Indus Valley Civilisation UPSC Notes | EduRev

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Indus Valley Civilisation

Indus Valley Civilisation UPSC Notes | EduRev
In 1924, scholars in history were roused by the announcement of Sir John Marshall that his Indian aides, particularly R.D.Banerjee , discovered (1922-23) at Mohenjo-daro in the Larkana district of Sind, now in Pakistan, the remains of a civilisation, one of the oldest of the world. A few hundred miles towards the north of Mohenjo-daro, four or five superimposed cities were excavated at Harappa in the Montgomery district of the Punjab, now in Pakistan. That the civilisation was not confined to the limits of the Indus Valley can be understood from the finds of relics of the same civilisation at the Sutkagendor on the sea board of the south Baluchistan, in the west of Alamgirpur in the Uttar Pradesh in the east.

Until the discovery of the remains of the Indus Civilisation, it was believed by scholars that the history of India practically began with the coming of the Aryans. But this theory is an exploded one and the pre-historic civilisation of India, that is, the Indus Valley Civilisation.

We will discuss:

Name of Sites 

Year of Excavation 






Daya Ram Sahni

Montgomery district of Punjab (Now in Pak) on the left bank of Ravi

  1. City followed grid planning
  2. Row of six granaries
  3. Only place having evidences of coffin burial
  4. Evidence of fractional burial and coffin burial
  5. Cemetery-H of alien people.




Larkana district in Sind on the right bank of Indus(Now in Pak)

  1. City followed grid planning
  2. A large granary and Great Bath, a college
  3. Human skeletons showing invasiona and massacre.
  4. Evidence of Horse come from superficial level.
  5. A piece of woven cotton alongwith spindle whorls and needles
  6. Town was flooded more then seven times.



N. Gopal Majumdar, Mackey

Situtated in Sind on the bank of Indus

  1. The city has no citadal
  2. Famous for bead makers shop
  3. A small pot, possibly an inkpot
  4. Foot prints of a dog chasing a cat
  5. Three different cultural layers, Indus,Jhukar and Jhangar



A. Ghosh

Situated in Rajasthan on the Bank of Ghaggar

  1. Shows both Pre Harappan and Harappan phase
  2. Evidence of furrowed land
  3. Evidence of seven fire altars and camel bones
  4. Many houses had their own well
  5. Kalibangan stand for black bangles
  6. Evidence of wooden furrow



S.R. Rao

Situated in Gujarat on Bhogava river near Gulf of Cambay

  1. A titled floor which bears intersecting design of circles
  2. Remains of rice husk
  3. Evidence of horse from a terracotta figurine
  4. A ship designed on a seal
  5. Beads & trade ports
  6. An instrument for measuring angles,pointing to modern day compass



R.S. Bisht

Situated in Hissar district of Haryana

  1. Shows both Pre-Harappan and Harppan phase
  2. Good quantity of barley found here



J.P. Joshi

Situated in Kutch (Bhuj) district of Gujarat

  1. Bones of horses, Bead making shops



Stein, R.L.

Situated in Baluchistan on Dast River

  1. Trade point between Harappa and Babylon, belong to mature phase
  2. Evidence of horse



N.G. Majumdar

Situated in Sind on the bank of Indus

  1. Evidence of antelope



R.S. Bisht

Situated in Gujarat in Rann of Kutch

  1. Seven cultural stages
  2. Largest site
  3. Three party of city
  4. Unique water management



M.S. Vats, B.B. Lal & S.R. Rao

Situated on the bank of Mahar in Gujarat

  1. Rice was cultivated

Kot Diji 


Fazal Ahmed

Situated on the bank of Indus

  1. Wheel made painted pottery
  2. Traces of defensive wall and well aligned streets
  3. Knowledge of metallurgy, artistic toys etc



Y.D. Sharma

Situated in Punjab of the banks of Sutlej

  1. Evidence of burying a dog below the human bural
  2. One example of rectangular mudbrick chamber was noticed
  3. Five fold cultures - Harappan, PGW, NBP, Kushana - Gupta and Medieval



George F Dales

Situated on the Arabian Sea

  1. Remain of pre Harappan and Harappan civilisation
  2. The mounds rise to the height of about 9.7mts and are spread 2.8 sq hectare of area



Y.D. Sharma

Situated on Hindon in Ghaziabad

  1. The impression of cloth on a trough is discovered
  2. Usually considered to be the eastern boundary of the Indus culture


Periodization of Indus Valley Civilization

Date Range 




Mehargarh II-IV

Regionalization Era


Early Harappan (Early Bronze Age)



Harppan - I(Ravi Phase)
Harappan 2(Kot Diji Phase,Naisharo 1, Mehrgarh VII)



Mature Harappan (Middle Bronze Age)



Harappan 3A (Nausharo IIO)

Integration Era


Harappan 3B



Harappan 3C



Late Harappan (Late Bronze Age)



Harappan 4
Harappan 5

Localization Era


















Geographical Extent 

The Harappan culture was the most extensive of the ancient civilisation in area(geographical extent), including not only the Indus plain (the Punjab and Sind), but also northern Rajasthan and the region of the Kathiawar in western India. It was essentially a city culture and among the the centers of authority were the two cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. The 1400 settlements, discovered so far are distributed over a very wide geographical area. Its known extent in the west is upto Sutkagendor in Baluchistan; Alamgirpur in Merrut district (Uttar Pradesh) in east; and Manda (Akhnoor district, Jammu and Kashmir) in north, covering an area of almost 1600 km, east-west and 1400 km in north south. The total geographical area over which this civilization flourished is more than 20 times of the area of Egytian and more than 12 times of the area of about 12,50,000 Harappan settlements are mostly located on river banks of Indus and Saraswati.

Some New Findings 



Discovered by 



Rafeeq Mughal

Rakhi Garhi

Jind (Haryana, India)

Rafeeq Mughal


Economic Life 

Indus Valley Civilisation UPSC Notes | EduRev

The discovery of granaries and the urban lifestyle of the people proves that the Harappan people were undoubtedly "comfort loving" and were prosperous. It also shows great knowledge of crop-pattern and seasons.

Currency : Thousands of seals have been discovered not only from the Harappans sites but also from the remains of other world civilisations. Every merchant and his family had a seal bearing and emblem and a brief inscription. But it is still unknown whether they used these seals as currency or not. In absence of evidence, it is safe to assume that the Harappans practised barter system and got goods they need in exchange of their articles.

Agriculture : The Indus people sowed seeds in the flood plain in November, when the flood water receded, and reaped their harvests of wheat and barley in April before the advent of the next flood. The Harappans probably used the wooden plough with wooden or copper ploughware.

       The Indus people produced wheat, barley, peas, kodon, sanwa, jowar, ragi, etc. They produced two typles of wheat and barley. A good quantity of barley has been discovered at Banwali. In addition to this, they produced sesame and mustard. The Indus people were the earliest people to produce cotton.

Domestication of Animals: Although the Harappans practised agriculture, animals were kept on a large scale Oxen, buffaloes, goats, sheeps domestic fowls and pigs were domesticated. The 

humped bulls were regarded as pets. Cats were also domesticated and signs of the feet of both dogs and cats have been noticed. They also kept asses and camels, which were possibly used as beasts of burden. Elephants were well known to the Harappan, who were also acquanited with the rhinoceros, spotted dear, sambhar deer, hog deer, wild pig etc. Therefore there is ample evidence to show patrolism of Harappan people.

Trade and Commerce :The thriving agriculural economy supported a flourishing trade both within the northern and western areas of the sub-continent and between the people of this culture and those of the Persian and Gulf and Mesopotamia. The products of Indus have been found in Mesopotamia. It seals and produce were also discovered at Sumer. The findings of Indus seals suggest that merchants from Indus actually resided in Mesopotamia. Their chief merchandise were probably cotton exported from probably Lothal harbour. The Mesopotamian records from about 2350 BC refer to trade relations with Meluha, which was the ancient name given to the Indus region.

Major Imports by the Harappans 




Afghanistan, Persia, Karnataka


Afghanistan, Iran


Baluchistan and Khetri(Rajasthan)


Afghanistan, Central Asia


Western India


Rajasthan, South India, Afghanistan, Iran


Copper seals from Lothal and Desalpur


Central Asia


Crafts and Industies : Mohenjo-daro was a great industrial center. Weaving was probably the chief industry. Harappans were also acquainted with the art of dyeing. Pottery was an important industry. We should not forgot that harappan pictographical scripts are mainly found on potteries. Harappans used to export these pots made on potter's wheel and burnt in kilns not only to nearby areas but alo to the far-flung places. The art of smelting metals were well-known to the people of Harappa. They also attest to a class of mesons. The Harappans also practised boat-making, seal-making and terracotta manufacturing.

Weights and Measures : The regulations of weights and measures forms the basis of trade and Harappans were very accurate in this respect. The sexagesimal system and the decimal system were known to the Harappans. The weights were of cubical and spherical in shape and were made of chert, jasper and agate and sometimes of grey stone and were in series, first doubling from 1, 2, 4, 8 to 64 then going to 160, 320, 640 and so forth.

Communications : Transport and communications are a major part of trade and commerce. Harappans also had good transporting system for their internal and external trade. Representation of ships and boats are found on some seals and as graffiti on pottery. For onland journey and transport, they relied upon the bullock carts and rarely horse carts. They practicsed navigation on the coasts of the Arabian Sea. Mohenjo-daro seals bear the picture of ship.

Arts : The Harappans were utilitarians although not completely devoid of artistic sense. They were well-acquainted with the manufacture and use of bronze. Bronze smiths produced images and utensils. They also made several kinds of tools and weapons, namely axes, knives and spears. Jewelleries of Silver, gold and copper were also made on a large scale.

     The most notable artistic achievement of the Harappans was in their seal engravings, especially those of animals. The pots were beautifully painted in several colours such as red, black, green and rarely yellow. The terracotta figuries, both human and animal, and toys prove that the Harappa people, enojoyed the work of art. Status made of bronze, stone and sandstone repsresent their high sense of art.

Political Life 

Indus Valley Civilisation UPSC Notes | EduRev

There is no idea about the political organization of the Harappans. Perhaps the Harappan rulers were more concerned with commerce that with conquests, and Harappa was possibly ruled by the a class of merchants. Accroding to Amaur De Riencourt : "All the evidence points to a high degree of standardization and organization, implying strong centralisation with full control over production and distribution and probably a high efficient system of taxation". Evidences, like drainage, town planning, trading items suggests that there was an organisation like a municipal corporation to look after the civil amenities of the people.

Relation with other Civilizations

The indus valley civilization had a direct contact with many of the contemporary world civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Turkmenia, Oman and Bahrain. Harappan shells and carnelian beads have been found iin Mesopotamian royal burials, Mesopotamian clay tahlets refer to wood, gold and lapis lazuli coming from Meluha, the ancient Akkadian name for the Indus region. Harrapan Seals and other objects have been excavated in several Mesopotamian cities, such as Sura, Kish, Nippur and Ur. Evidence of a direct relationship between Harappan culture and Egypt in fragmentary and inconclusive. There are evidences of Harappan artfacts, such as etched carnelian beads and ivory, in Bahrain.

Decline and Disappearance 


The Harappan culture flourished until about 1800 BC. Afterwards, the culture began to decline. There is no unanimity among historian on the exact reason of the decline of this urban civilization. Different theories of decline have been put forward by different scholars.
The following table gives the important theories and their profounders as regards decline of the Indus culture.

Decline of Indus Valley 


Reasons of decline 

Gorden Childe, Stuart Piggot

External Aggression


Unstable river system


Natural calamity

Orell Stein and A.N. Ghosh

Climate change

R. Mprtimer Wheeler

Aryan invasion

Robert Raikes


Sood and Aggarwal

Dryness of river

Walter Fairservis

Ecological imbalance


Social And Religious Life 

Indus Valley Civilisation UPSC Notes | EduRev

The social life of the Harappans can be arranged into following categories :-

  1. Class : It is not proved if there existed any classes or caster as the Aryan's verna system. Based upon the mounds we can assume that there were classes if not castes according to the occupation of the people, probably priestly class and general people.
  2. Dress and Oranments : As far as their dress is concerned, one cannot say anything definitely, because all information about theri dress is based on inferences arrived at from two types of materials; firstly, on the basis of spindles discovered and secondly from the dress of status and carvings on different seals found in those cities. Ornaments were also popular among both men and women.
  3. Religion : Following were the highlights of the religious life of the Harappans:
    • The chief male deity was the Pashupati Mahadeva represented in seals, as sitting in a yogic posture on a low and having three faces and two horns. He is surrounded by four animals (elephant, tiger, rhino and buffalo), each facing a different direction, and tow deers appear at his feet
    • The chief female deity was the Mother Goddess, who has been depicted in various forms to please fertility Goddess.
    • There is sufficient evidence for the prevalence of phallic worship. Numerous stone symbols of femals sex organs (yoni worship), besides those of phallus, have been discovered. Fertility cult was main feature.
    • The worship of fire is proved by the discovery of fire altars at Lothal, Kalibangan and Harappa.
    • Indus people who worshipped Gods in the form of trees (pipal, etc) and animals (unicorn etc)
    • They believed in ghosts and evils forces and used amulets as protection against them.
  4. Script : The script of the Harappans people had 400 to 500 signs and it were not alphabetic but was logosyllablic writing system. Although the Harappan script is yet to be deciphered, overlaps of letters on some of the potsherds from kalibangan show that the writing was from left to right and from right to left in alternate lines.
  5. Games : The Harappans preferred indoor hobbies to outdoor amusements. Dance and music were their popular amusements. Some tubular and conical dices discovered in these cities show that the evil of gambling is as old as history. Another game which they played resembles our modern chess. Marbles dolls and animals toys show that the children of Mohenjo-daro were well supplied with playthings. Fishing and hunting animals were other source of entertainment.

Disposal of the Dead : No definite proof is available regarding the disposal of the dead bodies yet. It is believed that the dead were either burnt completely, cremation followed by burial of ashes and rarely the burial of the dead after exposure to birds and beasts. But R-37 of Harappa suggests grave burial as a large practice.

Town Planning

The first thing that strikes us with regard to Harappan culture is the town planning and urbanisation. Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Lothal or Sutkagendor were built on similar plan. To the west of each a citadel built on a high platform suggest division in society or some upper class existence. It was defended by walll and on it were construced the public buildings. Below this citadel was the town proper.

Indus Valley Civilisation UPSC Notes | EduRev

Everywhere, the main streets ran from north to south and other streets ran at right angles to the main streets. Houses, residential or others, stood on both sides of the streets. Both at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, houses were built of kiln-burnt bricks. At Lothal and Kalibangan, residential houses were made of sun-dried bricks. An average house had, besides kitchen and bath, four to six living rooms. Large houses with thity rooms and staircases suggest that there were large two or three storyed buildings. Most of the houses had wells within them and a drainage system carried the waste water to the main underground drain of the steet.

Town Associated with Different Industries 


Stone tools factory


Stone tools factory


Stone tools factory
Factory for metallic finished goods


Factory for pearl finished goods, Bangle's factory


Beads Factory
Pearl finished goods factory
Metallic finished goods factory
Bangle's factory


Evidence from Chief Sites 

Cemetery H & R-37


Prepared Garments


Lower fortified town


Port town


Evidence of Rice

Lothal, Rangpur

Coffin Burial


Horse Bone


Fire Altar

Kalibangan & Lothal

Temple like palace


Horse's Tooth

Rana Ghundai

Pashuptai Seal




Copper Rhino


Copper Chariot


Copper Elephant



Mohenjodaro & Harappa

Bronze Female Dancer


Granery outside fort


Beads Factory

Chanhudaro, Balakot

Copper ox


Bangles Factory

Chanhudaro, Balakot


Harappa, Lothal

Phallur Worship


Bronze Bufallo


Evidence of Earthquake


Evidence of Plough


Copper dog


Camel's Bone


Stone Covered Grave




Woodenn Drainage



Indus Valley Facts                               

Indus Valley Facts at a Glance 

  • The state which has accounted for highest number of Harappan sites after independence : Gujarat 
  • Three Harappan sites that have yielded three stages of Harappan Civilization (Pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan : Rojde, Desalpur and Surkotada )
  • Most commonly engraved animal on Harappan seals : Humpless bull or unicorn 
  • Site which have yielded evidence of a pre-Harappan settlement: Kot-Diji, Kalibangan and Harappa 
  • Major Harappan cities that acted as ports : Lothal, Balakot, Suktagendor and Allahdin (Pakistan) 
  • The Harappan city with most impressive drainage system : Mohenjo-daro 
  • The geometric shape of the region covered by the Indus civilisation : Triangle 
  • Wheeler said: Indus Valley is the colony of Sumerians
  • Lions have not been found anywhere in Harappa.
  • Mother goddess was not worshipped at Rangpur.
  • A Kushana period Stupa has been found from Mohenjo-daro
  • Evidence of cultivation of peas. Till has been traced from Harappa, paddy from Lothal
  • Harappans had trade relations with Mesopotamians around 2300 BC.
  • Largest Harappan site in India is situated in Haryana Rakhigarhi, second largest is Dholavira in Gujarat.
  • Dimension of Brick-length 11 inches, width -5.5 inches, depth -2.75 inches, ratio 4 2:1
  • Harappan wheels were axeless
  • Mohenjo-daro had 10.5 mt wide road.
  • In Harappa, perhaps because of river Ravi the Granery is outside the fort.
  • In the Lothal Port, there was a dockyard which is 216 meters in length and 37 meters in breadth
  • Sukotada is the only Indus site where remains of a horse have actually been found.
  • Terracoota seals found at Mehargarh were the earliest precussors of Harappan seals.
  • Wider road of Harappa was 30 foot.
  • Most common materials used for the Harappan stone sculpture : Limestone and steatite 
  • Time span of the Harappan civilization as fixed on the basis of radio-carbon dating: 2300 BC - 1750 BC.
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