In this essay we will discuss about Indus Valley Civilisation:- 1. Introduction to Indus Valley Civilisation 2. Race of Indus Civilisation 3. Date 4. Town Planning and Architecture 5. Social Life of the People 6. Economic Life of the People 7. Religion of the People 8. Art and Craft 9. Causes for the Destruction of Indus Valley Culture 10. Contribution of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
- Introduction to Indus Valley Civilisation
- Race of Indus Civilisation
- Date of Indus Civilisation
- Town Planning and Architecture of Indus Civilisation
- Social Life of the People of Indus Civilisation
- Economic Life of the People of Indus Civilisation
- Religion of the People of Indus Civilisation
- Art and Craft of the People of Indus Civilisation
- Causes for the Destruction of Indus Valley Culture
- Contribution of the Indus Valley Civilisation
1. Introduction to Indus Valley Civilisation:
For a long time it was believed that Indians are stay at home people and our civilization was only of recent origin. But the excavation at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, which led to the discovery of Indus Valley civilization, has set all these doubts at naught.
It has now been established beyond all doubts that India possessed one of the advanced civilisation at a time when the English people were still living in the jungle age. This unique and important civilisation of the pre-historic times in India was for the first time discovered by Daya Ram Sahni and R.D. Banerjee in 1921 and 1922.
Further excavation were carried out along the Indus between Rupar at the foot of Shimla hills and Sutkagendor, 300 miles close to Karachi, where similar remains were discovered. In recent years excavation at village Alamirpur near Meerut and in Saurashtra have also revealed the similar remains.
All these discoveries point to the existence of an advanced civilisation in pre-historic India which is now popularly known as Indus Valley Civilization or Harappa Culture.
Though this civilisation is termed as Indus civilisation it covered even area beyond the Indus Valley. It extended from the upper Sutlej to the Gulf of Camba in the South and from Makran coast of the Arabian Sea in the west to the Jamuna-Ganges country in the east. Thus the Indus civilisation was the largest of the early civilisations.
2. Race of Indus Civilisation:
There has been much controversy amongst the historians regarding the race to which the people of Indus Valley civilisation belonged. Different scholars have tried to speculate, mainly on the basis of human skeletons and skulls found in the ruins, about their race.
While some scholars are of the opinion that they were Aryans. This point is not acceptable to Sir John Marshall. Marshall holds that this civilisation was quite different from the earlier Vedic civilisation and that it was quite different from that of the Aryans.
According to Gorden Childe, the people of Indus Valley were of Sumerian race. However, he fails to give convincing and substantial proof in support of this view. RD. Banerjee has expressed the view that the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation were Dravidians.
However, if we take the funeral customs of the people of Indus Valley, it would be difficult to accept this contention. On the basis of the finds discovered Dr. Guha has expressed the view that the people belonged to a mixed race. Thus we find that there is great difficulty in ascertaining the race to which the people of Indus Valley civilisation belonged.
Most probably many races contributed to the evolution of Indus Valley culture and perhaps Aryans also formed an important part of them. There is every reason to believe that the Indus’ Valley culture was a synthesis of the Aryan and non-Aryan cultures and its authorship cannot be ascribed to any particular race. But one thing can be said with certainty that the Indus Valley civilisation was of a very high order.
3. Date of the Indus Valley Civilisation:
The Indus Valley, civilisation combines the features of the Neolithic and copper age. The excavation at Mohenjo-Daro have brought to light seven different it layers of buildings, which have assigned to three different period viz., early, intermediate and late. The early layers lie submerged under sub-soil water.
After due consideration the scholars have assigned 500 years to every age, and come to the inclusion that this civilisation must be having an early beginning because it must have taken the people quite a long time to develop such a urban life. Another criteria adopted by the scholars in determining the age of the Indus civilisation is discovery of seals m Mesopotamia, which are dated back to 2500 B.C.
On the basis of these seals and other available material the scholars have suggested that the upper most layer belong to the period 230C-2200 B.C. and the lower layers must have belonged to earlier period. Therefore, the period which is roughly assigned to the Indus civilisation ranges between 2500 B.C. to 500 B.C.
4. Town Planning and Architecture of Indus Valley Civilisation:
All the cities of the Indus Valley civilisation such as Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Chanhuduro, Lohumjudaro etc., display the remarkable skill of the Indus valley civilisation in town planning and sanitation.
Of a these Mohenjo-Daro is better preserved and its excavation has revealed the points that the successive cities were built according In tin plan. This city was built after careful planning, as is clear from streets which though vary in width yet intersect at right angles.
These streets thus divide the entire city into square or rectangular blocks, which are further intersected by narrow lanes. Some of the streets are very long and wide. At least one street has been traced which is more than half a mile long and at places over 30 wide. All the roads are aligned east to the west and north to south. The corners of the streets were rounded so that loads should not get dislodged.
The bricks used for the pavements were comparatively of small size and were plain surfaced. L shaped bricks were occasionally used for corners. Mud mortar was universally used. The plaster of the wall was mainly of mud or gypsum.
The city had an elaborate drainage system, consisting of horizontal and vertical drains, street drains, soak-pits, etc. The architecture of Mohenjo- Daro though not quite artistic and beautiful was quite utilitarian. The peoples used burnt bricks in building walls, pavements, bath rooms, drains, etc.
Some sun-baked bricks were used for the foundation. The foundations were usually very deep. The buildings were generally erected on high platform to protect them against floods, which seem to have been quite common.
Dr. A.D. Pusalker has greatly admired the town planning of the Indus Valley people and says, “A visitor to the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro is struck by the remarkable skill in town planning and sanitation displayed by the ancients, and as an English writer has observed, feels himself surrounded by ruins of some present- day working-town in Lancashire.”
He has divided the buildings unearthed into three categories:
(1) Dwelling houses or residential buildings
(2) Larger buildings and
(3) Public baths.
The size of the Dwelling houses differed from one and another. The small houses consisted of minimum two rooms while the big ones had large number of rooms and often could be mistaken for the palaces. Each house had a wall and drain which were connected with the main street drain.
Vertical drain pipes suggest that bath rooms were constructed in upper storeys also. The presence of the stairways also suggests that the houses used to be double-storey; The entrance to the houses were placed in narrow by-ways and windows were non-existent.
The roofs were floored by placing reed matting of veans and covering them with mud. The planning of the houses does not suggest any purdah. The size of the doors used in the houses varied from 3 feet 4 inches to 7 feet and 10 inches.
In addition to the dwelling houses certain spacious and large buildings also-existed. Some of these possessed large pillared halls about 80 ft. square. These buildings were probably supposed to be temples, municipal or assembly halls.
Another important feature of the houses which deserves mention was that the people were very fond of baths. In every house a special place was set aside for a bath-room. The floor of the bath-room was water-tight with a clear slope towards one corner. The water of the bath-room would pass to the latrine which was generally situated between bath-room and the outer wall of the house.
People were probably in the habit of taking bath daily. The love of the people for the bath is further confirmed from the discovery of a public bath at Mohenjo-Daro. This bath was 30 X 23 X 3 feet and was surrounded by varandah, galleries and rooms on all sides. It was constructed of the burnt bricks and was connected with the fine drainage system for filling and emptying it.
The swimming baths were filled with the water from the wells, which were built of burnt bricks. With a view to keep the wells neat and clean steps were provided. In addition to the Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro, a bath has also been discovered at Harappa which measures 39 X 13 X 8 feet.
The walls of this bath were plastered with gypsum and lime morter. People used these baths on religious occasions as well as otherwise. Thus we find that the people of Indus Valley civilization attached great significance to the bath like the Hindus.
Careful study of the above features of town planning viz. adequate water supply, efficient drainage system, and existence of pucca houses shows that the art of town planning and architecture was quite advanced. The presence of lamp posts at intervals indicates that the system of street lighting also existed.
In short we can agree with Dr. R.C. Majumdar and say that the ruins of the city of Mohenjo-Daro reveal that “on this site a large, populous and flourishing town, whose inhabitants freely enjoyed, to a degree unknown elsewhere in the ancient world, not only the sanitary conveniences but also the luxuries and comforts of a highly developed municipal life.”
5. Social Life of the People of Indus Valley Civilisation:
It has already been observed that the people of Mohenjo-Daro were of cosmopolitan character. Evidently these people were attracted by the fertility and productivity of the area and came from different parts of Asia.
1. Food and Drinks:
The people of the Indus Valley were both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. They cultivated wheat, bailey rice and bred cattle sheep, fish and poultry for food. They also used fish as food. They were also in the habit of taking fruits and vegetables and date was the most favorite fruit of the people.
As regards, the non-vegetarian food they took beef, mutton, poultry, flesh etc.. This has been proved by the discovery of half-burnt bones, found in the houses, lanes and streets.
2. Domestication of Animals:
The Indus Valley people domesticated various types of animals. The most common amongst them were the buffalo, sheep, goat, camel, cow etc. They worshipped the humped bull which has been proved by the various seals. It is not fully’ known whether the people of Indus Valley knew about the horse.
However, certain scholars have taken certain bones recovered on the upper-most layer as bones of the horse, while the others have denied. The people also knew about wild animals like lion, rhinoceros, tiger, monkey, bear etc. In addition they also knew about similar animals like mongoose, squirrel, parrot, peacock, cat etc. This is borne out by the presence of large number of clay models or toys of these animals.
3. Dress and Ornaments:
As regards the dresses no actual specimens of clothing have fallen into the hands of the excavators and we have to make conjectures about their dress from the various figures. Most probably both cotton and woolen clothes were used by the people. The clothes were sewn as has been indicated by the discovery of needles.
We can form an idea about the dress used by the people from the various sculptures of the age. It appears that the women used loin cloth bound by a girdle. In fact there was very little difference between the dress of the males and the females. Most of the people used lower garments which resembles the modern dhoti along with the upper garments which was a type of a shawal.
The people of Indus Valley were great lovers of fashion. Men kept various types of beards and whiskers. The women were also very fashion conscious and bore fan-shaped hair dress. Various objects of head dressing like ivory combs, bronze mirrors have been discovered.
People were in the habit of using antimony also. The discovery of various toilet jars made of ivory, metal pottery and stone have led the scholars to the conclusion that the people were in the habit of using powder.
The authors of Vedic age have also observed:
“Small cockle shells containing a red ochre rouge, lumps of green earth white face paint, and black beauty substance show that the belles in ancient Sind attended to beauty and toilet culture. It is interesting to note that Chanu-daro finds indicate use of lip-sticks”.
Both men and women were in the habit of using ornaments. These ornaments were made of clay and various metals like gold, silver, copper, bronze etc., Certain ornaments like necklaces, fillets, armlets, finger-rings and bangles were used by both men and women. On the other hand ornaments like girdles, nose studs, ear-rings and anklets were used by women alone.
4. Sports and Games:
The people had great love for sports and games and a number of evidences are available to this effect. Some of the prominent games of the tune were dice playing. This is indicated by the presence of large number of dieses during the course of excavation. People were also fond of hunting.
This is proved by the various seals on which men are shown as hunting wild goats and a large anti-lopes with bows and arrows. People also delighted in birds fighting. Fishing was used both as game as well as regular profession.
The children had special love for clay modelling as is proved by the presence of large number of crude models of men and women and animals, whistles, cattle etc. But probably the greatest source of amusement for the- people was music and dance. This is proved by the figure of a bronze dancing girl and terra cotta figures.
5. Disposal of the Dead:
From the evidence, we find three methods were used for the disposal of the dead person:
Firstly, the dead body was buried.
Secondly, after burning the dead body the remains of the dead body were buried under earth.
Thirdly, the dead bodies were left for the wild animals.
Almost all the three methods have been discovered but according to Sir John Marshall, the second method was the most popular.
6. Household Articles:
A number of household articles have been unearthed at Mohenjo-Daro. These articles include cake moulds, dippers, beakers, bowls, dishes, gobies, basins, pans, saucers, etc. These articles are made of stone, shell, ivory, metal etc.
It is noteworthy that during this period the copper and bronze replaced stone models for the manufacture of household objects. In addition certain needles, axis, sans, sickles, knives, fish hooks, chisels have also been discovered.
6. Economic Life of the People of Indus Valley Civilisation:
The various objects recovered at the site of Mohenjo-Daro suggest that it was a prosperous city. The people were fully acquainted with agriculture and different types of agriculture. Implements like sickle have been discovered. The common agricultural products of the time were wheat, barley, vegetables, cotton etc.
As the laud of the Indus Valley was quite productive and had sufficient irrigation facilities, the agriculture seems to have been the main stay-of the people. In addition to this people domesticated animals for economic purposes. The main animals which were domesticated by the people of Indus Valley included cow, bulls, buffaloes, sheep, goat, camel etc.
Mohenjo-Daro was a great industrial centre and a number of industries were practiced there. But probably the most important of these industries was weaving. This is proved by the discovery of a number of spindles and spinning wheels in the various houses of Indus Valley. This suggest that spinning of cotton and wool was quite common.
In addition the people of Indus Valley also knew the practice of dyeing. People also knew the art of using metals like gold, silver, bronze, copper, tin, led etc. and they produced various articles with these metals. But probably the most important industry of the Indus Valley people was pottery.
The earthen pots of those days which have been discovered now can be broadly classified into two categories—hand made and wheel made. The discovery of number of pottery kilns shows that the pots were burnt in kilns. People produced a variety of pots, certain pots were meant for daily use and were plain while other pots were meant for the preservation of valuables and were painted.
2. Trade and Commerce:
The city of Mohenjo-Daro was a great trading centre and both internal and external trade was carried on from there. The international trade was mainly carried on by the land routes in which bullock-carts were used. The people of Mohenjo-Daro had trade relations with the people living in South India, Central India and North-Western India, is proved by the common use of precious and semi-precious stones.
The trade with foreign countries was mainly carried through water routes. This has been proved by the representation of a boat on a seal. Trade was particularly carried with countries of Western Asia. The chief articles sent to the foreign countries were the clothes.
The presence of certain objects of Indus Valley civilisation in Sumeria suggest that India had trade relations with that country also. Scholars have expressed the opinion that Mohenjo-Daro was economically prosperous city only because it was a flourishing centre of trade and commerce.
3. Weights and Measures:
A large number of weights have been discovered from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. These weights differ a great deal in size. While some of the weights are so heavy that they could not be picked up with hands and were used with the help of ropes, while the others were so small that it appears that they were used exclusively by the jewelers.
But the most common weight which was used by the people of Indus Valley is cubical in shape. The people of Indus Valley also knew about the footage system. It appears that the State exercised strict control over weights and measures.
7. Religion of the People of Indus Valley Civilisation:
As regards the religion of the Indus Valley people nothing can be said with certainty because the excavation have not revealed any temples, shrines, altars or cult objects. However, we can make some conjectures, about their religious beliefs from the various seals and objects of sculptures.
This testimony clearly indicate that the people had quite an advanced type of religious faith. At least, one thing, is quite clear that the iconic and an iconic cults existed side by side.
The principal deity of the people was Mother-Goddess, a prototype of the ‘Power’ (which later developed into Shakti). A number of standing and semi-nude female figure, wearing a girdle or band round her loins, with an elaborate head dress and collar, etc. have been discovered.
Mackary has suggested that some sort of oil or incense was burnt before this goddess to please her. Human sacrifices were offered to the Mother-Goddess as is proved by the seal. The animal sacrifices were quite common. In addition to the Mother-Goddess, people worshipped a three-headed-deity which can be recognised as a prototype of historic Shiva.
It has been suggested by certain scholars that the Aryans borrowed Siva cult from the Indus Valley people. The cult of animal worship was also quite common. The animals were not only worshipped but were also regarded as Vahana of the gods viz. bull was regarded as the vehicle of Lord Siva.
At Mohenjo-Daro we get a number of evidence of animal, tree and image worship also. Yoga also played an important part in the religious practice as is proved by the presence of ‘ring-stones’ and ‘chess-men’.
The image worship was certainly known to the people of Indus Valley as is indicated by the crossed legged figure on a table discovered recently. On this tablet devotees are shown kneeling to the right and left to the figure and the snake behind the worshipper.
Water played an important role in the religious beliefs of the people, as is evident from the presence of the Great Bath. Certain scholars have suggested that the Great Bath was the temple of the River God. Certain scholars have also suggested that before performing the Puja people used to take bath in the Great Bath for their purification.
8. Art and Craft of the People of Indus Valley Civilisation:
The people of the Indus Valley did not make much progress in the field of fine arts and crafts. The various tools, weapons, vessels, houses and public buildings which have been discovered lack artistic touch.
We have also not come across any monumental sculpture in any of the remains. Although the people of Indus Valley could not produce works of art on a large scale, they displayed notable artistic achievement at-least in seal engravings, especially those of animals.
The various figurines and amulets also show their art at great height. A few stone images found at Harappa are specimens of an excellent finish and show a high degree of development in the art of the sculpture. But probably most outstanding artistic work produced by the Indus Valley people is the bronze ‘dancing girl’.
As one writer has said:
“She is naked but wears bracelets, right up to the shoulder. She is standing in a provocative posture, with one arm on her hip and one lanky leg half-bent. This young woman has an air of lively pertness quite unlike anything in the work of other ancient civilizations. It has been suggested that this ‘dancing girl’ is a representative of a class of temple dancers and prostitutes, such as existed in contemporary Middle Eastern civilization and were an important feature of later Hindu culture, but this has as yet not been historically established. It is not certain that the girl is a dancer, much less a temple dancer.”
Some of the important crafts which flourished during the Indus Valley civilization period were that of pottery, carpentry, masonry, blacksmith, ivory work, stone cutting etc. The people also knew about spinning as is proved by the presence of large number of spindle wheels.
The Art of Writing and Script:
The inscriptions on the seals discovered at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro prove that the people of Indus Valley knew some sort of writing. Their script has been characterized as pictographic, each sign standing for a particular word or object. It appears the people wrote from left to right but in some cases they first wrote from right to left and then from left to right and so on.
According to Basham, “The Indus script may have been inspired by the earliest Sumerian script which probably antedates it slightly, but it bears little resemblance to an” of the scripts of ancient Middle East.”
Nothing can be said for certainty about the language or the script used by the Indus Valley people, because the script has not so far teen un-deciphered. However, certain scholars regard this script as Sanskrit while other considers it as Dravidian. But R. B. Dikshit is of the view that the people of Indus Valley developed an independent script of their own.
Certain scholars have tried to advocate that the script of the Indus Valley people was identical to the one used by the people in Egypt, Sumeria and other countries of West Asia. However, nothing can be said for certain about the script of the Indus Valley people except that it was pictographic.
9. Causes for the Destruction of Indus Valley Culture:
In the absence of any written material or historical evidence scholars have made various speculations regarding the causes for the Decline or destruction of Indus Valley civilisation.
Some of the causes advanced by the scholars are as follows:
Firstly, some scholars contend that due to decrease in rainfall, Sindh might have become desert and people might have migrated to some other place.
Secondly, certain scholars believe that the earthquake or cyclone might have been responsible for the decadence of Indus Valley culture.
Thirdly, it is argued that the great wealth of the people of the Valley attracted wild tribes from the hills, who might have brought about the destruction of the Indus Valley civilisation. Certain skeletons have been unearthed which provide testimony to this view.
It cannot be said for certain as to who were the invaders who destroyed the Indus Valley civilisation. There is also a possibility that the Aryans who were better equipped might have conquered Indus Valley people. In support of this view it is pointed out that Rig-Veda contains a reference to the conflict between the Aryans and non-Aryans and the destruction of the walled cities of non-Aryans.
Fourthly, archaeologists have attributed the decline of the Valley civilisation to the progressive decay of the land due to cultivation, neglect or destruction of the irrigation facilities and the continuous exploitation of land and firewood for brick manufacture.
Finally, scholars believe that the decline of Indus Valley culture might have taken place due to the change of course by Indus liver. As a result of this change the fertile Indus Valley was converted into a tract of sand and people were forced to leave the place. However, all these views are mere conjectures and nothing can be said for certain about the causes of the decline of Indus Valley civilisation.
10. Contribution of the Indus Valley Civilisation:
The Indus Valley civilisation had made very rich contribution to the modern Hindu culture. In fact many of the features found in the Indus Valley civilisation have been adopted by the Hinduism. Siva as a deity is as popular with the people today as it was during the time of the Indus Valley civilisation.
Similarly the cult of Linga and Yoni is also prevalent throughout the country and was taken from the Indus Valley people. The worship of trees and plants is also in vogue in many parts of the country. Certain plants like Tulsi and Pinal are worshipped.
The animal worship which was popular with the Indus Valley people is also found at present. Certain sacred animals, cows and bulls are worshipped even today. Certain animals and birds still regarded as the vehicles or vahana of certain deities.
Therefore, we can conclude that there is an organic relationship between the ancient culture of the Indus Valley and Hinduism of today. The religion of the Indus Valley people was the lineal progenitor of Hinduism.