Harappan Civilisation belongs to the protohistoric period (Chalcolithic age/Bronze age) dated 2600 – 1900 BC. It is one of the most ancient civilisations in the human history also known as Indus Valley Civilisation. With Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it is considered one of the three early civilizations of the World.Harappa was the first site to be discovered by Alexander Cunningham.
Harappa was the first site to be discovered by Alexander Cunningham (Father of Indian Archaeology) in 1875. The civilisation was discovered in 1920-21 following the excavations by Rakhal Das Banerjee at Mohenjodaro and Daya Ram Sahni at Harappa. The total area of the civilisation was 12,50,000 sq. km and most of the sites were located on the river banks. Primarily the civilisation was named after Harappa but later termed as “Indus Valley Civilisation” due to the discovery of more and more sites in the Indus Valley. John Marshall was the first scholar to use the term “Indus Civilisation”.
Prehistoric period of Ancient Indian History
Town Planning of Harappan Civilisation:
The town planning was the most remarkable feature of Harappan Civilisation. The carefully planned drainage system, grid pattern layout, public bath are some of the important parts of town planning.
- Streets were laid out along an approximate grid pattern intersecting at right angles.
- City’s drainage system was planned very carefully. The streets with drains laid out first and then houses built along them. Small drains made of burnt bricks were connected with private houses later joined the street drains. These drains flowed into the larger sewer in the main streets, covered with burnt bricks or stones.
- Houses were made of burnt bricks. Some houses had remains of staircases to reach the second storey or the roof. Almost every house had a bathroom and there was an evidence of bathroom at first floor.
- The most remarkable feature was “the Great Bath“, a finely brick structure measuring 39 feet long 23 feet breadth and 8 feet depth. It was located in the centre of the citadel. It is remarkable for its beautiful brickwork on the floor made of burnt bricks set in gypsum and mortar.
- Another important structure was the dockyard found at Lothal. It was a large structure measuring 223m in length and 35m in width.
Social & Political system of Harappan Civilisation:
The Harappan society was divided into three sections, viz. an elite class, middle class and worker class. Whether these divisions were based on economic factors or had a socio-religious belief is not clearly defined.
The town was divided into upper town or Citadel and lower town. The elite class lived in the upper Citadel & the working class was not allowed to enter there. Lower Citadel was for middle-class people.
Agriculture & Domestication of Harappan Civilisation:
Most of the Harappan sites were located in semi-arid lands. Therefore irrigation was required for agriculture. Traces of canals have been found at Harappa. Water drawn from wells was used for irrigation. In Dholavira (Gujarat), archaeologists have found water reservoirs which may have been used to store water for agriculture.
- The main crops were wheat and barley. Six varieties of millets including ragi, kodon, sanwa, peas, beans, and jowar were cultivated.
- Pieces of cotton cloth were found at Mohenjodaro. This is the oldest evidence of cotton in the world.
Animal bones of cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo, and pig were found at Harappan sites. Zooarchaeologists found that these animals were domesticated. Bones of wild species such as wild pig, spotted deer, hog deer, sambar deer were also found.
The religion of Indus Valley Civilisation:
From the evidence found at the archaeological sites of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, it is clear that Harappan people were religious. There is clear evidence of the worship of Mother Goddess, a male deity of Lord Shiva, one-horned animals called ‘unicorn’, trees etc.
- Harappan people didn’t worship their gods in a temple. There is no evidence of temple found at the sites.
- The most commonly found figure was Mother Goddess (Matri Devi or Shakti). There is evidence of Yoni (female sex organ) worship.
- A male deity probably Lord Shiva was portrayed on a seal with three faces, seated on a low throne in the typical posture of Yogi, with two animals on each side – elephant and tiger on right and rhinoceros and buffalo on left, and two deer standing under the throne. This portrait showed Lord Shiva as Pashupati.
- The discovery of fire altars at Lothal, Kalibangan and Harappa proved that fire was worshipped.
- Indus people also believed in ghosts and evil forces and they used amulets for protection against them.
Major sites of Harappan Civilisation:
1. Harappa: The first site to be discovered and excavated in 1921. The Indus Valley Civilisation was originally called Harappan Civilisation named after this site.
Archaeological Finds – Six Granaries in a row, Working floors, Stone symbols of Lingam (male sex organ) and Yoni (female sex organ), Painted pottery, Clay figures of Mother Goddess, Copper-made mirror etc.
2. Mohenjodaro: In Sindhi language, Mohenjodaro means ‘mound of the dead men’. It was the largest site of Indus Civilisation and one of the earliest major cities in the world. The city was built in the 26th century BC.
Archaeological Finds – The Great Bath, Pashupati Mahadeva seal, a Bronze image of a nude woman dancer, Clay figures of Mother Goddess etc.