Indus Valley Civilization


                                                                  (2500 BC – 1500 BC)

Indus Valley Civilization

      The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilization (3300-1300 BCE; mature period 2600-1900 BCE) extending from what today is northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India. Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it was one of three early civilizations of the Old World, and of the three the most widespread It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, one of the major rivers of Asia, and the Ghaggar-Hakra River, which once coursed through northwest India and eastern Pakistan.

At its peak, the Indus Valley Civilization may have had a population of over five million. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). The Indus cities are noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, and clusters of large non-residential buildings

The Indus Valley Civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization, after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated in the 1920s, in what was then the Punjab province of British India, and now is Pakistan. The site was accidentally discovered while laying down a Railway line. The discovery of Harappa, and soon afterwards, Mohenjo-Daro, was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India in the British Raj.Excavation of Harappan sites has been ongoing since 1920, with important breakthroughs occurring as recently as 1999.

There were earlier and later cultures, often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan, in the same area of the Harappan Civilization. The Harappan civilization is sometimes called the Mature Harappan culture to distinguish it from these cultures.

The earliest traces of civilization in the Indian subcontinent are to be found in places along, or close, to the Indus river. Excavations first conducted in 1921-22, in the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, both now in Pakistan, pointed to a highly complex civilization that first developed some 4,500-5,000 years ago, and subsequent archaeological and historical research has now furnished us with a more detailed picture of the Indus Valley Civilization and its inhabitants. The Indus Valley people were most likely Dravidians, who may have been pushed down into south India when the Aryans, with their more advanced military technology, commenced their migrations to India around 2,000 BCE. Though the Indus Valley script remains undeciphered down to the present day, the numerous seals discovered during the excavations, as well as statuary and pottery, not to mention the ruins of numerous Indus Valley cities, have enabled scholars to construct a reasonably plausible account of the Indus Valley Civilization.

           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 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 civilazation 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
1921 Harappa Dayaram Sahni
1922 Mohenjodaro R.D. Banerjee
1927 Sutkagendor R.L. Staine
1931 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 J . Joshi
1973-74 Banwali R . S . Bisht

Sources of Materials

Material Source
Gold Afganistan , Persia Karnataka
Silver Afganistan , Iran
Copper Baluchistan & Khetri ( Rajasthan)  
Tin Afganistan , Central Asia
Agates Western India
Chalcedony Saurashtra
Lead Rajasthan , South India , Afganistan , Iran
Lapis Lazuli Badakashan ( N. Afganistan)
Turquoise Central Asia , Iran
Amethyst Maharashtra
Jade Central Asia
Carnelian Saurashtra

Some new finds

Site Location Discovered by
Dholavira Rann of Kachh ( Gujarat) R . S. Bisht
Ganverivala Pakistan Rafeeq Mugal
Rakhi Garhi Jeend ( Haryana) Rafeeq Mugal

Difference between pre-Harappan and proto-Harappan Cultures

            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 short , all proto-Harappan cultures are necessarily pre-Harappan cultures , but all pre-Harappan cultures are not necessarily proto-Harappan cultures.

Script and Language of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)

    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.

Pottery of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)

  • Harappan Pottery is bright or dark red and is uniformy sturdy and well backed.
  • It is chefly 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 ancient world.
  • On the whole, Harappan pottery was highly utilitarian in charter, though the painted designs on some pieces show a remarkable artistic touch.

Seals of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)

  • They are the greatest artistic creation of the Indus people.
  • Most commonly made  of steatite (soft stone).
  • The technique of the cutting and polishing these seals with white luster was a unique invention of the Harappans.
  • The majourity 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 –
  • The square type with a carved animal and inscription.
  • The rectangular type with inscription only.

Burial Practices of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)

          Three forms of burials are found at Mohenjodaro , viz. Complete burials ( burials of some bones after the exposure of the body to wild beats birds) and postcremation burials. But the general practice was extended inhumation , the body lying on its back , with the head generally to the north.

 Religion of Indus Valley Civilization

  • The chief male denity 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 four animals ( elephent , tiger , rhino and buffalo) ,each facing a different direction, and two deer appear at his feet.
  • The chief female deity was the Mother Goddess , who has been depicted in various forms.
  • There is sufficient evidance 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 ( Pipal , etc.) and animal (unicorn etc)
  • Further they belived in ghosts and evil forces and used amulets as protection against  them.

Trade and Commerce of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)

           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 to 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).

Decline of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)

        After 2000 BC , the Indus culture slowly declined and gradually faded out. Some ascribe this to the decreasing fertility of the soil on account of the increasing salinity , caused by the expansion of the neighboring desert. Others attribute it to some kind of depression in the land , which caused floods. 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 to the decline. Even though there are various theories for the downfall of this civilization , the most accepted versions is that of ecological destruction.

Major Sites of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)


  • The Great  Granary measuring 169 ft * 35 feet is the largest and the most remarkable structure found at Harappa.
  • So for 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.
  • 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) * 23 feet (breadth) * 8 feet ( depth). Located at the centre of the citadel , it is remarkable for beautiful brickwork . Its floor is made of  burnt brickes 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.
  • 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 Pshupati 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 as 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 , Amir, Kot Diji and Harappa , Banwali also saw two cultural phases –pre-Harappan and Harappan.
  • Human and animal figures , clay bengles and statue of mother Goddess found here.
  • Here we find large quantity of barely , sesamum and mustard.


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

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 figurines 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.
  • Lothan has evidence for the earliest cultivation of  rice ( 1800 BC). The onlyo ther Indus site where rice husk has been found is Rangpur near Ahemedabad.
  • 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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