized by a centralized authority & an increasingly urban form of life.
- Trade networks were also established in the Early Harappan Phase
- Moreover, evidences of the cultivation of various crops like peas, sesame seeds, dates, cotton, etc also exist during this phase.
2. Mature Harappan Phase à From 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE:
- During this phase, which begins in 2600 BCE, the early Indus Valley Civilization communities like Harappa & Mohenjodaro in Pakistan & Lothal in India began turning into large urban centres.
- The site of Kot Diji located in the Sindh district of Pakistan represents the transition from the ‘Early Harappan Phase’ to the ‘Late Harappan Phase’.
3. Late Harappan Phase à From 1900 BCE to 1300 BCE:
- The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) started showing signs of gradual decline from around 1800 BCE, and by 1700 BCE, most of the cities were
- Various reasons like external war, flood, drought, chemical reactions, etc are given for this sudden decline of Indus Valley Civilization, which we have discussed ahead in
- However, various elements that characterized the ancient Indus Valley Civilization continued to be present in the later cultures as well.
- Moreover, contemporary archaeological data indicates the continuance of Late Harappan Culture till 1000-900
The decline of the Indus Valley Civilization:
- The IVC declined around 1800 BCE but the actual reasons behind its demise are still
- Aryan Invasion Theory: According to this, the Aryan invasion into the Harappan territory led to the destruction of the IVC.
- Epidemic Theory: According to this, an uncontrollable epidemic must have spread in the IVC cities which led to its
- Natural Disasters Theory: According to this, a large-scale earthquake, flood or drought would have hit the IVC cities, which led to the destruction of the Indus Valley
- Less Rainfall leading to Draughts: Less rainfall due to the changing climatic conditions would have led to draughts in the IVC cities due to which IVC declined
- Change in the course of the river: Change in course of Ghaggar-Hakra river led to increased aridity and subsequent destruction in the Indus Valley Civilization
- Though, India and the world marvel at the wonder of the Indus Valley Civilization, yet this culture also could not defeat the law of nature and thus slowly declined due to a combination of manmade and natural factors which ultimately led to the rise of Early Vedic Tradition in
Contemporary Findings regarding Indus Valley Civilization:
- A recent study conducted by Deccan College, Pune in the Kotada Bhadli archaeological site in present-day Gujarat shows evidence of dairy products being produced by Harappans as early as 2500
- A study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science shows that IVC inhabitants also consumed meat products of animals like pigs, buffaloes, goats apart from cultivating crops.
- A recent publication has provided crucial evidence that Ancestral Dravidian languages were possibly spoken by a significant population in the Indus Valley civilization.