CGPSC Indian History 1-Indus Valley Civilization

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Indus Valley Civilization was very developed civilisation as per studies has revealed till now.

Origin and Phases

  • The Indus Valley civilization was an ancient civilization thriving along the Indus river and the  Ghaggar-Hakra river in what is now Pakistan and north-western India. Other names for this civilization is called Harappan civilization (first excavated city of Harappa).
  • An alternative term for the culture is Saraswati-Sindhu civilization based on the fact that most of  the Indus Valley sites have been found along the Ghaggar-Hakra river.
R.B. Dayaram SahniR.D. BanerjeeSir John Marshal
  • R.B. Dayaram Sahni first discovered Harappa (on Ravi) in 1921. R.D. Banerjee discovered Mohenjodaro or ‘Mound of the Dead’ (on Indus) in 1922. Sir John Marshal played a crucial role in both these.
  • Harappan civilization forms part of the proto history of India i.e. the script is there, but it cannot be deciphered and belongs to the Bronze Age.
  • The Indus valley civilization gradually developed to a full-fledged civilization which has been established through a continuous sequence of strata named as Pre-Harappan, Early Harappan, Mature Harappan and Late Harappan stages or phases.
  • The long term indigenous evolution of this civilization which obviously began on the periphery of the Indus Valley in the hills of eastern Baluchistan and then extended so far into the plains, can be documented by an analysis of four sites which have been excavated in recent years: Mehargarh, Amri, Kalibangan and Lothal which reflect the sequence of the four important phases or stages in pre and proto history in the north-west region of the Indian sub-continent.
  • The sequence begins with the transition of nomadic herdsmen to settled agriculturists in eastern Baluchistan (First Phase), continues with the growth of large villages and the rise of towns in the Indus Valley (Second Phase), leads to the emergence of the great cities (Third Phase), and finally, and ends with their decline (Fourth Phase).
  • Mediterranean, Proto-Australoid, Mongoloids and Alpines formed the bulk of the population, though the first two were more numerous.
  • More than 100 sites belonging to this civilization have been excavated.
  • According to radio-carbon dating, it spread from the year 2500-1750 B.C.
  • Copper, bronze, silver and gold were known but not iron.

Geographical Extent

  • Covered parts of Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Gujarat, Rajasthan and some parts of Western U.P.  It extended from Manda in Jammu in the north to Daimabad in the south and from Alamgirpur in western U.P. to Sutkagendor in Baluchistan in the west.
  • Major sites in Pakistan are Harappa (on river Ravi in west Punjab), Mohenjodaro (on Indus), Chanhu-Daro (Sindh), etc.
  • In India the major sites are Lothal, Rangpur and Surkotda (Gujarat), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Banawali (Hissar Haryana) and Alamgirpur (western U.P.)
  • The largest and the latest site in India is Dholavira in Gujarat. Dr. J.P. Joshi and Dr. R.S. Bisht were involved in it.

Town Planning

  • The Indus Valley people were primarily urban people. Elaborate town-planning following the Grid System. Roads were well cut dividing the town into large rectangular or square blocks. Lamp posts at intervals indicate the existence of street lightening. Flanking the streets, lanes and by-lanes were well-planned houses. The streets were quite broad varying from 9 feet to 34 feet in breadth.
  • Burnt bricks of good quality were used for building material except in Rangpur and Kalibangan. Elsewhere in the contemporary world mud bricks were used. No pottery-kiln was allowed to be built within the four walls of the city.
  • Houses were often of two or more storey, of varying sizes but were quite monotonous – a square courtyard around which were a number of rooms.
  • The windows faced the streets and the houses had tiled bathrooms. It is especially noteworthy that almost every house had its own wells, bathrooms, courtyards, drains and kitchens.
  • There was a good drainage system and drains were made of mortar, lime and gypsum and covered with large brick slabs for easy cleaning which shows a developed sense of health and sanitation.
  • Every house had its own soak-pit which collected all the sediments and allowed only the water to flow into the street drain. House drains emptied themselves into the main drains which ran under the main streets and below many lanes. There were special trenches constructed outside every city for the rubbish to be thrown in them.
  • The towns were divided into two parts: Upper part or Citadel and the Lower part. The Citadel was an oblong artificial platform some 30-50 feet high and about some 400-200 yards in area. It was enclosed by a thick (13 m in Harappa) crenellated mud brick wall. The Citadel comprised of public buildings whereas the lower part comprised of public dwellings.
  • In Mohenjodaro, a big public bath (Great Bath) measuring 12 m by 7 m and 2.4 m deep has been found. Steps led from either end to the surface, with changing rooms alongside. The Great Bath was probably used for ritual bathing.
The Great BathThe Great Granary
  • Lamp posts at intervals indicate the existence of street lighting.
  • There were special series constructed for the travelers and a system of watch and word at night also existed.

Political Organization/Municipalities

  • There is no clear idea of the political organization of the Indus valley people. Perhaps they were more concerned with commerce and they were possibly ruled by a class of merchants.
  • Also there was an organization like a municipal corporation to look after the civic amenities of the people.

Economic Life


The Indus people sowed seeds in the flood plains in November, when the flood water receded, and reaped their harvests of wheat and barley in April, before the advent of the next flood which indicated agriculture and knowledge of calendar reading.

The people grew wheat, barley, rai, peas, sesamum, mustard, rice (in Lothal), cotton, dates, melon, etc. The Indus people were the first to produce cotton in the world.

In Kalibangan, fields were ploughed with wooden ploughs.

Domestication of animals was done on a large scale. Besides the cattle, sheep, pigs, camels, cats and dogs were domesticated. Horses weren’t in regular use but elephant was. Remains of horse at Surkotda and dogs with men in graves in Ropar have been discovered.

Produced sufficient to feed themselves. There was no exchange of foodgrains/export or import.

Food grains were stored in granaries. Eg. In Harappa and Mohenjodaro.

Trade and Commerce

Well-knit external and internal trade. There was no metallic money in circulation and trade was carried through Barter System.

Weights and measures of accuracy existed in Harappan culture (found at Lothal). The weights were made of limestone, steatite, etc. and were generally cubical in shape.

16 was the unit of measurement (16, 64, 160, 320).

Harappan seals were made of Terra Cotta.

Flint tool-work, shell-work, bangle-making (famous in Kalibangan), etc. were practiced. Raw materials for these came from different sources: gold from north Karnataka, silver and Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan and Iran, copper from Khetri and Baluchistan, etc.

Bead making factories existed in Chanhudaro and Lothal. They were items of export.

A dockyard has been discovered at Lothal. Rangpur, Somnath and Balakot functioned as seaports. Sutkagendor and Sutkakoh functioned as outlets.

The inland transport was carried out by bullock carts.

Every merchant or mercantile family probably had a seal bearing an emblem often of a religious character, and a name or brief description, on one side. The standard Harappa seal was a square or oblong plaque made of steatite stone. The primary purpose of the seal was probably to mark the ownership of property, but they may have also served as amulets. Harappa The Mesopotamian records from about 2350 B.C. onwards refer to trade relations with Meluhha, the ancient name of the Indus region. Harappan seals and other material have been found at Mesopotamia. There were also instances of trade with Sumer, Babylonia, Egypt, etc.

Art and Craft

  • The Harappan culture belongs to the Bronze Age and bronze was made by mixing tin and copper.
  • Tools were mostly made of copper and bronze. For making bronze, copper was obtained from Khetri in Rajasthan and from Baluchistan and tin from Afghanistan.
  • The people of this culture were not acquainted with iron at all.
  • The Indus Valley people had achieved a great skill in drawing the figures of men, animals and various other objects of nature and were fully conversant with the art of craving with figures on ivory, soap-stone, leather, metal and wood proving their artistic acumen.
  • Cotton fabrics were quite common and woolens were popular in winter.
  • One male figure or a statue shows that generally two garments were worn and the female dress was more or less like that of a male.
  • The Indus valley people were very fond of ornaments (of gold, silver, ivory, copper, bronze and precious stones) and dressing up. Ornaments were worn by both men and women, rich or poor.
  • Women wore heavy bangles in profusion, large necklaces, ear-rings, bracelets, figure-rings, girdles, nose-studs and anklets. The Harappans were expert bead makers.
  • They were fully conscious of the various fashions of hair-dressing and wore beards of different styles.

Harappan Seals

  • Potter’s wheel was in use. The Indus Valley Pottery was red or black pottery and the people indulged in dice games, their favorite pastime being gambling.
  • The Harrapans most notable artistic achievement was their seal engravings especially those of animals. The red sandstone torso of a man is particularly impressive for its realism. However the most impressive of the figurines is the bronze image of a dancing girl (identified as a devdassi) found at Mohenjodaro.
  • Maximum number of seals discovered is made of steatite with the unicorn symbol being discovered on the maximum number of seals.
  • For their children, the Harappans made cattle-toys with moveable heads, model monkeys which could slide down a string, little toy carts and whistles shaped like birds all of terracotta.

Religious Life

  • The main object of worship was the Mother Goddess or Shakti. But the upper classes preferred a God – nude with two horns, much similar to Pashupati Shiva. Represented on the seal is a figure with three horned heads in a yogic posture, surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros and below his throne is a buffalo. Near his feet are two deer.
  • Pashupatinath represented the male deity.
PashupatinathMother GoddessSwastik
  • The elaborate bathing arrangement marking the city of Mohenjodaro would suggest that religious purification by bath formed a feature of the Indus Valley people.
  • Phallus (lingam) and yoni worship was also prevalent.
  • Many trees (pepal), animals (bull), birds (dove, pigeon) and stones were worshipped. Unicorns were also worshipped. However no temple has been found though idolatry was practiced.
  • At Kalibangan and Lothal fire altars have been found.
  • Although no definite proof is available with regard to disposal of the dead, a broad view is that there were probably three methods of disposing the dead – complete burial (laid towards north), burial after exposure of the body to birds and beasts, and cremation followed by burial of the ashes. The discovery of cinerary urns and jars, goblets or vessels with ashes, bones or charcoal may however suggest that during the flourishing period of the Indus valley culture, the third method was generally practiced. In Harappa, there is one place where evidence of coffin burial is there. The people probably believed in ghosts and spirits as amulets were worn.
  • Dead bodies were placed in the north-south orientation.
  • It appears from excavations that the people of this culture were well-versed with surgery. For example, some evidences have come from both Kalibangan and Lothal hinting at head surgery. Otherwise, they used to take recourse to black magic, amulets etc.Script
  • The script is not alphabetical but pictographic (about 600 undeciphered pictographs).
  • The script has not been deciphered so far, but overlaps of letters show that it was written from right to left in the first line and left to right in the second line. This style is called ‘Boustrophedon’.


So far nearly 1000 sites of nearly, mature and late phases of the Indus Civilization are known in the sub-continent. But the number of the sites belonging to the mature phase is limited, and of them only half a dozen like Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal, Chanhu-daro and Banwali can be regarded as cities.

Of these, Mohenjo-daro and Harappa situated at a distance of 483 km and linked together by the river Indus are most important, both on account of their size and the diversity of the finds, which excavations have revealed.


  • Literally, the ‘mound of the dead’ is situated in Larkana district of Sind on the right bank of the River Indus. Mohenjo-Daro was first excavated by R.D. Banerjee in 1922.
  • This city is also an extreme example of conservatism, as despite having been flooded almost nine times, they never tried to shift to a safer place. Rather, they came back to the original site whenever the water table receded. Nor did they ever try to build strong embankments to protect themselves from floods.
  • The major findings here include a citadel, a college, a multi-pillared Assembly Hall, a public bath (the Great Bath) and a large granary (inside the citadel) consisting of a podium of square blocks and burnt with a wooden superstructure.
  • The Great Bath was excavated by Sir John Marshal and regarded as the most important public place measuring 11.88 metres, 7.01 metres and 2.43 metres deep approachable by two staircases from north and south; around it was a pillared verandah with dressing rooms. It is an example of beautiful brickwork, bitumen coated with gypsum in mortar made it water proof. Perhaps it was used for ritual bathing.
  • A piece of woven cotton; bronze dancing girl; seals of three-headed Pashupati Mahadeo; steatite-statuette of a bearded man supposed to be a priest-king; terracotta figurines of a horse from a superficial level; a seal and two potshed depicting ships; bronze buffalo and ram, etc. are the major findings here.
  • Three cylindrical seals of Mesopotamian type have also been found here.


  • It is situated in the Montgomery district of Punjab, now in Pakistan on the left bank of the River Ravi.
  • It is perhaps the largest Indus site in magnitude and dimension. The structures of Harappa cover 5 km in circuit and in the way is one of the largest of its type in the Bronze Age.
  • The vast mounds at Harappa were first reported by Charles Masson in 1826, and preliminary excavation was done by Daya Ram Sahni in 1921.
  • Major findings include – a granary (outside the citadel) consisting of twelve oblong blocks in an area 800 sq. metres; between the granary and the citadel have also been found a series of circular platforms probably for the pounding of grain, because wheat and barley have been found in the crevices.
  • Little bullock carts and ‘Ekkas’ besides copper or bronze models of carts with seated drivers have also been found.
  • It is the only site, which yields the evidence of coffin burial probably of a foreigner from the west. Rigveda (Mandal VI) mentions it as ‘Harupiya’ – a battle site ruins.

Kalibangan (Sothi culture)

  • It is situated in Ganga Nagar district of northern Rajasthan on the banks of the now dry course of the Ghaggar River and was first excavated by A. Ghoshin 1953.
  • Here, the massive mud-brick wall around citadel and lower town was supported by corner tower and ‘bastions’.
  • Evidence of furrows land (pre-Harappan) and wooden furrow comes from this site only.
  • Evidence of fire-altar in houses suggests the practice of fire-cult.
  • Copper was known, as is attested by copper bead as well as a cell and few other objectives.
  • The existence of wheel conveyance is proved by a cartwheel having a single hub.
  • The pottery has six fabrics, all wheel made, as at Kot-Diji, but unlike Amri, where in the lowest levels, the majority was hand-made.
  • The predominant pottery is red or pink with black, or bichrome black white painting.
  • Animal sacrifice is suggested by a big public fire-pit altar made of burnt bricks on a platform situated in the outer city containing bones of cattle. At this site evidence of restricted use of bunt bricks confined largely to bathrooms, wells and latrines.
  • There is no clear-cut evidence of drainage system here.
  • Bones of a camel.


  • It is situated in Gujarat on Bhogavar River near Gulf of Cambay.
  • It was excavated by Prof. S.R. Rao in 1957. It is a small but interesting site.
  • It differs from the other sites so far as the houses open on to the main street and there is no citadel complex.
  • An interesting finding here is an artificial brick dockyard (219×37 meters) connected through the Bhogavar River with the Gulf of Cambay.
  • It is the only place along with Rangpur where rice husk has been found. Terracotta figurines of a horse are also found here.
  • Terracotta model of a ship with a stick-impressed socket for the mast and eyeholes for fixing rigging, which is found here, may suggest sea trade.
  • Fire attars have also been found.
  • It is the only Indus site, which bears the evidence of joint burial of male and female suggesting the practice of ‘Sati’.
  • A ‘Persian Gulf’ type of seal has been found here.
  • The site is also known for bead-makers factory.


  • It is situated in Sind on the lefts plains of the Indus about 130 km south of Mohenjo-daro.
  • It has no citadel.
  • The site is most famous for bead-makers factory.
  • The site was a major centre for craft production – seal, shell bead and bangle manufacturing shops.
  • Other findings include a small pot, probably an inkpot; evidence of mustard; foot prints of a dog chasing those of a cat across one wet surface of some brickwork; copper or bronze models of carts with seated drivers etc.


  • It is situated at a distance of 100 miles north-east of Amri on the left bank of the Indus and was excavated in and after 1955 by the Pakistan Archaeological department.
  • There are indications at various points that the early settlement was subject to floods and that stones were piled up as a protection against their action.
  • The material culture included a chart-blade industry with some serrated blades, and other blades reportedly bearing ‘sickle glass’.
  • It is not clear whether there were any objects of copper but a fragment of a bronze bangle is reported.
  • The pottery was of a distinctive character, which was decorated to have developed from bands of brownish paint.
  • An interesting motif appears to have developed from bands of loops and wavy lines into the well-known fish-scale pattern, which later appears on Harappan pottery.
  • With the exception of writing and long stone blades, the Kot-Dijians had everything that Harappans were known for.
  • At Kot-Diji the foundations of the fortification wall and houses are of stone.
  • There is plenty of evidence to show that Kot-Diji was destroyed of fire.


  • It is situated in Sind west of the River Indus and was excavated under the direction of N.G. Majumdar in 1929 and later by a French team directed by J.M. Casal.
  • Here, fragments of copper and bronze, a chart blade industry, wheel thrown pottery showing a wide variety of painted motifs, mainly geometric, in both plain and polychrome styles have been found.
  • From this site, comes a beautiful painted humped Indian bull.


  • It is a coastal site and is situated at the head of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.
  • It was first excavated by J. Joshi in 1964.
  • Here, both citadel and lower town is fortified – the two being connected by an intercommunicating gate.
  • The most important finding here are the bones of horse (2000 BC).


  • It is on the Makran coast where Sir Aurel Stein dug some trial trenches.
  • There is existence of a great fortification around the Harappan outpost here.
  • The citadel here was fortified in rubble stone instead of bricks.
  • Perhaps the site was a trading port.


  • It is situated in Hissar district of Haryana on the bank of the now dry course of river Sarasvati.
  • It was first excavated in 1974 by R.S. Bisht.
  • A good quantity of barley has been found here.
  • The sites like Kalibangan also show pre-Harappan and Harappan phases.


  • It is situated in the district of the same name in Punjab on the bank of river Sutlej and was first excavated by Y.D. Sharma in 1953.
  • Both Harappan and post-Harappan phase have been noticed here.


  • It is situated in Jhalwar district of Gujarat near Ahmedabad and was excavated by M.S. Vats in 1931.
  • All three phases of Harappan culture i.e. pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan have been found here.
  • The most important finding here are rice husks.
  • No seal or image of Mother Goddess has been found here.


  • It is situated in Meerut district of U.P. and represents the last phase i.e. of post-Harappan culture.


  • It is situated in Gujarat and seems to be a big site but is not much excavated.


  • The Harappan culture lasted for around 1000 years.
  • The invasion of the Aryans, recurrent floods (7 floods), social breakup of Harappans, Earthquakes, successive alteration in the course of the river Indus and the subsequent drying up of the areas in and around the major cities, etc. are listed as possible causes for the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization.


  • Traces of general decline in civic standard are noticed towards the last phase of Indus Civilization. Town planning was abandoned and public buildings fell in ruin. Water supply system fell in disrepair. Kiln entered city limits. Dilapidated bricks were roused. Script degenerated. Weights and measures and seals disappeared. External and internal trade declined. Some exotic tools and pottery found in the upper levels indicate foreign intrusion in the north. Several causes have been given for the decline.
  • There is no unanimous view pertaining to the cause for the decline of the Harappan culture. Various theories have been postulated.
  • Natural calamities like recurring floods, drying up of rivers, decreasing fertility of the soil due to excessive exploitation and occasional earthquakes might have caused the decline of the Harappan cities.
  • According to some scholars the final blow was delivered by the invasion of Aryans.
  • The destruction of forts is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Also, the discovery of human skeletons huddled together at Mohenjodaro indicates that the city was invaded by foreigners.
  • The Aryans had superior weapons as well as swift horses which might have enabled them to become masters of this region.

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