Indus Valley Civilization

Indus valley civilization is older than chalcolithic culture but was far more developed. It marked the beginning of Bronze age civilization.

Sights of Indus Valley Civilization

Early (Pre Harappan) Mature (Harappan)  Late Phase (Post Harappan)
  Harappa (Pakistan @ Ravi)  
  Mohenjodaro (Pakistan @ Indus)  
  Chanhudaro (Pakistan @ Indus)  
  Sutkagendor (Pakistan)  
  Sukotada (Gujrat)  
  Lothal (Gujrat @ Bhogava)  
Kalibangan Kalibangan (Rajasthan @ Ghaggar)  
Banawali Banawali (Hissar @Ghaggar)  
Rakhigarhi Rakhigarhi (Hissar @Ghaggar) Rakhigarhi
Dholavira Dholavira (Kutch) Dholavira
  Manda (Jammu), Chandigarh,Shangol (Punjab), Daulatpur,Mitthal (Haryana), AlamgirpurHulas (West UP)

Developments in Indus Valley Civilization

  • Citadel / Acropolis at cities for member of ruling class (west side) & brick houses below citadel in town for commoners
  • Remarkable grid system of roads  Roads cutting at right angle to each other
  • Large scale use of burnt bricks & total absence of stone buildings
  • Remarkable underground drainage system connecting all houses & streets covered by bricks / stone slabs
  • Agriculture technology was well developed (But no use of ploughshare) : Wheat, Rice, Barley, Peas etc. + Domesticated large scale of animals
  • Cotton was 1st produced by Indus people hence Greeks called it Sindon which is derived from Sindh

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  • Harappan were 1st to produce silver in the world + wore gold, silver & beads Jewelry
  • Practiced boat making, seal making, Bronze smith, Weavers etc.
  • Granaries & seals show Harappan carried on considerable trade but only through Barter system
  • No temples has been found at any of the site hence can be said that it was ruled by merchants not priests
  • Worshiped Goddess Earth, Pipal Tree, Pashupati Mahadeva & Animals (Bull / Unicorn Rhino)
  • 1st to invent the art of writing – Right to left – (Pictographic only  Not deciphered so far)
  • Used weights for trade (Mostly in multiple of 16) & Bronze made marked sticks for measurements
  • Were expert in Potter’s wheel & pottery making
  • Their greatest artistic creation was ” Seals”
  • Mostly limestone was used for sculptures.

Indus Valley Civilization Site

Remarkable Feature

Mohenjodaro Great Bath (Largest Brick Work)

Great Granary (Largest Building)

Impressive drainage system

Bronze image of dancing girl

Image of steatite bearded man

Piece of woven cotton

Seal of pashupati

Prepared Garments

Skeletons on stairs of well (Mount of the dead)

Lothal Artificial Dock (Manchester of Harappan civilization)

Art of double burial

Cotton cultivation

Kalibangan Granary & Wooden plough

Wells in every house

Camels Bone

Harappa 2 rows of 6 granaries
Chanhudaro Lancashire of India

Only city without citadel

Bangles Factory

Beads Factory

Rakhigarhi Biggest Site

The Harappan Civilization: its Legacy

Despite political and social changes and migration of new ethnic groups of people into India through the north-western passes, the cultural patterns that emanated in Harappa continued till later times.

Our Knowledge of the Indus Civilization (the another name for the Harappan Civilization or the Harappan Culture) is very limited because the range of objects that have survived are less than those of Egypt and Mesopotamia about which we have got much more information. On the contrary, no pictorial evidence of the life of the people of the Harappan Culture could be found.

The writing that has been found in the form of inscriptions on the seals has still remained undeciphered. However, these seals cater to us an idea of the religious beliefs of people of Indus Civilization that seems to have added greatly to the development of religious practices and mythology of later periods.

On a seal of Mohen-jo-daro the figure of a male deity surrounded by animals reminds our mind the traditional image of Pashupati Shiva. The animals may have served as vehicles of God, since in later Hinduism every God has been projected with his own mode of conveyance.

The Harappans worshipped phallus as linga that symbolized the generative power of nature. In later ages, this form of worship came to be identified as worshipping Shivalinga.

Image result for mother goddess harappan civilizationImage result for harappa shiva

In one of some terracotta figures found in Harappa a plant growing out of the womb of a woman has been shown; it hinted that the people there looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess. And in course of time the fertility cult and concept of mother goddess expanded widely in different parts of the India, and they are still deep rooted in some regions.

The mother goddess, in many village, is represented as the principal deity who is known by various names. Through the Vedic texts reflect reverence to the earth as a goddess; she has not been given any prominence. References to various mother goddesses such as Durga, Kali, Amba, Chandi, etc. in Purana and Tantra can be found only from the 6th century AD.

Harappan worshipped trees too. On a seal a man has been shown in the midst of branches of a Peapal; this tree continues to be worshipped to this day. It is also interacting to note that same seal also indicates the practice of animal sacrifice for appeasing the god.

The most common animal shown on the seals is humped bull Nandi; it still continues to be held in great esteem by the Indians. The crocodile on the Harappan seals possibly represented the river Indus; the cult of the Ghariyal still survives in Sindh.

Some of the figurines discovered at Harappa are smoke-stained indicating that some oil or incence was burnt before them. The representation of a seated deity with a hooded Cobra over its head suggests the existence of some form of Naga worship.

There are examples of the use of ‘vermillion’, lighting “diya” on certain holy occasions, holding swastika and the wheel as the symbol of the Sun by the Harappans. All these religious beliefs and practices have been in practice and continuing in India till today.

The numerous ‘amulets’ found in Harappa suggest that Harappans believed, rather firmly, in ghosts and evil spirits and they had a belief that these evil spirits could be kept away with the use of amulets.

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Since Atharva Veda comprises of many charms and spells and prescribes amulets for getting rid of diseases and evil spirits, anyone can come to the conclusion that the ideas of Harappan people regarding evil spirits were later on accepted by the Indo-Aryans.


  • Study of burials-> one of the strategies used by archaeologists to find out socio-economic differences amongst people. (living in a particular area)
  • Burials in Harappan sites-> dead generally laid in pits.
  • Some pits showed differences in the way they were made i.e. the hollow space were lined with bricks.
  • The above point can be considered indicative of social differences.
  • Jewellery found in burials of both men and women along with pottery + copper mirrors ->indicates Harappans believed in afterlife.

Harappans and the Vedic Aryans

The Harappan Civilization or Culture, in comparison with the Vedic Civilization or Culture, in comparision with the Vedic Civilisation or Culture, was much more advanced and civilised. The Rig Vedic Aryans grew from the nomadic pastoral state to a rural culture, whereas the Harappans had well-planned cities. The houses of Harappans were made of burnt bricks but those of the Aryans were made of mud and wood.

The Harappans seem to have been the worshipper of Mother Goddess, Pashupati Siva whereas the Rig Vedic Aryans worshipped the forces of nature such as Indra (God of rain and thunders), Surya, Vayu and Agni.

A vast difference in the religious rites of the people of these two cultures: Harappan people most probably believed in yoga and household-worship; however, the early Aryans had belief in yojana, bali or sacrifice and composed hymn in praise of their gods.

The people of the Harappan Civilization knew the use of metals such as tin, copper, bronze, gold and silver, but they did not know about ‘iron’; iron was discovered by Aryans after and when they settled in the Gengetic plains around 1000 BC.

Both the people of the Harappan Civilization and the Vedic Civilization knew of axes, spears, knivas  and bows and around; however, the Harappan weapons, as emphasized by some scholars, were more of a defensive nature in comparison with the weapons of the Aryans. So it suggests that while the people of the Harappan Civilization were peace-loving traders, the Aryans were basically and mostly fighters. It is the reason perhaps that we find evidences of Harappan people establishing trade relations with lands in West Asia such as summer  and Mesopotamia. But the early Aryans did not have any cultural or trade relations with other land.

The Harappans had a pictographic script that has not yet been deciphered. We also have no Vedic script available either; the Vedas are termed Sruti meaning they were heard, memorized and transmuted orally to future generations.

Thus, it can be concluded that Harappan Civilization and Vedic Civilization were basically different. With the extinction of the highly developed socio-economic system of the Harappan Civilization, city life disappeared for several centuries. The Rig Vedic Aryans knew nothing of the city culture and it the Gangetic plains during the Sixth century BC.

Economic Activities in the Harappan Civilization

The prosperity of the Harappan Civilization, that was discovered in 1920-22 when two of its most important sites were excavated, was based on its flourishing economic activities such as agriculture, arts and crafts, and trade. In fact the whole period of the Harappan Civilazation is divided into three distinct phases:

(i) Early Harappan Phase (3500BC – 1900 BC) – It was distinguished by some town-planning in the form of mud structures, elementary trade, arts and crafts, etc.

(ii) Mature Harappan Phase (2600 BC – 1900 BC) – this period was characterized by well developed towns with burnt brick structures, inland and foreign trade, numerous types of crafts, etc; and

(iii) Late Harappan Phase (1900 BC – 1400 BC) – this phase marked the decline of the Civilization during which many cities of this great Harappan Civilization were abandoned and the trade disappeared creating the gradual decay of the important urban features.

Agriculture in the Harappan Civilization

It has been well established by the historian archaeologists that the fertile Indus alluvium contributed not only to the surplus in agricultural production but it also assisted the people of the Harappan Civilization to get involved in exchange, both internal and external, with others and also expand crafts and industries.

That the base of the Harappan Civilization was agriculture and cattle-rearing (pastoralism) became evident by the discovery of the granaries at sites like Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Lothal that served as the storehouse for grains.

Although, there is no evidence of tools which were used for agriculture, in Kalibangan the plough-marks or furrows have been observed indication to plough cultivation. In Banawali in Hisar district of Haryana a terracotta plough has also been found giving strength to the idea of plough cultivation.

The people of the Harappan Civilization carried on irrigation on a small scale by drawing water from wells or by deflecting river water into channels.

Among the chief ford crops the people of the Harappan Civilization grew were: wheat, barley, mustard, peas, sesasum, jejube, etc. However, from Lothal and Rangpur the evidence of rice has come in the form of husks embedded in pottery. The finding of a piece of woven cloth at Mohanjo-Daro suggests that cotton was one among other important crops. As far as the Harappan diet is concerned it has been founded that apart from cereals, fish and animal meat also formed a part of it.

Agricultural Technologies

  • Representations on seals & terracotta sculpture indicate-> bull was known. Can be extrapolated that-> oxen used for ploughing + terracotta ploughs found @Cholistan and Banawali (Haryana)
  • Another evidence-> ploughed field @ Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
  • Above field has-> two sets of furrows @ right angles-> indicates two crops grown together.
  • Most Harappan sites-> located in semi arid areas-> irrigation required.
  • Traces of canals found @ Harappan site of Shortughai (Afghanistan) but not in Punjab or Sind.
  • Water reservoirs found in Dholavira (Gujarat)-> indicates possible use of wells for

Industries and Crafts in the Harappan Civilization

The conclusion that except iron the Harappan pople were aware of almost all the metals gets strength from the evidences that suggest they manufactured gold and silver objects. The gold objects they made were beads, armlets, needles and other ornaments. However, the use of silver was more common then gold; a large quantity of silver ornaments, dishes have been discovered.

A number of copper tools and weapons, which commonly included axe, saws, chisels, knives, spearheads and arrowheads, were also discovered. It is imperative to mention here that the Harappans produced weapons that were mostly defensive in nature as there is no evidence of weapons like swords etc. Stone tools, that were commonly used, were also made in large quantities.

Copper was brought mainly from Khetri in Rajasthan. In the case of gold and silver, it has been speculated that gold might have been obtained from the Himalayan river beds and South India, and Silver from Mesopotamia.

The evidence of the use of the bronze, although in limited manner, has also been found. TheImage result for dancing girl statue bronze ‘dancing girl’, figurine, discovered at Mohenzodaro, is the most famous example concerning the bronze metal. This ‘dancing girl’ figurine is ‘a nude female figure, with right arm on the hip and left arm hanging in a dancing pose’, wearing a large number of bangles.

One of the most important crafts in the Harappan Civilization was the bead making. Precious and semi-precious stones such as agate and carnelian were used in making beads. Steatite was used for bead-making. At Chanhudaro and Lothal have been found the evidence of beadmakers’ shops, it has also been found that in beads, bracelets and other decoretions the use of ivory carving and inlaying were also in practice. All this shows the masterly skill that the Harappans possessed in a variety of arts and crafts.

Image result for harappa jewellery

At the site of Mohenjodaro, a well-known piece of art, a stone sculpture of a bearded man, was discovered; the eyes of the sculpture are half closed, indicating perhaps the posture of meditation, and across his left shoulder is an embroidered cloak. According to some scholars it could be the bust of a priest.

A large number of terracotta figurines of male and females, which outnumber those of males and are believed to represent the worship of mother goddess, have been is covered from various Harappan Sites. Apart from these, many varieties of models of birds, monkeys, dogs, sheep, cattle, humped and humpless bulls have also been found.

The most important industries during the period of the Harappan Civilization also included pottery-making. Potteries were mainly wheel- made and were treated with a red coating and had decorations in black. The painted designs include horizontal lines of varied thickness, leaf patterns, palm and papaltrees. Depicted on potteries the figures of birds, fishes and animals.

More than two thousand seals of various kinds, which were generally square in shape and were made of steatite, have been discovered from the different sites. It is imperative here to mention that although the seals belonging to the Harappan Civilization depict a number of animals, there is no representation of horse on these.

Apart from various kinds of animals the seals of the Harappan Civilization also enclose some signs in the Harappan script that has not been deciphered so far. Moreover, the most famous of the seals is the one that has a horned male duty represented on it; many scholars have identified the figure with the ancient form of the God Pashupati (Lord of beasts).


  • Chanhudaro (area = 7 hectares)-> exclusively devoted to craft production. This included-> bead-making, shell-cutting, metal-working, seal-making and weight-making.
  • Steatite-> a very soft stone, easily workable-> used for bead-making.
  • Nageshwar & Balakot-> settlements near coast
  • The above-mentioned are specialised centres for making shell objects-> includes bangles, ladles and inlay.
  • Finished products from Chanhudaro & Lothal-> taken to large urban centres (Mohenjodaro & Harappa)

Trade in the Harappan Civilization

During the period of the Harappan Civilization the trading network, both within the country (internal) and foreign (external) was a significant characteristic of the Harappan urban economy. A village- town (urban- rural) interrelationship developed due to the dependency of the urban population for the supply of food and many other necessary products on the surrounding countryside. In the similar fashion, the craftsmen belonging to urban areas required markets to sell their goods in other areas; it necessitated the contact between the towns.

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As various kinds of metals and precious stones, which were needed by craftsmen to make goods, were not available locally, they had to be brought from outside. Lapis-lazuli, the precious stones used for making beads, was located in Badakshan mines in North-east AfghanistanTurquoise and Jadehave been brought from Central Asia.

In the field of external trade the people of the Harappan Civilization were engaged with Mesopotamia largely through Oman and Behrain in the Persian Gulf. This has been confirmed by the presence of artefacts, belonging to the Harappan Civilization, such as beads, seals, dice, etc. in these regions; in Mesopotamia cities like Susa, Ur, etc. about two dozens of Harappan seals have been found. Apart from seals, other artifacts belonging to the Harappan Civilization which have been discovered comprise potteries, etched carnelian beads and dices with Harappan features.


  • As we have seen above, a lot of craft production was taking place in the smaller as well as larger centres of the Harappan Civilization.
  • This indicates a lot of raw materials was required-> some of which was locally
    available + others were procured from outside.
  • For this purpose proper means of transportation and routes were identified and used to carry goods and people across land routes (eg. Bullock carts)
  • Riverine routes along Indus and its tributaries + coastal routes also used.

Materials from subcontinent and beyond

  • Harappans established settlements in-> Nageshwar & Balakot-> as shell is available here.
  • Shortughai (Afghanistan)-> established near-> best source of lapis lazuli (a bluestone-> very highly valued)
  • Lothal established near-> source of carnelian (near Bharuch, Gujarat), source of steatite (from south Rajasthan & north Gujarat) & metal (Rajasthan)
  • Another strategy for procurement of raw materials-> sending expeditions to:
    • Khetri (Rajasthan)-> for copper. referred to as Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture-> distinctive non-Harappan pottery found + abundance of copper objects-> indicates inhabitants of this region may have supplied copper to the Harappans.
    • South India-> Gold. Such expeditions helped communities establish communication with local.
      Evidence-> occasional finds of Harappan artefacts (eg. Steatite micro beads)

Connection with far away regions/lands

  • Oman-> copper probably brought from here (according to recent archaeological finds)
  • Oman lies on the south eastern tip of Arabian peninsula (A quick check on your geography!!!)
  • Omani copper + Harappan artefacts-> have traces of nickel-> common origin indicated
  • A large Harappan jar (coated with thick layer of black clay)-> found @ Omani sites
  • Such thick coatings prevent the percolation of liquids-> content of vessels unknown but probably would have been used in exchange for Omani copper.
  • Mesopotamian texts-> refer to copper coming from region called Magan-> probably a name for Oman.
    Also the copper found @ Mesopotamian sites contained traces of nickel
  • Other evidences of long distance contacts-> findings of Harappan seals, weights, dice & beads.
  • Mesopotamian texts mention contacts with regions named->
    (a) Dilmund-> Island of Bahrain
    (b) Magan-> Oman
    (c) Meluhha-> possibly Harappan region
  • Mesopotamian texts mention products from-> Meluhha-> carnelian, lapis lazuli, copper, gold & varieties of wood.
  • Mesopotamian texts refer Meluhha as-> land of seafarers-> depictions of ships and boats on seals are found.

Theory of Decline of Indus Valley Civilization

  • Natural Calamities such as floods, Earthquakes etc.
  • Decrease in Land fertility
  • Outbreak of an epidemic
  • Decline of trade & Invasion of Aryansported in Ashoka’s times from Persia. There is abundant evidence of stone masons mark similar to those at Persepolis (Persia).


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