NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRev

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  • THE INDUS or the Harappan culture is older than the chalcolithic cultures which have been treated earlier, but it is far more developed than these cultures. It arose in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.

It is called Harappan because this civilization was discovered first in 1921 at the modern site of Harappa situated in the province of West Punjab in Pakistan. 

  • It extended from Jammu in the north to the Naramada 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.
    NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRev
  • Nearly 1500 Harappan sites are known so far in the subcontinent. Of these, the two most important cities were Harappa in Punjab and Mohenjodaro (literally the mound of the dead ) in Sindh, both forming parts of Pakistan. Situated at a distance of 483 kilometres they were linked together by the Indus. 
  • A third city lay at Chanhu daro about 130 km south of Mohenjodaro in Sindh and a fourth at Lothal in Gujarat at the head of the Gulf of Cambay. A fifth city lay at Kalibangan, which means black bangles, in northern Rajasthan. A sixth called Banawali is situated in Hissar district in Haryana. It saw two cultural phases, pre-Harappan and Harappan, similar to that of Kalibangan. 
  • The Harappan culture is noticeable in its mature and flourishing stage at all these six places. It is also found in its mature phase in the coastal cities of Sutkagendor and Surkotada, each one of which is marked by a citadel. 
  • The later Harappan phase is found in Rangpur and Rojdi in the Kathiawar peninsula in Gujarat. 
  • In addition to these, Dholavira lying in the Kutch area of Gujarat shows Harappan fortification and all the three phases of the Harappan culture. These phases also appear in Rakhigarhi which is situated on the Ghaggar in Haryana and is much bigger than Dholavira.

Try yourself:Which of the following Harappan site is also known as mound of the dead?
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Town Planning and Structures:

NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevThe architecture of Indus Valley Civilisation

  • The Harappan culture was distinguished by its system of town planning. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro each had its own citadel in each city lay a lower town containing brick houses, which were inhabited by the common people.
  • The remarkable thing about the arrangement of the houses in the cities is that they followed the grid system.NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRev
    Grid System of Mohenjodaro
  • According to it, roads cut across one another almost at right angles, and the city was divided into so many blocks. This is true of almost all Indus settlements. 
  • The most important public place of Mohenjo-daro seems to be the Great Bath, comprising the tank which is situated in the citadel mound. It is an example of beautiful brickwork. It measures 11.88 × 7.01 metres and 2.43 metres deep. Flights of steps at either end lead to the surface. There are side rooms for changing clothes. The floor of the Batch was made of burnt bricks. It is suggested that the Great Bath served ritual bathing, which has been so vital to any religious ceremony in India.
  • In Mohenjodaro the largest building is a granary, which is 45.71 metres long and 15.23 metres wide. But in the citadel of Harappa, we find as many as six granaries. 

NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevGranary in Mohenjodaro

  • We come across a series of brick platforms which formed the basis for two rows of six granaries. Each granary measured 15.23 × 6.03 metres and lay within a few metres of the river bank. The combined floor space of the twelve units would be about 838 square metres. Approximately it had the same area as the Great Granary at Mohenjo- Daro. Harappa also shows two-roomed barracks, which possibly accommodated labourers.
  • At Kalibangan also we notice in the southern part brick platforms, which may have been used for granaries. Thus, it would appear that granaries constituted an important part of the Harappan cities.
  • The use of burnt bricks in the Harappan cities is remarkable, because in the contemporary buildings of Egypt mainly dried bricks were used. We find the use of baked bricks in contemporary Mesopotamia, but they were used to a much larger extent in the Harappan cities. The drainage system of Mohenjo-Daro was very impressive. In almost all cities every big or small house had its own courtyard and bathroom. In Kalibangan many houses had their wells. Water flowed from the house to the streets which had drains. Sometimes these drains were covered with bricks and sometimes with stones labs. The street drains were equipped with manholes. 
  • Perhaps no other Bronze Age civilization gave so much attention to health and cleanliness as the Harappan did.

Try yourself:The great bath of Harappan civilization is found in which site?
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  • The Indus people produced wheat, barley, rai, peas, etc. They produced two types of wheat and barley. A good quantity of barley has been discovered at Banawali.
  • In addition to this, they produced sesamum and mustard. As 1800 B.C., the people of Lothal used rice whose remains have been found. Foodgrains were restored in huge granaries in both Mohenjo-daro and Harappa and possibly in Kalibangan. 
  • Probably, cereals were received as taxes from peasants and stored in granaries for the payment of wages as well as for use during emergencies. This can be said on the analogy of Mesopotamian cities where wages were paid in barley.
  • The Indus people were the earliest people to produce cotton. Because cotton was first produced in this area, Greeks called it sindon, which is derived from Sindh.

Domestication of Animals

  • Although the Harappans practised agriculture, animals were kept on a large scale. Ox, buffaloes, goats, sheep and pigs were domesticated. The humped bulls were favoured by the Harappans. 
  • From the very beginning, dogs 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 obviously used as beasts of burden. NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRev
    Terracotta Horses
  • Evidence of the horse comes from a superficial level of Mohenjo-daro and from a doubtful terracotta figuring from Lothal. The remains of the horse are reported from Sutkotada, situated in west Gujarat, and belong to around B.C. but it is doubtful. In any case the Harappan culture was not horse-centred. Neither the bones of horse nor its representations appear in early and mature Harappan culture. 
  • Elephants were well known to the Harappans, who were also acquainted with the rhinoceros.

Technology and Craft:

  • The Harappan culture belongs to the Bronze Age. The people of Harappa used many tools and implements of stone, but they were well acquainted with the manufacture and use of bronze. Ordinarily, bronze was made by the smiths by mixing tin with copper mines of Rajasthan, although it could also be brought from Baluchistan. Tin was possibly brought with difficulty from Afghanistan.
  • The bronze tools and weapons recovered from the Harappan sites contain a smaller percentage of tinNCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRev
    Harappan Tools
    However, the kit of bronze goods left by the Harappans is considerable, which suggests that the bronzes myths constituted an important group of artisans in the Harappan society. They produced not only images and utensils but also various tools and weapons such as axes, saws, knives and spears. Several other important crafts flourished in the Harappan towns.
  • A piece of woven cotton has been recovered from Mohenjo-Daro, and textile impressions found on several objects. Spindle whorls were used for spinning. Weavers wove cloth of wool and cotton. Huge brick structures suggest that brick-laying was an important craft. They also attest the existence of a class of masons. The Harappans also practised boat-making
  • The goldsmiths made jewellery of silver, gold and precious stones, the first two may have been obtained from Afghanistan and the last from south India. The Harappans were also experts in bead-making. The potter’s wheel was in full use, and the Harappans produced their own characteristic pottery, which was made glossy and shinning.

Try yourself:Which one of the following animals was not known to the Harappans?
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  • Trade was important in the life of the Indus people. The Harappans carried on a considerable trade in stone, metal, shell, etc, within the Indus culture zone. However, their cities did not possess the necessary raw material for the commodities they produced. 
  • They did not use metal money. Most probably they carried on all exchanges through barter. In return for finished goods and possibly foodgrains, they procured metals from the neighbouring areas by boats and bullock carts. 
  • They practised navigation of the coast of the Arabian Sea. They knew the use of the wheel, and carts with solid wheels were in use in Harappa. The Harappa had commercial links with one area of Rajasthan, and also with Afghanistan and Iran. They had set up a trading colony in northern Afghanistan which evidently facilitated trade with Central Asia. Their cities also carried commerce with those in the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates. 
  • Many Harappan seals have been discovered in Mesopotamia, and it seems that the Harappans imitated some cosmetics used by the urban people of Mesopotamia.
  • The Mesopotamia records from about 2350 B.C. onwards refer to trade relations with Meluha, which was the ancient name given to the Indus region. The Mesopotamian texts speak of two intermediate trading stations called Dilmun and Makan, which lay between Mesopotamia and Meluha. Dilmun can probably be identified with Bahrain on the Persian Gulf.

Political Organization

  • We have no clear idea about the political organization of the Harappans. But if we take into account the cultural homogeneity of the Indus civilization it can be said that this cultural homogeneity would not have been possible to achieve without a central authority.
  • If the Harappan cultural zone is considered identical with the political zone, the subcontinent did not witness such a large political unit until the rise of the Maurya empire, the remarkable stability of this unit is demonstrated by its continuity for nearly 600 years.

Religions Practices

In Harappa, numerous terracotta figures of women have been found. Probably the image represents the goddess of the earth. The Harappans looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess and worshipped her.

The Male deity in the Indus Valley:NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevPashupati Seal

The male deity is represented on a seal. This god has three-horned heads. He is represented in the sitting posture of a yogi, placing one foot on the other. This god is surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros, and has a buffalo below his throne. At his feet appear two deer. The depicted god is identified as Pashupati Mahadeva.

The Harappan Script

  • The Harappan invented the art of writing like the people of ancient Mesopotamia. Although the earliest specimen of Harappan script was noticed in 1853 and the complete script discovered by 1923, it has not been deciphered so far.
  • There are nearly 4,000 specimens of Harappan writing on stone seals and other objects. Unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, the Harappans did not write long inscriptions. Most inscriptions were recorded on seals, and contain only a few words. Altogether we have about 250 to 400 pictographs, and in the form of a picture, each letter stands for some sound, idea or object. the Harappan script is not alphabetical but mainly pictographic.

Try yourself:Which was the ancient name given to the Indus people by Sumerians?
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Weights and Measures

  • Numerous articles used for weights have been found. They show that in weighing mostly 16 or its multiples were used for instance, 16, 64, 160, 320 and 640. Interestingly the tradition of 16 has continued in India till modern times and till recently 16 annas made one rupee.

NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevHarappan Weight System

  • The harappans also knew the art of measurement. We have come across sticks inscribed with measure marks, one of these is made of bronze.

Harappan Pottery

  • The Harappans were great experts in the use of the potter’s wheel. We come across numerous pots painted in various designs.

NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevHarappan Pots

  • Harappan pots were generally decorated with the designs of trees and circles. The images of men also appear on some pottery fragments.
  • Seals: The greatest artistic creations of the Harappan culture are the seals.

NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevHarappan Seals

  • About 2000 seals have been found, and of these, a great majority carry short inscriptions with pictures of the one-horned bull, the buffalo, the tiger, the rhinoceros, the goat and the elephant.
  • Images: The Harappan artisans made beautiful images of metal. A woman dancer made of bronze is the best specimen. Except for a necklace she is naked.

NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRevA women dancer specimen

  • We get a few pieces of Harappan stone sculptures. One steatite statue wears an ornamented robe over the left shoulder under the right arm, and its short locks at the back of the head are kept tidy by a woven fillet.NCERT Gist (RS Sharma): The Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilisation) Notes | EduRev
    Priest King Statue

Original, Maturity and End

  • The mature Harappan culture, broadly speaking, existed between 2550 B.C. and 1900 B.C. Throughout the period of its existence, it seems to have retained the same kind of tools, weapons and houses. The whole style of life appears to be uniform. We notice the same town-planning, the same seals, the same terracotta works, and the same long chet blades
  • But the view stressing changelessness cannot be pushed too far. We do notice changelessness cannot be pushed too far. We do notice changes in the pottery of Mohenjodaro over a period of time. By the nineteenth century B.C., the two important cities of the Harappan culture, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, disappeared but the Harappan culture at other sites faded out gradually and continued in its degenerate phase in the outlying fringes in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
  • While the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia continued to exist even after 1900 B.C., the urban Harappan culture disappeared about that time. Various causes have been suggested. It is held that the amount of rainfall in the Indus region slightly increased around 3000 B.C. and then decreased in the earlier part of the second millennium B.C. This may have adversely affected agriculture and stockbreeding. 
  • Some describe the decline to the decreasing fertility on account of the increasing salinity of the soil caused by the expansion of the neighbouring desert. Others attribute it to sudden subsidence or uplift of the land which caused floods. Earthquakes caused changes in the course of the Indus which led to the inundation of fee hinterland of Mohenjodaro. And still, others point out that the Harappan culture was destroyed by the Aryans, but there is very little evidence for this.
  • The consequences of the disintegration of the largest Bronze Age cultural entity are still to be clarified. We do not know whether the urban eclipse led to the migration of merchants and craftsmen, and the dissemination of the elements of Harappan technology and way of life in the countryside.

    Something is known about the post-urban situation in Sindh, Punjab and Haryana. We find agricultural settlements inside the Indus region, but their connection with the preceding culture is not clear. We need clear and adequate information.

    Try yourself:Which material was mainly used in the manufacture of Harappan seals?
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