Indus Valley Civilization in India – Important Harappan Sites
Ancient Civilizations in India
- The Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient civilization thriving along the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River in what is now Pakistan and north-western India. Among other names for this civilization is the Harappan Civilization, in reference to its first excavated city of Harappa.
- An alternative term for the culture is Saraswati-Sindhu Civilization, based on the fact that most of the Indus Valley sites have been found at the Halkra-Ghaggar River.
- R.B. Dayaram Sahni first discovered Harappa (on Ravi) in 1921. R.D. Banerjee discovered Mohenjodaro or ‘Mound of the Dead’ (on Indus) in 1922. Sir John Marshal played a crucial role in both these.
- Harappan Civilization forms part of the proto history of India and belongs to the Bronze Age.
- Mediterranean, Proto-Australoid, Mongoloids and Alpines formed the bulk of the population, though the first two were more numerous.
- More than 100 sites belonging to this civilization have been excavated.
- According to radio-carbon dating, it spread from the year 2500 – 1750 BC.
- Copper, bronze, silver, gold were known but not iron.
Geographical Extent :
- Covered parts of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Gujarat, Rajasthan and some parts of Western UP. It extended from Manda in Jammu in the north to Daimabad in the south and from Alamgirpur in W. UP to Sutkagendor in Baluchistan in the west.
- Major sites in Pakistan are Harappa (on Ravi in W Punjab), Mohenjodaro (on Indus), Chanhu-Daro (Sindh), etc. In India, major sites are Lothal, Rangpur and Surkotda (Gujarat), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Banwali (Hissar), and Alamgirpur (Western UP).
- Largest and the latest site in India is Dholavira in Gujarat. Dr. J.R Joshi and Dr. R.S. Bisht were involved in it.
Indus Valley Civilization Town Planning :
- Elaborate town-planning. It followed the Grid System. Roads were well cut, dividing the town into large rectangular or square blocks. Lamp posts at intervals indicate the existence of street lightning. Flanking the streets, lanes and by-lanes were well-planned houses.
- Used burnt bricks of good quality as the building material. Elsewhere in the contemporary world, mud-bricks were used.
- Houses, often of two or more storey, varied in size, but were quite monotonous a square courtyard, around which were a number of rooms. No window faced the streets. The houses had tiled bathrooms.
- Good drainage system. Drains were made of mortar, lime and gypsum and covered with large brick slabs for easy cleaning. Shows developed sense of health and sanitation.
- The towns were divided into 2 parts: Upper part or Citadel and Lower Part. The Citadel was an oblong artificial platform some 30-50 feet high and about 400-200 yards in area It was enclosed by a thick (13 m at Harappa) crenelated mud-brick wall. In Citadel public buildings, granaries, important workshops and religious buildings were there. In lower part people used to live.
- In Mohanjodaro, a big public bath (Great Bath) measuring 12 m by 7 m and 2.4 m deep, has been found. Steps led from either end to the surface, with changing rooms alongside. It was probably used for ritual bathing.
Excavations & Excavators :
|S No||Peak||Height in metres above mean Sea Level|
|7||Masher Brum E||7,821|
|9||Masher Brum W||7,806|
|15||Chaukhamba (Badrinath Peak)||7,138|
Indus Valley Civilization Economic Life
Indus Valley Civilization Agriculture :
- The Indus people sowed seeds in the flood plains in November, when the flood water receded, and reaped their harvests of wheat and barley in Apr, before the advent of the next flood.
- Grew wheat, barley, rai, peas, sesamum, mustard, rice (in Lothal), cotton, dates, melon, etc. The Indus people were the first to produce cotton.
- In Kalibangan, fields were ploughed with wooden ploughs.
- Domesticated animals on large scale. Besides the cattle, cats and dogs were domesticated. Horse wasn’t in regular use but elephant was. Remains of horse at Surkotda and dogs with men in grave at Ropar have been discovered.
- Produced sufficient to feed themselves.
- Food grains were stored in granaries.
Trade and Commerce in Ancient India :
- Well-knit external and internal trade. There was no metallic money in circulation and trade was carried through Barter System.
- Weights and measures of accuracy existed in Harappan culture (found at Lothal). The weights were made of limestone, steatite, etc and were generally cubical in shape.
- 16 was the unit of measurement (16, 64,160, 320).
- Flint tool-work, shell-work, bangle making, pottery making, etc were practiced. Raw material for these came from different sources: gold from N.Karnataka, silver and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and Iran, copper from Khetri and Baluchistan, etc.
- Bead making factory existed in Chanhudaro and Lothal. They were items of export.
- A dockyard has been discovered at Lothal. Rangpur, Somnath and Balakot functioned as seaports. Sutkagendor and Sutkakoh functioned as outlets.
- The inland transport was done with bullock carts.
- Every merchant or mercantile family probably had a seal bearing an emblem, often of a religious character, and a name or brief description, on one side. The standard Harappa seal was a square or oblong plaque made of steatite stone. The primary purpose of the seal was probably to mark the ownership of property, but they may have also served as amulets.
- The Mesopotamian records from about 2350 BC onwards refer to trade relations with Meluha, the ancient name of the Indus region. Harappan seals and other material has been found at Mesopotamia. Also traded with Sumer.
Indus Valley Civilization Art and Craft :
- The Harappan culture belongs to the Bronze Age.
- Bronze was made by mixing tin and copper. Tools were mostly made of copper and bronze. For making bronze, copper was obtained from Khetri in Rajasthan and from Baluchistan, and tin from Afghanistan.
- Cotton fabrics quite common. Woolen in winter.
- Very fond of ornaments (of gold, silver, ivory, copper, bronze, precious stones) and dressing up. Ornaments were worn by both men and women. Women wore heavy bangles in profusion, large necklaces, ear-rings, bracelets, fingure-rings, girdles, nose studs and anklets. The Harappans were also an expert bead makers.
- Potter’s wheel was in use. Their pottery was red or black pottery. Played dice games. Their favourite pastime was Gambling.
- The Harappans most notable artistic achievement was their seal gravings, esp. those of animals. The red sandstone torso of a man is particularly impressive for its realism. However, the most impressive of the figurines is perhaps the bronze image of the famous dancing girl (identified as devadasi), found at Mohenjodaro.
- For their children, they made cattle-toys with movable heads, model monkeys which could slide down a string, little toy-carts, and whistles shaped like birds, all of terracotta.
The Indus Valley Civilization Religious Life :
- Main object of worship was the Mother Goddess. But the upper classes preferred a god, nude with two horns, much similar to Pasupati Siva. Represented on the seal is a figure with three horned heads in a yogic posture. He is surrounded by an elephant, a tiger and a rhinoceros, and below his throne is a buffalo. Near his feet are two deer. Pashupatinath represented male deity.
- Phallus (lingam) and yoni worship was also prevalent.
- Many trees (pipal), animals (bull), birds (dove, pigeon) and stones were worshipped. Unicorn was also worshipped. However, no temple has been found, though idolatry was practiced.
- At Kalibangan and Lothal fire altars have been found.
- Although no definite proof is available with regard to the disposal of the dead, a broad view is that probably there were three methods of disposing the dead – complete burial, burial after exposure of the body to birds and beasts, and cremation followed by burial of the ashes.
- The discovery of cinerary urns and jars, goblets or vessels with ashes, bones and charcoal may, however, suggest that during the flourishing period of the Indus Valley culture the third method was generally practiced. In Harappa, there is one place where evidence of coffin burial is there. The people probably believed in ghosts and evil spirits, as amulets were worn.
- Dead bodies were placed in the north-south orientation.
Indus Valley Civilization Script :
- The script is not alphabetical but pictographic (about 600 undeciphered pictographs).
- The script has not been deciphered so far, but overlaps of letters show that it was written from right to left in the first line and left to right in the second line. This style is called ‘Boustrophedon’.
Indus Valley Civilization Political Organization :
- There is no clear idea of the political organization of the Indus Valley people. Perhaps they were more concerned with commerce and they were possibly ruled by a class of merchants.
- Also, there was an organization like a municipal corporation to look after the civic amenities of the people.
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