Chapter 3: HARAPPAN AND INDUS
Named after Harappa the first site where the unique urban culture was discovered, a civilization existed that is dated between 2600 - 1900 BC.
There were earlier and later cultures known as Early Harappa and Late Harappa in the same region.
The Harappan phase characterised by the distinctive objects such as seals, beads, weights, stone blades and baked bricks is called Mature Harappan culture.
The transition from Early harappan to Mature harappan is best seen at Amri where at the beginning of the 3rd Millenium BC a distinctive culture complex to the south east of baluchistan appeared. Here people lived in stone houses or mud brick houses. They had constructed some kind of granary too. They painted such animal motifs such as humped bulls on thin pottery.
Extent of the Civilization
The civilization was spread over Baluchistan, Jammu, Sind, Punjab, North rajasthan and gujarat. The climate of these regions was moist and humid and not like the desert areas these have become today.
Although the Kalibangan Mohenjodaro axis is where the majority of the houses were present. The spread of the civilization is vast due to the wide trade network and the economic independence of each region.
Harappan civilization [since Harappa was the
first place to be discovered] or Indus valley civilization
[it is located on the banks of Indus River] is 5000 year old
civilization. 80% of the settlements were on the banks of the
now lost Saraswati River. The civilization was first discovered
in 1920 while laying of the Lahore Multan railway line.
The capital cities: Harappa [banks of Ravi
River] and Mohenjo-Daro [banks of Indus River].
Harappa was discovered by Dayaram Sahni and
Mohenjo-Daro by Rakal das banerjee.
John Marshall the head of Archaeological
survey of India played an important role.
Alexander Cunningham, the father of Indian
archaeology was the first director of Archaeological survey of
Carbon dating uses C-14 isotope to find human bones
age. Inventor is Libby.
Findings at the cities:
Male and female gods
No cluster of settlements around Harappa.
A substantial section of the population was involved in activities other than food production.
The isolation of Harappa can be explained by the fact that it was located in the midst of some important trade routes which are still in use.
Harappas pre-eminent position was therefore linked to its ability to procure exotic items from faraway lands.
Wheat and barley
Mohenjo-Daro – Largest city of the civilization spread
over 200 hectares.
Public granary; Bath [largest structure
Excavations show that people lived here for a very long time and went on building and rebuilding houses in the same location.
As a result the height of the remains of the buildings and debris is about 75 feet.
Ever since its occupation there are regular foods here which causes deposition of soil.
At the time of its decline, garbage was seen piled upon its streets, the drainage system broken down and new less impressive houses built even over the streets.
3. Lothal – Port
Fire altars and dockyard,
surrounded by a brick wall for flood protection.
In Gujarat, settlements such as Rangapur, Surkotada and Lothal have been discovered.
Lothal located in the coastal flats of the Gulf of Cambay stood beside a tributary of sabarmati.
It was an important center for making objects out of stones, shells and metals.
This place seems to have been an outpost for sea trade with contemporary west Asian societies like Oman.
– elaborate town planning and urban features
Kalibangan located on the dried up bed of river Ghaggar was excavated in 1960 under the guidance of B K Thapar.
This area had the largest concentration of harappan settlement. It has yielded evidence of early harappan period.
Water and drainage system
Located on khadir beyt in Rann of Kutchh was divided unlike other cities in three parts and each part was surrounded with massive stone walls with entrances through gateways.
There was also a large open area in the settlement where public ceremonies can be held.
Another important find is a sort of a public inscription comprising ten large sized signs of the Harappan scripts besides water reservoir.
It is located near the Makran coast which is close to the Pakistan Iran border.
At present, the settlement is landlocked and is located in dry inhospitable plains.
The towns had a citadel surrounded by a stone wall built for defence.
It probably to fill the need for a sea port for trading purpose.
System of Harappan civilisation:
- Progress in agriculture, industry, crafts and
- System of grid shaped roads – streets
and lanes cut at right angles, citadels – political authority
was present, walled cities, burned bricks – absence of
- Houses with no windows; Made of stone
and wood, every house had a bathroom.
areas for upper classes and non citadel areas for lower
- Drains adjacent to the house covered with
stone slabs or bricks.
- Seals, script [not yet been deciphered]
written from right to left and left to right in alternate
lines, standard weights and measures.
- Wheel based pottery, practice of burying
the dead in north south direction.
- Cotton and woolen clothes.
- Male and female goddesses. Tree worship. Snake
worship. No temples found, religion and castes did not
exist in this civilization hence it was predominantly secular
- Vegetarian and non Vegetarian eaters.
- Cosmetics and weapons were used.
- Horses were not known but domesticated
animals were cows, bulls, dogs, elephants.
- Iron was not known but bronze was used.
- Knowledge of tides and medicines.
- No currency so barter based exchange.
Trade with other civilizations both internal and foreign.
- Agriculture based on wheat and barley.
- Fishing, hunting and bull fighting, music were
common pass times.
- Bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures.
- Granaries show organized collection and
distribution. Great bath show importance to ritualistic
Causes of decline:
Climate change led to change in river course.
Invasion by Aryans.
By 1500 BC the civilization began to decline. The
Sanskrit speaking Indo – Aryans entered the subcontinent in this
The most remarkable feature of the Harappan civilisation was its urbanisation. The harappan settlements which were small towns show a remarkable unity of conception and an advanced sense of planning and organization.
Each city was divided into a cidatel area where the essential institutions of civil and religious life were located and the lower residential area where the urban population lived.
In Mohenjodaro and harappa the citadel was surrounded by a brick wall. At kalibangan, both the citadel and the lower city are surrounded by a brick wall. Usually towns and cities are laid out in parallelogramic fashion. Bricks of both baked and unbaked category were used of standard size showing the presence of a large scale industry for the harappans.
Lower towns were divided into wards like a chess board by north south, east west roads and smaller lanes cutting each other at right angles as in a grid system.
Houses of varying sizes were an indication of economic groups in the settlement. The parallel rows of two rooms cottages unearthed at mohenjodaro and harappa were used by the poorer sections of the society. Houses were equipped with priate toilets and wells. The bathrooms were connected to a drains under sewers under the main street. The drainage system was one of the main impressive features of the harappan civilization. It is also an indicator of a presence of a municipal authority.
Wheat and barley were cultivated. Sesame and mustard were used for oil.
There are indications of the use of a wooden plough and toothed barrow.
Lothal people cultivated rice and harappans also grew cotton.
Though canal irrigation was absent but irrigation depended on the irregular flooding of the rivers of Punjab or Sind.
Stock breeding :
Sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo, pigs and elephants were domesticated. Camels were rare and horses were unknown.
Wild animals were hunted for food and game.
Trade and Network :
Trade routes were through land and sea both. Inland as well as foreign trade was carried out. This is proved by the occurrence of small terracotta boats and by a vast brick dock built at Lothal.
Barter system was the medium of exchange.
Well created system of weights and measures was present. The eights were in order of 2 as 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 till 160. The lengths were measured using strip of shells which were unshrinkable in heat and cold.
Harappan seals and small objects used by traders to stamp their goods were found in Mesopotamia.
People were involved in pottery making, bead making, seal making, spinning and weaving both cotton and wool. Terracotta toys were made, handicrafts were glazed and carved with beautiful motifs of animals and birds.
Metal working were highly skilled. They made fine jewellery in gold, bronze,copper, saws, chisels and knives.
Stone sculptures were rare and undeveloped.
Harappans knew mining, metal working, art of constructing well planned buildings.
they were adept at manufacturing gypsum cement which was used to join stones and even metals.
Scripts, Political organization and Religion :
The evidence of political organization isnt found and hence it cant be concluded which kind of political organization was followed in harappa.
However uniformity in tools, weapons, bricks, seals show a presence of a political authority.
There could have been a class of merchant ruling the civilization unlike in Egypt and Mesopotamia which were ruled by the priestly class.
This conclusion stems from the absence of temples in Harappa.
Script has too many symbols and is written from right to left and left to right in alternate lines.
The harappan worshipped both male and female deities. Worship of female sex organs, trees and bull is also seen at sites. The harappan belived in life after death as their dead were buried along with household items and jewellery. The head of the dead body was pointed north. The evidence of urn burial is also seen at sites.