Ancient India: Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization: In the imagination of an artist

Indus Valley Civilization was the first major civilization in South Asia,  which spread across a vast area of land in present-day India and Pakistan (around 12 lakh sq.km).

The time period of mature Indus Valley Civilization is estimated between BC. 2700- BC.1900 ie. for 800 years. But early Indus Valley Civilization had existed even before BC.2700.

Features of Indus Valley Civilization

  • BC. 2700- BC.1900 ie for 800 years.
  • On the valleys of river Indus.
  • Also known as Harappan Civilization.
  • Beginning of city life.
  • Harappan Sites discovered by – Dayaram Sahni (1921) – Montgomery district, Punjab, Pakistan.
  • Mohanjodaro discovered by – R. D. Banerji – Larkana district, Sind, Pakistan.
  • The city was divided into Citadel(west) and Lower Town(east).
  • Red pottery painted with designs in black.
  • Stone weights, seals, special beads, copper tools, long stone blades etc.
  • Copper, bronze, silver, gold present.
  • Artificially produced – Faience.
  • Specialists for handicrafts.
  • Import of raw materials.
  • Plough was used.
  • Bodies were buried in wooden coffins, but during the later stages ‘H symmetry culture’ evolved where bodies were buried in painted burial urns.
  • Sugar cane not cultivated, horse, iron not used.
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Indus Valley Sites and Specialties

HARAPPA

  • Seals out of stones
  • Citadel outside on banks of river Ravi

MOHENJODARO

  • Great Bath, Great Granary, Dancing Girl, Man with Beard, Cotton, Assembly hall
  • The term means ” Mount of the dead”
  • On the bank of river Indus
  • Believed to have been destructed by flood or invasion(Destruction was not gradual).

CHANHUDARO

  • Bank of Indus river. – discovered by Gopal Majumdar and Mackey (1931)
  • Pre-Harappan culture – Jhangar Culture and Jhukar Culture
  • Only cite without citadel.

KALIBANGAN

  • At Rajasthan on the banks of river Ghaggar, discovered by A.Ghosh (1953)
  • Fire Altars
  • Bones of camel
  • Evidence of furrows
  • Horse remains ( even though Indus valley people didn’t use horses).
  • Known as third capital of the Indus Empire.

LOTHAL

  • At Gujarat near Bhogava river, discovered by S.R. Rao (1957)
  • Fire Altars
  • Beside the tributary of Sabarmati
  • Storehouse
  • Dockyard and earliest port
  • double burial
  • Rice husk
  • House had front entrance (exception).
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ROPAR

  • Punjab, on the banks of river Sutlej. Discovered by Y.D Sharma (1955)
  • Dog buried with humans.

BANAWALI

  • Haryana
  • On banks of lost river Saraswathi
  • Barley Cultivation.

DHOLAVIRA

  • Biggest site in India, until the discovery of Rakhigarhi.
  • Located in Khadir Beyt, Rann of Kutch, Gujarat. Discovered by J.P Joshi/Rabindra Singh (1990)
  • 3 parts + large open area for ceremonies
  • Large letters of the Harappan script (signboards).

The religion of Indus Valley People

  • Pashupathi Mahadev (Proto Siva)
  • Mother goddess
  • Nature/ Animal worship
  • Unicorn, Dove, Peepal Tree, Fire
  • Amulets
  • Idol worship was practised ( not a feature of Aryans)
  • Did not construct temples.
  • The similarity to Hindu religious practises. (Hinduism in its present form originated later)
  • No Caste system.

Indus Valley Society and Culture

  • The systematic method of weights and measures ( 16 and its multiples).
  • Pictographic Script, Boustrophedon script – Deciphering efforts by I. Mahadevan
  • Equal status to men and women
  • Economic Inequality, not an egalitarian society
  • Textiles – Spinning and weaving
  • 3 types – burial, cremation and post-cremation were there, though burial was common.
  • Majority of people Proto-Australoids and Mediterranean (Dravidians), though Mongoloids, Nordics etc were present in the city culture. Read more on races of India.
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Reasons for Decline of Indus Valley Civilization

Though there are various theories, the exact reason is still unknown. As per a recent study by IIT Kharagpur and Archaeological Survey of India, a weaker monsoon might have been the cause of the decline of Indus Valley Civilization. Environmental changes, coupled with a loss of power of rulers (central administration) of Indus valley to sustain the city life might be the cause (Fariservis Theory). There might be a resource shortage to sustain the population, and then people moved towards south India. Another theory by Dr Gwen Robbins Schug states that inter-personal violence, infectious diseases and climate change had played a major role in the demise of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Other theories:

  • Aryan Invasion: Motimer Wheeler
  • Tectonic Movements/ Flood – Robert Raikes
  • Change of course of river Indus – Lambrick.

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