Indus valley civilisation



The Indus valley civilization was an ancient civilization thriving along the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River in what is now Pakistan and north-western India. Among other name for this civilization is the Harappan Civilization in reference to its first excavated city of Harappan.

An alternative term for the culture is Saraswati-Sindhu Civilization, based on the fact that most of the Indus Valley sites have been found at the Halkra-Ghaggar River

R.B. Dayaram Sahni first discovered Harappan (on Ravi) in 1921.

R.D. Banerjee discovered Mohenjodaro or ‘Mound of the Dead’ (on Indus) in 1922.

Sir John Marshal played a crucial role in both these.

Harappan Civilization forms part of the proto history of India and belongs to the bronze age. Mediterranean, Proto-Australiod, Mongoloids and Alpines formed the bulk of the population, through the first two were more numerous. More than 100 sites belonging to this civilization have been excavated.According to radio-carbon dating, it spread from the year 2500-1750 BC.Copper, bronze, silver, gold were known but not iron.


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

Some New Findings



Discovered by



Rafeeq Mughal

Rakhi Garhi

Jind (Haryana, India)

Rafeeq Mughal


Major sites in Pakistan are Harappan (on Ravi in W. Punjab), Mohenjodaro (on Indus), Chanhu-Daro (Sindh), etc. in India, Major sites are Lothal(See Picture), Rangpur and Sukotda (Gujarat), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Banwali (Hissar), and Alamgipur (Western UP).

Largest and the latest site in India is Dholavira in Gujarat. Dr. J.P. Joshi and Dr. R.S. Bisht were involved in it.


Elaborate town-planning. It followed the Grid System. Roads were well cut, dividing the town into large rectangular or square blocks. Lamp posts at intervals indicate the existence of street lighting. Flanking the streets, lanes and by-lanes were well-planned houses.

Used burnt bricks of good quality as the building material. Elsewhere in the contemporary world, mud-bricks were used.

Houses, often of two or more storey, varied in size, but were quite monotonous a square courtyard around which were a number of room. No window faced the streets. The houses had tiled bathrooms.

Good drainage system. Drains were made of mortar, lime and gypsum and covered with large brick slabs for easy cleaning. Shows developed sense of health and sanitation.

The towns were divided into 2 parts:Upper part of Citadel and Lower Part. The Citadel was an oblong artificial platform some 30-50 feet high and about 400-200 yards in area. It was enclosed by a thick (13 m at Harappan) crenelated mud-brick wall. In Citadel public buildings, granaries, important workshops and religious buildings were there. In lower part people used to live.

In Mohanjodaro, a big public bath (Greek Bath) measuring 12 m by 7 m and 2.4 m deep, has been found. Steps led from either end to the surface, with changing rooms alongside. It was probably used for ritual bathing.

Town Associated with Different Industries


Stone tools factory


Stone tools factory


Stone tools factory Factory for metallic finished goods


Factory for pearl finished goods, Bangle’s factory


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




(on Indus)


M.G. Majumdor


(on Dasak)


Sir Aurel Stein


(on Indus)


Fazl Ahmed Khan


(on Satluj)


Y.D. Sharma


(on Saraswati)


R.S. Bisht


(on Bhagwa)


S.R. Rao


(on Mahar)


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


(on Indus)


N.G. Majumdor


(on Ghaggar)


B.B. Lal





(on Hindon)


Y.D. Sharma




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

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

Domestication of Animals: Although the Harappans practised agriculture, animals were kept on a large scale Oxen,buffaloes, goats, sheeps domestic fowls and pigs were domesticated. The humped bulls were regarded as pets. Cats were also domesticated and signs of the feet of both dogs and cats have been noticed. They also kept asses and camels, which were possibly used as beasts of burden. Elephants were well known to the Harappan, who were also acquanited with the rhinoceros, spotted dear, sambhar deer, hog deer, wild pig etc. Therefore there is ample evidence to show patrolism of Harappan people.

In Kalibangan, fields were ploughed with wooden ploughs

Domesticated animals on large scale. Besides the cattle, cats and dogs were domesticated. Horse wasn’t in regular use but elephant was. Remains of horse at Surkotda and dogs with men in grave at Ropar have been discovered.

Produced sufficient of feed themselves. Food grains were stored in granaries.


Well-knit external and internal trade. There was no metallic money in circulation and trade was carried through Barter system.

Weights and measures of accuracy existed in Harappan culture (found at Lothal). The weights were made of limestone, steatite, etc and were generally cubical in shape.

16 was the unit of measurement (16, 64, 160, and 320).

Flint tool-work, shell-work, bangle making, pottery making, etc were practiced. Raw material for these came from different sources:gold from N. Karantaka, silver and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and Iran, copper from Lothal. They were items for export.

A dockyard has been discovered at Lothal. Rangpur, Somnath and Balakot functioned as seaports. Sutkagendor and Sutkakoh functioned as outliers.

The inland transport was done with bullock carts.

Every merchant or mercantile family probably had a seal bearing an emblem, often of a religious character, and a name o brief descrition, on one side. The standard Harappan seal was a square or oblong plaque made of steatite stone. The primary purpose of the seal was probably to make the ownership of property, but they may have also served as amulets.

The mesopotamin records from about 2350 BC onwards refer to trade relations with Meluha, the ancient name of the Indus region. Harappan seals and other material has been found at Mesopotamia. Also traded with Sumer.

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

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


Major Imports by the Harappans




Afghanistan, Persia, Karnataka


Afghanistan, Iran


Baluchistan and Khetri(Rajasthan)


Afghanistan, Central Asia


Western India


Rajasthan, South India, Afghanistan, Iran


Copper seals from Lothal and Desalpur


Central Asia


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

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

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


Arts : The Harappans were utilitarians although not completely devoid of artistic sense. They were well-acquainted with the manufacture and use of bronze. Bronze smiths produced images and utensils. They also made several kinds of tools and weapons, namely axes, knives and spears. Jewelleries of Silver, gold and copper were also made on a large scale. Bronze was made by mixing tin and copper. Tools were mostly made of copper and bronze. For making bronze. For making bronze, copper was obtained from Khetri in Rajasthan and from Baluchistan, and tin form Afghanistan.

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

Cotton fabrics quite common. Woolen in winter.

Very fond of ornaments (of gold, silver, ivory, copper, bronze, precious stones) and dressing up. Ornaments were worn by both men and women. Women wore heavy bangles in profusion. Large necklaces, er-rings, bracelets, figure-rings, girdles, nose studs and anklets. The Harappan were also an expert bead makers.

Potter’s wheel was in use. Their pottery was red or black pottery. Played dice games. Their favourite pastime was Gambling.

The harappans’ most notable artistic achievement was their seal gravings, esp those of animals. The red sandstone torso of a man is particularly impressive for its realism. However, the most impressive of the figurines is perhaps the bronze image of the famous dancing girl (identified as devadasi), found at Mohenjodaro.

For their children, they made cattle-toys with movable heads, model monkeys which could slide down a string, little toy-carts, and whistles shapes like birds, all of terracotta.


Main object of worship was the Mother Goddess. But the upper classes preferred a god, nude with two horns, much similar to Pasupati Siva. Represented on the seal is a figure with three horned heads in a yogic posture. He is surrounded by an elephants, a tiger and a rhicoceros, and below his throne is a buffalo. Near his feet are two deer. Pashupatinath represented male deity.

Phallus (lingam) and yoni worship was also prevalent.

Phallus trees (pipal), animals (bull), birds (dove, pigeon) and stones were worshipped. Unicorn was also worshipped. However, no temple has been found, though idolatry was practiced.

At Kalibangan and Lothal fire altars have been found.

Although no definite proof is a available with regard to the disposal of the dead, a broad view is that probably there were three methods of disposing the dead-complete burial, 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 vassels with ashes, bones and charcoal may, however, suggest that during the flourishing period of the Indus Valley culture the third methods was generally practiced. In Harappan, there is one place where evidence of coffin burial is there. The people probably believed in ghosts and evils spirts, as amulets were worn.

Dead bodies were placed in the north-south orientation.


The script is not alphabetical but pictographic (about 600 undeciphered pictographs).

The script has not been deciphered so far, but overlaps of letters show that it was written from rights to left in the first line and left to right in the second line. This style is called ‘Boustrophedo.


There is no clear idea of the political organization of the Indus Valley people. Perhaps they were more concerned with commerce and they were possibly ruled by a class of merchants.

Also, there was an organization like a municipal corporation to look after the civic amenities of the people.




Excavations at the site have led to following specific findings:

I. Tow rows of six granaries with brick platforms; 12 granaries together had the same area as the Great Granary at Mohenjodaro;

II. Evidence of coffin burial and cemetery ‘H’ culture (two antelopes and the hunter on a postherd from a cemetery have been discovered);

III. Single-room barrack;

IV. Evidence of direct trade interaction with Mesopotamia;

V. A red sandstone make torso;

VI. Stone symbols of female genitals.



Some of the specific findings during the excavations of Mohenjodaro include;

I. A college, a multi-pillared assembly hall;

II. The great bath (the most important public place of the city);

III. A large granary (the largest building of Mohenjodaro);

IV. A piece of women cotton along with spindle whorls and needles;

V. Superficial evidence of horse;

VI. A pot-stone fragment of Mesopotamian origin;

VII. Evidence of direct trade contact with Mesopotamia;

VIII. A bronze dancing girl;

IX. Evidence of violent death of some of the inhabitants (discovery of human skeletons put together);

X. A seal representing Mother Goddess with a plant growing from her womb, and a woman to be sacrificed by a man with a knife in his hand;

XI. A bearded man; and

XII. A seal with a picture suggesting Pashupai Mahadev.



Kalibangan was an important Harappan city. The word ‘Kalibangan’ means ‘black bangles’. A ploughed field was the most important discovery of the early excavations.

Late excavation at Kalibangan made the following specific discoveries.

i. A wooden furrow;

ii. Seven fire-altars in a row on a platform, suggesting the practice of th cult of sacrifice;

iii. Remains of massive brick wall around both the citadel and the lower town (the second Harappan site after Lathal to have lower also walled);

iv. Bones of camel;

v. A tiled floor which bears intersecting design of circles;

vi. A human head with long oval eyes, thick lower lips, receding forehead and straight pointed nose; and

vii. Evidence of two types of burials; Burials in a circular grave and burials in a Rectangular grave


Lothal was an important trade centre of Harappan culture, the town planning in Lothal was different from that of Harappan and Mohenjo-daro. The city was divided into six sections. Each section was built on a wide platform of unripe bricks. Each platform was separated by a road with width ranging from 12 feet to 20 feet. Excavations at Lothal led to some specific discoveries which include:

I. Remains of rice husk (the only other Harappan city where the rice husk has been found is Rangpur, near Ahmeadbad);

II. And artificial dockyard;

III. Evidence of horse from a doubtful terracotta figurine;

IV. Impressions of cloth on some of the seals;

V. Evidence of direct trade contact with Mesopotamia;

VI. Houses with entrances on the main street (the houses of all other Harappan cities had side entries);

VII. A ship designed on a seal;

VIII. A terracotta ship;

IX. A painting on a jar resembling the story of the cunning fox narrated in the Panchatantra;

X. Evidence of double burial (burying a male and a female in a single grave);

XI. Evidence of a game similar to modern day chess; and

XII. An instrument for measuring 180, 90 and 45 angles (the instrument points to modern day compass).



 Excavations at Chanhu-daro have revealed three different cultural layers from lowest to the top being Indus culture, the Jhukar culture and the Jhangar culture. The site is specially important for providing evidences about different Harappan factories. These factories produced seals, toys and bone implements. It was the only Harappan city without a citadel. Some remarkable findings at Chanhu-daro include bronze figures of bullock cart and ekkas; a small pot suggesting an kinkwell, footprints of an elephant and a dog chasing a cat.


Alamgipur is considered the eastern boundary of the Indus culture. Although the wares found here resemble those at other Harappan sites, other findings suggest that Alamgirpur developed during late-Harappan culture. The site is remarkable for providing the impression of cloth on a trough.


Kot Diji is known more as a pre-Harappan site. It gives the impression of a pre-Harappan fortified settlement. Houses were made of stone. The remains of Kot-Diji suggest that the city existed in the first half of the third millennium BC. Excavations at the site suggest that the city was destructed by force.


Amri also gives evidences of a pre-Harappan settlement. However, it lacks the fortification plan of the pre-Harappan phase. A spectacular feature of Amri is that it gives the impression of existence of transitional culture between pre and post-harappan culture. Important findings at Amri include the actual remains of rhinceros; traces of Jhangar culture in late or declining Harappan phase and fire altars.


Ropar is a Harappan site from where remains of pre-Harappan and Harappan cultures have been found. Buildings at Ropar were made mainly of stone and soil. Important findings at the site include pottery, omaments, copper axes, chert blades, terracotta blades, one inscribed steatite seal with typical Indus pictographs, several burials interred in oval pits, and a rectangular mud-brick chamber. There is also an evidence of burying a dog below the human burial (Though the practice was prevalent in Burzhom in Kashmir, it was rare in the Harappan context).


Situated in Hissar district of Haryana, Banwali has provided two phases of culture during its excavations; the pre-Harappan (Phase 1) and the Harappan (Phase II). Though phase 11 belonged to the Harappan period, chess-board or grid pattern of town planning was not always followed as in other Harappan sites. The roads were neither always straight, nor did they cut at right angles. It also lacked another remarkable feature of the Harappan civilisation—a systematic drainage system. A high quality barley has been found in excavations. Other important material remains include ceramics, steatite seal and a few terracotta sealings with typical Indus script.


Situated in Kutch (Bhuj) district of Gujarat and excavated by J.P. Joshi in 1972, Surkotada was an important fortified Harappan settlement. The site is important particularly because it has provided the first actual remains of horse bones. A cemetery with four pot burials with some human bones has also been found. A grave has been found in association with a big rock, a rare finding of the Harappan culture.


Suktagendor, situated in Sindh (Pakistan), was an important coastal town of the Indus civilisation. Excavations of Suktagendor have revealed a two-fold division of the township:the Citadel and the Lower City. It is said that Suktagendor was originally a port which later cut off from the sea due to coastal uplift.

Facts to remember

The state which has accounted for highest number of Harappan sites after independence : Gujarat

Three Harappan sites that have yielded three stages of Harappan Civilization (Pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan : Rojde, Desalpur and Surkotada )

Most commonly engraved animal on Harappan seals :Humpless bull or unicorn

Site which have yielded evidence of a pre-Harappan settlement: Kot-Diji, Kalibangan and Harappa

Major Harappan cities that acted as ports : Lothal, Balakot, Suktagendor and Allahdin (Pakistan)

The Harappan city with most impressive drainage system : Mohenjo-daro

The geometric shape of the region covered by the Indus civilisation : Triangle

Wheeler said:Indus Valley is the colony of Sumerians

Lions have not been found anywhere in Harappa.

Mother goddess was not worshipped at Rangpur.

A Kushana period Stupa has been found from Mohenjo-daro

Evidence of cultivation of peas. Till has been traced from Harappa, paddy from Lothal

Harappans had trade relations with Mesopotamians around 2300 BC.

Largest Harappan site in India is situated in Haryana Rakhigarhi, second largest is Dholavira in Gujarat.

Dimension of Brick-length 11 inches, width -5.5 inches, depth -2.75 inches, ratio 4 2:1

Harappan wheels were axeless

Mohenjo-daro had 10.5 mt wide road.

In Harappa, perhaps because of river Ravi the Granery is outside the fort.

In the Lothal Port, there was a dockyard which is 216 meters in length and 37 meters in breadth

Sukotada is the only Indus site where remains of a horse have actually been found.

Terracoota seals found at Mehargarh were the earliest precussors of Harappan seals.

Wider road of Harappa was 30 foot.

Most common materials used for the Harappan stone sculpture : Limestone and steatite

Time span of the Harappan civilization as fixed on the basis of radio-carbon dating:2300 BC – 1750 BC.


Social Life:

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

1. Class : It is not proved if there existed any classes or caster as the Aryan’s verna system. Based upon the mounds we can assume that there were classes if not castes according to the occupation of the people, probably priestly class and general people.

2. Dress and Oranments : As far as their dress is concerned, one cannot say anything definitely, because all information about theri dress is based on inferences arrived at from two types of materials; firstly, on the basis of spindles discovered and secondly from the dress of status and carvings on different seals found in those cities. Ornaments were also popular among both men and women.

3. Religion : Following were the highlights of the religious life of the Harappans :-

The chief male deity was the Pashupati Mahadeva represented in seals, as sitting in a yogic posture on a low and having three faces and two horns. He is surrounded by four animals (elephant, tiger, rhino and buffalo), each facing a different direction, and tow deers appear at his feet

The chief female deity was the Mother Goddess, who has been depicted in various forms to please fertility Goddess.

There is sufficient evidence for the prevalence of phallic worship. Numerous stone symbols of femals sex organs (yoni worship), besides those of phallus, have been discovered. Fertility cult was main feature.

The worship of fire is proved by the discovery of fire altars at Lothal, Kalibangan and Harappa.

Indus people who worshipped Gods in the form of trees (pipal, etc) and animals (unicorn etc)

They believed in ghosts and evils forces and used amulets as protection against them.

4. Script : The script of the Harappans people had 400 to 500 signs and it were not alphabetic but waslogosyllablic writing system. Although the Harappan script is yet to be deciphered, overlaps of letters on some of the potsherds from kalibangan show that the writing was from left to right and from right to left in alternate lines.

5. Games : The Harappans preferred indoor hobbies to outdoor amusements. Dance and music were their popular amusements. Some tubular and conical dices discovered in these cities show that the evil of gambling is as old as history. Another game which they played resembles our modern chess. Marbles dolls and animals toys show that the children of Mohenjo-daro were well supplied with playthings. Fishing and hunting animals were other source of entertainment.

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


The Harappan culture lasted for around 1,000 years.Invasion of the Aryans, recurrent floods, social breakup of Harappans, Earthquakes, etc are listed as possible causes.The Harappan culture flourished until about 1800 BC. Afterwards, the culture began to decline. There is no unanimity among historian on the exact reason of the decline of this urban civilization. Different theories of decline have been put forward by different scholars. 

The following table gives the important theories and their profounders as regards decline of the Indus culture. 

Decline of Indus Valley


Reasons of decline

Gorden Childe, Stuart Piggot

External Aggression


Unstable river system


Natural calamity

Orell Stein and A.N. Ghosh

Climate change

R. Mprtimer Wheeler

Aryan invasion

Robert Raikes


Sood and Aggarwal

Dryness of river

Walter Fairservis

Ecological imbalance



Picture Great bath