The remains of Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan Civilization are found in India and Pakistan. They have dated from 2600 BC to about 2000 – 1500 BC. It is one of the most popular ancient civilizations in human history, also known as Indus Valley Civilization. The first excavation was made for cradle discovery of this civilization. According to some Archeological findings, this civilization widely impacted the Hindu Culture. The fun fact is, this civilization was completely written off until its discovery in 1920. The sites of Harappan Civilization are found in Sind, Baluchistan, Makran, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kathiawad, Kutch and Badakhshan in modern-day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Right now, this civilization is ranked among the Ancient Egyptian Civilization and Mesopotamian (they can make the ancient big three). There are many indications that point to the decline of Harappan Civilization, which took place around 1800-1700 BC. However, many elements of the Harappan world was found in later civilizations all over the Indian subcontinent. Keeping up, this following article has everything there is to learn about this remarkable part of human history!
About Harappan Civilization
Indus Valley Civilization (also called IVC) was the Bronze Age Civilization which existed between 3300-1300BCE while it enjoyed the mature period between 2600-1900BCE. The Pre-Harappan cultures started before 7500 BCE and existed mainly in the northwest Indian Subcontinent, which makes Pakistan and Northwest India of today. This civilization also consists of some regions of Northeast Afghanistan. With Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it is considered one of the three early civilizations of Old World and was most widespread. In total, this civilization covered an area of 1.25 million Km2.
This Civilization nourished at basins of the Indus River, which is one of the major rivers of Asia. It’s better known as the Dried up Sarasvati River today but once it used to course through Northwest India and Easter Pakistan with its tributaries flowed along the channel and being identified as Ghaggar Hakra River by some scientific studies. Because this Civilization was along both river valleys, it is often described as Indus-Sarasvati Civilization.
At its peak, the civilization had more than 5 million population. The residents of this ancient civilization came with new techniques for handcraft and metallurgy. The Engineering skills of Harappans was way ahead of their time. This is proved by the Town Planning of Harappan Civilization.
Periods of Harappan Civilization:
- Late Harappan: 1800 BC Onward
- Mature Harappan: 2600 – 1900 BC
- Early Harappan: 2800 – 2600 BC
- ‘Ravi’ Culture: 3300 – 2800 BC
Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were the earliest sites of the Indus civilization to be discovered. Similar sites were discovered over a much larger area and the sites were named after the first discovered site, i.e. Harappa. Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro still remain the largest sites. They were likely of higher economic and political importance.
Harappan civilization had interactions with other civilizations of the bronze-age. South Asia was called the land of ‘Meluhha‘ by the Mesopotamians. In many Mesopotamian texts, Meluhha has been mentioned. Meluhha was named as a resource of ivory, gold, wood, lapis, and lazuli. The people of South Asia were referred to as people of ‘Black mountain’ or ‘Black land’. Mesopotamia had proper language that has been deciphered long ago. References to Meluhha in these texts were used to calculate the exact dates of existence of Harappa. E.g. King Sargon from central Mesopotamia recorded that boats came from Meluhha to Akkad. He ruled from 2370 to 2315 BC. Collection of such gives a rough idea about dating.
There is no evidence that the Indus or Harappan civilization was linked with the Saraswati civilization. Harappan civilization was unique in its way while also having similarities with Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations.
One of the first sites Indus Valley, Harappa was excavated in the 1920’s. Back then, it was part of Punjab Province of British India which is now situated in Pakistan. However, Harappa was first described in text in 1849. The detailed timeline of Indus Value according to its traditions is given below:
- Early Food Producing Era: 6500- 5000 B.C
- Regionalization Era: 5000- 2600 B.C
- Indus-Harappan Culture Integration Era: 2600- 1900 B.C
- Late Harappan Period: 1900-1300 or 1000 B.C
- Painted Grey Ware: 1200- 800 B.C
- Northern Black Polished Ware: 700- 300 B.C
- Early Historical Period: 600 B.C
The First Cities of South Asia were never established before 2600 B.C; these cities are now a part of Pakistan and Western India (In respect to Indus Civilization Map 1).
The People who built and ruled these establishments were known to be a part of Harappan Culture. This civilization developed at the same time at which early states of Mesopotamia and Egypt came into being.
The Urban civilization spread over the geographical region of Indus River, Desert Nomad, Himalayas, and Chitral. It also extended to mountains of Baluchistan and Afghanistan to coastal regions of Makran, Gujarat, and Sindh.
The Large cities that included the name of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa grew up trade routes as administrative and ritual centers. During the urban phase of these civilizations, there was trade contact with nearby other cultures in the Arabian Gulf, Peninsular India, and Central Asia. The trade routes were mean to exchange materials for bread making and others. At this time, Villagers used to domesticate different crops such as Peas, Dates, Cotton, and Sesame Sea along with some animals.
Origin of Harappan Civilization
Archaeologists needed to rely on a wide array of materials and evidence to learn about the Origin of Harappan Civilization. According to a comparative analysis of ruins that were found in different places of Indus Valley, there are some arguments that the date of Harappan Civilization was between 3250 BC and 2750 BC. However, according to some recent discoveries, the archaeologists were able to advance the timeline of this civilization. It was never before the period between 2400 BC and 1800 BC in which India and Mesopotamia were in contact.
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According to some documents found in Akkad (northeast of ancient Mesopotamia) the Harappan Civilization had been the highest development in third and second Millennia B.C. also in this time, India carried efficient trade with foreign lands.
Adding up, it was shocking to find that there was some similarity between earthen contains Colossus Crete and those which were found in Harappa. This led the scholars to assume that Harappan Civilization lasted at least till the sixteenth century BC. In other words, Harappan Culture extended over a period of 3000 BC and 1600 BC.
The application of Carbon 14 helped in the determination of 2400 BC, which in fact was the Origin of Harappan Civilization. This was also taken to 1500 BC, the decline of this remarkable civilization. Although the results of examination via Carbon 14 made scholars assume that 1700 BC is considered as the decline of Harappan Civilization. Still, general impression till early years of the twentieth century was the start of Indian Civilization traced from Vedic Age as roots of Hinduism can be traced down to the Vedic Text.
The Archaeological excavation of an ancient temple was conducted in the district of Larkana. During the excavation, archaeologists found prehistoric clay ports with some pieces of artwork made of stone. These were the ruins of a very old civilization that was beneath the ground where actual excavation was carried. The name of this place has not been found, but the locals named it, Mound of the Death, which is better known as “Mohenja Daro.”
It was further discovered that in Harappan, identical ruins of a civilization were discovered. The city of Harappa was at Montgomery district of Punjab, and it was 650 Km away from Mohenjo-Daro. At Rangur, Lothal in Gujarat and some adjoining areas of Nerboda, there were some traces of Harappa. These are the areas that bore witness to the development of Harappan Civilization.
The Lothal and its structures deserve a mention with relics of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. The same story is repeated at Ruperth in North Eastern Punjab as relics that were identical to those found in Harappa and Mohenjodaro. There were some articles that were similar to the vessels found in Harappan sites. In addition, this site also bears some marks of Indus culture that clearly points out that this too was a part of the whole Harappan Civilization. Adding up to the equation, there was a recent discovery at Alamgirhpur in Meerut.
The religion of Harappan Civilization
There is not much known about the Religion of Harappan Civilization. In its heyday, the civilization covered more than just the modern Indian Subcontinent. It flourished between 3500 BC and 2000 BC while its antecedents are dated back to 7000- 6000 BC that consisted of the Neolithic period. Indus Civilization, now considered as an urban civilization is characterized by its well-planned cities that were built right according to the needs of its residents.
The cities were exclusively designed according to geographic and climatic factors. The city consisted of high built structures, well-planned agriculture, metallurgy, and pottery with the familiarity of drainage and water supply system. These cities traded with others by navigated by boat along adjoining bodies of water. There is a brief context about how this civilization was formed and declined.
There are many texts containing the daily life of its occupants. However, not much is known about the set of beliefs these people had or any descriptive text about their god. There is much to be discovered at this point, but there are a few things we came across with about Religion of Harappan Civilization. We are stating them all in below:
- People of Indus Valley prayed to a Mother Goddess; that was an addition to the Male and Female Deities.
- The inhabitants of Indus valley also worshiped a father God who is believed to be a progenitor of race and was a prototype, most likely Siva, Lord of Animals.
- The people of Indus valley were well familiar with forms of meditation and yoga.
- These people also believe in the tree of life. This tree is shown as a Pipal, which is defended by a Guardian Spirit against some evil entity shown as a tiger. In seals, the guardian spirit is mostly shown as a bull, goat, snake or a mythical creature.
- It is also believed that Religion of Harappan Civilization included for shipping fertility symbols including round stones and pierced stones. This is a practice that preceded worship of Siva and Parvathi in form of Sivalinga.
- It is also believed that these people had faith in magical rituals that extended to amulets, charms, demons, and spirits.
- Another fact that can be ignored is the Religion of Harappan Civilization is said to cremate the dead with some objects that they offered for use in after life.
- The great batch of Mohenjo-Daro and a larger one found in Dholavira is a prototype of Kovil or the sacred tank that was found in the ancient It is implemented that people used to take purification baths there on important occasions.
There is no doubt in the fact that the discovery of Indus Valley brought Indian Subcontinent in the spotlight as it is the home of an ancient civilization. This gave many scholars the scope to argue that the Indian Subcontinent is a land of ethnic, linguistic and racial diversity from the time immemorial. Moreover, this is the land that stood in waves of migrating prehistoric nomads with the adventurers who belonged to the Stone Age.
Sites of Harappan Civilization
The Followings are a list of major and famous Sites of Harappan Civilization which is followed by the names of smaller establishments of the past urban civilization:
This can be better defined as the urban center of Sites of Harappan Civilization. It is situated in Punjab Province, Pakistan which is on the old bed of Ravi River. According to recent findings, five mounds at Harappa have 3D Renditions, which shows the extensive walls. Two mounds have large walls that helped for trade and defense. Another structure discovered is believed to be a granary that was later turned into a building equipped with ventilated air ducts.
Archaeologists are also showing interest in the south of this structure. There is an abundance of terracotta figurines at this site that provided the very first clues in the 19th century to ancient Hindus, better known as Harappan Civilization.
- Mohenjo Daro
One of the most notorious Sites of Harappan Civilization, Mohenjo Daro, is located in Sindh Pakistan. It lies next to Indus River which is fairly close to the first Flint Mining Quarries at Rohri. The Indus River once flowed to the west of Mohenjo Daro, but it is now located in the east.
This city was made up of Uniform Buildings, Hidden drains, weights, Great Bath with some other hallmarks of where this civilization was discovered in the 1920`s. This is right where most unicorn seals were found. Due to the Rising Water Table, most of the site is still unexcavated while its earliest levels remain out of reach.
Dhola Vira is located right on Khadir Beyt. This is an island in Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India. This site has only been excavated since 1990. Like Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, it also some best-persevered Stone Architecture. Moreover, a tantalizing signboard with Indus script has also been found.
This site led to the discovery of some notable reservoirs with the elaborate system of drains designed to collect water from city walls and housetops for filling water tanks.
This remains on top of Khambat Gulf in Gujarat India. This was near Sabarmati River and the Arabian Sea. It remains as one of the most research Sites of Harappan Civilization. This site has a bead factory and Persian Gulf seal that suggests it was involved in a trade that is truly astonishing.
This site is recently discovered in Haryana, India. There were some partial excavations that revealed that it is just as large as Harappa and Mohenjo Daro.
This is situated in Punjab, Pakistan but close to the Indian Border. This site was discovered by Sir Aurel Stein and was later surveyed by Dr. M.R Mughal in 1970. The site itself expands to an area of 80 hectares, and it is believed to be as large as Mohenjo Daro. Ganweriwala lies near the dry bed of Saraswati River, which is not yet excavated. It is just Equidistant between Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, but there is no argument about the fact that this is the fifth major urban center.
List of Smaller Settlements
- Barar, Rajasthan India
- Alamgirpur, Uttar Pradesh India
- Banawali, Haryana India
- Bet Dwarka, Gujarat India
- Bhirrana, Haryana India
- Daimabad, Maharashtra India
- Gola Dhoro, Gujarat India
- Hulas, Uttar Pradesh India
- Kanwari, Haryana India
- Kot Diji, Khairpur District Pakistan
- Kerala No Dhoro, Gujarat India
- Kunal, Haryana India
- Lotheshwar, Gujarat India
- Malwan, Gujarat India
- Mitathal, Haryana India
- Ongar, Sindh Pakistan
- Pabumath, Gujarat India
- Pirak, Baluchistan Pakistan
- Sheri Khan Tarakai, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan
- Shahr-i-Sokhta, Helmand River Kandahar Afghanistan
- Sokhta Koh, Baluchistan Pakistan
- Surkotada, Gujarat India
- Sutkagan Dor, Baluchistan Pakistan
- Hulas, Uttar Pradesh India
All of these sites flourished for different time periods between 3500- 1600 BC. Now there are more important Indus sites as a lot of these have been lost or destroyed by shifting paths of the river. There is a high possibility that some Sites of Harappan Civilization are buried right under the modern cities
At this one, one thing that is clear is all important sites that are recognized today used to be ancient commercial centers. These were mainly on rivers or near a coast. Apart from that, many of these centers had manufacturing facilities which suggest they were involved with trade activities outside of their vicinity.
Town Planning of Harappan Civilization
The Town planning of Harappan Civilization was city-based which was combined with remarkable sanitation and drainage system. It consisted of the following elements:
Urban Cities: There is no denying that Harappan Civilization had well-built cities. The ruins of these cities show their excellence in town planning while keeping up with drainage and sanitation needs. Cities used to be the heart of the entire civilization. The life in Indus cities offers an impression of a democratic Bourgeois economy, more like of the ancient Crete.
Largest Cities Divided into Two Parts: Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro were the basis. Although another large city of the ancient civilization, Kalibangan inhibited thousands in its time for some reasons, but it’s not quite famous in the historical texts. The main reason for that is this city was divided into two parts. These parts were classified as higher and upper portion of the city. A fort like structure protected both portions.
The ruling class to these towns lived in the most secured area. The common men used to live in other parts of the town which were a lower in height as compared to its counterpart.
Streets in Town planning of Harappan Civilization ran from The North to the south and from east to west while intersecting one another at right angles. These streets ran straight to a mile and proved suitable for wheeled traffic. The lanes were also joined by streets as each and every lane had a public welt. Above all, street lamps were also provided.
Systematically Constructed Buildings and Houses
The nature of buildings at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro is a clear example that down dwellers were divided into different social classes. While the rich and ruling section lived in multi-roomed and spacious houses, the poor counterpart got through the small tenements only.
The public building and big houses were located on streets while modest houses were situated on lanes. The encroachment on Public Lanes by building more houses was never allowed. Therefore, the structures were divided into the following categories:
- Public Baths
- Large Buildings
- Dwelling Houses
The smaller houses in Town planning of Harappan Civilization used to have two rooms while the bigger ones had more. Big buildings had courtyards attached to them while there remained an artistic approach to the architecture of buildings that remained in the ownership of every class. However, all structures remained plain, comfortable and utilitarian. There were also some multi-storied buildings.
Almost every house had a bath, wells, and covered drains that were connected with street drains. The simple buildings had some ventilation arrangements because doors and windows were not fixed in the walls. The Door of the entrance was fixed not on the front but side walls. Moreover, the doors were made of wood.
There were not any stone built a house in Indus Cities. Most of the houses were built of burnt bricks however the unburnt bricks were also used from time to time. The portion of buildings is where there was contamination with water. In some cases, burnt bricks were used for this while sometimes the sun-dried bricks did the trick. Most bricks were equal in size and staircases of big buildings were solid, roofs were flat, and they were entirely made of wood.
Drainage System of Harappan Civilization
Earliest archaeological record of advanced drainage system comes from the Harappan Civilization. The Drainage System of Harappan Civilization was developed in cities of Indus Valley were far more complex than the ones found in urban sites of Middle East and were far more efficient than compared with modern day drainage of India. Almost every house in Harappa and Mohenjo Daro had access to water and drainage while waste was directed to covered drains that lined major streets.
Ancient Drainage System
The Drainage system of the ancient world was remarkable. The fact is, let alone the Drainage system of the ancient world helped to establish an image of its cities. There was no civilization before the Roman that enjoyed such advanced drainage and sanitation.
Each and every house in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro had horizontal and vertical drains while the streets had underground draining. Most of these drains were covered with stone slabs. The soak pits at the time were made with bricks and house drains were well connective with road drains.
It was surprising that the most amazing fact of planning Drainage System of Harappan Civilization was the underground system. The main sewer, 1.5 meters deep and 91 cm across was connected with much north-south and east west sewers. These sewers were made from bricks that were smoothened and joined. The expert masonry always kept the sewer watertight while drop respected intervals acted as an automatic cleaning device.
There was a wooden screen at the end of the drains that was used to hold back solid waste. This allowed the liquid waste to enter a cell pole made of radial bricks. The tunnels carried waste liquids to the main channel that connected dockyard with river estuary. The commoner houses had baths and drained which emptied in underground soakage jars.
Facts which support the argument
- The Drainage System of Harappan Civilization was advanced because of hydraulic engineering, water supply, and drainage devices which were used were the very first of their kind
- This is an argued fact, but most facts prove the point that Harappan Civilization was, in fact, the first settlement that implemented the concept of flush toilets
- The City walls of this civilization also acted as a barrier against floods
- The Great Bath at Mohenjo Daro is known to be the earliest public water tank. It measured 11.8 meters with a depth of 2.4 meters. There were two wide staircases that acted as an entry to it. In addition, there was a hole at each end of it which was used to drain water. The floor tank was made watertight with use of gypsum plaster and bitumen
- The roads at that time used to cut each other at right angles while they had an efficient arrangement of houses in the city for forming grid patterns
Sense of Hygiene
The drainage system and drains were provided with inspection traps and main holes. Every care was taken to make sure no one throw refuse or dirt in the drains. While every house had its own soak pit that was used to collect sediments and allow only water to flow to the street drain. The efficient drainage system of Harappan People showed that they had a proper sense of health and sanitation. Something that most people in the modern world still don’t have.
Sites of Indus Valley civilization have items that suggest that standards were implemented for uniformity. Among these items were bricks, pottery, weights, and seals. Also, many Harappan cities were planned cities, with the uniform grid-like structures and public places like common baths, etc.
All this was suggestive of city level central administration. The establishments were also found near banks of rivers or were settled near sources of food and water. This was suggestive of planned establishments. Researchers also argue that equality prevailed in Harappan culture and also that there was some kind of democracy prevalent.
Harappan Civilization Facts
Till today, the Indus Valley Civilization remains one of the mists enigmatic elements of human history. Even if it is only for the paucity of knowledge related to discourse, they were elemental for showing our desire for excellence. Even in ancient times, the civilization brought forth some important inventions that were a stepping stone for progress.
Indus Valley Civilization had 4 Ancient Rivers
One of interesting Harappan Civilization Facts is it was spread over an area of 1,260,000 Km2 that now makes the area of modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. The Geographical spread was appreciable that it crossed such immense expanse. The Indus valley settlements showed some hallmark elements of their respective civilization. At the peak, this civilization inhibited more than 5 million people.
Harappan Civilization had the first planned Cities in History
A typical city as we believe would be divided into two sections, with both of them fortified separately. One section was known as Acropolis; it was located on an artificially raised mound while another one was on level ground.
The lower section served as housing for inhabitants. In addition, this section also housed some great features of the city planning. The cities were well connected with broad roads that were 30 meters long; these roads met at a right angle. These houses were located in rectangular squares that were then formed. The houses were built with standardized backed bricks and hand spacious courtyards. The bigger houses had multiple stories along with paved floors.
Indus Valley Civilization Built Urban Sanitation Systems which were Non-Peril in Ancient World
Another one of notorious Harappan Civilization Facts, Municipal systems, and sophistication systems were involved in sanitation. Every house had its individual well, a separate drain that connected to drains in an alleyway which itself connected with drains in the main street. All of these drains were covered! The street drains had descending levels that made it easy to filter out the wastes. These systems were completely leak proof. At the time, no one other enjoyed such luxuries while the some of the modern worlds still doesn’t have it.
Precise Measurements of Their Time
Another one of Harappan Civilization Facts, the measurements were made uniquely standard across the region that followed a decimal system. Even the smallest length division was marked on an ivory scale that was found in Lothal. This was nearly 1.604 mm and was the smallest division ever recorded on a scale belonging to Bronze Age.
Adding up, rulers made out of ivory were used in Indus Civilization before 1500 BC. The excavation at Lothal yielded such a ruler that calibrated 1.6 mm. According to records, these rulers even corresponded to 1.32 inches and were marked out in sub-decimal divisions. All of these met with impressive accuracy that even recorded 0.005 inches. These rulers were joined by ancient bricks that were found throughout the region and had dimensions that corresponded with these respective units.
First Dentists in Human History
Another one of dictating Harappan Civilization Facts is these people were the first dentists in human history. Yes, the people of Indus value learned about proto-dentistry and practiced drilling of teeth. Eleven supports the fact drilled molar crowns from nine different people who were found in Neolithic Graveyard in Mehgarth. This graveyard dated back to 7000 years. The evidence also states that the tradition of proto-dentistry came from early farming cultures of the early farming of the region.
Trade and Agriculture
Harappan Civilization was technologically on par with other old age civilizations, and that enabled it to have vibrant trading between settlements and various places across, namely Turkmenistan, Iran and some other in central Asia. Harappan civilization was also one of the first to have used wheeled transport. This might have been animal driven, preferably bullocks or horses. This can also be utilized in agriculture along with the trade.
The Harappan culture was also proficient at utilizing water-ways. Archaeologists have found boats that were utilized in territorial routes for trade. These were flat-bottomed wooden sails. Harappans were thought to be sea-goers was well. Large docking facility and intricate canal structures are found at the coastal city of Lothal, currently in Gujarat, India. Canals were used for making irrigation water accessible to the masses.
Relics have been found at Harappan sites with striking similarities to those at Iran and Turkmenistan. His is highly suggestive of long-distance trade routes via land and sea. It is also suggested that trade extended from Indus Valley up to ancient Crete and Egypt. Indus style artifacts have been found at Persia and Southern Mesopotamia, indicative of sea routes.
Indus culture was one of the cultures to adopt neolithic farming. Like most neolithic cultures, they grew crops like wheat and barley and reared farm animals like cows, sheep and similar domestic animals. Some Indus seals are found to have cattle engraved onto them, which were likely to be Indian Aurochs. Indus valley was also said to have multi-season crops, with crops sown based on the estimated water supply. Irrigation was also used in farming.
- Understanding Harappa – Civilization in the Greater Indus Valley by Shereen Ratnagar
- Ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation, JM Kenoyer