• The earliest excavations in the Indus valley were done at Harappa in the West Punjab and Mohenjodaro in Sind.
• Both places are now in Pakistan.
• The findings in these two cities brought to light a civilization which was first called the ‘The Indus Valley Civilization’.
• But this civilization was later named as the ‘Indus Civilization’ due to the discovery of more and more sites far away from the Indus valley.
• Also, it has come to be called the ‘Harappan Civilization’ after the name of its first discovered site.
• 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 and R.D. Banerjee discovered Mohenjodaro or ‘Mound of the Dead’ (on Indus) in 1922. Sir John Marshal had 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.
• According to radio-carbon dating, it spread from the year 2500 – 1750 BC. Copper, bronze, silver, gold were known but not iron.
ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION
• The archaeological findings excavated near the Indus Valley revealed the gradual development and four important stages or phases of evolution and they are named as pre-Harappan, early-Harappan, mature-Harappan and late Harappan.
• The pre-Harappan stage is located in eastern Baluchistan. The excavations at Mehrgarh 150 miles to the northwest of Mohenjodaro reveal the existence of pre-Harappan culture. In this stage, the nomadic people began to lead a settled agricultural life.
• In the early-Harappan stage, the people lived in large villages in the plains. There was a gradual growth of towns in the Indus valley. Also, the transition from rural to urban life took place during this period. The sites of Amri and Kot Diji remain the evidence for early-Harappan stage.
• In the mature-Harappan stage, great cities emerged. The excavations at Kalibangan with its elaborate town planning and urban features prove this phase of evolution.
• In the late-Harappan stage, the decline of the Indus culture started. The excavations at Lothal revealed this stage of evolution. Lothal with its port was founded much later. It was surrounded by a massive brick wall for flood protection. Lothal remained an emporium of trade between the Harappan civilization and the remaining part of India as well as Mesopotamia.
• Indus Valley Civilisation was the biggest of the contemporary ancient civilizations of the Nile or Tigris-Euphratus valleys in the west or the Yellow River Valley in the east.
• It formed a triangle and accounted for about 12,99,600 km with Sutkagendor in Makran coast, Alamgirpur in Meerut district of U.P., Manda in Jammu and Daimabad forming its western, eastern and northern and southernmost points, respectively.
• From east to west it is a distance of 1,550 km and from north to south it extends over 1,100 km.
• Major sites in Pakistan of Harappan civilization are Harappa (on Ravi in W Punjab), Mohenjodaro (on Indus), Chanhu-Daro (on 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 discovered in India is Dholavira in Gujarat.
INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION SITES
So far nearly 1000 sites of nearly, mature and late phases of the Indus Civilization are known in the sub-continent. But the number of the sites belonging to the mature phase is limited, and of them only half a dozen like Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal, Chanhu-daro and Banwali can be regarded as cities.
Of these, Mohenjo-daro and Harappa situated at a distance of 483 km and linked together by the river Indus are most important, both on account of their size and the diversity of the finds, which excavations have revealed.
• Literally, the ‘mound of the dead’ is situated in Larkana district of Sind on the right bank of the River Indus. Mohenjo-Daro was first excavated by R.D. Banerjee in 1922.
• This city is also an extreme example of conservatism, as despite having been fl ooded almost nine times,they never tried to shift to a safer place. Rather, they came back to the original site whenever the water table receded. Nor did they ever try to build strong embankments to protect themselves from fl oods.
• The major findings here include a citadel, a college, a multi-pillared Assembly Hall, a public bath (the Great Bath) and a large granary (inside the citadel) consisting of a podium of square blocks and burnt with a wooden superstructure.
• The Great Bath was excavated by Sir John Marshal and regarded as the most important public place measuring 11.88 metres, 7.01 metres and 2.43 metres deep approachable by two staircases from north and south; around it was a pillared verandah with dressing rooms. It is an example of beautiful brickwork, bitumen coated with gypsum in mortar made it water proof. Perhaps it was used for ritual bathing.
• A piece of woven cotton; bronze dancing girl; seals of three-headed Pashupati Mahadeo; steatite-statuette of a bearded man supposed to be a priest-king; terracotta figurines of a horse from a superficial level; a seal and two potshed depicting ships; bronze buffalo and ram, etc. are the major findings here.
• Three cylindrical seals of Mesopotamina type have also been found here.
• It is situated in the Montgomery district of Punjab, now in Pakistan on the left bank of the River Ravi.
• It is perhaps the largest Indus site in magnitude and dimension. The structures of Harappa cover 5 km in circuit and in the way is one of the largest of its type in the Bronze Age.
• The vast mounds at Harappa were first reported by Charles Masson in 1826, and preliminary excavation was done by Daya Ram Sahni in 1921.
• Major findings include – a granary (outside the citadel) consisting of twelve oblong blocks in an area 800 sq. metres; between the granary and the citadel have also been found a series of circular platforms probably for the pounding of grain, because wheat and barley have been found in the crevices.
• Little bullock carts and ‘Ekkas’ besides copper or bronze models of carts with seated drivers have also been found.
• It is the only site, which yields the evidence of coffin burial probably of a foreigner from the west. Rigveda (Mandal VI) mentions it as ‘Harupiya’ – a battle site ruins.
Kalibangan (Sothi culture)
• It is situated in Ganga Nagar district of northern Rajasthan on the banks of the now dry course of the Ghaggar River and was first excavated by A. Ghoshin 1953.
• Here, the massive mud-brick wall around citadel and lower town was supported by corner tower and ‘bastions’.
• Evidence of furrows land (pre-Harappan) and wooden furrow comes from this site only.
• Evidence of fire-altar in houses suggests the practice of fire-cult.
• Copper was known, as is attested by copper bead as well as a cell and few other objectives.
• The existence of wheel conveyance is proved by a cartwheel having a single hub.
• The pottery has six fabrics, all wheel made, as at Kot-Diji, but unlike Amri, where in the lowest levels, the majority was hand-made.
• The predominant pottery is red or pink with black, or bichrome black white painting.
• Animal sacrifice is suggested by a big public fire-pit altar made of burnt bricks on a platform situated in the outer city containing bones of cattle. At this site evidence of restricted use of bunt bricks confined largely to bathrooms, wells and latrines.
• There is no clear-cut evidence of drainage system here.
• Bones of a camel.
• It is situated in Gujarat on Bhogavar River near Gulf of Cambay.
• It was excavated by Prof. S.R. Rao in 1957. It is a small but interesting site.
• It differs from the other sites so far as the houses open on to the main street and there is no citadel complex.
• An interesting finding here is an artificial brick dockyard (219×37 meters) connected through the Bhogavar River with the Gulf of Cambay.
• It is the only place along with Rangpur where rice husk has been found. Terracotta figurines of a horse are also found here.
• Terracotta model of a ship with a stick-impressed socket for the mast and eyeholes for fixing rigging, which is found here, may suggest sea trade.
• Fire attars have also been found.
• It is the only Indus site, which bears the evidence of joint burial of male and female suggesting the practice of ‘Sati’.
• A ‘Persian Gulf’ type of seal has been found here.
• The site is also known for bead-makers factory.
• It is situated in Sind on the lefts plains of the Indus about 130 km south of Mohenjo-daro.
• It has no citadel.
• The site is most famous for bead-makers factory.
• The site was a major centre for craft production – seal, shell bead and bangle manufacturing shops.
• Other findings include a small pot, probably an inkpot; evidence of mustard; foot prints of a dog chasing those of a cat across one wet surface of some brickwork; copper or bronze models of carts with seated drivers etc.
• It is situated at a distance of 100 miles north-east of Amri on the left bank of the Indus and was excavated in and after 1955 by the Pakistan Archaeological department.
• There are indications at various points that the early settlement was subject to floods and that stones were piled up as a protection against their action.
• The material culture included a chart-blade industry with some serrated blades, and other blades reportedly bearing ‘sickle glass’.
• It is not clear whether there were any objects of copper but a fragment of a bronze bangle is reported.
• The pottery was of a distinctive character, which was decorated to have developed from bands of brownish paint.
• An interesting motif appears to have developed from bands of loops and wavy lines into the well-known fish-scale pattern, which later appears on Harappan pottery.
• With the exception of writing and long stone blades, the Kot-Dijians had everything that Harappans were known for.
• At Kot-Diji the foundations of the fortification wall and houses are of stone.
• There is plenty of evidence to show that Kot-Diji was destroyed of fire.
• It is situated in Sind west of the River Indus and was excavated under the direction of N.G. Majumdar in 1929 and later by a French team directed by J.M. Casal.
• Here, fragments of copper and bronze, a chart blade industry, wheel thrown pottery showing a wide variety of painted motifs, mainly geometric, in both plain and polychrome styles have been found.
• From this site, comes a beautiful painted humped Indian bull.
• It is a coastal site and is situated at the head of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.
• It was first excavated by J. Joshi in 1964.
• Here, both citadel and lower town is fortified – the two being connected by an intercommunicating gate.
• The most important finding here are the bones of horse (2000 BC).
• It is on the Makran coast where Sir Aurel Stein dug some trial trenches.
• There is existence of a great fortification around the Harappan outpost here.
• The citadel here was fortified in rubble stone instead of bricks.
• Perhaps the site was a trading port.
• It is situated in Hissar district of Haryana on the bank of the now dry course of river Sarasvati.
• It was first excavated in 1974 by R.S. Bisht.
• A good quantity of barley has been found here.
• The sites like Kalibangan also show pre-Harappan and Harappan phases.
• It is situated in the district of the same name in Punjab on the bank of river Sutlej and was first excavated by Y.D. Sharma in 1953.
• Both Harappan and post-Harappan phase have been noticed here.
• It is situated in Jhalwar district of Gujarat near Ahmedabad and was excavated by M.S. Vats in 1931.
• All three phases of Harappan culture i.e. pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan have been found here.
• The most important finding here are rice husks.
• No seal or image of Mother Goddess has been found here.
• It is situated in Meerut district of U.P. and represents the last phase i.e. of post-Harappan culture.
• It is situated in Sind and has yielded a massive stone fort.
• It is situated in Gujarat and seems to be a big site but is not much excavated.
DECLINE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
Traces of general decline in civic standard are noticed towards the last phase of Indus Civilization. Town planning was abandoned and public buildings fell in ruin. Water supply system fell in disrepair. Kiln entered city limits. Dilapidated bricks were roused. Script degenerated. Weights and measures and seals disappeared. External and internal trade declined. Some exotic tools and pottery found in the upper levels indicate foreign intrusion in the north. Several causes have been given for the decline.
• There is no unanimous view pertaining to the cause for the decline of the Harappan culture. Various theories have been postulated.
• Natural calamities like recurring floods, drying up of rivers, decreasing fertility of the soil due to excessive exploitation and occasional earthquakes might have caused the decline of the Harappan cities.
• According to some scholars the final blow was delivered by the invasion of Aryans.
• The destruction of forts is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Also, the discovery of human skeletons huddled together at Mohenjodaro indicates that the city was invaded by foreigners.
• The Aryans had superior weapons as well as swift horses which might have enabled them to become masters of this region.
The emergence of Indus valley civilization, also known as harappan civilization marks the first period of urbanization in ancient India. It is well known for the spectacular planning and specialized craft which are not available in any of the contemporary civilizations of the world. Although we find trade relation between Mesopotamian civilization, there is no similarity in the life style and structure of the civilization of Harappa with the Mesopotamian civilization.
SALIENT FEATURES OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
• The Harappan culture was distinguished by its system of town planning on the lines of the grid system – that is streets and lanes cutting across one another almost at right angles thus dividing the city into several rectangular blocks.
• Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Kalibangan each had its own citadel built on a high podium of mud brick. Below the citadel in each city lay a lower town containing brick houses, which were inhabited by the common people.
• The large-scale use of burnt bricks in almost all kinds of constructions and the absence of stone buildings are the important characteristics of the Harappan culture.
• Another remarkable feature was the underground drainage system connecting all houses to the street drains which were covered by stone slabs or bricks.
• The most important public place of Mohenjodaro is the Great Bath measuring 39 feet length, 23 feet breadth and 8 feet depth. Flights of steps at either end lead to the surface. There are side rooms for changing clothes. The floor of the Bath was made of burnt bricks. Water was drawn from a large well in an adjacent room, and an outlet from one corner of the Bath led to a drain. It must have served as a ritual bathing site.
• The largest building in Mohenjodaro is a granary measuring 150 feet length and 50 feet breadth. But in the citadel of Harappa there were six granaries.
• An important characteristic of the Indus Civilization was its urban life.
• The civic life was highly developed.
• The society mainly consisted of middle classes.
• Perhaps there existed a fairly stratified social structure.
• There was a clear cut division of labour based on specialization of work which is evidenced by the presence of craftsmen, sculptures, jewelers, scribes, merchants, traders, transporters, carpenters, potters, herdsmen, priests, slaves, peasants, administrators and the ruling elite.
• The presence of warrior caste is uncertain.
• Marked Class inequality is testified by two-roomed barracks or workman’s quarters found in both Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.
• There were diversions such as dice or hunting with wild animals. But dice playing seems to be most important with them.
• The young played with marbles, rattles and toys. The bull with a mobile head, and the monkey going up and down a string show ingenuity.
• On a potsherd from Harappa is found a person wearing a ‘dhoti’. Shawl as an upper garment is suggested by the well-known steatite statuette from Mohenjo-daro, supposed to be of a priest.
• The occurrence of needles and buttons prove that at least some items of dresses might have been stitched.
• Uniformity in material culture visible in such features as town planning, trade and commerce, weights and measures, etc. suggests a centralized political control.
• Again the presence of great granaries on the citadel mounds and the citadels themselves point towards the presence of a political authority.
• Possibly, Harappa was ruled by a class of Merchants.
• The extensive use of burnt-bricks, for the firing of which plenty of wood was needed, and the frequent depiction of flora and fauna on the seals suggest a good rainfall.
• Wheat and barley were the main food-crops besides, rais, peas, sesamum, mustard, rice (in Lothal), palm date, banana, etc.
• The evidence of culivation of rice comes from Lothal and Rangpur only.
• No canal or channel irrigation but ‘gabarbands’ or reservoirs have been found. Furrow marks have been discovered only at Kalibangan.
• It seems seeds were sown on flood plains in November and reaped in April.
• Perhaps stone stickles were used for harvesting.
• Despite being a pre-field cultivation, it had a surplus production.
• Wheat and barley were the staple food and to the dietary were added fish, fowl, mutton, beef and pork.
• Harappans were the first to discover cotton and grew it for textiles – a crop unknown in those times in Egypt.
• Because cotton was first produced in this area the Greeks called it ‘Sindon’, which is derived from Sindh.
• They domesticated animals on large scale.
• Besides cats and dogs, oxen, buffaloes, goats, ship, pigs, and probably elephants were also domesticated.
• Remains of horse at Surkotda and dogs with men in grave at Ropar have been discovered. The evidence regarding horse and camel is inconclusive.
Economy, Trade and Commerce
• Economy was mainly agrarian but heavily supported by trade and commerce.
• Both internal and external trade was much brisk.
• There was no metallic money.
• Medium of exchange was barter system.
• The seals seem to be of merchandise importance.
• Trade was undertaken both by land and sea route.
• Ships and carts with solid wheel were chief means of transportation.
• Uniformity in weights and measures and in material culture suggest trade within the Indus empire.
• The Indus people did not possess the necessary raw materials for the commodities they produced.
• In return for finished goods like ivory, carnelian beads, shell goods, cotton fabrics, and possibly foodgrains and spices, they procured metals from the neighbouring areas.
• Overseas trade and outside contact is proved by almost two dozen Indus seals found from Mesopotamian cities of Ur, Umma, Kish, Lagash, Susa, Tell Asmar and three cylindrical seals of Mesopotamian type from Mohenjo-daro.
• This trade was atleast partly sea-borne is proved by the discovery of the ‘dock yard’ at Lothal.
• Imports could have been matched by exports as revealed by bales of cloth from Umma bearing the imprint of an Indus seal.
• Etched beads and bone inlays of the Indus Valley have also been discovered at Tell Asmar.
• The Mesopotamian literature records its trade relations from about 2350 B.C. onwards with Meluha (identified with Indus region) and two intermediate trading stations called Dilmun (Bahrain) and Makan (Makran).
• The Sargon of Akkad (2300 B.C.) had an official interpreter of the Meluhan language, as is recorded some Mesopotamian literature.
• There are material evidence at Tape Yahya and Sahar-i-Sokhta of overland trade route to Mesopotamia through Iran.
• A Harappan colony has been discovered at Shertughai (in north-east Afghanistan) not from the Lapis Lazuli mines of Badakshan.
Dress and ornaments
• People used garments of cotton and wool. Cotton fabric was in common use, such as, shawls, dhoti, skirts, clock, loin cloth, etc. men wore dhoti and shawl.
• Bronze and ivory needles and buttons suggest use of tailored dress.
• Women wore knee length skirt, and their headdress had a plait tied with a bow at the end.
• The bronze-dancing girl has braided hair.
• Womenfolk also used collyrium, face-paint, comb, oval shaped bronze mirrors, perfumes, etc. and bedecked themselves with ornaments like necklaces, bracelets, finger-rings, armlets, earrings, girdles, bangles, nose-studs, anklets made of a variety of metals and precious stones.
• Men’s hairstyle was marked by hair parted in middle and tied with a fillet and hair gathered in a bun. Moustache was shaved off within a short period but beard was kept.
• The Harappan script has still to be fully deciphered.
• The number of signs is between 400 and 600 of which 40 or 60 are basic and the rest are their variants.
• The script was mostly written from right to left. In a few long seals the boustrophedon method – writing in the reverse direction in alternative lines – was adopted.
• The mystery of the Harappan script still exists and there is no doubt that the decipherment of Harappan script will throw much light on this culture.
• The Harappan sculpture revealed a high degree of workmanship.
• Figures of men and women, animals and birds made of terracotta and the carvings on the seals show the degree of proficiency attained by the sculptor.
• The figure of a dancing girl from Mohenjodaro made of bronze is remarkable for its workmanship. Its right hand rests on the hip, while the left arm, covered with bangles, hangs loosely in a relaxed posture.
• Two stone statues from Harappa, one representing the back view of a man and the other of a dancer are also specimens of their sculpture.
• The pottery from Harappa is another specimen of the fine arts of the Indus people. The pots and jars were painted with various designs and colours. Painted pottery is of better quality. The pictorial motifs consisted of geometrical patterns like horizontal lines, circles, leaves, plants and trees. On some pottery pieces figures of fish or peacock are also found.
• These were made generally of softstone called ‘steatite’ and usually of 2-3cm oblong on which carving was done with burin wind coated with alkali and treated further with heating to obtain lustrous finish.
• These seals have been found in large numbers (about 2500).
• These show Harappan creativity – excellent calligraphy with realistic human and animal motifs, particularly that of bull (unicorn); on the reverse side is a perforated knob.
• Perhaps these seals acted as token of merchants and also had some cult significance, because seals from religious legends have been found on them.
• Shell-inlaying important centres were Chanhudaro and Balakot and were used for making beads, bracelets and decorative inlays.
• From the seals, terracotta figurines and copper tablets we get an idea on the religious life of the Harappans.
• The chief male deity was Pasupati, (proto-Siva) represented in seals as sitting in a yogic posture with three faces and two horns. He is surrounded by four animals (elephant, tiger, rhino, and buffalo each facing a different direction). Two deer appear on his feet. The animal surrounding proto-Shiva might have been worshipped.
• The chief female deity was the Mother Goddess represented in terracotta figurines.
• In later times, Linga worship was 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 practicedNaga-cult (cobra worship) was practiced.
• Practice of fire cult evidenced from Lothal and Kalibangan may suggest ritual sacrifice.
• Swastika was a sign of good luck. Portrayal of crocodiles on some seals may symbolize river god.
• The elaborate bathing arrangement at the city of Mohenjodaro suggest that religious purification by bath formed a feature of the Indus Valley people.
• Primitive animism i.e. worship of spirits and belief in the ‘other world’ is shown by the fact that with the dead were entered a large number of pits and toilet objects such as mirror, antimony rod and mother of pearl shells.
• Amulets and charmers found in large number suggest superstition and belief in demons and ghosts. Lastly, it may be surmised that the Harappan religion was the lineal progenitor of Hinduism.
• Axes, spears, daggers, bows and arrows and short swords made usually of copper and bronze and almost offensive in character might have been used either in self-defence against wild animals or in warfare.
• Bronze and copper objects for domestic use included knife-blades, saws, sickles, chisels, fishhooks, pines, tweezers and a variety of pots.
• The Indus people lived in full-fledged Bronze Age, although chert blades continued to supplement the tool-repertoire.
Weights & Measures
• The use of weights (in a binary system) and measures (as shown by a scale found at Lothal) proves that the Indus people knew arithmetic.
• Cubical weights of charts were commonly used.
• For smaller weights binary system in progression was used like 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 going up to 160 and decimal ratio in progression was used for larger weights, viz. 320, 640, 1600, 3200, 5400, 8000 and 12800.
• A terracotta-graduated scale is found in Kalibangan.
• A scale of ivory shell have a ‘foot; of 13.0 to 13.2 inches and cubit of 20.3 to 20.8 inches.
• Unit weights value was 0.8750 gm and largest weight was 10970 gms; the most prolific weight was 13.68 gms having a ratio of 16 to standard unit of weight.
• Plumb bobs and angle measures of shell were used.
• The cemeteries discovered around the cities like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal and Rupar throw light on the burial practices of the Harappans.
• Complete burial and post-cremation burial were popular at Mohenjodaro.
• 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 latter method was generally practiced.
• The dead bodies were placed in the north-south direction.
• At Lothal the burial pit was lined with burnt bricks indicating the use of coffins.
• Wooden coffins were also found at Harappa.
• The practice of pot burials is found at Lothal sometimes with pairs of skeletons.