INDUS VALLEY CIVILISATION
The Indus Valley Civilisation unquestionably ranks as one of the greatest civilization of the world. The civilization was essentially urban.
Some Special Features Common To All Cities
Whether it is Harappa or Mohenjo-daro, Kalibangan or Lothal, the most striking character is systematic town planning; the streets oriented north-south and east-west, produced a grid pattern.
Know the Important Facts
- Harappan seals were most probably used in connection with trade.
- Meluha was the ancient name given to the Indus region by the Mesopotamians.
- Mesopotamian cylindrical seals and a cuneiform inscriptions have been found at Mohenjo-daro.
- Archaeological excavations at Indus Valley sites show that houses had wells in Kalibangan.
- Stone implements were largely used by the Indus people.
- The Harappans were the earliest people to produce cotton.
- Most Harappan inscriptions were recorded on seals.
Flanking the streets and similarly oriented lanes and bylanes were well-planned houses. The buildings, considerably varying in size, appear to have been plain but dignified. Stone not being easily obtainable, walls were raised of burnt brick, laid in mud or in both mud and gypsum mortar. Crude or sun-dried bricks were reserved for foundations and terraces, where the elements could not do much damage. Both rooms and circular brickwalls were important features of most houses.
The system of drainage, public or private was remarkable. Each city had a fortified citadel possibly used for both religious and governmental purposes.
Dust-bins and rubbish chutes indicate the extreme care taken in matters of conservancy. The commodious houses, knit into a system of rigid town-planning, the public-buildings, large granaries and the citadel, all combine to present the picture of prosperous people, controlled by a firm yet beneficent authority.
- The ‘city of the dead’, is at present a heap of ruins. The most dramatic characteristic of the city is a commanding citadel. It is a massive, mud-filled brick embankment which rises 43 feet above the lower city.
- There lay in the citadel a ‘College’ a multi-pillard ‘Assembly Hall’ and the so called ‘Great Bath’.
- The pool, surrounded by a paved courtyard, is 39 feet long, 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep.
- Most of Mohenjo-daro 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.
- Its drains with a corbelled roof, more than 6 ft in height, deserves particular mention.
- The evidence of Indian ships (figured on the seal) and a piece of woven cloth has been discovered from here.
- Also present are the remains of shops, and of structures so substantial as to suggest temples or religious buildings.
- There is a large granary consisting of a podium of square blocks of burnt-bricks with a wooden superstructure.
- Parallel rows of two-roomed cottages were found. These cottages were perhaps used by the workmen or poor section of the society.
- 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.
- It is situated on the river Ravi. The ruins of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa suggest that capital cities existed here.
- The most remarkable and the largest building at Harappa is the Great Granary measuring 169 ft x 35 ft.
- The citadel at Harappa also displays a Great Bath but of slightly different design.
- 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 single - celled dwellings which have suggested slave habitats.
- Two sand stone statuettes found here in which human anatomy is depicted. The Cemetery H culture is also found here.
- Kalibangan is situated on the ancient Sarasvati, now called Ghaggar in Rajasthan.
- Since the Harappan city overlies the earlier protoHarappan, clear house plans of the earlier city are not available.
- But in some houses we have evidence of ovens and the well-aligned lane.
There is also evidence of mud-brick fortification. PreHarappan phase here shows that the fields were ploughed unlike the Harappan period.
One of the platforms within the citadel had fire altars which contained ash.
- Another platform has a kiln-burnt brick lined pit containing bones. These suggest the practice of the cult of sacrifice. 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 level the majority was hand-made.
CHANHUDARO, BANWALI and SURKOTADA
- Chanhudaro: is situated at eighty miles south of Mohenjo-daro.
The city is twice destroyed by inundations. Here more extensive but indirect evidence of super imposition of barbarian life is seen.
- There was no citadel.
- Banwali: is situated in the dried-up Sarasvati. Like those of Kalibangan, Amri, Kot Diji and Harappa, Banwali also sees two cultural phases: pre-Harappan and Harappan.
- Here we find large quantity of barley, sesamum and mustard.
- Surkotada: is situated 270 km north-west of Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
- Here we find remains of a horse, a citadel and a lower town, both of which were fortified.
- This is situated on the bank of Bhogavar.
- Only at Lothal and Rangpur, Rice husks have been found.
- The use of weights and measures proves that they knew arithmetic as well which is shown by a scale found at Lothal. It was surrounded by a thick, mud-brick wall on three sides, southern, western and northern.
- On the eastern side is located a dockyard and wharf loading platform.
- A doubtful terracotta figurine of a horse is found here.
- It is situated on the left bank of Indus river about 50 km east of Mohenjo-daro.
- Excavated between 1955-57.
Wheel made of painted pottery, traces of a defensive wall and well-aligned streets, knowledge of metallurgy, artistic toys etc.
Five figurines of the Mother Goddess were also discovered.
- It is situated south of Mohenjo-daro.
- Knowledge of metal working, use of wheeled pottery with animal figures painted on it, construction of rectangular houses, etc.
- Situated near the middle of the Khurkera plain on the south-eastern side of the Las Bela Valley and Somani Bay about 98 km north-west of Karachi.
- There is a wide east-west lane almost bisecting the area at a right angles with two smaller lanes.
- Mud bricks were the standard building material although a few drains were lined with kiln-burnt bricks also.
- There is some evidence for the thin plastering of floors but it was not done as the usual practice.
- Situated near Gunthali in Nakhatrana taluka of Bhuj district (Gujarat) on the Bahadar river.
- It was a fortified township built of dressed stones with mud filling inside.
The houses were constructed just against the fortification wall. In the centre, was found a building having massive walls.
- Situated near the confluence of Sutlej, some 25 km east of Bara.
The excavations have yielded five fold sequence of cultures—Harappan, PGW, NBP, Kushana-Gupta and Medieval.
Discovery of pottery related to the Kalibangan-I.
The evidence of burying a dog below the human burial is very interesting.
- One example of rectangular mud brick chamber was noticed.
- It is a modest village in the Bhachau taluka of district Kutch in Gujarat.
- It is the latest and one of the two largest Harappan settlements in India, the other being Rakhigarhi in Haryana.
- The mounds of Dholavira were first explored by Dr. J.P. Joshi.
- 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. No other site has such elaborate structure.
- In 1990-91 a team of archaeologists lead by Dr R.S. Bisht of the ASI conducted extensive excavations.
Political Condition Of The Period
- The construction of planned cities and roads, drainage system, organised trade and uniformity of the means of weights and measurements proved that there existed a strong centralised government.
- “It seems in fact that the civilisation of Harappa, like those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, was theocratic in character” (Basham).
- It can be thought that a major share of the concentrated surplus was absorbed by the priests, civil and military leaders and thus formed the ruling class.
It might be possible that they were exempted from all manual tasks. On the other hand the lower classes probably were not only guaranteed peace and security, but also were relieved from intellectual tasks which many find irksome than any physical labour. So it can be said that political power was in the hands of the so called intellectual people.
- It was a civilisation with cities but was not at least politically, a State.
An authoritarian regime, with priestly attributes which compelled cultural uniformity, probably controlled the civilisation.
According to D D Kosambi there might be:
- The most frequently discovered weight of the Indus Civilization is one of 13.64 gms.
- Eleven pieces of stone sculpture have been discovered at Mohenjodaro and two from Harappa.
- Bronze models of bullock-carts and ‘ekkas’ have been unearthed from Chanhudaro and Harappa.
- The site reveals best that the population of Indus civilization was cosmopolitan in character having four ethnic types, viz., Proto-Austroloid, Mediterranean, Mongoloid and Alpine.
- The system of laying bricks in alternate headers and stretchers (now goes by the name of English Bond) was first introduced by the Harappans.
- Priest king but according to R. S. Sharma there might be merchant rulers.
Social Condition of the Period
The remains unearthed at Mohenjodaro demonstrate the existence of different sections of the people who may be grouped into four main classes i.e. priests, warriors, traders and the manual labourers like peasants.
The society was not divided into caste but into different classes.
- The Harappan people used cotton and wool for their garments. Spinning have been freely practised in the houses of Mohenjodaro, as would appear from the large find of spindle-whorls.
- There was no special difference between the dress of men and women.
It consisted usually of two garments, one worn round the waist and the other round the chest.
- On a potsherd from Harappa is found a person wearing a dhoti; shawl as an upper garment is suggested by the well-known steatite statuette from Mohenjodaro, supposed to be of a priest.
- Men kept short beard but saved their moustaches. Combs and mirrors were used by them.
- Both men and women wore beautiful ornaments of different designs. Those of the rich were made of gold, silver, ivory, copper, precious stones etc.
They included ear-rings, necklaces, finger rings, bangles, fillets etc. Ornaments for the poor were made of bone shell or terracota.
Copper and bronze seem to have superseded stone as material for household implements and utensils. Mostly, however, they were earthenware.
A large number of such bowls, dishes, cups, saucers, vases, and stone-jars of different forms have been discovered.
Beside rice, wheat, barley, the people used pork, beaf, mutton, poultry, fish, and the flesh of other water animal.
Perhaps milk and vegetables were also included in the dietary.
Probably there were three methods of disposing the dead:
(a) Complete burial.
(b) Burial after exposure of the body to birds and beasts.
(c) Cremation followed by burial of the ashes.
The discovery of cinerary urns and jars, goblets or vessel with ashes, bone, and charcoal may, however, suggest that during the flourishing period of the Indus valley culture the third method was generally in vogue.
At Harappa, a cemetery has been brought in light in the plain level ground near the mounds.
The remains of the dead at Harappa are associated with a distinct type of pottery decorated with vegetable patterns and peculiar animal designs.
SCRIPT AND LANGUAGE
From the inscriptions on the seals, pottery and other objects, it is clear that the Indus people knew reading and writing, while the use of weights (in a binary system) and measures proved that they know arithmetic as well.
The script has not been deciphered so far, but overlaps of letters on some of the potsherds from Kalibangan show that writing was boustrophendon or from right to left and from left to right in alternative lines.
The Indus script uses pictures of animate and inanimate objects along with linear signs resembling roman characters.
There are 62 basic signs in the Indus script. Indus valley script computer analysis started in 1964 in USSR and in India in 1972 by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
The economy of the Indus Valley Civilisation was based on the irrigated agriculture which must have developed and promoted the productive forces. There is evidence of the cultivation of wheat, barely, peas, sesamum, mustard, cotton and rice.
It is uncertain whether the plough had replaced the hoe, or the latter was still in use.
The list of cultivated plants gathered by archaeologists from remains found at Mohenjodaro bears witness to the practice of flood-plain agriculture and strongly suggests that the farmers of Mohenjodaro grew only a winter or rabi crop.