(Last Updated on : 26/02/2013)
Indus Valley Civilization manifested the growth of an ancient society which evolved and thrived during the Bronze Age in the North West region of India and its subcontinent. The civilization was named after the river- Indus, along the banks of which the civilization developed. Geographically, the Indus Valley Civilization covered the territory of Pakistan, the states of Rajasthan
, the valleys of Narmada
, with intrusions into the upper Ganga Yamuna Doab. Collectively they constitute an area of about 8, 40,000 sq miles, which is much bigger than that of any contemporary civilization in other places. The origin, culture and decline of the Indus Valley Civilization are shrouded in mystery and have fascinated the historians and common populace as well. It is estimated by experts that the society existed between 3300 BC and 1700 BC.
The origin of Indus Valley civilisation is devoid of any kind of battles or conflicts. The people of Indus Valley rather made deals instead of war and created a stable peaceful and prosperous culture. The Harappa Civilization has its significance for not only historians and archaeologists but for the people in general. It was best known for its spectacular city planning, its drainage system and had surpassed all other contemporary civilizations.
Origin of Indus Valley Civilization
As far as the origin of the word Indus is concerned, scholars are of the opinion that the name Indus is the origin of the word Hindu. Though the original Indian name of the river is Sindhu, the Greeks referred to the river as the "Indos" while the later Arabs referred to it as "Al-Hind." Eventually the name came to be applied to the people of the subcontinent, namely, the "Hindi
," the "Hindus" and the "Indians." It is believed that the Indus Valley Civilization belonged to the copper age as the presence of iron tools and implements has not yet been established at any part of this civilization.
The oldest mention of the Indus Valley Civilisation is found in the works of Charles Masson in 1842. In 1856 while laying a railway track, British engineers came across an ancient city. They used the bricks from the ruined city to build the railway bed. Finally it was Alexander Cunningham
, the director of the Archaeological Survey of British India, who presented to the world a seal from this ancient civilisation. In the year 1920, Indian archaeologists Dayaram Sahani and R.D Bannerjee undertook excavations on one of these mounds in Harappa. The archaeologists expected to find something, but never imagined that a city lay beneath the earth. Further excavation at different places in India and Pakistan, led to discovery of another large city Mohenjodaro with the recovery of at least 80 villages and towns related to this newly discovered civilization. They named it Harappan after the first city they discovered.
Town Planning in Indus Valley Civilization
The twin cities of Mohenjodaro
were centres of all activities commercial or socio religious cult in the Indus Valley civilization. Both cities were a mile square with defensive outer walls. Cities were divided into lower dwellings and the citadel housed important buildings. Most of these buildings were built with burnt or mud bricks and stones. Till date historians defer in awe witnessing the Great Granary or the Bath, both exclusive for its architectural inputs and planning.
Language in Indus Valley Civilization
Difficulty shrouds the mind`s horizon when it comes about unanimous decision regarding the languages that were spoken by the people of Harappa. The scholars have not been able to decipher the language of the Harappans. It was Sir John Marshall who first suggested that the people of the Indus Civilization spoke in Dravidian language
. Most scholars agreed with Marshall. On the other hand, Piero Meriggi, another historian suggested that they used Brahvi language, which is still used in Baluchistan.
The writing style of Indus Valley civilisation appeared to be a pictographic script. The script seems to have had about 400 basic signs with several variations. The sign probably stood forwards and for syllables. The direction of the writing was generally from right to left. Most of the inscriptions were found on seals. The seals were probably used in trade and also for official and administrative works; mention of literary extravaganza is absent. A lot of the inscribed material was found at different Harappan site which opens the door of awe struck amazement before the world populace.
Religion in Indus Valley Civilization
Scholars are unable to draw a conclusion regarding the religion of the inhabitants of Indus Valley civilization. Unlike Mesopotamia or Egypt, there were no buildings discovered to conclude that there might had been a temple or the people were involved in any kind of public worship. However, some historians are of the opinion that Harappan people were Hindus. In view of the female terracotta figurines found at sites or seals of male god in tantric posture resembling Lord Shiva, a Hindu deity and also the Mother Goddess exemplifies that the Indus people believed in the mother goddesses.
Science and Astronomy in Indus Valley Civilization
The Harappan people possessed knowledge regarding the measuring tools of length, mass, and time. They were the first in the world in developing a system of uniform weights and measures. Their measurements were extremely precise. Their smallest division, which was marked on an ivory scale found in Lothal
, was approximately 1.704mm, the smallest division ever recorded on a scale of the Bronze Age.
Occupation of Indus People
The people of the Indus Valley were engaged in trading that was well-regulated. The standard of weights was fixed. The people sold agricultural products in exchange for metal, stone implements, steatite, gold ornaments and other things. Moreover, there were massive granaries in each city. The Indus River
valley was quite fertile when the Harappans thrived there. Many of the Harappan seals had pictures of animals that imply a wet and marshy environment, such as rhinoceroses, elephants, and tigers. Cows, goats, buffaloes, cats, sheep, camels, dogs, etc were the domestic animals.
Society in Indus Valley Civilization
In the Indus Valley Civilization, the society was stratified into 3 distinct social groups. One group ruled and administered the city; the other group included the merchants who were associated with trade and other business activities in the city. The third group was that of the labourers who worked in the city. They also included the farmers who cultivated wheat
and barley as their main crops. For transport of men and goods double-ox carts must have been in use. Excepting the camel, the usual beasts of burden were known. The horse was also known by the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. Terracotta cart frames and wheels with and without hubs have been found.
Jewellery was not only the forte of women, even men enjoyed such. The pieces of ornaments saw the lavish use of gold
and silver. Necklaces
and rings were common jewelleries for men. On the other hand women decked themselves up with ear rings, necklaces, anklets, bangles, girdles, bracelets and others. Ivory products like combs were also popular with the people of this civilisation. Besides these, people enjoyed playing in dice and marble. Gambling was a favourite past time of the elder members in the society.
Art and Craft of Indus Valley Civilisation
The patterns that the craft traditions in India were to take and which were to survive for years appear already mature. It firmly established the urban life of the Indus valley. The Indus valley crowd revealed expertise in craftsmanship. Dancing, painting, sculpture, and music were all part of Indus culture. Though statues are abundantly found but only stone, bronze or terracotta ones have been excavated.
Decline of Indus Valley Civilization
The decline of Indus valley civilization has been attributed to various reasons such as, ecological, increase in population, excessive deforestation, etc. However, the coming of the Aryans
, probably from Central Asia was unanimously accepted as a major cause for the decline and complete disintegration of the civilization.
There was a discovery in the craft and trading town of this civilization being excavated since 1996 by a team of archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda on the south eastern coast of Gulf of Kutch
at Gola Dhoro in Gujarat. These excavations outlined the importance of smaller settlements that are far removed from the core area situated near specific resource areas, in the economic development of the Harappan civilization.
Gola Dhoro is situated half a kilometre northeast of a sleepy village of Bagasra (N 23 3` 30": E 70 37`10"). The settlements are measuring 1.92 hectares is about 7.50m high from the surrounding area. Archeological excavations suggested that the settlement began as a small village. Subsequently, a massive fortification wall measuring 5.20m in width was built in three successive stages on the northern half of the site left surprisingly little space of approximately 50x50m, at any stage of its history, for the construction of residential houses and craft workshops. It indicated that the residents were not only lived in the mud brick houses, while on the other hand, some people also lived in the fortified areas that was situated in the lower southern half of the settlement.