The other name of Indus Valley Civilization is known as the Harappan Civilization. This was because the civilization was first discovered in Harappa in the year 1921. At that time Harappa was located in the west Punjab province in Pakistan.
This clearly shows that the rise of the Harappan culture, that is, the Indus culture was from the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Thus, both the civilization has been considered as one because they have same chronological, geographic and cultural entity.
The civilization of the Harappans is restricted to the geographic bounds of the Indus Valley. The word Indus civilization was first used by Sir John Marshall. Many copper and stone objects were found at different places of this civilization.
This is why this civilization was referred as the Bronze Age or the Chalcolithic Age. There were almost one thousand four hundred sites of the Harappan civilization in the subcontinent. All these places had all the cultures of the Harappans from the starting to the later ones.
Origin of the Civilization
The discovery of this civilization seems to be like a puzzle as it entered the history all of a sudden. This puzzle was solved near the Bolan Pass at Mehrgarh around 1973 and 1980. There was extensive excavation by Richard H. Meadow and Jean Francoise Jarrige.
They found that Mehrgarh had a series of occupations. While there were previous archaeological research that showed that Indus civilization had a slow development. By all these research the Harappan has been divided into stages like the pre Harappan, early, mature and later stages.
There are many elements present in the rural culture of the Indian subcontinent. By reviewing them, the origin of this civilization can easily be traced. But if any culture from the pre-Harappan claims origin to Indus civilization, they should suit two conditions. First condition was that the culture must both precede and overlap the culture of the Indus Valley Civilization.
The second condition is that the Indus culture must have expected some of its main elements which were knowledge about pictographic writing and metallurgy, town planning, proper sanitary facilities and popularity of ceramic traditions. The existence of Harappan culture can be seen between 2500 BC and 1800 BC.
There was a problem regarding the dates of Harappan civilization but that has been solved with help of radiocarbon dating which gave much new information. During this period, the Indus Civilization had the greatest cultural zone.
The area they covered was much more and greater compared to the other civilization of the previous times. By that time around thousand places of the Harappan culture had been found out.
Features of the Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Cities: This was divided into the nucleus cities, coastal towns and other cities and townships.
The nucleus cities included Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira and Kalibangan.
Harappa was discovered first and was excavated by Daya Ram Sahni in the year 1921. The western side of it is small which represented the citadel. There are granaries, quarters of the workmen and working floors outside the citadel. Many materials which were found here had most of the characteristics like Indus ones.
There were around 891 seals and 12 granary buildings. Two figurines were found here which was made of stone. One was a naked male figure in red stone and the other one was a female figure in a dancing pose.
At a higher level crucible was also found which is used to smelt bronze. Many dead bodies were found disposed towards the south of the citadel. Even from the excavations it was found that there were almost fifty seven burials.
Mohenjo-Daro was also known as Mound of the Dead. It was located in the Larkana district which was in Sind. It is almost 540km towards the south of Harappa. Mohenjo-Daro has two mounds. One was in the western side which was the citadel or acropolis.
This citadel had many building which were rich in their structures. The eastern side was cherished with the ruins of the buried lower city. Sir John Marshall had uncovered these mounds. The Great Bath is an important public place in Mohenjo-Daro.
There is bitumen here and there is proper system to supply water and even to drain it away. They have a tank here and many steps for the people to reach the surface of the tank. It is believed that the tank was used for ritual bath and there were separate rooms for people to change their clothes.
There was also a granary in Mohenjo-Daro which was the largest building there. Mohenjo-Daro had a very impressive and proper drainage system. Even the houses were made of kiln-burnt bricks.
Dholavira was in the Kutch district of Gujarat and it is also one of the largest settlements of the Harappans in India. It has similar features like the Indus cities.
But it had three main divisions while others had two. Kalibangan was located in the Ganganagar district of Rajasthan. Even this had two mounds. The lower city and citadel were structured properly. The houses were constructed by using mud bricks.
While the drains, wells and pavements were made with the help of burnt bricks. There were cylindrical seals, inscribed sherds and evidence of ploughed field.
The coastal town included Lothal, Sutkagendor, Balakot and Allahdino
Lothal was an important trading centre. S R. Rao had excavated it. Many shops belonging to the metal workers, bead makers and shell ornament makers have been found here. It was located near Bhogavo river which was at the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat. Sutkagendor was situated near the Makran coast and to the west of Karachi.
Even this had two divisions as it had the lower city and the citadel. Balakot was towards the northwest of Karachi . This site had the remains of both pre-Harappan and Harappan civilization. Although mud bricks were used as the standard material but for a few drains baked bricks were used. W.A. Fairservis excavated Allahdino. It was located to the east of Karachi.
Other cities and townships included Surkotada, Banawali, Chanhudaro and Kot Diji
Polity and the Society
The subcontinent did not have any big political unit till the Maurya Empire came into the light. The Harappans did not use any type of force to bring political unity in their geographical boundaries. The Indus state had absolute peace as there were no religious or political wars.
Fire cult was practiced during the later stage in Lothal but temples were not used for such activities. The Harappan rulers were more concerned and interested in commerce rather on their conquests because it was the merchants who ruled the place.
Indus civilization was known for its urban life. But even the rural life helped in the social and cultural development of the city. The social stratification can be seen in the dwelling and the bodies which have been disposed and are in the graves.
Dress, hairstyle and Ornaments
The men of the Harappan civilization wore robes. It was bare on one shoulder. The garments which the upper class people wore had rich patterns. Men had beards and their hair was long like that of women. During festivals the rich women wore dresses which were similar to that of the Mother Goddess.
They wore short skirts which were till the knee and a string of beads held the skirt. They had pigtails and wore beautiful jewellery which included heavy bangles, earrings and necklaces.
During those days mirrors made from bronze were very common. The women also knew face-painting and used lipsticks. Apart from this the men used bronze razors for their own purpose.
The kids of this civilization played with various toys like birds shaped whistles, rattles, monkeys which had movable arms, bull whose head was moveable and the baked clay art.
The rich children played chert, marbles of jasper and dice which was used in gambling. Music and dance was common among all of them. Hunting and fishing was prevalent here.
There were no cult objects or temples in any place of the Harappan civilization except there were fire altars in Kalibangan. The Harappan people believed in Hinduism. They worshipped Mother Goddess and Pashupati Shiva. They also worship animals and trees.
The burial practices of the Harappans can be seen through the cemeteries which were found in Mohenjo-Daro, Kalibangan, Ropar, Lothal and Harappa. In Mohenjo-Daro the burial of the bodies were in three types. In one the whole body was buried with the grave goods.
In the second one the bodies were exposed outside for the birds and wild beasts. Then some of the bones were buried. The third one was the post-cremational burials.
In Lothal the burial of the bodies were done differently. In one grave itself, there would be skeletons of both man and women. The bodies were placed in such a way that the head of the body was towards the north.
The economy of the Indus Civilization was made up by agriculture, domestication of animals, technology and crafts. As the Harappan villages were near to the flood plains enough food grains were produced for themselves but for others as well.
The people of Harappa used wooden ploughshare. Crops like wheat, barley, rai and peas were produced. Apart from these even seasum, dates, leguminous plants and mustard were produced. Animals were used in abundance as the people of Harappa practiced agriculture.
Even the cats were domesticated along with oxen, goats, pigs, sheep and buffaloes. The Harappans used tools which were made by stone. But they knew how to make and use bronze as well. They also sued nickel, lead, antimony and arsenic.
Both gold and silver were found here but silver was more compared to gold. There were shell makers, bead makers and bangle makers. There are evidences which show the existence priests, traders, stone masons, potters and brick makers. Seals were the greatest artistic creations of the Harappans.
Trade is showed as an important thing and was done with the help of granaries, seals, scripts, weights and measures. Barter system was used instead of metal money. Many seals were discovered in the various cities of the Indus. Many seals were a sort of evidence to show the existence of trade between the civilizations.
As the Harappans did not have the necessary materials which were needed for the goods they produced. They had to depend on goods which were brought from other places. They exported cotton goods, shell and bone inlays, carnelian beads and pottery.
Weight and Measures
The private property and the maintaining of accounts were done by the help of script writing. The multiples of 16 were used for weighing things. The Harappans were aware about the art of measurement. There were many sticks which had marks of measurement. Those sticks were even made of bronze.
Script and language
The Harappans also invented writing like the Mesopotamians. They did not write long inscriptions. Instead most of them were recorded on seals which had only a few words. People used these seals for their identity and property. There were many pictographs and each picture had some letter which reflected some sound or object. The Harappan script was written from right to left.
Decline of the Civilization
The Indus civilization did not end all of a sudden. It was the Aryans who came to India from Bolan, Khyber, Afghanistan and Iran and destroyed many cities of the Indus. Moreover there were natural factors as well which led to the decline of the civilization.
The Indus Valley had to face earthquakes often. Due to this there was change in the course of the rivers and they dried up. This further affected the areas that produced food. There was change in the pattern of the rainfall as well.
There was a major drop in the amount of rainfall which badly affected the production of food. John Marshall also said that people used to cut the trees for agriculture and other purpose which made the land barren and silting of rivers. Due all these factors, the civilization was slowly coming to an end.