(IGP) IAS Pre: GS - Indian History - Ancient India : The Harappan Civilization

Ancient India
The Harappan Civilization

Salient Features:

  1. Urban Civilisation
  2. Bronze Age Civilisation (Flourished during Circa 2500-2000 B.C.)
  3. The largest Civilisation in geographical area of the ancient world.
  4. Town-planning and well developed drainage system.
  5. Gridiron layout and fortification.


  1. Origin lies in various indigenous Pre-Harappan cultures.
  2. Indus Civilisation was culmination of a long series of cultural evolution.
  3. Emerged out of the farming communities of Sind and Baluchistan, Haryana Oujarat and Rajasthan.
  4. Continuous cultural evolution from 6000 BC onwards in North West India which finally culminated in the rise of Indus Civilisation.

Phases of Development:

  1. Archaeological excavation & research have revealed phases of cultural development bursting up in the emergence of a full-fledged civilization at Kalibangan, Banavali and Rakhigarhi.
  2. Began in Baluchistan & Sind are then extended into the plains.
  3. These phases are Pre-Harappan, Early Harappan, Mature Harappan and Late Harappan
  4. Extent of Harrappa:- From in North Manda (J & K) to 1600 k.m Daimabad (Maharastra.) in East Alamgirpur (U.P.) to 1100 K.m Sutkangedor (Bluchistan). Total Area was 12,99,600 Sq. k.m.
  5. These phases of cultural evolution are represented by Mehargarh, Amri, Kalibangan and Lothal respectively.

Different Phases and Transformation:

  • Pre-Harappan - Mehargarh - nomadic herdsrnen to settled agriculture
  • Early Harappan - Amri - growth of large villages and towns
  • Mature Harappan - Kalibangan - rise of great cities
  • Late Harappan - Lothal mature as well as decling phase.

Town planning:

Facts on Town Planning

1. Features of Town Planning

  • A great uniformity in town planning, the fundamental lay-out of prominent urban settlements exhibits apparent similarities.

  • Based on ‘Grid Pattern’: streets and lanes cutting across one another at right angles dividing the city into a number of rectangular blocks. Main streets ran from north to south and were as wide as 30 feet.Streets and lanses were not paved.

2. Entire city complex was bifurcated into two distinct parts: the ‘CITADEL’ a fortified area which housed important civic and religious public buildings including granaries and residences of the ruling class and the ‘LOWER TOWN’, somewhat bigger in area and invariably located east to the former, meant. for commoners. Evidence of fortification of the lower towns as well from a few urban centres like Surkotada and Kalibangan and evidence of division of the city into three parts instead of two from Dhaulvira.

3. Use of standardized burnt bricks on massive scale in almost all types of constructions (an extraordinary feature of the contemporary civilizations), circular stones were used at Dholavira.

4. Elaborate andplanned underground drainage system. Houses were connected to the main drain equipped with manholes. Mostly made up of bricks with mud mortar. Use of gypsum and lime to make it watertight. Cesspits were there inside the houses to deposit solid waste. Bricks culverts meant for carrying rain and storm water have also been found. Bricks were made in ratio of I 2 4. Size of Bricks - 7 C.m in Thick,

  • - 14 C.m Width
  • - 28 C.m Long.

5. Features of Houses

  • Houses were plain and did not exhibit, any refinement and beauty. So far as the decorative value of the houses was concerned, they lacked it. In general they gave plain and un-decorative look.

  • An average house comprised a courtyard and four to six rooms, a bedrooms, a kitchen, and a well presence of staircase gives indication of the second storey. Houses had side-entrances and windows were conspicuously absent. Except Lothal, where enterance were on main road and windows were found.

  • Houses varied from a single-roomed tenements to houses with a number of rooms and having even a second storey. Floors were generally of beaten earth coated with cowdung. Fire-places were common in rooms. Walls were thick and square holes in them suggest of use of wooden beams. Every house was separated by another by a narrow space of ‘no-man’s land’. Staircases  were usually wooden but some made up of burnt bricks have been found too. Roofs were flat. Doors were set in wooden frames and the average width of a door was one metre. Square and rectangular pillars of burnt bricks were used in larger rooms, round pillars were absent. Kitchen was small in size. A round oven meant for baking chappatis has been found.

Art and Craft:


  1. Mainly two types Plain pottery and Red and Black Pottery with decoration, the majority being the former.
  2. Widespread use of potter’s wheel made up of wood, use of firing technique, use of kiln.
  3. Variety of Pleasing Design — Horizontal strips, Check, Chess-Board Pattern, Interesecting Circles (Pattern exclusively found), Leaves & Petals, Natural Motif — Birds, Fish, Animals, Plants, Human Figure — Rare (A Man & A Child found from Harappa), Triangles.

  4. Pottery had plain bases. Few ring bases have been found.
  5. Mainly famous colour of pot was pink. General design was on the red base horizontally black line on pots.


  1. Seals are the greatest artistic creation of the Harappan people — cutting &polishing craftmanship is excellent.
  2. No of seals discovered is approx. 2000
  3. Made of steatite (Soft stone), Sometimes of Copper, Shell, Agate, Ivory, Faience, Terracotta.
  4. Size— 4 inch to 2Y2 inch.
  5. Shape — Square, Rectangular, Button, Cubical, Cylinder, Round
  6. Two main types:-
    Square — carved animal & inscription, small boss at the back.
    Rectangular— inscription only, hold on the back to take a cord.
  7. Colour — White appearance. Famous colour of seal was green.
  8. Displays symbols - Circles, Crosses, Dots, Swastiks, Leaves of the Pipal tree.
  9. Most frequently depicted animal - Unicorn
  10. Other animals : Elephant, Tiger, Rhino, Antelope, Crocodile.
  11. No bird were depicted on Harappan seal.
  12. Purpose: Marked ownership of property. Used in applying to bales of merchandise. (Discovery of such seals beside the dockyard of Lothal).
  13. Pashupati Seal has been found from Mohanjodaro. It depicts Siva seated on a stool flanked by an elephant, a tiger, a. rhinocerous, a buffalo and two antelopes / goats. Marshall identified it with Proto — Siva.
  14.  ‘Persian Gulf Seals’ have been discovered from Lothal.

Technical Achievements:

  • Lost-Wax technique, used for making bronze images.
  • English Bond method-Bonding system for bricks.
  • Flemish Bond method-used for making staircases.
  • Kiln Bricks — Evidence of Kiln has been  found at Rakhigarhi
  • Water Harvesting System—Dholaveera
  • For small measurement binary system and for big measurement decimal system were used in Harappa.

Findings and Evidences

1. Cemeteries ‘H’ & ‘R 37’                                             Harappa
2. Furrow mark                                                               Kalibangan
3. City divided into three parts                                         Dholvira
4. Fragment of Woven cloth                                            Mohanjodaro
5. City without a citadal                                                  Chanhudaro
6. Small pot (Probably an ink-pot)                                  Chanhudaro
7. Cities where lower towns were fortified                      Kalibangan &  Surkotada
8. Cities having both proto—Harappan and mature
Harappan evidences and 
Harappan Cultural Phases                                             Kalibangan & Banwali
9. Dockyard                                                                 Lothal
10. Evidence of Rice                                                     Rangpur & Lothal
11. Evidence of Coffin Burial                                         Lothal
12. Remains of Bones of Horse                                     Surkotada
13. Fire altars                                                                Kalibangan, Banarvali, Lothal and Rakhigarhi
14. Terracotta Models of ships/ boats                            Lothal
15. Temple— like structure                                            Mohanjodaro
16. Human skeletons huddled together indicating
violent death/massacre                                                    Mohanjodaro
17. Houses having front entrances                                   Lothal
18. Bronze rod/stick with measure marks                        Lothal
19. Single — roomed barracks                                      Harappa
20. Bronze models of’ikkas’                                          Harappa, Chandudaro
and ‘bullock-carts’
21. Pasupati Mahadev seal
(As said by John Marshall)                                             Mohanjodaro
22. Medical Beliefs, surgery of                                       Lothal & skull Kalibangan
23. Seal depicting Mother                                              Mohanjodaro
Goddess with a plant growing from her womb
24. Painting on a jar resembling the story of the
cunning fox of panchtantra                                              Lothal
25. Harappan game similar to chess                                Lothal
26. Copper rhinocerous                                                 Daimabad
27. Copper chariot                                                        Daimabad
28. Copper Elephant                                                     Daimabad
29. Devastation by flood                                                Dhanhudaro, Mohanjodaro & Lothal
30. Collegiate building                                                    Mohanjodaro
31. Assembly Hall                                                          Mohanjodaro
32. Granaries                                                                 Mohanjodaro & Harappa
33. Steatite figure of a bearded man                                Mohanjodaro
34. Bronze dancing girl (11.5 cm)                                   Mohanjodaro
35. Cylindrical seals of Gigamesh and
Ekindu Mesopotamian type, three in number                   Mohanjodaro
36. Warehouse                                                               Lothal
37. Granary outside citadel                                             Harappa
38. Working platcform                                                   Harappa
39. Sandstone male dancer                                             Harappa
40. Terracotta figurine of a horse                                    Mohanjodaro
41. Absence of mother goddess figurines                        Rangpur
42. Bead-making factory                                               Chanhudaro & Lothal
43. Absence of seals                                                     Alamgirpur
44. Shell-ornament makers  factory                               Chanhudaro, Balakot and Lothal
45. Metal workers factory                                             Chanhudaro & Lothal
46. Persian Gulf seals                                                    Lothal
47. City having a middle town apart from the citadel
and the lower town                                                        Dholvira
48. A merchant house                                                    Lothal
49. Impressions of cloth on sealing                                 Lothal
50. Six types of pottery                                                  Kalibangan
51. Evidence of double burial                                         Lothal
52. Evidence of pot-burial                                              Surkotada
53. Furnace                                                                   Rakhigarhi
54. Kiln                                                                         Rakhigarhi
55. Boustro phedon                                                       Kalibangan
56. Camel bones                                                            Kalibangan
57. Horse skeleton                                                         Surkotada
58. Horse teeth                                                              Rana Ghundai
59. Regalia                                                                     Kunal
60. Stone cut water reservoir                                          Dholavira

Indus Civilisatlon-General Aspects

Customs and Amusements:

  • A good number of toys — Clay Cart, Rattles, Bulls with mobile heads, Monkey with movable arms, Dices, Chessboard.
  • Hunting, Fishing, Cock-Fighting.


Tweezers, Ear-scoop, Piercer, Antimony rods, Ivory comb, Mirrors, Hair pins, Round buttons, Minor razors, Kohl pots and sticks

Dress and Ornaments:

  1. Females were scantily dressed, they wore a short skirt especially figurines of mother Goddess.
  2. The male wore a robe, sometimes embroidered.
  3. Cotton was used, no evidence of Linen and Silk.
  4. No evidence of footwear.
  5. Special care of hair, reference of pony-tail, bun and braided hair.
  6. Curley hair (clay figure from Mohanjodaro).
  7. Beards (not very long), shaven upper lips in the figure of Yogi.
  8. Necklaces, Beads, Girdle, Bracelet, Fillets, Finger rings, Bangles, Nose Ornaments, Anklets.


  1. Predominance of Mother Goddess, denotes people’s faith in fertility cult.
  2. Male deity — Pasupati Shiva.
  3. Animal worship (200l atry)— Unicorn bull and humped bull.
  4. Tree worship — Pipal.
  5. Fertility Cult — Phallus worship.
  6. Nature worship.
  7. Amulets and Talisman (Mohanjodaro)
  8. Sacred bath — Water Cosmology


  1. Bodies were extended in north-South direction.
  2. Cemeteries of Harappa, Mohanjodaro, Lothal, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi and Ropar located around the outskirts.
  3. Three forms of burials — complete burial, Fractional burial and post-cremation burial.
  4. General practice was body lying on its back and head to the north.
  5. Coffin burial from Harappa.
  6. Pot burial from Surkotada (Sacrophagus tradition).
  7. Double burial from Lothal.
  8. Pit burial from KaIibangan.
  9. Cemetety —R-37 (Harappa).
  10. Cemetery — (Post Harappan)

Weights & Measure:

  1. Standard weights and measures, uniformity and accuracy of denominations.
  2. Weights were made of a variety of material — state, jasper, chert, alabaster, limestone and quartzile, but main1 polished chert.
  3. For larger weights decimal system was used and for smaller ones binary system was followed.
  4. The unit weight had the calculated value of 0.8 750 gms, the largest weights was 10970 gms.
  5. A few specimens of scales used with the weights appear to be a very ordinary patterns comprising a bronze bar with suspended copper pens.
  6. Broken Ivory were used as a scale in Chanhudaro.
  7. Bronze scale was used in Lothal.


  1. Mainly offensive weapons were found in Harrappa.
  2. Spears, Axes, Arrow-heads.
  3. No defensive weapons were found in Harrappa.


  1. Main crops: Wheat & Barley.
  2. Others Peas, Rai, Linseed, Mustard, Cotton, Dates.
  3. No evidence of sugarcane.
  4. Rice was produced region (Rice husk has been found from Lothal & Rangpur).

Animals & Birds:

Elephants, Cats, Dogs, Camels, Asses, Buffalo, Dear, Rhino, Goat, Unicorn, Pigs, Tortoise, Fowls, Ox; Fish, Stag, Antelope, Patridge.


Copper, Silver, Gold, Jade, Lapis Lazulli, Lead. Tin, Ingot (Lead+Silver), Electrum (Silver & Gold)


Needles, Razors, Sickles, Fish-hooks, Saws, Chappers, Spades, Knoves, Chisels, Spoons


Potters, Copper and Bronze workers, Stone workers, Builders, Brick-makers, Priests, Faience workers, Farmers, Traders.


Rice, Horse, Round Cylindrical seals, Plough, Whetstones.


Iron, Winows, Tp1e, Fork, Hair dyes, Round columns, Silk fabrics, Swords, Sheilds, Metalic Money, Water closets Brick-Lamps, Footwares, Linen, Wool, Golden finger rings, Indigenous, Gradual decline.

Language & Script:

Yet not deciphered, pictographic or ideographic approximately 450 signs have been listed, written from right from left and left to in alternate lines style known as Boustrophedan, inscriptions are short.



  • Sumerian text make a mention of Meluha which is identified with Indus Civilization and two intermediate trading stations Dilmun (Bahrain) and Makan (Makaran Coast).
  • Appearance of Indus seals in the Mesopotamian cities of Ur, Kish,Susa, Tell Asmar, Lagash.
  • Cylindrical seals of Mesopotamian type have been found in Indus valley (Mohanjodaro).
  • “Persian Gulf Seals” of intermediate trading stations have been discovered from Indus region (Lothal).
  • Discovery of”Reserved slip ware” of Mesopotamian type from Harappa & Lothal.

Internal Trade: With Saurashtra, Maharastra, South India, Rajasthan, ports of western UP.

Ports: Port was found in Lothal. This is the first manmade port in the world.

External Trade: With Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq), Persian Gulf region and probably Egypt.

Item of Imports: Gold, Silver, Copper, Tin, Lapis Lazuli,-Amethyst, Agate, Jade, Shells.

Items of Exports

  • Agricultural products Wheat, Barley, Peas, Oil Seeds
  • Finished Products Cotton goods, Pottery1 Beads, Shells, Terrocotta Products, Ivory Products.

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