Introduction to the Indus Valley Civilization - who were they? Where was the Indus Valley? Why are we so interested in them? All of these questions and more will be answered in this video!
The Indus Valley Civilization- named for the Indus River basin which supported it - was located in what is now modern-day Pakistan and Northwest India. It is often compared with the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia as being one of the oldest and most significant in the world. It is also known as the Harappan Civilisation, after the first city discovered in the modern-day, Harappa, and as the Indus-Saraswati Civilisation after the Saraswati River which flowed adjacent to the Indus.
The two main cities, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro are well-organised cities with uniform mud-brick buildings, and conscious city planning! One of the most interesting buildings found at Mohenjo Daro is The Great Bath - yet none of the Indus Valley cities has anything resembling a temple! The Indus Valley peoples were well skilled, and their seal stones and figurines are intricate and well-made.
Indus Valley civilization
One of the first civilizations in the world developed in the valley of the Indus River in Asia. It occupied both sides of what is now the border between Pakistan and India. The Indus Valley civilization lasted from about 2500 bce to about 1700 bce .
Society and Culture
The biggest cities of the Indus Valley civilization were Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Both were in what is now Pakistan. Harappa might have had as many as 35,000 people. Mohenjo-daro was even larger. There were also at least 60 smaller settlements along the Indus River and the Arabian Sea.
Farming was important to the Indus Valley civilization. People ran water channels from rivers to the fields. The Indus people were among the first to grow cotton and use it to make cloth. They also might have been the first people to raise chickens.
Indus merchants used carved stones called seals to mark their goods. Many seals show pictures of animals and a form of writing. These seals have been found in Mesopotamia (in what is now Iraq). This means that the two regions might have traded with each other.
Beginning in about 5000 bce , farmers near what is now Iran began to gather in villages. In about 3500 bce settlers began to move eastward into the Indus Valley. By about 2500 bce the Indus Valley civilization had developed at Harappa and other sites.
The Indus Valley civilization probably broke down in stages between 2000 bce and 1700 bce . Some historians blame invaders from the west, probably a group known as Aryans. Climate change, floods, and diseases also might have hurt the civilization.
Cities and Context
The Harappans used the same size bricks and standardized weights as were used in other Indus cities such as Mohenjo Daro and Dholavira. These cities were well planned with wide streets, public and private wells, drains, bathing platforms and reservoirs. One of its most well-known structures is the Great Bath of Mohenjo Daro.
There were other highly developed cultures in adjacent regions of Baluchistan, Central Asia and peninsular India. Material culture and the skeletons from the Harappa cemetery and other sites testify to a continual intermingling of communities from both the west and the east.Harappa was settled before what we call the ancient Indus civilization flourished, and it remains a living town today.
The geographical location of the Indus/Harappan Civilization
The Indus civilization was developed on the bank of the Sindhu and Saraswati River basins in the North-west part of India, which was spread about 12.5 lakhs square km between India and Pakistan.
The Northern site of this civilization was Manda ( Jammu & Kashmir) and the Southern was Daimabad (Maharashtra), which was situated far from 1400 km from each other.
The Eastern site of the civilization was Alamgirpur (Uttar Pradesh) while the Westernmost site was Sutkagendor (Balochistan, Makran Coast of Pakistan), the distance between the eastern and western sites was 1600 km.
Sites of the Indus Civilization
During the discovering and digging of the Indus Civilization there are many sites found there, in which six towns Harappan , Mohenjo-Daro , Ganvariwala , Rakhigadhi , Kalibanga , and Dholavira are marked as the major towns of the Indus Civilization. While the Lothal and Sutkotda are marked as the Port towns of this civilization.
Major Sites and their Location
Montgomery District of Pakistan
Larkana District of Sindh state in Pakistan
Khairpur of Sindh in Pakistan
Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan in India
Kathiyawadi District of Gujarat in India
Ropar district of Punjab in India
Ahmedabad of Gujarat in India
Balochistan Makran coast of Pakistan
Meerut District of Uttar Pradesh in India
Hisar District of Haryana in India
Catch District of Gujarat in India
Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra in India
THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
The first Indian civilization arose in the Indus valley about 2,600 BC. It actually straddled northwest India and Pakistan. By 6,500 BC the people of the area had begun farming. By 5,500 BC they had invented pottery. By about 2,600 BC a prosperous farming society had grown up. The farmers used bronze tools. They grew wheat, barley, and peas. Later the Indus farmers also grew rice and millet. They also raised cattle, water buffalo, goats, and sheep. The people spun cotton for clothes.
However, life was not all hard work. The Indus people played board games and children played with toy animals.
Mohenjo-Daro n Some of the people of the Indus Valley began to live in towns. The two largest were at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Although there were also towns at Kalibangan, Kot Diji, Amri, and other places.
Mohenjo-Daro probably had a population of at least 35,000. The city consisted of two parts. In the center part was a citadel. It contained a public bath and assembly halls. It also held a granary where grain was stored. The lower part of the town had streets laid out in a grid pattern. The houses were 2 or even 3 stories and were made of brick as stone was uncommon in the area. Bricks were of a standard size and the Indus Valley civilization had standard weights and measures. The streets had networks of drains.
Life in Mohenjo-Daro was obviously highly organized although most of the people of the Indus Valley were farmers who lived in small valleys. The Indus Valley people had a form of writing but unfortunately, it has not been deciphered so nothing is known of their political system or their religion. However many engraved seals and terracotta figurines have been found.
For local transport, the Indus people used bullock carts. However, the many rivers made it easy to transport goods by water.
The Indus people also traded by sea with the people of what is now Iraq. They exported lapis lazuli and carnelian beads. They also exported timber and cotton. n The Decline of the Indus Valley Civilization n The Indus Valley civilization was at its peak in the years 2,300-1,700 BC. After that date, it declined.
The reasons for this are not clear. Perhaps there was a climatic changed and the area grew cooler and drier. It has also been suggested that rivers changed course. In those days less rainfall or a change in the course of a river would have had severe consequences for farming and of course, like all early civilizations the Indus Valley, depended on farming. Civilization was only possible if the farmers made a surplus. They could exchange their surplus with craftsmen for manufactured goods. They could also exchange some goods from far away.
However, if the farmers no longer made a surplus they could no longer support the craftsmen who lived in the towns. The populations of the towns would drift away to the countryside. Trade and commerce would decline.
As society grew less prosperous people would return to a simpler way of life and the invention of writing would disappear. The Indus Valley civilization vanished and it was forgotten. It was not rediscovered until the 1920s.
History of Cosmetics Use
An early center of the development of cosmetics was Ancient Egypt. Indeed, the Egyptians had the majority of the basic categories of cosmetic products still in use today, including red pigments for the lips and cheeks, eyeliner (kohl), eye shadows, and foundation. These items were produced by professional cosmetics makers. Visual evidence of the use of these products remains in representational portraits from the period, such as the iconic, painted limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti that is now in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin.
However, cosmetics did not develop in only a single civilization. Pots of colored paints for the eyes and rouges for the lips have been found in Sumerian tombs near Ur in Mesopotamia 5000 years ago. An early center of technological and cosmetic development was the Indus Valley Civilization . Kohl pots and sticks for lining the eyes, as well as red iron oxides and white lead-based compounds that have been surmised to be rouge for the lips and cheeks and foundation for lightening the skin, have been found at excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Archeological evidence for ancient uses of cosmetics in the East Asia is less clear, though there is a long history of the use of white face paint and rouge for the lips in China and Japan. Overall, there is evidence that cosmetics developed in multiple centers of early technological development and then spread outward to other areas, analogous to the spread of other technologies like agriculture and writing.
Cosmetic practices are not only widespread but also difficult to eradicate. During the Victorian era in the English-speaking world, cosmetics use was strongly discouraged, being viewed as morally unsound. Nevertheless, women found ways to change the apparent coloration of their face, using techniques such as pinching their cheeks and biting their lips to create a rosy hue, or wearing colors in their bonnet linings to produce the optical effect of lightening their skin. More recently, attempts in communist countries to ban cosmetics were unsuccessful, because cosmetics could be easily purchased on the black market. In the most industrialized societies of the current era, cosmetics are neither discouraged nor banned, and their use is ubiquitous. In 2007, the worldwide retail value of ‘color cosmetics’ alone (i.e., products intended to alter the user’s facial appearance, but not skin care, hair care, perfumes, etc.) was over $37 billion.
Indus Valley Civilization Introduction The Indus Valley Civilization
Indus Valley Civilization Introduction The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the world's first great urban civilizations. It flourished in the vast river plains and adjacent regions in what are now Pakistan and western India.
Timeline • • Indus Tradition Early Food Producing Era ca. 6500 - 5000 B. C. Regionalization Era ca. 5000 - 2600 B. C. Indus Civilization - Harappan Culture Integration Era 2600 - 1900 B. C. Late Harappan Period 1900 - 1300 or 1000 B. C. Post-Indus Tradition Painted Grey Ware +1200 - 800 B. C. Northern Black Polished Ware + 700 - 300 B. C. Early Historic Period ca. 600 B. C.
Indus Valley Civilization • The earliest cities became integrated into an extensive urban culture around 4, 600 years ago and continued to dominate the region for at least 700 years, from 2600 to 1900 B. C. • It was only in the 1920's that the buried cities and villages of the Indus valley were recognized by archaeologists as representing an undiscovered civilization.
Indus Valley Civilization ∙South Asia's first cities were established around 2600 B. C. in what is now Pakistan and western India. The peoples who built and ruled these cities belong to what archaeologists refer to as the Harappan Culture or Indus Civilization. This civilization developed at approximately the same time as the early city states of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Society • Although there were economic and cultural contacts between these early urban societies, significant differences are seen in their respective artistic styles, symbols, technologies and social organization. • These differences can be attributed to the fact that each civilization evolved from local cultures which have roots extending back to the earliest Neolithic farming and pastoral communities, dating in Pakistan and India to around 6500 B. C. . • This urban civilization spread over a vast geographical region from the high mountains of Baluchistan and Afghanistan to the coastal regions of Makran, Sindh and Gujarat.
Cities • Large cities ( Mohenjo-daro and Harappa) and smaller towns grew up along the major trade routes as administrative and ritual centers. ∙During the full urban phase of this civilization, there is evidence for trade contact with the surrounding cultures in the Arabian gulf, West and Central Asia and peninsular India.
The Beginnings of Art, Symbol and Technology • • • The Indus Valley civilization developed out of earlier farming and pastoral communities that inhabited the plains and western mountainous regions of Baluchistan and Afghanistan. These communities are referred to as pre- or Early Indus cultures and each had its own distinctive artistic style. These regional styles are most clearly observed in various painted designs on pottery, different types of clay figurines, toys, seals and ornaments. Although the styles of expression are different, trade and exchange networks connected the various regions and allowed for the distribution of raw materials, finished goods, technological knowledge and food items. These items included precious stones, copper, sea shells, chert for stone tools and probably many other commodities such as grain, wool and livestock. The gradual dispersal of specific artistic styles and motifs along with specific types of ornaments indicates that there was a gradual integration of these communities though marriage alliances, ritual interaction and eventually political treaties.
Neolithic Mehrgarh • • • Located at the base of an important pass, the site of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan, Pakistan provides evidence for the earliest agricultural and pastoral communities in South Asia. The first inhabitants of Mehrgarh, dating to around 6500 B. C. , were farmers who cultivated wheat and barley as their main grain crops and had herds of cattle, sheep and goats. Although in the earliest period they had not yet begun to make pottery, they lived in mud brick houses, wove baskets and adorned themselves with elaborate bead ornaments made of shell and colored stones. Some of these beads appear to have been traded from distant areas or were collected during pastoral migrations. Around 5500 B. C. the earliest forms of pottery have been discovered along with new types of ornaments and more developed architecture. The earliest forms of pottery have shapes that are similar to baskets and many of the designs on the vessels may replicate woven motifs on the earlier baskets. These decorative motifs were not simply for ornamentation, but undoubtedly had some ritual significance and were symbols that served to distinguish different family groups or communities.
Urban Character of the Indus Valley Civilization • • Around 2600 B. C. the various regional cultures were united in what is called the Indus Valley Civilization. It is also commonly referred to as the Harappan culture after the town of Harappa (where it was first discovered. This civilization was organized around cities and towns that were located at major cross roads and in rich agricultural regions. The ruling communities of these cities developed a distinctive form of writing. They appear to have controlled a vast geographical area, some 650, 000 square kilometers. This area is twice as large as that controlled by Mesopotamian or Egyptian cultures at this same time in history. Hundreds of Harappan settlements have been discovered, and archaeologists have been able to excavate different types of sites in each of the major regions. The earliest excavations focused on large cities located along the Indus river and its tributaries Mohenjo-daro on the Indus ( (Sindh, southern Pakistan) and Harappa on the Ravi River (Punjab, northern Pakistan). Other equally large cites have been found along the dried up Hakra-Nara River to the east, including two unexcavated sites that are almost as large as Mohenjo-daro, Ganweriwala (Cholistan, Pakistan) and Rakhigarhi (Harayana, India). A fifth major town that has been excavated, Dholavira, is located on a small island that controlled the trade through the Greater Rann of Kutch (Gujarat, India). Several smaller towns, rural villages, mining, trading and coastal settlements have also been excavated in both Pakistan and western India.
Environment and Subsistence • These settlements are spread out over a vast and diverse geographical area (from the lapis mining region in mountainous northern Afghanistan (to the bountiful coasts of the Arabian in the south. It stretched from the rugged highland pastures of Baluchistan in the west, to the mineral rich deserts of Cholistan and Thar in the east. . The core region of this civilization was the vast alluvial plains of the Indus River and the now dried up Ghaggar - Hakra river. • Watered by snow melt and seasonal monsoon rains, these plains provided fertile agricultural land, grazing grounds, fish, abundant wild animals and forest resources that were essential for feeding the large populations in the urban centers. Excavations at the ancient mounds revealed well planned cities and towns built on massive mud brick platforms that protected the inhabitants against seasonal floods. In the larger cities the houses were built of baked brick (while at smaller towns most houses were built of sun-dried mud brick. The settlements had major streets running North-South and East-West, with smaller streets and alleys connecting neighborhoods to the main thoroughfares. The houses were often two storied and usually had a bathing area (supplied with water from a neighborhood well (. All of the houses were connected to an elaborate city-wide drainage system that reflects a well organized civic authority Mohenjo-daro has a large water tank that may have served as a public or ritual bathing area. Other important structures include possible granaries and industrial complexes)that suggest some level of state control of economic resources and production.
City Organization • Excavations at the ancient mounds revealed well planned cities and towns built on massive mud brick platforms that protected the inhabitants against seasonal floods. • In the larger cities the houses were built of baked brick (while at smaller towns most houses were built of sun-dried mud brick. • The settlements had major streets running North-South and East-West, with smaller streets and alleys connecting neighborhoods to the main thoroughfares. • The houses were often two storied and usually had a bathing area (supplied with water from a neighborhood well (. All of the houses were connected to an elaborate city-wide drainage system that reflects a well organized civic authority Mohenjo-daro has a large water tank that may have served as a public or ritual bathing area (. Other important structures include possible granaries () and industrial complexes) that suggest some level of state control of economic resources and production.
Utilitarian and Decorative Objects • Indus artisans produced a wide range of utilitarian and decorative objects using specialized techniques of stone working, ceramics and metallurgy. • Copper and bronze were used to make tools, mirrors, pots and pans. • Bone, shell and ivory were turned into tools, jewelry, gaming pieces and especially furniture inlay. • Silver and gold utensils and ornaments were crafted. Fine ceramic objects, such as stoneware bangles and glazed faience ornaments were also made. • These objects may have been produced for the wealthy merchants and ruling classes, because identical utensils and ornaments were made in terracotta probably for ordinary people.
The Indus Script: Seals and Writing • The most unique objects were square seals made of stone and engraved with symbols and animal motifs. • The most common animal on the seals is a mythical unicorn while Abstract or pictographic symbols that were engraved above the animals represent the Indus form writing. The presence of writing on seals, as well as on pottery and other objects, indicates that the Indus people had developed a system for recording the names of deities, or people or materials. • On the average, the inscriptions are very short, consisting of about seven symbols. Scholars have not yet been able to decipher these short inscriptions and will not be able to do so until some longer texts or bi-lingual inscriptions have been discovered.
Harappan Religion and Belief Systems • Without the aid of written texts it is difficult to reconstruct the Indus religion. They made clay figurines of animals and women that probably were used in special rituals. • Soft limestone was used to carve small sculptures of deities or important people Many of the seals have narrative scenes that appear to represent deities and ceremonies • The Indus people buried their dead in wooden coffins along with many pottery vessels (69 to 72), that were probably filled with food for the afterlife. Most individuals, both male and female were buried with some simple ornaments, such as shell or copper bangles and agate beads. Elaborate ornaments of gold, silver and precious stones were never included in the burials and must have been inherited by the living relatives. • No royal burials have been found.
Research and Misconceptions • • • Research on the Indus Valley Tradition has been going on since the first discovery of inscribed seals at Harappa in the late 1800 s, and scholars from all of the major countries of the world have been involved in this research. Major excavations were begun at the larger sites in the 1920 s and numerous excavations at smaller sites have broadened our understanding of this unique culture. However, there are still many misconceptions about this culture that have resulted from theoretical and cultural biases of the earliest excavators. Some of these misconceptions are that the Indus urban society was the result of colonization from Mesopotamia to the west (in modern Iraq) that it appeared suddenly from unknown origins that is was a strictly uniform culture ruled by a priest-king from two major capitals and then disappeared, leaving no influence on later cultural developments. One of the major misconceptions is that invasions of so-called Aryans destroyed the Indus cities and established a totally new culture and language in the subcontinent. It should be noted that most scholars have rejected the invasion hypothesis for the end of the Indus cities because there is no archaeological, biological or literary reference to support this theory. An important reason for the perpetuation of these misconceptions is that the general public and academic community have had very little exposure to information about this ancient culture or the later cultures that developed Pakistan and western India.
Trade and Exchange • The Indus cities were connected with rural agricultural communities and distant resource and mining areas through strong trade systems. They used pack animals, river boats, and bullock carts for transport. • This trade is reflected in the widespread distribution of exquisite beads and ornaments , metal tools and pottery that were produced by specialized artisans in the major towns and cities. • Cotton, lumber, grain, livestock and other food stuffs were probably the major commodities of this internal trade. A highly standardized system of weights was used to control trade and also probably for collecting taxes. There was also external trade with Central Asia, the Arabian Gulf region and the distant Mesopotamian cities, such as Susa and Ur.
Legacy of the Indus Cities in Modern Pakistan and India • • Although earlier scholars thought that the Indus civilization disappeared around 1700 B. C. , recent excavations in Pakistan and western India indicate that the civilization gradually became fragmented into smaller regional cultures referred to as Late or post-Harappan cultures. The ruling classes and merchants of the major urban centers were no longer able to control the trade networks that served to integrate such a vast geographical area. The use of standardized weights, writing and seals became unnecessary as their social and political control gradually disappeared. The decline of the major urban centers and the fragmentation of the Indus culture can be attributed in part to changing river systems that disrupted the agricultural and economic system. Around 1700 B. C. the tributaries of the Hakra-Nara River became diverted to the Indus system in the west and the Jamuna River to the east. As the river dried up people migrated to the central Indus valley, the Ganga-Yamuna Valley or the fertile plains of Gujarat in western India. The Indus river itself began to change its course, resulting in destructive floods. Certain distinguishing hallmarks of the Indus civilization disappeared. Others, such as writing and weights, or aspects of Indus craft technology, art, agriculture and possibly social organization, continued among the Late and post-Harappan cultures. These cultural traditions eventually became incorporated in the new urban civilization that arose during the Early Historical period, around 600 B. C.
Top Five Reasons Why the Indus River Valley Civilization Was the Coolest Ever
I don’t know about most of you, but I do not recall learning anything about the Indus Valley Civilization while I was in high school. This is probably because American students typically learn history from a Western Civ point of view, but that’s another issue for another blog post. I chose to write about the IVC because I think it is the awesome civilization, ironically the one we know the least about. And here’s why.
5. We didn’t even know the IVC existed until the first part of the 20 th Century
Okay so the IVC was technically “discovered” accidentally in 1831 by Charles Masson, who was digging around aimlessly because he was a deserter from the British Army of Bengal. However, he didn’t realize he was looking at a newly discovered civilization. Instead, he thought he found Sangala, the capital of King Porrus. There were smaller excavations made after his “discovery”, but it wasn’t until 1920 that archeologist Sir John Marshall concluded these remains were dating back to 2500 BCE before Alexander’s time. Today, archeologists conclude the IVC was the largest civilization during it’s time period. Although it only had two cities: Harrapa and Mohenjo-daro, over 1,500 cites have been uncovered since its discovery.
4. It was the most abundant place to live
I know this may seem like an odd point, but it is important when discussing civilizations, because geography was key to success. The IVC was situated on the Indus flood plain in modern day Pakistan. Rivers on either side of the cities flooded twice a year, which was significant because it helped produce much more food than any other civilization during its time period. In fact, citizens in the IVC had the most available calories per acre compared to anywhere else in the world, hence why it was the largest. When you have a civilization that has a reliable and large food supply,that gives citizens time to do even cooler stuff, such as…
3. They had a ridiculous urban planning team
We don’t know who was in charge in the IVC, but we can conclude there was urban planning before the major existed. First, the buildings itself were obviously planned with engineer skills. Each building was either one or two stories, probably depending on class. They also had a specific window layout, which was in sync with the wind patterns. This created a natural form of air conditioning, making life that much more awesome since you know, it is pretty damn hot in Pakistan. Second, both Mohenjo-daro and Harrapa were built in a grid pattern. This means that there was a large amount of planning before they were built, although we have no idea who was in charge. Third, we all know the Romans are famous for their engineering brilliance because they created the aqueduct, but I tip my hat to the IVC for drains over frilly aqueducts. Their drainage system relied on gravity to take the waste out of the city, instead of making their own poop moat beneath the city. Since human waste was taken out of the city, this made it very clean, thus decreasing the chances for disease and overall nastiness. This is probably another reason why the population was so large and prosperous.
2. We still haven’t cracked their language, but we certainly found unicorns
The title is pretty self-explanatory, as in we still haven’t cracked their language. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of samples of their written language. Archeologists have found hundreds of tiny seals that have writing and a picture on them, which possibly were used as stamps. Here’s an example:
OH MY GOD IT’S A F***ING UNICORN!
I’m not joking, this is a legitimate seal excavated from Harrapa, and there are others just like it. Like,159 other seals have a unicorn on it. Now the question is: Is this really a bull from a side point of view, or really a unicorn? Some seals look as if there is a second horn behind it, but since the seals are so small and old, it’s really hard to tell. On the other hand, it really could be a unicorn, considering there are figurines with one horn coming out of the middle of the forehead from both Harrapa and Mohenjo-daro. However, we can’t really tell what it is until we crack the code, so to speak. There isn’t a Rosetta Stone to help us, so we need a miracle. Reference note: there’s a really cool Ted Talks about cracking the code found here:
1. This discovery makes Hinduism the oldest religion in all of history
Just wrap your mind around that sentence for a second. It would be remarkable if a religion has existed for as long as humans have gathered in one civilization. I have to point out that this conclusion is an argument, and it’s not exactly proven, due to #2. However, I do believe the IVC was an ancestor to Hinduism, making it the oldest religion. The argument is complicated without background knowledge about Hinduism, but I’ll do my best to simplify it.
1. There is no evidence of warfare in the IVC: this is a very unique aspect of the IVC. Archeologists agree that the IVC was a peaceful civilization, because few weapons or evidence of warfare have been found. That peacefulness could have transferred to Hinduism, which values ahisma, nonviolence. This is often found in the Bhavagad Gita, but more of you may associate Gandhi with this aspect.
2. “The Great Bath” is a mysterious pool in the center of Mohenjo-daro. Archeologists believe it was used for ritual purification. This purification was probably the ancestor to the caste system, which is very complicated to explain. All you need to know is it was a system that divided the people into classes based on purity.
3. Remember those seals? There are more images than the unicorn. Another popular image is called “Proto-Shiva”. Proto-Shiva looks like this:
This seal may be an early form of the Hindu god Shiva, who is the Lord of Creatures. Other archeologists argue that this isn’t really Shiva, because this man does not have three faces like Shiva. We can’t come to a conclusion until the language is cracked, where we can learn more information about the IVC’s religion.
The overall point is if the IVC really was an early form of Hinduism that would make Hinduism the oldest religion in all of history. This is a huge impact on religious studies, as well as our understanding of our past.
8a. Early Civilization in the Indus Valley
Aryans probably used the Khyber Pass to cross the mountains during their Indian invasion. Located in present day Pakistan, the pass is about 16 yards wide at its narrowest point.
The phrase "early civilizations" usually conjures up images of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and their pyramids, mummies, and golden tombs.
But in the 1920s, a huge discovery in South Asia proved that Egypt and Mesopotamia were not the only "early civilizations." In the vast Indus River plains (located in what is today Pakistan and western India), under layers of land and mounds of dirt, archaeologists discovered the remains of a 4,600 year-old city. A thriving, urban civilization had existed at the same time as Egyptian and Mesopotamian states &mdash in an area twice each of their sizes.
The people of this Indus Valley civilization did not build massive monuments like their contemporaries, nor did they bury riches among their dead in golden tombs. There were no mummies, no emperors, and no violent wars or bloody battles in their territory.
Remarkably, the lack of all these is what makes the Indus Valley civilization so exciting and unique. While others civilizations were devoting huge amounts of time and resources to the rich, the supernatural, and the dead, Indus Valley inhabitants were taking a practical approach to supporting the common, secular, living people. Sure, they believed in an afterlife and employed a system of social divisions. But they also believed resources were more valuable in circulation among the living than on display or buried underground.
Amazingly, the Indus Valley civilization appears to have been a peaceful one. Very few weapons have been found and no evidence of an army has been discovered.
Excavated human bones reveal no signs of violence, and building remains show no indication of battle. All evidence points to a preference for peace and success in achieving it.
So how did such a practical and peaceful civilization become so successful?
The Twin Cities
The ruins of two ancient cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (both in modern-day Pakistan), and the remnants of many other settlements, have revealed great clues to this mystery. Harappa was, in fact, such a rich discovery that the Indus Valley Civilization is also called the Harappan civilization.
The first artifact uncovered in Harappa was a unique stone seal carved with a unicorn and an inscription. Similar seals with different animal symbols and writings have since been found throughout the region. Although the writing has not yet been deciphered, the evidence suggests they belonged to the same language system. Apparently, Mesopotamia's cuneiform system had some competition in the race for the world's first script.
The discovery of the seals prompted archaeologists to dig further. Amazing urban architecture was soon uncovered across the valley and into the western plains. The findings clearly show that Harappan societies were well organized and very sanitary.
This copy of the Rig Veda was written after the Vedic Age. The Aryans had no form of writing at the time they invaded India. Instead, these religious scripts would have been memorized and passed down orally by Brahman priests.
For protection from seasonal floods and polluted waters, the settlements were built on giant platforms and elevated grounds. Upon these foundations, networks of streets were laid out in neat patterns of straight lines and right angles. The buildings along the roads were all constructed of bricks that were uniform in size.
The brick houses of all city dwellers were equipped with bathing areas supplied with water from neighborhood wells. Sophisticated drainage systems throughout the city carried dirty water and sewage outside of living spaces. Even the smallest houses on the edges of the towns were connected to the systems &mdash cleanliness was obviously of utmost importance.
The Fall of Harappan Culture
No doubt, these cities were engineering masterpieces of their time. The remains of their walls yield clues about the culture that thrived in the Indus Valley. Clay figurines of goddesses, for example, are proof that religion was important. Toys and games show that even in 3000 B.C.E., kids &mdash and maybe even adults &mdash liked to play. Pottery, textiles, and beads are evidence of skilled craftsmanship and thriving trade.
The swastika was a sacred symbol for the Aryans signifying prosperity. The word comes from the Sanskrit for "good fortune." Hitler borrowed the symbol, changed the angle and direction of the arms, and used it to represent the Nazis.
It was this intensive devotion to craftsmanship and trade that allowed the Harappan culture to spread widely and prosper greatly. Each time goods were traded or neighbors entered the gates of the cities to barter, Indus culture was spread.
Eventually, though, around 1900 B.C.E, this prosperity came to an end. The integrated cultural network collapsed, and the civilization became fragmented into smaller regional cultures. Trade, writing, and seals all but disappeared from the area.
Many believe that the decline of the Harappan civilization was a result of Aryan invasions from the north. This theory seems logical because the Aryans came to power in the Ganges Valley shortly after the Indus demise of the Indus Valley Civilization. Because there is little evidence of any type of invasion though, numerous historians claim that it was an environmental disaster that led to the civilization's demise. They argue that changing river patterns disrupted the farming and trading systems and eventually led to irreparable flooding.
Although the intricate details of the early Indus Valley culture might never be fully known, many pieces of the ancient puzzle have been discovered. The remains of the Indus Valley cities continue to be unearthed and interpreted today. With each new artifact, the history of early Indian civilization is strengthened and the legacy of this ingenious and diverse metropolis is made richer.
An Introduction to the Indus Valley Civilization
The National Museum, New Delhi welcomes thousands of visitors every year from all states of the country and abroad. Our discerning visitors are curious to know about ancient civilizations and cultures that were in existence in India and whose glimpses can be seen in our galleries. The obvious question they have in their minds is: Did India have any civilization comparable to those in Egypt, Mesopotamia or China? The simple answer to the question is YES. The oldest civilization of India is known as the Indus-Saraswati Civilization, which is popularly known as the Indus Valley or Harappan Civilization and it was contemporaneous with the above-mentioned old civilizations of the world. The Harappan gallery is one of the most important galleries in the National Museum. The gallery throws light on the proto-historic civilization of the Indian subcontinent and has rich collections on display. However, curious visitors often need more information and explanations to understand objects and their contexts better.
I am happy to present the Second Reprint of this publication, 'An Introduction to the Indus Valley Civilization' which has found immense popularity amongst knowledge-seeking readers. The first print was presented for sale in the month of June, 2015 and almost 90 percent of its copies were sold out within ten months from the Museum's sale counter. Given the demand, The first reprint was published in 2016. In presenting the second reprint as an improved version, I agree with the view of my predecessor, Dr Venu Vasudevan, that it will cater to this need and will be useful and enjoyable for visitors, both students and the general public alike. I am grateful to authors, Shri Sanjib Kumar Singh and Shri Gunjan Kumar Srivastava for taking this initiative. They have explained in detail about the archaeology, art and lifestyle of the Harappan Civilization. Presented in a very simple and lucid manner, this book will hopefully be understood and appreciated by curious novices as well as scholars.