Indus River Valley civilizations

Indus River Valley civilizations:-The Harappan Civilization, which flourished in the Indus River Valley between 3300 and 1300 BCE, covered what is now northeast Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwest India.
Standardized weights and measurements, seal carving, and the use of copper, bronze, lead, and tin in metallurgy are some of this civilization’s most significant inventions.
The Indus script is poorly understood, and as a result, little is known about the governmental structures and institutions of the Indus River Valley Civilization.
Migration and climatic change were likely the causes of the civilization’s demise.

Location and time period

British colonial officials in India were occupied in 1856 supervising the construction of a railway that ran along the Indus River valley and connected the modern-day Pakistani towns of Lahore and Karachi.
Some of the workers found numerous bricks that had been cooked by fire and were stuck in the dry ground as they continued to work. Numerous tens of thousands of comparatively uniform bricks that appeared to be relatively old were present. Despite this, the workmen used some of them to build the roadbed without realizing they were doing so. They soon discovered soapstone objects with delicate artistic marks hidden among the blocks.

These railway workers had stumbled upon the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated, in what was then the Punjab province of British India and is now in Pakistan, even though they were unaware of it at the time and the first significant excavations did not occur until the 1920s. Many archaeologists initially believed they had discovered the remains of the Maurya State, a sizable empire that ruled ancient India between c. 185 and 322 BCE. Before the discovery of these Harappan settlements, researchers believed that Indian civilization originated in the Ganges valley around 1250 BCE with the arrival of Aryan immigrants from Persia and central Asia. That idea was challenged by the discovery of the ancient Harappan cities, which pushed the Indus Valley Civilization’s existence back in time by another 1500 years and placed it in a very different ecological setting.


Although information about this enigmatic society is still being pieced together, much has been discovered since its rediscovery. Its roots appear to be in a town called Mehrgarh, which is located in the western Pakistani province of Balochistan at the base of a mountain pass. There is proof that this region was populated as early as 7000 BCE.

The three phases of the Indus Valley Civilization—the Early Harappan Phase, which lasted from 3300 to 2600 BCE, the Mature Harappan Phase, which lasted from 2600 to 1900 BCE, and the Late Harappan Phase, which lasted from 1900 to 1300 BCE—are frequently distinguished.

The Indus Valley Civilization may have had more than five million people living in it at its height. Urban planning, a technical and political process dealing with the utilisation of land and the creation of the urban environment, is a skill that the Indus towns are renowned for. They are renowned for their enormous, non-residential building clusters, extensive drainage and water supply systems, and baked brick homes.
Around 1800 BCE, the Indus Valley Civilization started to disappear. Archaeological data suggests that trade with Mesopotamia, which is mostly located in present-day Iraq, appeared to have ceased. The large cities’ sophisticated drainage systems and baths were covered over or stopped. Standardized weights and measurements that were used for trade and taxation started to disappear, along with writing.

Urban infrastructure and architecture

Small Early Harappan villages had grown into sizable urban centres by 2600 BCE. These cities are Dholavira, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Rupar, and Lothal in contemporary India, and Harappa, Ganeriwala, and Mohenjo-daro in contemporary Pakistan. Over 1,052 cities and communities have been discovered in total, mostly around the Indus River and its tributaries.
It is believed that Mohenjo-daro, which became the biggest metropolis of the Indus Valley Civilization and one of the world’s first significant urban centres, was founded in the twenty-sixth century BCE. Mohenjo-daro was one of the most advanced cities of its day, with cutting-edge engineering and urban planning, and it was situated west of the Indus River in the Larkana District.

Up to 23,500 people may have lived in Harappa, a fortified metropolis in present-day Pakistan, where homes were carved and had flat roofs composed of red sand and clay. The city, which covered an area of 370 acres, included fortified administrative and religious buildings similar to those found in Mohenjo-daro.
Both towns had a similar layout and included citadels—important city centres that were fiercely fortified and guarded by military fortifications. Furthermore, the Indus River ran beside both settlements. Those in the top floors of the buildings in either city would have been able to glance down the river and see into the distance thanks to this structure.

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The Indus Valley Civilization left behind towns that were remarkably organised, with well-planned systems for sewage drainage, rubbish collection, and probably even public baths and grain storage facilities (granaries). The majority of city residents were craftsmen and merchants who lived in various neighbourhoods. The level of urban planning reflects effective municipal administrations that gave hygiene or religious observance top importance.
With their brick platforms, warehouses, granaries, dockyards, and defensive walls, the Harappans displayed sophisticated architecture. The Harappans may have been shielded from floods and prevented wars with the help of their enormous walls. The people of the Indus Valley Civilization did not create vast, opulent constructions, unlike Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.The greatest buildings may simply be granaries, and there is no definite evidence of palaces, temples, or even kings, soldiers, or priests. The Great Bath, which may have been a sizable public bathing and social place, is located in the city of Mohenjo-daro.

IMAGE SOURCE:-Wikimedia Commons.

The earliest known urban sanitation systems are seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and the recently largely excavated Rakhigarhi. The sewage and drainage systems utilised in ancient Indus towns were significantly more advanced than those found in modern urban sites in the Middle East and even more effective than those in many modern-day Pakistani and Indian cities. While effluent was channelled to covered drains on the major streets, individual dwellings got water from wells. Even the smallest residences on the fringes of the city were believed to have been connected to the system, supporting the idea that cleanliness was of utmost significance. Houses only opened to inner courtyards and smaller alleyways. Seal carving, or the etching of designs into a small, carved object used for stamping, is a speciality of the Harappans. They stamped clay on trade products and used these recognisable seals to identify the property. One of the most often found artefacts in Indus Valley cities are seals that are painted with elephant, tiger, and water buffalo motifs.

Mould of a seal from the Indus Valley civilization.IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons.

The Indus River Valley Civilization is regarded as a Bronze Age civilisation. People who lived in the prehistoric Indus River Valley invented new methods for working with metals like copper, bronze, lead, and tin. The Harappans also created sophisticated handicrafts utilising Carnelian, a semi-precious stone.

According to available data, Harappans took part in a huge marine trading network that stretched from Central Asia to the Middle East. The economy of the civilisation appears to have been heavily reliant on trade, which was made possible by considerable advancements in transportation technology. Wheeled transportation may have been used for the first time by the Harappan Civilization, who used oxcarts that are still common in South Asia today. According to archaeological finds of a sizable, dredged canal and what is thought to be a docking facility near the coastal city of Lothal, it also appears that they manufactured boats and other watercraft. The shells utilised in the crafts made by the Harappans originally came from as far afield as the coast of contemporary Oman.

Religion, language, and culture

The religion and language of Harappa are poorly known. There have been written texts discovered at Harappa that have been carbon dated to the period 3300–3200 BCE. These texts have trident-shaped, plant-like markings that appear to be written from right to left. It is hotly contested if this language was ever encoded and whether it is connected to the Indo-European and South Indian language families. Without any equivalent symbols, the Indus script is still unintelligible and is assumed to have developed separately from the writing in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Researchers are attempting to understand it utilising computer science technical advancements.

The’Ten Indus Scripts’ was discovered near the northern gateway of the citadel Dholavira. Image courtesy of Siyajkak and Gregors of Wikimedia Commons.

The Harappan religion is still a subject of conjecture. There is widespread speculation that the Harappans revered a mother deity who represented fertility. Indus Valley Civilization appears to have lacked any temples or palaces that would have provided indisputable proof of religious rites or particular deities, in contrast to Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations.

A collection of Indus valley seals. Image courtesy of World Imaging of Wikimedia Commons.

Numerous Indus Valley seals feature animal forms; some show the animals being carried in processions, while others depict mythical creatures like unicorns, prompting researchers to wonder what role animals played in Indus Valley religions. These animal patterns have been interpreted as denoting kinship, elite class, or membership in a clan. One Mohenjo-Daro seal depicts a tiger being attacked by a half-human, half-buffalo monster. This could be a reference to the Sumerian myth of the monster made by Aruru, the goddess of fertility and the ground, to battle Gilgamesh, the protagonist of an old Mesopotamian epic poem. This is yet another indication of Harappan culture being traded internationally.

Anatomically accurate figurines made of terracotta, bronze, and steatite, as well as sculptures, seals, ceramics, and gold jewellery, have all been discovered in the Indus Valley excavation sites.

Indus Priest/King Statue. The statue is 17.5 cm high and carved from steatite. It was found in Mohenjo-Daro in 1927. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

A statue of a priest-king with a beard and patterned gown was discovered among the numerous gold, terracotta, and stone sculptures. Another bronze figurine, the Dancing Girl, stands just 11 cm tall and depicts a female figure in a stance that suggests the existence of some coordinated dance form that the civilization’s members enjoyed. There were also terracotta works of cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs. The inhabitants of the Indus River Valley are thought to have also produced necklaces, bangles, and other jewellery in addition to figurines.

Replica of ‘Dancing Girl’ of Mohenjo-daro at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai, India. Image courtesy of Joe Ravi of Wikimedia Commons.

organisations and structures
How was Harappan civilization structured, and what institutions served as the main power centres? A centre of authority or representations of those in power in Harappan civilization are not immediately clear from archaeological evidence, and there are few written records to go to. But the consistency of Harrapan objects is astounding. Although it is unclear exactly what that kind of control and government was, evidence of it may be seen in the pottery, seals, weights, and bricks with regulated sizes and weights.

Many theories have evolved throughout time regarding the Harappan governmental structures. According to one theory, all of the communities that made up the civilization were part of a single state. This theory is backed up by the similarities between the artefacts, the indications of planned settlements, the standardisation of brick size, and the apparent development of settlements close to raw material sources. There may have been several leaders who represented each of the urban centres, including Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and other communities, according to a different view. It appears likely that several classes and centres of power were incorporated into a decentralised framework rather than one centralised, all-powerful state.

Few written materials have been found in the Indus valley, compared to the written documents that historians have gleaned about ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Scholars have not been able to decipher the Indus script, despite the fact that seal inscriptions appear to contain written material. As a result, people have had a lot of trouble comprehending the Indus Valley Civilization’s governmental and religious systems. Our understanding of their governing structures, legal frameworks, and administrative practices is limited.

From the artefacts and physical structures that have survived, historians have developed educated assumptions about the characteristics of the Harappan civilization. According to some researchers, there were no rulers in the traditional sense of the word in the Indus Valley Civilization; instead, everyone lived in equality. This finding is supported, among other things, by mortuary analysis, the study of graves and deposits containing human remains, which has shown that the majority of Harappan inhabitants appear to have enjoyed approximately equal health and that there were not many elite funerals.

This does not, however, imply that there was no social hierarchy in Harappan civilization, and it is possible that this was due to other factors, such as various afterlife beliefs. Some academics argue that different social classes occupied distinct levels in the cities based on differences in dwelling sizes and structure heights. Some people consider bangles, painted pottery, beaded decorations, and even a person’s location within a city to be signs of riches. The possibility of socioeconomic stratification is further raised by a high level of craft specialisation.

Although there isn’t solid evidence to back up the commonly held assumption that the Harappan civilisation was peaceful and free of warfare, some archaeologists see it as a persistent myth. Some academics think that the main reason why the Harappans lived in peace was because there were no natural opponents because of the location of the major cities. Although weapons have been discovered, it is unclear whether they were employed in battles with other groups or as a form of animal defence.


Scholars are divided over the causes of the Indus Valley Civilization’s fall, which began approximately 1800 BCE. Although more recent evidence tends to refute this assertion, one idea held that a nomadic Indo-European tribe known as the Aryans attacked and overthrew the Indus Valley Civilization. Climate change, according to many academics, is what led to the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization. While some scientists conclude that a major flood occurred in the region, others contend that the main cause of climate change was the drying of the Saraswati River, which started approximately 1900 BCE.

The fact that different aspects of the Indus Civilization may be discovered in other cultures suggests that the civilization did not vanish abruptly as a result of an invasion. Many academics argue that the massive civilization’s disintegration into smaller groups known as late Harappan cultures was brought on by changes in river patterns.
The monsoons, or winds that bring heavy rains, could have moved eastward, causing another calamitous upheaval in the Harappan climate. Depending on whether they sustain or devastate agriculture and vegetation, monsoons can either be beneficial or destructive to a climate.

The Indus Valley Civilization’s lifelines, the river systems, may have been diverted or interrupted by a seismic event around 1800 BCE as the temperature there began to cool and become drier. The Ganges basin in the east may have drawn the Harappans, who may have created villages and solitary farms there. These little towns would not have been able to support enormous cities with the same agricultural surpluses. Trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia would have decreased as a result of the decreased output of products. Most of the towns of the Indus Valley Civilization had been abandoned by 1700 BCE.

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