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.
- But it could not be conclusively proved as to what kind of centralising authority ruled the region.
- Historians put forth two important theories of centralising authority who might have ruled the region.
- The first theory is that the centralising authority might be a theocratic structure. “It seems in fact that the civilisation of Harappa, like those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, was theocratic in character” (A.L.Basham).
- Theocracy is a form of government in which a religious institution is the source from which all authority derives.
- The second theory is that the centralising authority might be an oligarchy. Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which a small group of people have control of the country or organization.
- It can be thought that a major share of the concentrated surplus was absorbed by the priests, civil and military leaders and thus forming 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 (form of oligarchy).
- 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 a priest king but according to R. S. Sharma there might be merchant rulers.
- Thus, it is said that there are many theories as to what kind of centralising authority ruled the region and none have been proved beyond doubt.
Know the Important Facts
- The most frequently discovered weight of the Indus Civilization is one of 13.64 gms.
- 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-Australoid, 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.
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 town planning is based on the division of the towns into 2 main parts- citadel/acropolis and lower town.
- Citadel is a smaller but higher portion built on an upraised platform with walls fortifying it from all sides.
- This was used for buildings of large dimensions such as granaries, administrative buildings, pillared halls and courtyard.
- Some of the buildings in citadels might have been the residence of the rulers and aristocrats.
Citadel of Mohenjo Daro
- The lower town was of much larger area than the citadel.
- Like the citadel it was walled to a certain extent perhaps to keep the floods away.
- The lower part of the city might have been used as quarters by working class people.
- Some of the stairs present in the buildings indicate that they might have been double storey.
Presence of double storeyed buildings
- Each house had its own private drinking well and bathroom which was well connected with drains.
- The water from these bathrooms ran through clay pipes into underground drains which ran into the main drain.
Earliest known toilets of Harappan Culture
- These main drains were made up of bricks set in mortar and had large cross-sections to accommodate even a large water flow.
- The above features is indicative of the following:
(i) Advancement in Municipal system
(ii) Importance attached to social and personal hygiene
(iii) Proper town planning and
(iv) Good knowledge of brick mortar construction.
Cross-section of drains
Domestic House Planning
- The domestic house planning and architecture is well evident from the lower town of the Mohenjo-Daro.
- Mainly three buildings are found in the excavation sites- dwelling houses, public buildings and public baths.
1. Street Structure
- The main streets of the cities at both Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were generally oriented from north to south, with connecting streets running east to west.
- The streets along with an efficient drainage system seems to have been constructed first and the houses built around them were constructed later indicating the existence of advanced town-planning.
2. Bricks Structure
- The Harappans used burnt mud bricks of standardized dimension for the purpose of construction.
- Many layers of well-baked bricks were laid out and then joined together using gypsum mortar.
- The bricks were of standard size and ratio(4:2:1) and similar standardized bricks were employed in all settlements in this culture.
3. Structure of Houses
- The houses were constructed along the roads and drains (which were planned and constructed first).
- Each of the houses is centered around a courtyard with rooms built around it.
- The courtyard could be the centre of household activities.
- Each house had a separate bathroom with a well the discharge of which would run in the system of drains.
- The Harappan people used cotton and wool for their garments. Here, it is to be noted that cotton was the prominent fabric used for clothing.
- Spinning and weaving have been freely practised in the houses of Mohenjodaro, as would appear from the large find of spindle-whorls.
- Needles and buttons have been discovered indicating that perhaps stitching was also known.
- There was no special difference between the dress of men and women.
- Dress or fabric has not survived, but statues and figurines suggest two pieces of clothes were used by 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 Mohenjo daro, supposed to be of a priest.
- The ladies of Mohenjo-daro were not lagging behind in styles as used by the ladies of the present day, when it came to the use of cosmetics and the attainment of beauty.
- They were conscious of fashion.
- Cinnabar was used as a cosmetic and face-paint, lipstick and collyrium (eyeliner) were also known to them.
- They knew face paint made of ivory.
- Bronze oval mirrors, ivory combs of various shapes, even small dressing tables have been found at Mohenjo Daro and other sites.
- Women used hair pins made out of ivory.
- Ornaments were made of gold, silver, copper, bronze and semi-precious stones.
- Both men and women wore ornaments like necklace, fillets, amulets and finger rings.
- Beads made from carnelian, amethyst, quartz, steatite, etc were quite popular and were produced on a large scale, as is evident from the factories discovered in Chanhu-daro and Lothal.
- Ornaments for the poor were made of bone shell or terracotta.
- 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.
- Food included both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
- They maintained a constantly healthy diet.
- It is not definitely proved if they consumed rice or not. However some evidence has been found of rice husk in Lothal and Ropar.
- Wheat and Barley was their staple food.
- Besides this, the people used pork, beef, mutton, poultry, fish, and the flesh of other water animals.
- Besides wheat and barley, sesame, lentils and cotton were also grown.
- Horticulture was practiced i.e. fruits and vegetables were cultivated.
- There is evidence of domestication of animals in IVC.
- These domesticated animals, mainly, were cattle, sheep, goat, water buffalo, dog, pig, ass, camel, elephant and fowl.
- Raising livestock was a useful investment against crop failure.
- Terracotta figurines, statues and seals of bulls also suggest that oxen might have been used for ploughing.
- Probably there were three methods of disposing the dead,
Fractional burial ie burial after exposure of the body to birds and beasts and
Cremation followed by burial of the ashes.
- The discovery of cinerary urns and jars, goblets or vessels 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.
- In some burial pits, brick linings were also found indicating the existence of social differences.Eg: Lothal burial pit was lined with burnt bricks indicating the use of coffins.
- Wooden coffins were also found at Harappa.
- However, there is no clear evidence of the practice of sati.
- Dead bodies were placed in a north-south direction and were generally accompanied by objects including food, pottery, ornaments and tools indicating the belief in after-life.
The Great Bath
- An important feature of the Harappans city is the prevalence of public baths, which indicate the importance of ritualistic cleaning in their culture.
- These baths also had an array of galleries and rooms surrounding it.
- The most famous example of a public bath is the Great Bath excavated remains of Mohenjo-Daro.
- It is rectangular in shape and accessible from two-wide staircases on the Northern and Southern side.
The Great Bath
The Great Granary
Evidence has also been found of a large ware-house type structure at Harappa which is also referred to as the “Great Granary”.
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 knew arithmetic as well.
- The Indus script has not been deciphered yet.
- It is a pictographic one and was mostly written from right to left.
- In late Harappan period script, boustrophedon method seems to be adopted in which the lines were written from left to right and right to left in alternate 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.
Boustrophedon method of writing and a sample Indus script
- 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.
- Cotton was well grown in this region. It was also known by the name of sindon by Greeks as it is from Sindh region.
- It is uncertain whether the plough had replaced the hoe, or the latter was still in use.
- Animal husbandry, hunting and fishing are other primary activities undertaken by the IVC people.
- 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.
Agriculture in Indus valley
Important points of Man-cattle Relationship
- Striking among the remains of the period are the depictions on seals and in clay figurines of two kinds of cattle humped species (Bos primigenius) and a short horned species (Zebu).
- At the site of Sur Jangal in Loralai district of Balochistan there is a suggestion that cattle replaced goats and sheep in the economy.
- The Indus people domesticated sheep, pig, dog, donkey, parrot, cat, peacock and fowl.
- Elephants, camels and horses were also known to them but, probably, horses were imported by foreigners (Aryans) here and became known to them much afterwards.
- The weaver, goldsmith, the potter, the jeweller, the physician, the brickmakers, the boat builders, and terracotta manufacturers etc. represented their professions.
- The seals found at this place indicate that these were issued either by individual merchants or merchant-guilds.
- Seals and the terracotta models reveal the use of bullock carts and ships. This indicates that people manufactured bullock carts and ships.
- Foreign trade was mainly conducted with Mesopotamia, Iran and Afghanistan.
- There is much evidence to prove the trade links between the Indus and Sumerian people (historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq)
- The raw materials used in production were sourced from different places like copper from Oman- as chemical analysis shows Omani copper and Harappan artifacts seems to have traces of nickel which indicates common origin.
Metals and precious stones in IVC
- Gold may have been imported from South India, Afghanistan, and Persia.
- Silver was imported probably from Afghanistan and Iran.
- Copper was possibly brought from South India and from Baluchistan and Arabia. The impurity of the ores, however, shows that copper was obtained from the Khetri copper mines although it could be brought from Baluchistan.
- Lapis Lazuli probably came from Badakhshan.
- Turquoise came from Iran.
- Amethyst came from Maharashtra.
- Agate came from Saurashtra and Western India.
- Jade came from Central Asia.
- From Saurashtra and the Deccan they obtained the conch-shells.
- The Mesopotamian records show that they had relations with Meluha, that is, an ancient Indus region from about 2350 B.C. and they also speak of two intermediate stations called ‘Dilmun’ and ‘Makan’. Ur was the principal post of entry into Mesopotamia.
- The bones of bull, sheep, pig, buffalo, camel and elephant have been recovered; while those of the dog and horse, having been found near the surface, may belong to later times.
- The wild animals familiar to the Indus people were rhinoceros, monkey, tiger, bear, hare etc. which are depicted on seals and copper-tablets.
Weapons and tools
- Copper and bronze had replaced stone weapons.
- People were acquainted with maces, axes, daggers, spears, bows, arrows and slings.
- Harappans did not have war weapons.
- Defensive weapons like shields, helmets and armour were perhaps unknown, nor is there any trace of sword.
- There is no direct evidence of conflict or warfare. Harappan art also does not portray any warfare.
Games and Toys
- They amused themselves by hunting, fishing and rearing wild animals and birds as pets.
- It is interesting to note that, like the Vedic Aryans, the Indus people were fond of dice as is clear from the dice-pieces discovered in the excavations.
- They also enjoyed singing, dancing, and painting. A bronze statuette of a girl in the dancing pose has also been discovered at Mohenjodaro which proves that entertainment and merry-making has been an important pastime for the Harappans.
- Children used to play with toys and marbles. Generally they were clay models of birds, animals, men and women, rattles or presentation of carts.
- Objects like dice games and play cards have been found. A sort of gender-play stereotyping is evident in IVC.
- People being fond of gambling, playing dice, dancing and singing also signifies the fact that they liked more indoor games than outdoor amusements.
Dice found in IVC and seals of hunting scenes
Weights and Measures
- The Harappan culture had also developed an accurate system of weights and measures.
- The weights were made of cubical pieces of stones called chert.
- The smaller weights of chert or slate are cubical, whereas the heavier one are conical in shape.
- It is said that they are made with greater accuracy and consistency than those of Eran and Mesopotamia.
- They used 16 or its multiples in weighing.
- Discovering the seal of Pashupati (Proto shiva) and figurines believed to be of mother goddess indicate the presence of religious beliefs comparable to early Hinduism.
- However, historians believed that the religion does not seem to have a predominant influence on the society.
- The chief male deity was the Pashupati Mahadeva who was considered to be the prototype of Lord Shiva.
- He is represented in seals as sitting in a yogic posture.
- The chief female deity was mother Goddess represented in terracotta figurines.
Terracotta figurine of Mother Goddess
- They worshipped fertility symbols i.e. Phallic and Yoni worship was prevalent.
- Worship of trees (Pipal) and animals (humped bull) were also in vogue.
- They believed in ghosts and evil forces and used amulets as protection against them.
- Prototype of sacred tank (Great Bath) was found in Mohenjodaro which is still found in the ancient temples of South India.
- A seal from Harappa shows a nude female figure, turned upside down, and a plant coming out of the womb. This depicts the worship of Earth Goddess.
- Prevalence of Nagacult.
- The Indus people appear to have made great progress in ceramic art. They were fond of pottery.
- Harappan pottery of the mature period was in keeping with the logical and ordered mentality that conceived the efficient urban planning and drainage systems of the Indus cities.
- It consists chiefly of wheel-turned items of a wide variety, which show the consistent characteristics and standards of an organised manufacturing system.
- The potteries found at the excavation sites can be broadly classified into two kinds: Plain Pottery and Painted Pottery.
- Plain pottery is more common than painted ware.
- Plain pottery is generally of red clay.
- Trees, birds, animal figures and geometrical patterns were the recurring themes of the paintings.
- The potteries were used for three main purposes:
(i) Plain pottery was used for household purposes, mainly storage of grains and water.
(ii) Miniature vessels, generally less than half an inch in size, were used for decorative purposes. They are so marvelous created, even now they evoke awe.
(iii) Some of the potteries were perforated- with a large hole in the bottom and small holes across the sides. They might have been used for straining liquor.
- Terracotta refers to the use of fire baked clay for making sculptures.
- Compared to the bronze figures the terracotta sculptures are less in number and crude in shape and form.
- They were made using a pinching method and have been found mostly in the sites of Gujarat and Kalibangan.
- Terracotta was generally used to make toys, animal figures, miniature carts and wheels.
- One of the important terracotta figures of IVC has been that of the Mother Goddess.
- This is a terracotta figure of woman adorned with jewellery and imposing fan shaped head gear.
- The mother goddess figures have been found in many Indus sites.
- The images of Protoshiva and of the mother goddess indicate religious beliefs of the people of the civilization.
- The facial features are shown very crudely and lack finesse in most of the terracotta sculptures of that period.
- The progress which the Indus valley people had made in the plastic art is borne out by the two sand stone statuettes from Harappa in which human anatomy is depicted.
Red sandstone figure of Male torso
- The red sandstone figure of a Male Torso is another unique specimen of rock sculpture.
- The torso has frontier posture with well baked shoulders and a prominent abdomen.
- There are socket holes in the neck and shoulders probably for the attachment of head and arms.
- Another prominent stone figure is the Bearded Priest statue found in Mohenjo Daro
Bearded Priest statue
- It is the figure of a bearded man draped in a shawl with trefoil patterns.
- The eyes of the man are elongated and half closed as in meditation.
- The figure has an amulet on the right hand and a plain woven fillet across the head.
- Metal sculpture too was far advanced as shown by the pose and facial expression of the bronze statuette (perhaps a dancing girl) from Mohenjodaro.
- This jewel of realism is completely urban in pose and hauteur.
- Her negroid features identify her as one of the Dasas described in the Rigveda.
- The practice of bronze casting as present in the Harappan civilisation was known as “Lost-Wax Technique” or “Cire-Perdue”.
- In this technique, a molten metal is poured into a mould that has been created by means of a wax model.
- The clay coated figures are then heated allowing the wax to melt.
- The wax is then poured out through a tiny hole and liquid metal is poured inside the hollow mould.
- After the metal has cooled down and solidified, the clay coat is removed and a metal figure of the same shape as the wax figure is obtained.
Process of Lost-Wax Technique
- The Dancing Girl statue of IVC is one of the classic examples of bronze casting and stands proof of the excellence attained by these people in Art and Metrology.
- This four inch figure depicts a naked girl with only ornaments, which includes the bangles in the left arm and amulet and bracelet on the right arm.
- She is also wearing a necklace.
- Her arms are shown to be unusually long.
- Her long hair is tied in a bun.
- Her right hand is on her hip and her left hand is clasped in a traditional Indian dance gesture.
- She stands in “tribhanga” dancing posture with the right hand on her hip.
- The Harappan sculptors were extremely adept at handling three dimensional volumes.
- The presence of different seals suggest the high standards of craftsmanship, knowledge of metrology and flourishing trade and commerce.
- Archaeologists have found different sizes and shapes of seals all across the excavation site.
- While most of the seals are square, it was found that the triangular, rectangular and circular seals were also used.
- Steatite, a soft stone found in river belts, was the most common material used to make seals.
- The seals have inscriptions in a pictographic script which are written from right to left. Animal impressions were also carved on the surfaces of the seals.
SHIVA PASUPATHI SEAL
- This seal depicts a figure seated cross legged in a yogic posture with a horned headdress.
- The figure is considered to be of proto shiva or an early form of Shiva/ Pashupati/ Rudra, who is venerated as Lord Shiva in Contemporary Hinduism.
- The figure is surrounded by a number of animals, an elephant & tiger are there on the right side of the figure while a rhinoceros and buffalo are seen on the left side, two antelopes are shown below the seat of the figure.
THE UNICORN SEAL
This is another significant seal, which depicts a unicorn, which is a mythical animal (a horse with a single horn)
THE BULL SEAL
- This seal shows a humped bull and has a good depiction of the features of the animal.
- A number of seals with animal depictions have been found.
- All these are indicative of knowledge of wild animals and hunting.
UTILITY AND SIGNIFICANCE OF SEALS
- Many seals and similar artifacts pertaining to the Harappan Period have been discovered so far.
- The seals are believed to be used for sealing the consignment of goods and securing them by placing a mark of seal on the opening.
- As a means of commercial purpose, the seals were also an indication of the identity of the seller.
- Some seals with a hole on them have been found on dead bodies. This indicates that they might have been used as amulets carried on the persons of their owners, probably, used as some form of identification.
- Mathematical images have also been found on some seals, which might have been used for educational purposes as well.
- Generally, the seals had an animal or human figure on one side and an inscription on the opposite side or inscriptions on both sides.
- The discovery of a large number of seals at various sites is an indication of the flourishing trade and commerce and also of the fact that this urban civilization was not an agriculture dependent economy.
- The symbols on the seals indicate the existence of a script.
- The numerous figures throw light on the socio-religious and other aspects of the culture.
Early Harappan Culture
The Amri culture is mainly confined to the lower Sind area. Amri is situated 130 km to the south of Mohenjo Daro.
Knowledge of metal working, use of wheel pottery with animal figures painted on it, construction of rectangular houses, etc.
- No evidence of town-planning, sanitation, art of writing, trade mechanism (such as seals and weights).
Kot Diji culture covers a large area comprising Punjab, Sindh and Rajasthan.
Wheel-made painted pottery, traces of a defensive wall and well-aligned streets, knowledge of metallurgy, artistic toys etc.
- There is no evidence of the knowledge of writing, sanitary facilities, trade mechanism etc.
- Sothi culture is spread over in parts of Rajasthan and Haryana.
- Kalibangan, situated on the river Ghaggar, first excavated by A. Ghosh who termed it as Sothi culture.
- Wheel-made painted pottery, metal working particularly copper, mud-brick houses and well-aligned lanes, etc.
- No evidence of the art of writing, trade mechanisms, sanitary facilities etc.
- In Balochistan, four separate cultures are identified with their places, viz. Zhob, Quetta, Nal and Kulli.
- All of them are rural in nature and lack most of the essential elements of the essentially urban Indus Civilization.