Revised Notes and Live Class- Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization

Indus valley civilization or Harappan civilization, the earliest known urban culture of the Indian subcontinent. The nuclear dates of the civilization appear to be about 2500–1700 BCE, though the southern sites may have lasted later into the 2nd millennium BCE.

The civilization was first identified in 1921 at Harappa in the Punjab region and then in 1922 at Mohenjodaro, near the Indus River in the Sindh region. Both sites are in present-day Pakistan, in Punjab and Sindh provinces, respectively. The ruins of Mohenjodaro were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.

The Indus civilization apparently evolved from the villages of neighbours or predecessors, using the Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture with sufficient skill to reap the advantages of the spacious and fertile Indus River valley while controlling the formidable annual flood that simultaneously fertilizes and destroys. Having obtained a secure foothold on the plain and mastered its more immediate problems, the new civilization, doubtless with a well-nourished and increasing population, would find expansion along the flanks of the great waterways an inevitable sequel.

The civilization subsisted primarily by farming, supplemented by an appreciable but often elusive commerce. Wheat and six-row barley were grown; field peas, mustard, sesame, and a few date stones have also been found, as well as some of the earliest known traces of cotton. Domesticated animals included dogs and cats, humped and shorthorn cattle, domestic fowl, and possibly pigs, camels, and buffalo. The Asian elephant probably was also domesticated, and its ivory tusks were freely used. Minerals, unavailable from the alluvial plain, were sometimes brought in from far afield. Gold was imported from southern India or Afghanistan, silver and copper from Afghanistan or northwestern India (present-day Rajasthan state), lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, turquoise from Iran (Persia), and a jadelike fuchsite from southern India.

Salient features of indus valley civilization

  • The Harappan culture covered parts of Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan, Gujarat, Rajasthan and the fringes of western Uttar’ “Pradesh. It extended from Jammu in the north to the Narmada estuary in the South, and from the Makran coast of Baluchistan in the west to Meerut in the north-east.
  • The area formed a triangle and accounted for about 1,299,600 square kilometers. Recent Carbon-14 dating indicate the period of the mature Harappan civilization to be from C.2,800/2,900-1,800 B.C. Modern research on the Harappan civiliation, establishing evidence of their contact with the Mesopotamian Civilization also corroborates this dating.
  • The most remarkable feature of the Harappan civilization was its urbanisation. Each city was divided into a citadel area where the essential institutions of Civil and religious life were located and the lower residential area where the urban population lived.
  • The Harappans cultivated wheat and barley, peas and dates and also sesame and mustard which were used for oil. However, the people cultivated rice as early as 1,800 B.C. in Lothal. The Harappans were the earliest people to grow cotton. Irrigation depended on the irregular flooding of the rivers of Punjab and Sind.

Important excavation sites related to Indus valley civilization are as follows:

Mohenjo daro

Archaeologists first visited Mohenjo Daro in 1911. Several excavations occurred in the 1920s through 1931. Small probes took place in the 1930s, and subsequent digs occurred in 1950 and 1964.

The ancient city sits on elevated ground in the modern-day Larkana district of Sindh province in Pakistan.  During its heyday from about 2500 to 1900 B.C., the city was among the most important to the Indus civilization, Possehl says. It spread out over about 250 acres (100 hectares) on a series of mounds, and the Great Bath and an associated large building occupied the tallest mound.

The city lacks ostentatious palaces, temples, or monuments. There’s no obvious central seat of government or evidence of a king or queen. Modesty, order, and cleanliness were apparently preferred. Pottery and tools of copper and stone were standardized. Seals and weights suggest a system of tightly controlled trade.

The city’s wealth and stature is evident in artifacts such as ivory, lapis, carnelian, and gold beads, as well as the baked-brick city structures themselves.

A miniature bronze statuette of a nude female, known as the dancing girl, was celebrated by archaeologists when it was discovered in 1926, Kenoyer notes.  Of greater interest to him, though, are a few stone sculptures of seated male figures, such as the intricately carved and colored Priest King, so called even though there is no evidence he was a priest or king.


The vast mounds at Harappa stand on the left bank of the now dry course of the Ravi River in the Punjab. They were excavated between 1920 and 1934 by the Archaeological Survey of India, in 1946 by Wheeler, and in the late 20th century by an American and Pakistani team. When first discovered, the extensive surviving brick ramparts led to the site’s being described as a ruined brick castle. The lower city is partly occupied by a modern village, and it has been seriously disturbed by erosion and brick robbers. The citadel, to the west, is roughly a parallelogram on plan, measuring approximately 1,300 by 650 feet (400 by 200 metres). Excavation there revealed a great platform of mud brick about 20 feet (6 metres) in thickness, with a massive brick wall around the perimeter. Below the defenses were discovered traces of the Early Harappan Period.

The excavations were not extensive enough to reveal the layout of the interior, but about six building periods were discovered above the platform. The most interesting remains were discovered immediately north of the citadel, close to the bed of the river: there were a series of circular platforms evidently intended to hold mortars for pounding grain; a remarkable series of brick plinths, which are inferred to have formed the podium for two rows of six granary buildings, each 50 by 20 feet (15 by 6 metres) and of a different design from those at Mohenjo-daro; a series of pear-shaped furnaces, apparently used for metallurgy; and two rows of single-roomed barracks, which are generally thought to have been occupied by servants. Two other discoveries at Harappa were made to the south of the citadel. There two cemeteries were found—“R. 37,” belonging to the Harappan Period, and “H,” dating from the Late or even Post-Harappan Period.


It lies on the left bank of the now dry course of the river Ghaggar (ancient Saraswati) in the district of Ganganagar in Rajasthan. It was excavated by Thapar from 1960 to 1969. Basically it revealed two periods of occupation.

Period I is designated to a pre Indus culture although even at this period the habitation area is fortified in the manner of the Harappan or Indus cities. The structures are all of mud bricks measuring 30 × 20 × 10 cm. The habitational units are built within this walled structure. Interesting evidence of cooking practice is demonstrated in the finds of earthen oven constructed both above ground as well as underground.

Another interesting feature of this phase is the occurrence of cylindrical pits dug in the ground and coated with lime plastering. It is interpreted as tanks for storing drinking water. Ceramic types are varied and at least 6 different fabrics among them are described. Many of these fabrics show rows of cord impression used to decorate the exterior.

The other finds include blades of chalcedony and agate, beads of steatite (disc), carnelian, terra cotta and copper. Bangles of shell and terra cotta, terra cotta objects like toy cart, wheel and bull figurine are the art objects known. Quern stones with mullers, bone points and copper celts are also recorded.

The evidence of a ploughed field located in the south-east of the settlement outside the town wall is another unique evidence of Kalibangan. The plan of the furrows and grids constructed has been taken to interpret the probability of cultivating two different cereals at the same time. The date of pre-Harappan, i.e. Period I is C.2450-2300 B.C. and is taken as comparable to Amri and Kot Diji.

No evidence of regular street drains has so far been found. House drains discharge themselves into soakage jars buried under street floors. Other antiquities of this phase are chert blades (ribbon flakes), chert weights, terra cotta animal figurines, a terra cotta cake, typical mature Harappan pottery, terra cotta human head, bull, a graduated scale and ivory comb and bull made in copper.


In Pakistan spread over the Cholistan region a number of Harappan sites have been recorded with different type of cultural features occurring in the base. Mostly these pre-Harappan levels are these days being referred to as Early Harappan i.e., these are no longer being considered outside the phenomenon of Harappa. However, Sothi has still survived these unifying attempts. This is probably because this type of culture is also being described from Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. Hence the term used to designate it is “Sothi culture”.

Sothi is situated near Nohar in Ganganagar district of Rajasthan. The site was excavated by A. Ghosh (1987). The fabric of the Sothi is red with a white base. Painting is executed with black colour but sometimes cord impression or rusticated surface is created by wet hand. It was argued that Sothi although seems quite different and distinct, must be parallel to early Harappa and continues at places upto mature Harappa.


It is basically a later Harappan site in the Siwalik foot hills near the river Sutlej. It is described as showing three distinct culture phases beginning with late Harappans. Besides structural remains and the characteristic ceramic types it yields square steatite Indus seal, cubical chert weights, a copper celt and long chert blades.


It is situated in the district of Sangrur in Punjab. The lowest of the 3.10 meters deposit yields both pre-Harappan as well as Bara ceramics. The walls and floors of some of the structures are of mud brick. The antiquities described are pestles, stone pounders, terra cotta cakes, cart frames, wheels, bangles and bracelets. Beads of steatite, faience and terra cotta are also there. Bone points, fragment of copper blade and wire shaped into a ring form the rest of the material.


The site is situated 80 km. south-west of Ahmedabad near the head of the Gulf of Cambay. The excavation reveals 5 phases of continuous occupation. It uncovered fortification structures constructed with mud and mud bricks. The citadel houses both private and public buildings.

The residential area shows series of rooms each with brick paved bath and underground drainage system with silting chambers and cesspools. On the eastern flank of the city is the dockyard. Both at the ware house or granary and the dock seals of Persian Gulf have been discovered. Besides the typical Harappan ceramics some other pottery types are also recorded here.


Ever since the basic characters of Indus cities were tentatively worked out on the basis of the major excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, more and more sites are coming to light. These are both of varying nature as also extension. The sites on the western extension across the Indus are probably as variant in their specific details as those known from the eastern extension of the Civilization from Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

One of the largest known Indus sites in the world has now been discovered in a modest village in Bachau taluka of district Kutch in Gujarat. It is situated on the north-western corner of the Khadir, which is a large island surrounded from all sides by the Great Rann of Kutch. It was discovered way back in 1967-68 by the then Director General of Archaeological Survey-Shri J.P. Joshi. It is being excavated by Shri R.S. Bisht, now for almost a decade. The excavation has confirmed a stratigraphic sequence of pre-mature and post-urban Indus cultures through an enormous regular occupational deposit of 12 meter thickness.

The first occupation of the site was by a population similar to the Amri type Pre-Harappan group, who have left behind a 60 to 70 cm. deposit. They were familiar with the use of moulded bricks measuring 36 × 18 × 9 cms, and also the manufacture of wheel-made pottery of diverse fabrics decorated in different styles. They had also acquired technical knowledge of copper working and stone dressing.

perhaps the most significant feature of Dholavira is the evidence of a large water reservoir provided in the heart of the castle. This is 13 meters wide and has a length of more than 35 meters. A fine net-work of drains is used to collect rain water and lead it to this reservoir. Water collected at several spots which are connected with polished water-chute into deep chambers. A drain issuing from the chamber led it to the reservoir. Many of these connecting pipes are of terra-cotta.

Beads of semi-precious stones, gold, copper, shell, steatite, faience and clay objects, usual copper objects including a pin with two spiral heads, bangles of stones, terra-cotta models of cart frames, wheels, animals, gamesmen, triangular cakes and a variety of stone querns, grinders, rubbers, polishers, pestles and mortar used for domestic as well as for manufacturing purposes are the other objects recovered.

Dholavia opens an entirely new avenue of inquiry about the connection of the Harappans with the 3rd Millennium B.C. occupations from Oman and Yemen in the Arabian coast land, and hence possibly also with the African continent. Cultivation of millets in these Arabian sites might have subsequently influenced the Indian groups of later Chalcolithic occurrences. At least the arrival of Ragi and Hulgi in the Deccan Chalcolithic need not now be taken as a parallel evolution with Africa.


It is situated in the district of Surendranagar in Gujarat and is situated on the bank of the river Sukha Bhadar. Excavations reveal 3 periods of occupation. Period I is designated as Pre-ceramic Microlithic; Period II as Mature Harappa and Period III characterized by Lustrous red ware. The Harappan phase is further divided into 3 sub phases named as IIA, IIB and IIC.

Period IIA yields almost all Harappan wares in addition to a red micaceous form and black-and-red ware. Cylindrical carnelian beads, lenticular agate beads, disc beads, chert blades, gold, cubical weights, shell bangles, copper pins, bangles, rings and cells are the other antiquities recorded from this period.


It is situated near Rajkot in Gujarat and lies along the river Sukh Bhadar. There are three occupation phases described. The oldest deposit is designated to the post urban phase of Harappan culture. This period I is subdivided into IA, IB and IC. These phases show mud walls, mud bricks and other structural remains of poor quality. Yet the antiquities found from this period are typically Harappan. Red and Buff ware, chert blades, cubical weight of chert and agate, beads of carnelian and terra cotta, copper objects and inscribed pot-sherds are the Harappan material found.

But the joint excavation of Indo-American team of the site revealed large amount of additional material as well as radiocarbon dates. This will indicate that most of the Rojdi occupation occurred during the urban phase of Harappan culture in the Indus plains.

Prabhas Patan

It is situated on the mouth of the Haryana on the coast of Saurashtra. Excavations revealed 5 cultural levels at this site. The older three phases are attributed to Chalcolithic phase while the younger two phases belong to Iron Age. Period I, which is further sub-divided into sections A and B is characterised by an incised burnished grey ware, red slipped and black-and-red ware.

The shapes and painted designs resemble late Harappan ceramics. Microliths and segmented faience beads are the important artifacts of this period. Period II represents a mossy grey coloured painted pottery and this has been termed as Prabhas Ware. The houses in this period are rectangular and are built with local miliolite rock.


It is another important Harappan site lying in the district Kutch of Gujarat and is about 160 km. north­east of Bhuj. Three distinct phases are identified in the excavation. The earliest phase or IA is established on virgin soil. The citadel area is 60 × 120 m and is prepared with rubbles and mud bricks. The ceramics includes typical Harappan wares in addition to black-and-red ware and unpainted red ware.

A red slipped polychrome ware with cream coloured slip along with reserve slip surface treatment is another significant type. Beads of steatite, lapis, carnelian, faience and terra cotta are fairly common. In addition rings and bangles of copper and spear heads of copper are also collected from this period.


It is a major Harappan site situated in Hissar district of Haryana. Unlike other Haryana sites Banawali shows more proximity with Rajasthan. It yields the three fold sequence of Pre-Harappan, Harappan and Late Harappan in the Kalibangan pattern. The mound stands on the bank of the ancient river Saraswati.

The pre-Harappan phase is represented by 3 meter thick debris and is marked by all the six different fabrics known from Kalibangan ceramics. A berrant sized bricks, kiln, burnt bricks, 2 meter wide brick-on-edge pavement, ruins of houses, several hearths and fire pits etc., characterise this phase.

The other important antiquities of this phase are points and awls of bones, microlithic blades made on chalcedony, bangles of terra cotta, shells, copper and faience and beads of steatite, faience, shell, bone and gold. Stone weights and terra cotta animal figurines are also recorded. The pottery types consist of vases, perforated vase, beakers, basins, handis with s-profile and dish-on- stand. Another interesting find is a sherd in which a canopied cart with spoked wheels is depicted.

Mature Harappan phase show distinctive fortified and planned township showing two adjoining parts and a seven meter thick wall separating from the citadel area and a residential annexe. In the residential area the houses are prepared by mud-bricks. The roads are more in the manner of radius within a circle than the original Harappan plan of rectangular bylanes.

Besides ceramics other typical Harappan finds are chert blades, spear heads and arrow heads of copper, bangles and beads, plough share and animal figurines, steatite Indus seals bearing Indus script, beads of lapis, etched carnelian, and copper with gold foils.


This is situated in Meerut district and is near the river Hindon. Four cultural phases are identified here. Period-I is designated to Post Urban phase or Late Harappan period. Excavation revealed structures of burnt bricks. The ceramic content is poorer than Harappan both in technique as well as shape and decoration. It is quite likely that Alamgirpur evidences rise out of new and entirely local ceramic tradition which might have risen from a Late Harappan base.

Architecture of indus valley civilization

The architecture of Indus civilization that is mainly observable in Moenjodaro and Harappa had three basic characteristics: an outstanding uniformity, exceptional regularity, and bearing a primary and paramount stage of civilized planning.

Moenjodaro was, indeed, one of the most modern towns of Indus civilization. It was destroyed and reconstructed for nine times. It had three roads running from North to South and in-between from East to West were two roads intersecting them to make twelve blocks, which were further divided into streets and alleys.

Moenjodaro was divided into two parts: upper and lower. The upper part was for the elite and the lower one for the working class. The upper part was a sort of citadel. It was forty feet high and built on an artificial mud-brick platform. The walls were made of baked bricks. Such citadels were present in the areas close to the river and the fortification was mainly a protective and precautionary measure against the floods. Some other buildings were also fortified. On the side of the outer wall of citadel, there was a huge timber building (150 feet long and 75 feet wide). It was the granary of Moenjodaro. It had no inner division but the one in Harappa had twelve units. The granary had a good ventilation system. The granary in Harappa was in the lower town near the river probably because of a flourmill. According to Wheeler, “such granaries were very important for the economy. They were like state banks since they were considered affluent if they had abundance of grains”. They used to pay their workers in kind. Although granaries were also found in Egypt and Mesopotamia but the architecture of Indus granaries was much better than those of Egypt and Mesopotamia. A 730 feet long dock was also found in Lothal.

The houses had double stories with simple exterior walls. Their outlook seemed to be dull but inside they were profusely decorated. Wooden balconies were also common in the country yards. They had an effective sewage/drainage system. Drains started from the bathrooms of the houses and joined the main sewer in the street, which was covered by brick slabs or brick arches, depending on its width. Public wells were accessible at small distances and cells for the watchmen were built at the corner of each street.

Another interesting feature was ‘Great Bath’. It was a forty feet long pool with waterproof walls. Two sets of stairs were going in depth that might have some sort of religious significance. The prevalent view is that it was used for ritualistic bathing On the right side of the Great bath was a tall building with small cubicles. It is guessed that it was a college for students of religion including a residence for religious scholars. Towards the Southern part of the citadel was a pillared hall. Archeologists think that it was an ‘Assembly Hall’ or maybe a center of government for performing administrative functions.

Political system of indus valley civilization

Archaeological records provide no immediate answers regarding a center of authority, or depictions of people in power in Harappan society. The extraordinary uniformity of Harappan artifacts is evident in pottery, seals, weights, and bricks with standardized sizes and weights, suggesting some form of authority and governance.  Over time, three major theories have developed concerning Harappan governance or system of rule. The first is that there was a single state encompassing all the communities of the civilization, given the similarity in artifacts, the evidence of planned settlements, the standardized ratio of brick size, and the apparent establishment of settlements near sources of raw material. The second theory posits that there was no single ruler, but a number of them representing each of the urban centers, including Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and other communities. Finally, experts have theorized that the Indus Valley Civilization had no rulers as we understand them, with everyone enjoying equal status.





Town planning: Planned Cities of Indus Valley Civilization

The cities of Indus valley appear to have been laid out in accordance with some planning. In Mohenjo-Daro the streets run in straight lines and are crossed by others at right angles. This shows planning and existence of some authority to control the development of the city existed. Town-planning was also accompanied with strict enforcement of building regulations as greatest care was taken to prevent any structure from encroaching upon the streets. The people seem to have been extremely wealthy judging from the excellent masonry and carefully built houses. In Indus Valley Architecture, throughout the area, civic planning was based on a rectangular grid orientated to the cardinal points and standardized brick was the main building material. A high proportion of the population lived in substantial, well-drained courtyard houses.

Wide streets and thoroughfares were common. The buildings were made of burnt bricks which were devoid of decoration. There were no windows and the entrances were placed in narrow by-ways. There was a police system as the cities with the area were divided into wards for protection. There were two or more storeys in the buildings. The pottery jars were used as cupboards and probably there were wooden shelves also. Beds, stools and boxes were used. Most of the cooking was done in the courtyards though there were small kitchens. Buildings in many street corners suggest hotels or eating houses where merchants and others would have met to arrange business deals and to combine gossip with eating and drinking. Stone was used in frontier towns.

The streets were all aligned from east to west or from north to south as a north or south wind sweeps down a broad thoroughfare. This would suck the stagnant air out of the smaller streets and lanes running at right angles thereby amply ventilating them. Sanitation and cleanliness as bath rooms were used and proper drainage system was found in all buildings. The spill-way of many of the channels used for drainage was stepped at varying angles so that the water pouring down should not splash the passer-by in the street. Each and every street had its brick-lined drainage channel and small lanes. Through these ran smaller tributary drains from the houses on either side. The waste water and sewage from the various houses first passed into a sump or cess-pit in which the solid matter was deposited. When the sump was three quarters full, the water flowed into the larger drains, and by this method overflowing was prevented. Large brick culverts were constructed on the outskirts of the city to carry away storm water. Excellent sanitary engineering was followed at that time. Excellent water-supply was maintained as wells were used.

Drainage system and sanitation in Indus valley civilization

The most prominent feature of Harappan era architecture is the drainage system. It shows how important cleanliness was for them, and it was achieved through having a series of drains running along the streets that connected to larger sewers in the main streets. Smaller drains from household latrines and bathing areas connected to these larger drains, which had corbelled roofs so they could be buried underneath the main streets when required without caving in. Some sections had removable brick paving or dressed stones on top to allow cleaning when required. Drains exiting the city even had wooden doors that were probably closed at night to prevent vagrants or negative elements from entering the city through that access. Sump pits were found at intervals along the drains which allowed heavier solid waste to collect at the bottom. These were regularly cleaned to avoid blockages. There is evidence in some places of drains being blocked for a long period of time, possible 100 to 150 years, after which new drains were made by a new incoming authority. Coupled with this new construction the entire street level ended up rising to the extent that after consecutive re-constructions, entire stories of buildings had to be covered over and the ground level raised in order to bring it on par with the new street so there wouldn’t be sewage backflow.

Drinking water or water in general was made available in abundance to the people of Harappa to the very close proximity of the city to the pre-Indus Gaggar/Hakra River which allowed fewer water wells to serve the people as the majority could attain their water from the river itself. There is also found in Harappa a central depression that might have been a public pool for drinking and washing which allowed wider access to the resource. As a result there are a few wells at Harappa totaling perhaps a total of only 30 wells as compared to 700 or more at Mohenjo-Daro. Only 8 have so far been found and the total number of wells has been projected by their layout.  There are more private than public wells, which points to the fact that the public wells probably got polluted or run out due to heavy use and affluent citizens then dug their own. Bathing rooms in these houses were situated next to the well which itself was raised above ground level. Bathing rooms had tightly fitted brick floors which made them more or less waterproof. Drains from these rooms led separately to the main drains on the outside from the latrine drains, and care was taken to separate the water and sewage drains. The drains were tapered out into the street. Almost every house in Harappa has been found to contain a latrine which was a large terracotta jar sunk into the ground and sometimes connected to the external drains. A small hole in the bottom of the jar allowed water to seep out to the ground. A special class of laborers probably periodically cleaned these rooms.


Litreture in Indus valley civilization

Harappans are believed to have used Indus Script, a language consisting of symbols. A collection of written texts on clay and stone tablets unearthed at Harappa, which have been carbon dated 3300-3200 BCE, contain trident-shaped, plant-like markings. This Indus Script suggests that writing developed independently in the Indus River Valley Civilization from the script employed in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

As many as 600 distinct Indus symbols have been found on seals, small tablets, ceramic pots, and more than a dozen other materials. Typical Indus inscriptions are no more than four or five characters in length, most of which are very small. The longest on a single surface, which is less than 1 inch (or 2.54 cm.) square, is 17 signs long. The characters are largely pictorial, but include many abstract signs that do not appear to have changed over time.

The inscriptions are thought to have been primarily written from right to left, but it is unclear whether this script constitutes a complete language. Without a “Rosetta Stone” to use as a comparison with other writing systems, the symbols have remained indecipherable to linguists and archaeologists.

Religion in Indus valley civilization

The Harappan religion remains a topic of speculation. It has been widely suggested that the Harappans worshipped a mother goddess who symbolized fertility. In contrast to Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization seems to have lacked any temples or palaces that would give clear evidence of religious rites or specific deities. Some Indus Valley seals show a swastika symbol, which was included in later Indian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Many Indus Valley seals also include the forms of animals, with some depicting them being carried in processions, while others showing chimeric creations, leading scholars to speculate about the role of animals in Indus Valley religions. One seal from Mohenjo-daro shows a half-human, half-buffalo monster attacking a tiger. This may be a reference to the Sumerian myth of a monster created by Aruru, the Sumerian earth and fertility goddess, to fight Gilgamesh, the hero of an ancient Mesopotamian epic poem. This is a further suggestion of international trade in Harappan culture.

Art in indus valley civilization

Indus Valley excavation sites have revealed a number of distinct examples of the culture’s art, including sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewelry, and anatomically detailed figurines in terracotta, bronze, and steatite—more commonly known as Soapstone.  Among the various gold, terracotta, and stone figurines found, a figure of a “Priest-King” displayed a beard and patterned robe. Another figurine in bronze, known as the “Dancing Girl,” is only 11 cm. high and shows a female figure in a pose that suggests the presence of some choreographed dance form enjoyed by members of the civilization. Terracotta works also included cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs. In addition to figurines, the Indus River Valley people are believed to have created necklaces, bangles, and other ornaments.

Social structure of indus valley civilization

While there is some debate over the existence of a caste system in ancient Harappa, many archaeologists theorize that there was a hierarchical social structure in place.  This view is supported by the architectural layout found in the walled cities. Within Harappa, walls separated one section of the people from another, which clearly shows how the caste system existed way back.

Indus rulers appear to have governed their cities through the control of trade and religion rather than military might. There is no evidence of monuments built to commemorate the rulers and there is no indication of warfare and weapons. The rulers carried seals with animal symbols and wore ornaments of rare material. Each larger city was probably organized as a city-state. There is little evidence of hereditary monarchies. Numerous large buildings and public spaces in the lower town seem to indicate the presence of several distinct elite groups. Local leaders would have been responsible for the maintenance of well-planned streets and housing, wells and drainage facilities. source  Like so many of the mysteries of this society, the extent to which religion was a factor in the political rule of the Indus remains unclear.

Economy during Indus valley civilization

The economic condition of the Harappan people was quite good. Their affluence was due to agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, trade and commerce. These made them prosperous and opened for them the avenues of a comfortable life. Through trade and commerce they, too, were able to establish contacts with others inside India and outside.


The Harappan people were dependent on agriculture as the primary source of living. Archaeological remains of the region reveal a variety of agricultural equipment’s used by them. Kalibangan gives us the idea about their agriculture. They also knew the use of sickle and used to cut crops with it.

The circular floor was used for harvesting, as the Harappan granary would reveal. They grew wheat. rice, maize, cotton and various vegetables in their fields. The surplus produce was stored in the granary. The agriculture depended on rain-fed water. In case of need they irrigated their land with water from the Indus.

The floods in the Indus inundated the fields and left a fertile silt-cover on the fields after the flood water receded. This fertile silt would yield a bumper harvest during following agricultural seasons. For all practical purposes, agriculture was the principal means of sustenance for the Harappan people.

Animal Husbandry

The Harappan people domesticated many animals like cow, buffalo, sheep, elephant, camel, pig etc. They did not know the use of animals like horse and dog. Their seals reveal the images of tiger, bear, rhino etc. The children’s toys were styled after monkey, mouse, cat, peacock, rabbit, mongoose etc. Animal husbandry supplemented their agriculture.


The industrial know-how of the Harappan people was unique. They were busy in manufacturing many articles and each of their handiworks reveals an exquisite artistry. Making of metal pots, weaving, metallic works and such other artifacts reveal their enviable artistry. Given below is a detailed account of their industry.


Renowned were the weavers of Harappa. The abundant produce of cotton and wool in the Indus region led the people to weave cotton and woolen garments separately or in a mixed way. They had mastery over the proportionate weaving and stitching of inner and outer garments. They stitched with needles of bone and bronze. The immaculate dressing revealed from their images and seals speaks volumes on their expertise knowledge in weaving. Most likely, these woven dresses were items of export to outside word.

Trade and Commerce

A developed base of industry prompted the Harappan people to naturally look for trade and commerce. Their trade was confined not only to India but spread to foreign areas like Sumer, Akad, Egypt, Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. The seals they used, the stone slabs they used for weight and measure purposes and articles of merchandise for import and export are strong pointers to their trade and commerce.

Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were principal trading centres. Trade and business grew as a result of close inter-action between the town and its sub-urban villages. The Harappan granary proves the point that grains were brought over to it from nearby villages for storage and sale at the appropriate time. Also costly stones were brought over from Hindu Kush and the north-western frontier areas. Gold from Kashmir and copper and tin from Rajasthan were also brought over here. A variety of articles were manufactured in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro for purposes of domestic consumption. Surplus goods and articles were exported.


Equally significant was their exchange-system in trade and commerce. Though exact details are not available, that they were not totally ignorant about the system of “exchange” that prevailed m’ ancient times is indicated from the hints about it in their seals and sealing process. The cylindrical seal recovered from Mohenjo-Daro substantiates to this. It was styled after the Mesopotamian model. The copper piece recovered from Lothal indicates that they had a mode and medium of exchange.


Extensive trade-contacts were established by the Harappan people with such Indian areas as Sind, Punjab, Rajasthan, Rupar, Lothal, Kalibangan and areas where the Harappan culture was prevalent. Trade-links with Afghanistan and Central Asia by land and with Mesopotamia by maritime trade reveal a close reciprocity.  Extensive trade relations with Mesopotamia is proved through the discovery of Harappan seals from Mesopotamian towns like Susa and Ur and the Harappan script from its seals at Nipur along with the picture of an imaginary unicorn.

The heavy stone scales of Harappa recovered from the Persian gulf area is another proof of trade-links. The button-shaped seals of Lothal are similar to the ones of the Persian gulf region. There are similar indicators to show the trade-links with Egypt.


They conducted their trade by both land and sea routes. The cart was the principal vehicle of transport and trade by land. Many earthen toy-carts for children have been found. The cart was drawn either by bullocks or by men. Boats were used for trade through rivers and sea. Archaeological remains of a port are found at Lothal.

It stretches to a length of 219 metres and is 37 metres wide. An earthen boat has also been recovered from there. Also found are different seals and stone-slabs as weights and measure. These strongly point to maritime trade. So, carts by land and boats and ships by river and sea were the main medium of transport of goods.


Antiquity  and extent of civilization

The antiquity of the Harappan civilization has long been a matter of controversy among the historians. Sir john Marshall had declared that the birth, extension and destruction of the Harappan civilization took place between 3250 BC. And 2750 BC.  Others, however, preferred to fix the date between 2500 BC. And 1500 BC. Recently attempts have been made to determine the date of the civilization on a scientific basis. Accordingly, certain amendments to the previous time-scale have become necessary. The new time-scale for the Indus Valley or the Harappan civilization has been determined to lie between 2300 BC and 1750 BC.

This has been widely accepted by the historians. As regards the origin of the civilization the recent opinion is that though originated by the native people the makers of the Harappan civilization had, in all probability, been inspired by foreigners.

Initially, historians were of the opinion that the extent of the Harappa civilization was very narrow. But gradually with the discovery new sites of the Harappa civilization it has come to light that two confines of the civilization embraced a vast region.

The extent of the Harappa civilization has now been determined to be a vast territory stretching for more than 1000 kilometer from north to south and about 1500 kilometer from west to east. It has been presume that the Harappa city-dwellers moved in different directions in ore to find out suitable land for agricultural development as well development in trade and craft. Obviously, the expansion of the Harappan culture took place as a natural process.

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