Indus Valley Civilization
Indus Valley Civilization
The great thing about the Indian History is the existence of a great civilization known as Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan Civilization from about 3000 BC to about 1500 BC in the Northwestern part of the Indian sub-continent (in parts of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchisthan, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and outlying areas of Western Uttar Pradesh in an area of about 1.3 million square kms stretching from Ropar in Punjab in the North to Bhagatrav in Gujarat in the South and Sutkagendor in Baluchisthan in the West to Alamgirpur in Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh in the East. According to the latest excavations the Northern most site is Manda in Jammu & Kashmir and the southern most Diamabad in Maharashtra. In its spread, this civilization was bigger than the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations.
This civilization is called as Indus Valley Civilization as the earlier sites were found in Indus Valley. However, later, as a few sites were found outside Indus Valley, certain historians felt that it would be more appropriate to call it Harappan Civilization after the first site of its type discovered in 1921 was in Harappa.
Important sites of Indus Valley Civilization
Six out of 250 Harappan sites can be considered as cities. They are Harappa in Punjab, Mohenjodaro in Sindh, Chanhudaro in Southern Sindh, Lothal in Gujarat, Kalibangan in Rajasthan and Dolavira in Gujrat.
Harappa: It was discovered in the year 1921 by Dayaram sahani on the banks of the river Ravi. The current location of this site is in Pakistan. It is the only city in IVC with six granaries, each granary measures 50X20 ft. Bronze bullock-cart toys were excavated at this site. wooden coffin (coffin burial) was also excavated. One side of the city was occupied with palatial buildings whereas the other side contain barrack like structures.
Mohenjadaro: It was discovered in the year 1922 by R.D.Banerjee on the banks of the river indus. It is observed that the city was flooded seven times. The current location is in sind province of Pakistan. This is the largest site of IVS and it is estimated that the population was may be 40000. There were the Great Bath (39X23X8), the College, the granary (150X150) and the assembly hall. A 14 cms dancing girl toy made up of bronze was excavated at this site. stetite head of a male priest was also excavated. A woven-cloth and three cylindrical shaped seals were also unearthed from this site.
Chanhudaro: It was discovered in the year 1931 by M.G.Majumdar on the banks of river Indus. The current location is in sind province of Pakistan. This site was flooded more than once. Small ink pot, lip-sticks were found. Beads and shell making industry was excavated at this site. This city lacks a citadel.
Lothal: It was discovered in the year 1955 by S.R.Rao on the banks of the river Bhogavo. The current location of this Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) site is in the state of Gujrat, India. This is the port city of IVC. Persian gulf seals were excavated in this region which are indications for the foreign trade. A seal with ship symbol was also unearthed at this site. Double burial system was noticed.
Kalibangan: It was discovered in the year 1961 by B.B.Lal and B.K.Thapar on the banks of the river Ghaggar (saraswati). The current location is in Rajastan, India. 7 fire altars, bones of deers and a cattle was excavated and also amulets were found near them.
Dolavira: It was discovered in the year 1991 by J.PJoshi and R.S.Bist. The current location is Kutch in Gujrat. This site is considered as the largest site of IVC that was excavated in India and the fourth largest among all the sites of IVC. Bead industry was excavated where micro beads with holes were found. Water reservoir perhaps the worlds first was excavated at this site. A stadium was also excavated.
Indus Valley Civilization is called as a civilization because of its superb town planning, knowledge of the art of writing, artistic skills and the leisure it provided for the pursuit of amusements like dicing, gambling, hunting and cock fighting. Civilization means an advanced stage in social development.
Indus Valley town planning can be called as superb as the streets of cities cut each other at right angles dividing the cities into rectangular blocks. Lanes and by-lanes were similarly oriented. (The main streets are as wide as 30 feet). Flanking the streets, lanes and by-lanes were well planned houses. Houses in general comprised of a central courtyard, three to four living rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Drains connected bathrooms with sewers in the streets. Sewers in the streets were covered with large brick slabs and they were also provided with manholes at regular intervals for inspection and repairs. No other contemporary civilization had such a developed drainage system. Houses were constructed with standardized Burnt bricks. Elsewhere in contemporary world mud bricks were used and burnt bricks were almost unknown. Stone buildings were conspicuous by their absence in Indus Valley cities.
The other striking feature about Indus cities is the citadel - an elevated area and a lower city. The citadel was enclosed by a thick mud brick wall, corner towers and occasional bastions built along the length of the wall. The citadels housed governmental buildings, granaries and religious buildings. The lower city consisted of private houses. The citadel at Mohenjodaro consisted of multi pillared assembly hall, public bath and a large granary.
Another reason for calling Indus Valley culture a civilization is the knowledge of writing known to the people of Indus Valley Civilization. Their script constituted pictographs engraved on seals. They used 250 to 400 pictographs. They wrote from right to left and from left to right.
They exhibited exemplary artistic skills as seen from the bronze dancing girl found in Mohenjodaro, steatite bust of a bearded man, seals with pictures of animals, etc., jewellery of silver, gold and precious stones, and glossy and shining pottery.
Origin of Indus Valley Civilization
Three important views below regarding the origin of Indus Valley Civilization gives an idea how this great civilization was originated.
The first view is that Indus Valley Civilization evolved under the influence of Sumerian Civilization. Prominent among those who hold this view is Mortimer Wheeler, the famous archaeologist who was the Director of Indian Archaeology after the second World War, Mr.Wheeler argued that urban element was common to both Sumerian Civilization and Indus Valley Civilization and Sumerian Civilization was older than Indus Valley Civilization and attained maturity earlier. Hence, Indus Valley Civilization might have evolved under the influence of the Sumerian Civilization. But, the similarity is limited to broad outline and in specific aspects like town planning, technology, religion, etc., we find no relationship between the two.
The second view (held by Mohammad Rafiq) is that the Indus Valley Civilization directly evolved from the Baluchi cultures. Encompassing the Baluchi hills were four principal cultural groups, Zhob, Quetta, Nal and Kuli. The third view (held by A.K.Ghosh) is that the Indus Valley Civilization evolved from the cultures of Amri, Kot Diji and Kalibangan.
Living conditions of the people of Indus Valley Civilization
They were peace loving as few weapons were found. They knew pictorial script, lacked adaptability as they did not acquire iron technology from Mesopotamia, and lacked flexibility as layer after layer shows uniformity. People of Indus Civilization lived in well planned houses, with facilities like kitchen and bathroom built with burnt bricks. Wheat, Barley, milk products, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs were their staple foods. Dance, music, dicing, and hunting were their major entertainment activities. They Preferred indoor activities mostly.
They used both cotton and woolen garments, dhoti and shawl. Ornaments were worn by both men and women. Finger and ear rings, necklaces, headband for binding hair,.etc made of gold, silver, copper, ivory were used. Women were beauty conscious. They used cosmetics like face paint, and different hairstyles. Metals known to Indus Valley people were bronze, tin, copper, gold and silver. Iron was not known. Burnt bricks were used in house building. Elaborate architecture but utilitarian. Exhibited superb town planning. Used wheeled carts and ships.
Social, Religious and Political Life
Different classes existed as there existed big houses and also two-roomed apartments. Position of women, They might have enjoyed important position as mother goddess was popular. There are no evidences to prove whether the family system is patriarchal or matriarchal.
About the religion, the chief sources of information are seals and terracotta figurines. They worshiped Mother Goddess, Rhallus, Horned Deity (Proto - Siva), Bull and Pipal. Religious ablutions might have been 'in practice as the purpose of the great bath discovered at Mohenjodaro might have been that. They might have believed magical charms and spells as amulets have been found in certain sites. Most probably, they believed in life after death as they buried implements, pottery, etc with the dead.
Regarding the Political life of Indus people, some sort of centralized system might have existed as standard features like well planned cities with well laid streets, drainage system, granaries and public buildings existed.
Agriculture was their chief occupation. Agricultural prosperity is revealed by the presence of large granaries at Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Agriculture was practiced on riverbanks. Pottery, weaving, brick laying, bead making, and metal crafts (bronze, copper, gold, silver) were the other crafts. Domesticated Animals like sheep, goats, oxen, buffaloes, camel and elephants. Horse was not in common use though remains of horse have been found at Surkatada.
Both internal and external trade existed. Bullock carts and ships were used for transporting goods. External trade was with Mesopotamia. Exported cotton, ivory, articles such as combs, peacocks, copper and imported precious metals like silver. Both over land and sea routes were used. Mode of exchange was barter. Mesopotamian texts refer to Indus or Saurastra region as Meluha. Internal trade: They might have purchased gold from South India and Iran, Silver from Afghanistan, Copper from Rajasthan, Baluchisthan, Tin from Bihar and Afghanistan and precious stones from South India.
Decline of Indus Valley Civilization
Theories like Aryan invasions, floods, earthquakes and expansion of desert might have collectively contributed to the decline of this great civilization.
The reasons for the Aryan invasions argument are the mention in the Rig Veda of a battle at Hariyupiya identified with Harappa, new types of axes, daggers, etc., found in the upper layers of a few cities, skulls dumped together at one place in the upper layer of Mohenjodaro and painted greyware pottery associated with the Aryans found in the upper layer of Harappa.
Evidence of repeated flooding is noticed at Mohenjodaro. Desertification seen in Sindh and Rajasthan might have contributed to the decline of fertility and fall in agricultural production leading to the decline of Indus Valley Civilization.
© 2011 Dilip Chandra
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