Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC — 1750 BC) | Summary

History Notes Ancient India Satvahana Dynasty and more

In 1921, archaeologists John Marshall and Dayaram Sahni excavated a site Harappa, on the banks of river Rabi in Punjab region of Pakistan. Mohenjo-Daro, another important site of Indus Valley civilization was discovered in Sindh region of Pakistan on the banks of the river Indus. Due to the similarities in town planning and seals, it was confirmed that both were part of same civilization. Harappan Civilization was named after Harappa which was the first site discovered. Also, most of the sites discovered were on the banks of river Indus thus the name Indus Valley civilization.

There are two criteria for civilization is:-  

  • It must have cities
  • It must have its own script

Harappan Script

  • Harappan scripts were found on its seals and it is pictographic
  • It is boustrophedon style
  • Harappan Script is closet to Dravidian script of Munda tribe of Jharkhand

Origin of Indus Valley Civilization

As given by Western historians

  • They considered this civilization as an offshoot of Mesopotamian or Byzantinian civilization and that it originated suddenly
  • Drawback of this theory is that there is no evidence supporting it.
  • Also Mesopotamian civilisation’s findings were different than those of the Harappan civilisation.

As given by Indian historians

  • The civilisation gradually developed and it had indigenous origin
  • It evolved from the Neolithic period where agriculture was practised and surplus grains produced were traded.

Sites of the Indus Valley Civilization

Mohenjo-Daro (the literal meaning of the term is – mount of the dead)

Great Bath

  1. The Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro is called as earliest public water tank of the ancient world
  2. It was a huge bath made of burnt/baked bricks
  3. It was probably used for public ceremonies and was situated in a public place
  4. There were rooms around the bath for changing clothes and wells to pour water Bronze statue of a Dancing girl
  5. This shows that use of Bronze (an alloy) was known to the people thus this age is also known as Bronze Age

The Great Granary

  • Was used to store excess grains
    • This also proves the existence of a civic administration which collected surplus grains and distributed it later
    • There was possibly a taxation system
  • There are evidence of use of cotton
  • Largest number of seals are found here
  • Seals were made of aesthetite which is a form of clay
    • These seals were circular, square and cylindrical in shape
    • Seals were used to depict their script
    • Seals were also used as a mark of authority and a medium of exchange
    • One of these seals depicted a form of Shiva called proto-Shiva.

Harappa

  • This was the first site to be excavated
  • 12 granaries of equal size arranged in 2 rows
  • It had the second largest number of seals
  • Various types of cemeteries were also discovered proving the fact that the people practiced different religions and were of different ethnicities.

Kalibangan

  • It was situated on the banks of river Ghagger Evidence of ploughing has been found at his site
  • Evidence of pre-Harappan culture is also found here
  • Fire Altars or ‘Havan kund’ has also been found in Kalibangan

Lothal

  • It was on the banks of river Bhogwa in Gujarat (ancient name of Sabarmati river)
  • A man made dockyard made of burnt bricks which confirms the maritime activities during that time
  • The Harappans had trade with Iraq, Iran, Mesopotamia and the present day Gulf    
  • Fire altars were also found here
  • Double burial was also practiced in Lothal

Dholavira 

It is the most spectacular IVC site in India and the fifth largest in the subcontinent in terms of areal coverage (Mohenjo Daro 250 hectare (Ha), Harappa 150 Ha, Rakhigarhi 80–105 Ha, Ganeriwala 81 Ha and Dholavira 70 Ha). It is the largest excavated Harappan site in India which can be seen by the tourists.

Rakhigarhi

  • Rakhigarhi is the largest Harappan site in the Indian subcontinent.
    • Other large sites of Harappan civilization on Indian sub-continent are Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Ganveriwala in Pakistan and Dholavira (Gujarat) in India.
  • At Rakhigarhi, the excavations are being done to trace its beginnings and to study its gradual evolution from 6000 BCE (Pre-Harappan phase) to 2500 BCE.

Town Planning of Harappan Civilization

Towns were planned in a chessboard pattern. The city was divided into 2 parts

  1. Citadel — was used by ruling class (Granary, Great bath etc. were part of Citadel)
  2. Lower Town — was used by ruled class
  3. The houses were built of burnt bricks and were both single and double storeyed
  4. The doors and windows were at the rear of the house instead of being located in front and the doors were at the corner of the walls
  5. The streets were straight and cut each other at 90 deg.
  6. The drainage system was fully covered which was below the city. It was the most advanced system in the contemporary world

Crop Pattern of Harappans

  • The knowledge of crop pattern was based on granaries. Harappans cultivated rice, wheat, barley and mustard
  • They were the first in the world to grow cotton They also grew water-melon, pea and dates

Metals used by Harappans

  • They were the first people in the world to use copper and it was the earliest metal used in India
  • They used bronze also which was an alloy
  • Evidences of use of Gold and Silver too have been found They also knew lead.
  • Iron was not used by the people of Harappan Civilization

Animals in the Harappan civilization

  • Animals that were domesticated include cows, dogs, sheep, and buffalo. There was also evidence was wild animals like rhinos and tigers. No presence of a Horse was found during that time.

Trade and Commerce

  • Trade and agriculture flourished during the Harappan civilization
  • Seal manufacturing and terracotta figurines were made in large numbers
  • Terracota articles were obtained by first making them in clay and then baking them in fire Arts and Crafts
  • Pottery was done in this civilization. It was of 2 types  
    • Simple – Simple pottery included glasses, bowls and dishes which were mainly circular, square and cylindrical in shape
    • Black Red – Articles made had black backgrounds with red designs Seals of this period suggest that they used wooden carts
  • They also knew the art of ship building
  • They had very well developed system of both, internal and external trade Religion and Faith
  • The people were nature worshippers and had both personal and public religious beliefs Idols founds confirm private worship by the people

DECLINE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION

There are multiple theories proposed by various scholars which explain the decline of this civilization

Theory by Mortimer Wheeler

  • This theory suggested that attack by the Aryans was responsible for the decline
  • The main drawback of this theory was that it is confirmed that Aryans came to India around 1500 BC whereas Harappan civilization ended by 1750 BC

Theory by Riggs

  • He proposed that the civilization declined due to earthquake which was followed by floods Evidences of floods have been found in Mohenjo-Daro
  • The main drawback of this theory was that this theory is confined only to certain regions of Harappan civilization and not to all the places where the civilization flourished

Theory by Fariservis

  • He proposed that ecological imbalance was responsible for the decline of the civilization but failed to provide satisfactory data to prove his theory

Theory by Das and Sood

  • They proposed that change in course of Indus River was the reason for decline of the civilization and as most of the cities were on the banks of river Indus, the civilization was destroyed.

Theory by Malik and Pochal

  • They argued that Harappan civilization was not completely destroyed and there was a link between Harappan and post-Harappan culture but the uniformity of the civilization ended.

VEDIC CULTURE — (1500 BC — 600 BC)

Vedic Culture can be divided into two phases:-

  • an Early Vedic Culture (1500 BC — 1000 BC)
  • a Later Vedic Culture (1000 BC — 600 BC)

Early Vedic Period

  • Rig Veda was composed during the period
  • The main source of information of this period is from the Rig-Veda
  •  The Rig-Veda contains 1,028 mantras, or hymns, directed to the gods and natural forces. The mantras are organized into ten books called mandalas, or circles
  • It contains 10,462 slokas or hymns
  • Rig Veda was composed by Aryans and it was recited orally because the Aryans did not know writing It talks about Aryans and their struggle with Non- Aryans

Origin of Aryans

  • Aryans migrated from Central Asia (Eurasia) to different places in Europe, India and Persia
  • They entered India via Afghanistan and settled down in north-west region of Punjab
  • Aryans called India — Sapthasindhu (Land of seven rivers)

Life and Occupation

  • Domestication of Animals was their main occupation
  • Agriculture was their secondary occupation as Rig Veda mentions only one crop — barley
  • The main animal domesticated was a cow
  • Cow was also a medium of exchange
  • Aryans were ‘pastoral nomads’ who did not settle at a place for more than one season.
  • They were mainly divided into tribes known as Jan
  • Aryan society was male dominated and had no territorial kingdom
  • The king (rajan) of the tribe was assisted by Senani (military commander), Purohit (Priest), Gramini (king Maker)
  • Sabha, Samiti and Vidhat were the assemblies
  • Rajan was hereditary and was assisted by these assemblies. He also collected gifts from people which were known as Bali. Bali is the oldest form of taxation known in India
Gopath — man with the highest number of cows
Gavisthi — search or conflict for cow
Goghan — guests who were served beef
Duhitra — person milking the cow generally a female
Goudhuli — onset of evening  

Religion

  • They were nature worshippers
  • Yagya and rituals were parts of religious practices
  • There was no temple or idol worship. All gods were supreme in a particular ritual. Aryans worshiped 33 gods and goddesses
  • The chief gods were Indra, Agni and Varun
  • Prime goddesses were Aditi, Prithvi and Usha
  • The main reasons for worshipping nature was:-
    • Fear
    • Desire for cattle
    • Desire for more children specifically male child

Society

  • There was no class division as the concept of privateness was not fully developed
  • Since they all were pastoral nomads so the idea of property and settled life did not develop
  • The Varna system though existed in the Aryan Society. Its classifications were:-
    • Purohit (priest)
    • Kshatriya (Warrior)
    • Vish (Common Man)
    • Shudra (Labour Class)
  • There was discrimination on the basis of colour in the society
  • The non-Aryans were called das, panis, dasyus
  • There was a lot of freedom give to women during this period. There was no child marriage or sati practice. Widow Remarriage was allowed.
  • Apaala, Lopamudra, Ghosha, Sukanya composed Rig Vedic hymns
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