Around 3BCE, a civilization around the current northwest part of the India, Pakistan region collectively known as Indus Valley Civilization also known as Harappan Civilization. It is also called a Harappan Civilization since it was first Identified.
This region appeared in different phase histories such as Early Harappan that existed from 3000 to 2600 BCE, Mature Harappan from 2600 to 1900 BCE, and Late Harappan raging from 1900 to 1700 BCE.
The age of this civilization dates back to Neolithic villages of 7000 BCE. The urban phase started existing in the Mature Harappan period and decline after it.
Charles Mason first visited this civilization in 1826 and Alexander Burnes visited Amri in the place where railway line construction destroyed the archaeological site from Lahore to Multan.
The first ASI(Archeological Survey of India) surveyor Alexander Cunningham got a seal from this site. He visited this site earlier in 1853,1856 and in 1875. The importance of this site was not realized until Sir John Marshal’s arrival.
Sir John Marshal was the Director-General of ASI and started archaeology research. Mortimer Wheeler in 1940, started research in the Harappan sites. During the India-Pakistan partition during the independence, many sites went to Pakistan.
The Indian sites of this Civilization are Kalibangan, Lothal, Rakhi Garhi, and Dholavira, these sites are excavated during that period.
Near 1.5 million square kilometers area in India and Pakistan covered the culture of Indus Civilization.
The boundaries of Indus Civilization are Sutkagen-dor in Pakistan-Iran border in the west, Daimabad in Maharastra India in the south, Shortugai in Afghanistan in the North, and Alamgirpur in Uttar Pradesh in the east.
Pakistan, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Haryana are the core areas of Harappa civilization in India.
Agriculture and animal domestication began earlier in Mehrgarh. There is no evidence related to the continuity of the Neolithic age and Indus Civilization.
The development of villages and towns started in the early Harappan phase and they developed urban centres in the Mature Harappan phase.
The major cities of Harrapa time are:
1.Harappa in Punjab, Mohejo-Daro in Sindh (Pakistan)
2. Dholavira, Lothal, Surkotada (Gujarat)
3.Kalibangan, Banawali (Rajasthan)
The characteristics of Harappan towns are planned fortification, Geometrical streets, and Lanes, Drainages. The towns are of the grid structure. The well-planned structure of the town gives the impression of the presence of civic authority in the planning of structures of the cities.
These people used baked and unbaked bricks and stones for the construction. The house has over one floor, built of mud bricks, and they built drainages of burnt bricks. The site of Mohenjo Daro had a well-planned town built on a platform and has two distinct areas, one is Citadel and the other one is the lower town.
The houses of Mohenjo Daro had bathrooms built with burnt bricks and had a proper drainage system. Some houses had a staircase indicating the existence of multiple floor structures. These houses had multiple rooms and most of the houses had a central courtyard with room around.
The citadel area is meant for some special occasions. We identify a warehouse in Mohenjo-Daro. In the courtyard a Great Bath a kind of tank is situated, they lay bricks watertight with gypsum mortar and it had drainage and might be used as either granary or ritual bath.
The corridors were present on all four sides and stairs are seen on the northern and southern sides and it was well paved with several adjacent rooms. Some granary structures are identified.
Agriculture and Animal Domestication in Indus Valley Civilization
Agriculture was the prime source of food and occupation for the Harappans and they cultivated crops like chickpea, sesame, various millets, wheat, barley, lentil, etc and they practiced a double cropping system.
Plowed field found Kalibangan, shows the Harappan practiced Ploughs and also used Canal and Well Irrigation. Pastoralism is yet another occupation practiced by Harappans, they domesticated sheep, goats, and fowl also they had reared other animals such as buffalo, pigs, elephants, etc.
But the Horse was not known to the Harappans. The Harappan cattle are called Zebu, they represent it in Seal. Harappan also ate fish and birds. There are pieces of evidence of boar, gharial, and deer in the Harappan sites.
Craft and Pottery
Major crafts of Harappans are Bead, Ornament production, shell bangle, and metalworking. They make these of Carnelian, Jasper, Crystal, Steatite, metals like copper, bronze, gold, and shell, faience and terracotta, or burnt clay.
They exported the ornaments to various Biblical places such as Mesopotamia. Some areas specialized in certain crafts. Such as Shell in Nageshwar and Balakot, Lapis Lazuli in Shortughai, Carnelian in Lothal, Steatite in south Rajasthan, and Copper crafts in Rajasthan and Oman.
The Harappans made well-fired pottery, these were deep red slips including black paintings. The pottery is shaped like dish-on-stands, storage jars, perforated jars, bowls, S-shaped jars, plates, dishes, bowls, and pots.
We notice the painted motifs or themes on the pottery such as pipal leaves, fish-scale design, intersecting circles, zigzag lines, horizontal bands, and geometrical designs with plants and animal forms.
Metal, Tools and Weapons
The Harappan Civilization belongs to the Bronze Age, and these people were well versed in Copper and Bronze tools. They used these tools in agriculture and craft production
Some tools are Chisels, Points, Needles, Fishhooks, weighing pans, Mirror, Razor, and Antimony rods.
The chert blades made from Rohrichert(a fine-grained sedimentary rock found near Rohri in Pakistan used by the Harappans for making stone blades and tools) were utilized by the Harappans.
Ancient weapons of this civilization are arrowheads, spearhead, celt, and axe.
Harappan did not have the awareness of Iron.
Textiles and Ornaments
The Harappans were civilized enough to wear clothes, they also wore metal and ornaments made of stones.
A figure depicting Priest wearing shawl-like cloth with floral decorations shows that the Harappans had knowledge of silk and cotton.
Harappan civilization ornaments
Terracotta Models or statues of women wearing ornaments, the dancing girl found at Mohenjodaro wearing bangles show these ornaments might be made of Carnelian, gold, and copper.
Some ornaments had etched designs, and they exported these ornaments to Mesopotamia. Faience, stoneware, and bangles made of shells were also used by the Harappans.
As said earlier, the Harappan had a business relationship with Mesopotamians. Also, seals of Harappa are found in Sumerian sites in Oman, Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain.
The cuneiform inscription (earliest writing method of Sumerians) of Mesopotamia says Economic relations with the Harappans. “Meluhha”, reference in Cuneiform inscription is Indus region.
In Oman, we find Harappan Jars.
In Mesopotamia, Harappan seals, weights, dice, and beads are found. Carnelian, Lapis Lazuli, Copper, Gold, and different wood were exported to Mesopotamic. Harappan got raw materials from these regions are made various craftworks, tools, etc.
Scripts and Artworks of Indus Valley Civilization
The seals made of Steatite, terracotta, ivory, copper are found in these sites. These seals hold the text of about 26 signs, which are not deciphered to date. Some scholar suggests that these texts are from the Dravidian family.
These seals might have been the Identity market to show authority for the goods transported.
The terracotta figure, bronze images, copper mirrors, and paintings on the pottery found in Harappa, Priest-King of Steatite, and dancing girls statue made of copper found in Mohenjo-Daro, are import some important artworks of these people.
Also, toys are found such as Toy Carts, rattles, wheels, marbles, etc. These also used proper weights and measures, as they were involved in trade and business they used standard weights.
Cubical weights have been discovered from these sites and found in the ratio of weights of 1:2:4:8:16:32. The smallest weight is the 16th ratio weighs 13.63 grams.
They also used measuring scales in which one inch was approximately 1.75 cm. Weights made of chert were cubical in shape.
They used the binary numbering system (1, 2, 4, 8,16, 32, etc.) that is used weighing jewelry and precious metals.
The people of this civilization worshipped Nature, Pipal Tree. Terracotta figure of women deity found denotes Mother Goddess. In Kalibangan, we have found a Fire altar.
The bodies are buried with rich rituals, as burial is found with Pottery, Jewellery, a copper mirror, bead, Goat skeletons, etc, as these people believed in the Afterlife.
The seals, weights, and bricks exhibited uniformity that reveals authority and power.
Cultures Existed elsewhere during the Indus Civilization
There were large communities of farmers, pastoral people, etc lived throughout the subcontinent from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat in the same period of the Harappan civilization.
These communities are also important as they contributed to Indian Culture.
The northern parts of Karnataka and Andra are connected to the Neolithic period might have a connection with the Indus civilization but there is evidence to prove it.
Similarly, Chalcolithic culture is found in Deccan and Western India, and Neolithic culture found in Kashmir, Ganga Valley, and central, eastern India might also have a connection with the Indus Civilization but there is no evidence.
As the Indus people are found to be well versed in watercraft they might have connected these areas through waterways.
Decline of the Indus Civilization
The Indus Civilization declined after the Mature Harappan in 1900CE.
The causes of the decline might be drastic changes in climate, fall of trade with Mesopotamia, the river changed its course or dried or continuous drought The people moved to the Southern and eastern direction of the Indus river regions.
Relationship between Indus Valley Civilization and Tamil Civilization
The Indus Civilization considered the first urbanization and real origin are still unknown as the Script used in their works is still not deciphered.
One cannot ignore that there some many similarities in the Tamil Civilization to the Indus such as graffiti found in Megalithic burial pots of South India and the name of places that have a relation with the Indus.
Ancient towns such as Arikamedu, Keezhadi, and Uraiyur town in South India differ from Indus cities.
- R.S.Sharma, India’s Ancient Past. Oxford University Press, 2005.
- Upinder Singh. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India. Pearson, 2008.