Indus Valley Civilization is one of the earliest and most advanced settlements during the Bronze era in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the three early civilisations subsequent Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian Civilisation with about five million citizens.
From 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, it evolved from small village clusters to metropolitan cities stretching over 900 miles. The excavated sites are in parts of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan province in Pakistan and parts of North-Western India.
The identification of Harappa in 1921 led to the discovery of 1056 cities in present-day Pakistan and India. Thus, also known as the Harappan Civilisation for its initial discovery and prominence. Harappa and Mohenjodaro are the most important cities with advanced inventions, administration, and planning, considering other settlements at the time.
Historical Timeline of Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilisation consists of three phases—The Early Harappan (3300BCE-2600BCE), Mature Harappan(2600BCE-1900BCE) and Late Harappan (1900BCE-1300BCE).
The civilization originated from migration to Mehrgarh, a Neolithic site along the Indus river in Kacchi plain in Pakistan. It is one of the most valuable sites belonging to the Pre-Harappan period marked by agricultural development. The Early Harappan which originated in 3300BCE also known for the earliest known evidence of the Indus script. They had a centralized authoritarian system with trade networks profiting from raw materials and crops. Animal domestication of water buffalo and cultivation of crops such as cotton and dates begun during this time. Many started migrating from villages to more developed cities in hopes of better living. The Mature Harappan period marks the inception of flood-supported farming by taming the tributaries of the Indus river. The people not equipped with irrigation facilities and relied on the seasonal monsoon.
Architecture and Town Planning
The Harappan Civilisation was particular on a well-planned, luxurious and hygienic society. The area splits into the lower public area and upper acropolis area, both similar in layout. The roads formed a linear grid-iron street layout that intersects at the central fortress. The mound-shaped citadel raised to 6m height was a refuge against external attack. The shore is about 40ft above water level as it is an easily flooded area. An outer defensive wall made of baked bricks acts as a dam against floods and invasion. The houses were in a rigid block arrangement around a central courtyard with all amenities. Its orientation aligned with the rising sun/ moon and made use of the traditional sun-path method. The houses also used baked bricks and about 1-2 floors. The wall was 70cm thick and 3m in height.
The plumbing and drainage system running along the streets separate the rows of multi-storied homes, providing clean water to all. Public baths and private wells were abundant in the settlement.
Distribution of Major Cities at Indus Valley Civilization
Led by Sir Alexander Cunningham (First Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India), the main sites were from Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Harappa (Punjab) and Mohenjodaro (Sindh) in Pakistan are well-known sites in the settlement. Other areas include Dholavira (Gulf of Kutchh), Lothal (Gulf of Cambay), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Sutkagendor (Baluchistan), Chanhudaro (Sindh), Amri (Sindh), Surkotada (Gujarat), and Banawali (Haryana).
- Dholavira: It was known for its effective water management with water harnessing systems, dams and reservoirs
- Lothal: It was the first artificial port
- Kalibangan: It was a provincial capital associated with the use of fire altars. It had the world’s earliest attested plough field.
- Sutkagendor: It was the hub for trade between Harappa and Babylon.
- Chanhudaro: It was known for jewellery making and bangle shops. It is the only city in Indus valley without a citadel.
- Amri: It was a Pre-Harappan site known for native pottery.
- Surkotada: It was known for the remains of horses, indicating its presence.
- Banawali: It was the only oval-shaped city with radial streets.
Mohenjodaro of Indus Valley Civilization
Harappa is the first excavated town that led to discovering over a thousand sites in the Indus Valley. After finding twelve granaries in a row, Harappa got its name “The City of Granaries”. So first mentioned in the Rig Vedas, Harappa derives from Hariyupia, which means “the land of thousand sacrifices”. Also, the city had active trade with Southern Mesopotamia, mainly terracotta pots, gold, gemstones, flint, metal, etc. Apart from commerce, Harappa also flourished in agricultural production and pottery.
Mohenjodaro is one of the largest sites in the Indus Valley and is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. The city, a rectilinear gridiron with an elaborate drainage system and divided into lower town and citadel, similar to Harappa. The name Mohenjodaro means “The Mound of the Dead”, called so due to numerous mounds found in the settlement. The settlement’s main attraction is the Great Bath, a luxurious public bath and community gathering space. Division of power not evident from the findings and the architecture, thus believed to have lived in harmony. Their peace-loving character could have put them under the threat of invasion.
Culture and Lifestyle of Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Civilisation is also known for being the earliest “urban” settlement rich in art and culture. Therefore these include sculptures, seals, pottery, gold, and jewelry. However, they skillfully carved terracotta, bronze, and soapstone to form figurines representing God and people of power. Priest-King and Dancing Girl figurines excavated and a representation of skill during those times. Also, the female sculptures made in those times are an indication of the presence of dancers and artists.
Due to the presence of trade and modes of communication, people expressed through the Indus Script. The scripts are a series of symbols representing its meaning carved out in clay and stone tabloids. The Vedas, written during the Late Bronze Age period, mentions the presence of Harappans.
Unlike Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Indus Valley shows no evidence of the presence of religious structures. Moreover, Figurines and scriptures indicate they worshipped the Mother Goddess of Fertility and different forms of animals.
The main reason for the sudden end of civilization is unknown. Also, archaeologists came up with theories of possibilities from the pieces of evidence.
Some speculate climate change or floods as the planning, although efficient, lacked means to resist floods. While others believe the cause could be the drying up of the Saraswati River that happened in 1900BCE. Evidence of earthquake damage in Dholavira indicates another causation. The invasion of Aryans in the later periods greatly impacted the peaceful regime of the place.
Although they ended drastically, the advancement in science and technology unbelievable compared to other settlements.
Also, Read Ancient Civilizations – The factors that shaped our pristine cities.