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Indus Valley Civilization – Ancient India

Indus  Valley Civilization (2500 BC – 1500 BC)

  • From the beginning  of the 4th  millennium  BC, the individuality  of the early village  cultures  began to be replaced by a more homogenous style of existence.
  • By the middle of the 3rd  millennium, a uniform culture had developed at settlements spread across nearly 500,000 square miles, including parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Baluchistan,  Sindh and  the  Makran  coast.
  • It  was  a highly  developed  civilization  and derived its name from the  main river of that region— Indus.
  • The cities were far   more advanced than   their counterparts in prehistoric Egypt, Mesopotamia or anywhere else in Western Asia.

Important Discoveries

Year              Site                               Discovered by

192I             Harappa                          Dayaram Sahni

1922            Mohenjodaro                  R. D. Banerjee

1927             Sutkagendor                   R. L. Staine

193I              Chanhudaro                   N. G. Majumdar

1953              Rangpur                         M. Vats

1953              Kalibangan                    A. Ghosh

1955-56        Ropar                             Y. D. Sharma

1957              Lothal                             S. R. Rao

1972-75        Surkotada                      I. Joshi

1973-74        Banwali                         R. S. Bisht

Difference Between Pre-Harappan and roto-Harappan


Cultures that preceded Harappan culture are pre-Harappan,  while proto-Harappan cultures are those pre- Harappan cultures which have some close similarities with the Harappan culture or which may be said to have anticipated certain   essential elements of Harappan culture.

In shun, all prolo-Harappan cultures are necessarily pre-Harappan cultures, but all pre-Harappan cultures are not necessarily proto-Harappan cultures.

Script and Language

Harappan script is regarded as pictographic since its signs represent birds, fish and a variety of human forms. The script was boustrophedon.

written from right to left in one line and then from left to .right in the next line.  The number of signs of the Harappan script is known to be between 400 and 600.

The language of the Harappans is still unknown and must remain so until the Harappan script is deciphered.


  • Harappan Pottery is bright or dark red and is uniformly sturdy and well baked.
  • It is chiefly wheel  made,  and consists  of   both   plain   and painted ware, the plain variety being more common.
  • Harappan  people used different types of pottery such as glazed, polychrome, incised,   perforated and    knobbed.   The   glazed Harappan   pottery is   the earliest example of its kind in the ancient world.
  • On the whole, Harappan pottery was highly utilitarian in character, though the painted designs on some pieces show a  remarkable artistic touch.


  • They are the greatest artistic creations of the Indus people.
  • Most commonly made of steatite (soft stone).
  • The  technique of cutting and polishing these seals with white luster was a unique invention of the Harappans.
  • The majority of the seals have an animal engraved  on them with a short inscription.
  • Unicorn is  the  animal most frequently represented  on the seals.
  • Main type – (a) the square type with a  carved    animal  and inscription,  (b) the rectangular type with inscription only.

Burial Practices

  • Three forms of burials are found at Mohenjodaro, viz. complete burials.   fractional burials (burial of some bones after   the exposure   of the body   to wild beasts   birds) and post-cremation burials.
  • But the general practice was extended inhumation, the body lying on us back, with the head generally to the north.


  • The chief male deity was the Pashupati Mahadeva (proto-Siva), represented in seals as sitting in a yogic posture on a low throne, and having three faces and   two horns.   He is surrounded  by lour animals (elephant, tiger, rhino and buffalo), each lacing a different direction, and two deer appear at hisfeel.
  • The chief female deity was the Mother Goddess, who has been depicted in various forms
  • There is sufficient evidence for the prevalence of phallic worship. Numerous stone symbols of female sex organs (yoni worship), besides those of the phallus, have been discovered.
  • The  worship of  fire is proved by the discovery of fire altars  at Lothal. Kalibangan and  Harappa.
  • Indus people also worshipped  Gods in the form of trees (piapal, etc.) and animals (unicorn etc)
  • Further they believed in  ghosts  and evil  forces  and used amulets  as protection against them.

Trade and Commerce

  • Inter-regional trade was carried on with  Rajasthan, Saurashtra, Maharashtra.   South India, parts of Western Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • Foreign   trade was  conducted mainly with Mesopotamia and Bahrain. Trade was carried on by overland as well   as overseas transport.
  • Bullock carts   and pack-oxen were employed for land transport. There is evidence of sea and river transport by ships and boats in several seals and terracotta models, apart from the dockyard at Lothal.
  • The Sumerian texts refer lo trade relations with Meluha’ which was the ancient name given to Indus region and they also speak of two intermediate stations called Dilmun (identified with Bahrain) and Makan (Makran coast).


  • After  2000  BC,  the  Indus  culture  slowly  declined  and  gradually  faded  out.  Some  ascribe  this  to  the decreasing fertility of the   soil till account of the increasing salinity, caused by the expansion of the neighbouring desert.
  • Others attribute is to some kind of depression in the land, which caused Hoods. Still others point out that the Aryans destroyed it.
  • According to some scholars, decline of trade, particularly oceanic trade with the Sumerians, must have contributed partly in the decline.
  • Even though  there are various  theories  for the downfall  of this civilization, the most accepted  version is that of ecological destruction.

Major Sites


  • The Great Granary measuring 1 69 ft x 3 5 feet is the largest and the most remarkable structure found at Harappa.
  • So far 891 seals have been recovered from Harappa, and that  is 40% of the total number of seals belonging to  Indus Valley Civilization that have been found.
Indus-valley-civilization (Harappan-sites)
Indus-valley-civilization (Harappan-sites)
  • A red sandstone naked male torso has been found,  which  shows  traces of Jainism
  • Between the granary and the citadel, have also been  found a  series of circular platforms, probably for the pounding of grain
  • At a lower level below the granary, platforms and the citadel were crowded one-room dwellings,  which suggest slave habitats.


  • In Sindhi language, the word Mohenjodaro means mound of the dead’.
  • It is the largest of all Indus cities.
  • The Great Bath is the most important public place, measuring 39 feet (length) X 23 feet (breadth) X 8 feet (depth). Located at the center of the citadel, it is remarkable  for beautiful brickwork   Its    floor is made of burnt bricks set in gypsum and mortar.  It must have served as a  ritual-bathing site.
  • Remains have been found of an oblong  multi-pillared assembly  hall  and a big   rectangular building, which  must have served administrative purposes.
  • Most of Mohenjodaro houses are built of kiln-fired brick.
  • The major streets are 33 feet wide and run north-south, intersecting subordinate  ones, running east-west at right angles.The evidence of Indian ships (figured on   a  seal) and a piece  of woven cloth has been discovered from here.
  • The evidence of Indian ships (figured on   a  seal) and a piece  of woven cloth has been discovered from here.
  • There is a large granary consisting of podium of square blocks of burnt-bricks   with a wooden superstructure.
  • Parallel rows of two-roomed cottages found The workmen or poor sections Of the society perhaps  used  these cottages.
  • A bronze dancing girl, steatite statue of   a priest and a seal bearing Pashupati have been found here.
  • It   is important to remember that Mohenjodaro shows nine levels of occupation towering over 300 feet above the present flood plain.
  • Excavation reveals that the city was flooded More than seven times.


  • Has pre-Harappan  as  well as Harappan cultural phases.
  • Less developed compared to Mohenjodaro.
  • There is evidence of mud-brick fortification.
  • Pre-Harappan phase here  shows that  the fields were ploughed unlike the Harappan  period.
  • Archaeologists  have  discovered  two  platforms  (within  the  citadel)  with  fire  altars  suggesting  the  practice   of  cult sacrifice.
  • The existence of wheel conveyance is proved by a cartwheel having a single hub


  • Only Indus city without a citadel.
  • Existence of Pre-Harappan as well as Harappan cultural phase.
  • A small pot was discovered here, which was probably an ink pot.
  • Excavations  reveal   that    people of Chanhudaro   were   expert   craftsmen.  Archaeologists  have discovered here metal- workers’, shell-ornament makers’ and bead-makers’  shops.
  • The city was twice destroyed by inundations.Here more extensive but indirect evidence of super-imposition  of  a barbarian lifestyle is seen


  • Like Kalibangan,  Amri,  Kot  Diji  and Harappa, Banwali  also saw two   cultural phases – pre-Harappan and Harappan.
  • Human and animal figures, clay bangles and statue of  mother Goddess found here.
  • Here we find large quantity of barely, sesamum  and mustard.


  • Excavations leveal a  citadel  and a lower town, both of which were fortified.
  • It is the only Indus site where the remains of a horse have actually been round.

Kot  Diji

  • Pre-Harappan and Harappan phases found.
  • According to excavations, the city was probably destroyed due to fire
  • Wheel made painted pottery, traces of a defensive wall and well-aligned streets, knowledge of metallurgy, artistic toys etc.
  • Five figur ines of Mother Goddess discovered


  • The excavations have yielded five-fold sequence of cultures — Harappan, PGW, NBP, Kushana-Gupta and Medieval.
  • The evidence of burying a dog below the human burial is very interesting
  • One example of rectangular  mudbrick ‘chamber was noticed.


  • It is the latest and one of the two largest Harappan settlements in India, the other being Rakhigarhi in Haryana.
  • The other Harappan towns were divided into two parts — Citadel and the Lower  Town,  but Dholavira   was divided into three  principal  divisions,  two of which  were strongly  protected by  rectangular fortifications.
  • There are two inner enclosures  — the first one   hemmed   in the   citadel   (which probably housed   the highest authority) and the second one protected the middle   town   (meant for   the   close relatives of the rulers   and   other officials). The existence of this middle town, apart from the lower town, is the  real exclusive  feature of this  city.


  • Only Indus site with an artificial brick dockyard.  It must have  served  as  the   main seaport of the Indus  people  It was surrounded by  a  massive brick wall,    probably as flood protection.
  • Lothal  has evidence  for  the earliest cultivation of rice  (1800 BC)  The    only other Indus site  where rice husk has
  • been found  is  Rangpur near   Ahmedabad.
  • Fire  altars, indicating  the  probable existence of a fire cult, have been  found.
  • A doubtful terracotta figurine of horse is found here.

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