The Harappan Civilization was one of the oldest civilization in the Indian sub-continent known for its modern structures. It was a Bronze Age Civilization in the northwestern region of South Asia. It is called Harappan because the remnants of the civilization was discovered first at the modern site of Harappa located in the province of Punjab, Pakistan. Archeological evidences suggest that the civilization flourished in the Indus valley, hence it is also known as the Indus Valley Civilization. The entire history of the Harappan Culture can be sub-divided into three phases– the Early Harappan Phase(3300 BC – 2600 BC), the Mature Harappan Phase (2600BC – 1900 BC) and the Late Harappan Phase(1900 BC – 1300BC). Before having an in-depth discussion about the features of Indus Valley Civilization, let us have a quick look into how Harappan Civilization was discovered.
The discovery of Harappan Civilization
The Harappan Civilization is a path-breaking discovery that relates us to the Ancient India’s way of living and lifestyle. The discovery is not a result of a particular day but it is a conglomeration of various archaeological findings that has been discovered continuously since 19th century. In 1853, a British engineer, Sir Alexander Cunningham discovered a seal. The seal was a smooth black stone without polish. A bull without a hump was engraved on the seal. There were two stars under the neck of the bull and it was looking to the right. Above the bull there was an inscription of six characters. Cunningham thought that the seal cannot be Indian. However, the seal stimulated the discovery of the Harappan Civilization.
In 1921, an Indian archaeologist, Ray Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni, started excavating the Harappan site. In 1922, another archaeologist Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay (R.D Banerji) discovered Mohenjo-daro in Sindh and started excavation. Large scale excavation were carried out at Mohenjo-daro under the supervision of Marshall in 1931. The same site was excavated by Mackey in 1938. In 1948 Vats excavated Harappa. Mortimer Wheeler also excavated Harappa in 1946. This were all done in the pre-Independence period.
After the Independence, Suraj Bhan, M.k Dhavalikar, B.K Thapar, B.B lal among many others continued excavation works in areas of Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan. In Pakistan F.A khan, A.H Dani, M.R Mughal and many others excavated many areas.
Features of Indus Valley Civilization
Though it was a very ancient civilization, the extra-ordinary features of Indus Valley Civilization depicted by it’s remnants does not cease to amaze the historians and archaeologist worldwide.
Social organization in Harappan Culture
Archaeological evidences suggest that there was a hierarchy in the structure of urban settlement. There is no clear evidence of whether the hierarchy was based on occupational differences or socio-economic differentiation. The cities like Harappa, Kalibangan or Dholavira had three distinct localities or residential structures. The Citadel was the first locality where the ruling classes dwelt. The lowest tower was where the common citizens lived. The middle settlements were meant for bureaucrats and middle class merchants.
Trade and Commerce in Harappan Civilization
Several archaeological findings point towards active trade and commerce in the Harappan society. The urban people used weights and measures. Numerous articles used as weights were discovered in the excavations. Besides weights and measures, the seals, the uniform scripts etc shows occurrence of active trade at that time They did not use metal money but conducted exchanges through barter system. The Harappans carried out trade in metals, stone, shell etc. within the Indus. However they had commercial links with foreign lands like Afghanistan and Iran.
Agriculture in Indus Valley
The Indus valley was a fertile land as it was inundated annually. The Harappans sowed seeds in November and reaped their harvest in April. They primarily Cultivated wheat, barley, rai, peas, sesamum, mustard, cotton etc. They used wooden ploughs drawn by oxes and camels. Stone sickles were used for harvesting the crops. The Harappan villagers must have worked tirelessly to produce food in surplus not only for them but also for the peoples dwelling in town.
Religious practices of Harappan People
In a terracotta figurine of Harappan era, a plant is shown growing out of the embryo of a women. The image may have portrayed the Goddess earth and her connection with the origin and growth of plant. Thus the Harappans looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess and worshiped her.
The male god is represented on a seal. The god is represented to have three horned head, surrounded by an elephant, a rhinoceros and a tiger. He is depicted seating on his throne in yogic posture. Below his throne there is a buffalo and two deer at his feet.
The Harappan people also worshiped trees and animals. The depiction of a deity is represented on a seal amidst branches of peepal tree. The most important animal is the one horned animal unicorn. Next important animal that they worshiped is the humped bull.
The seals and Sealings
The seals were used very widely in Harappan culture. About 2000 seals have been discovered during various excavations. Seals were served as symbols of authority. They were used for stamping. Many animals like unicorn, rhinoceros, goats, antelopes, crocodiles and elephants were inscripted on the seals. Besides seals, there were few objects called sealings.
The Harappan Script
The earliest script of Harappan people was discovered in 1853. A specimen of complete script was found in 1923. Though the Harappans used written scripts, the scripts has not been deciphered till now. So it is not possible to say anything about the ideas or beliefs conveyed through those scripts. The writings are found to be on stones, seals and other objects. Most inscriptions contain only a few words. The scripts are not alphabetical but pictographic.