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Indus Valley Civilization Map, Seals, Town Planning, Great Bath

Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization thrived from 3300 to 1300 BCE in its early years and from 2600 to 1900 BCE in its prime years. This civilization’s domain stretched from what is now northeast Afghanistan through Pakistan and northwest India along the Indus River.

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Of the three early civilizations of the ancient world—Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus—the Indus Civilization was the most extensive. Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were regarded as the two biggest towns of the Indus Valley Civilization when it initially emerged around 2600 BCE along the Indus River Valley in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan. Important archaeological information on ancient cultures was obtained via their discovery and excavation in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Indus Valley Civilization Cities and Sites

The urban centres of the Indus Valley Civilization had well-designed and organized infrastructure, architecture, and governmental structures.

The little Early Harappan villages had grown into huge cities by 2600 BCE. In modern Pakistan, these cities are Harappa, Ganeriwala, and Mohenjo-Daro; in contemporary India, these cities are Dholavira, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Rupar, and Lothal. In total, more than 1,052 cities and settlements have been found, primarily near the Indus River and its tributaries. There may have once been five million people living in the Indus Valley Civilization.

The Indus Valley Civilization left behind towns with exceptional organization; there were public granaries and baths, as well as well-organized systems for collecting rubbish and sewerage. Most city people were craftsmen and merchants, who tended to congregate in specific neighborhoods. Urban planning’s high standard reflects effective municipal administrations that gave religious observance and hygiene a high priority.

Site Excavated by Location Important Findings
Harappa Daya Ram Sahini in 1921 Situated on the bank of river Ravi in Montgomery district of Punjab (Pakistan). Sandstone statues of Human anatomy


Bullock carts

Mohenjodaro (Mound of Dead) R.D Banerjee in 1922 Situated on the Bank of river Indus in Larkana district of Punjab (Pakistan). Great bath


Bronze dancing girl

Seal of Pasupathi Mahadeva

Steatite statue of beard man

A piece of woven cotton

Sutkagendor Stein in 1929 In southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistan on Dast river A trade point between Harappa and Babylon
Chanhudaro N.G Majumdar in 1931 Sindh on the Indus river Bead makers shop

Footprint of a dog chasing a cat

Amri N.G Majumdar in 1935 On the bank of Indus river Antelope evidence
Kalibangan Ghose in 1953 Rajasthan on the bank of Ghaggar river Fire altar

Camel bones

Wooden plough

Lothal R.Rao in 1953 Gujarat on Bhogva river near Gulf of Cambay First manmade port


Rice husk

Fire altars

Chess playing

Surkotada J.P Joshi in 1964 Gujarat Bones of horses


Banawali R.S Bisht in 1974 Hisar district of Haryana Beads


Evidence of both pre-Harappan and Harappan culture

Dholavira R.S Bisht in 1985 Gujarat in Rann of Kachchh Water harnessing system

Water reservoir

Indus Valley Civilization Phases

Early Harappan Phase From 3300 to 2600 BCE

The Early Harappan Phase, spanning 3300 to 2600 BCE, witnessed the emergence of settlements with rudimentary urban features in the Indus Valley. These early communities displayed initial signs of craftsmanship and trade.

Mature Harappan Phase From 2600 to 1900 BCE

The Mature Harappan Phase, lasting from 2600 to 1900 BCE, marked the apex of the Indus Valley Civilization. Flourishing cities, advanced urban planning, sophisticated trade networks, and intricate craftsmanship characterized this period.

Late Harappan Phase From 1900 to 1300 BCE

The Late Harappan Phase, spanning 1900 to 1300 BCE, saw a decline in urbanism and centralized authority in the Indus Valley. The disintegration of major cities, shifts in settlement patterns, and changes in trade routes marked this phase, signifying the civilization’s gradual decline.

Indus Valley Civilization Town Planning

The Indus Valley Civilization, flourishing from around 3300 to 1300 BCE, exhibited advanced town planning that reflected a high level of urban sophistication. Major cities such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa showcased meticulous urban layouts.

  • Grid System: Cities were planned on a grid pattern with well-defined streets that intersected at right angles, indicating a remarkable sense of geometric planning.
  • Citadel and Lower Towns: Cities often featured a citadel, elevated and fortified, alongside a lower town. The citadel housed important structures, possibly administrative or religious, while the lower town accommodated residential and commercial areas.
  • Well-Planned Streets: Streets were wide and laid out in a north-south and east-west orientation. They were equipped with a sophisticated drainage system, including covered drains that ran beneath the streets.
  • Brick Construction: Buildings were constructed using standardized, kiln-fired bricks, showcasing uniformity in size and shape. This standardization suggests centralized planning and construction methods.
  • Residential Structures: Houses were typically two or more stories high, with rooms arranged around a central courtyard. They often included features like private wells and bathing areas, emphasizing a focus on hygiene.
  • Great Bath: In Mohenjo-daro, the Great Bath is a significant structure believed to have had ritualistic or religious importance. It had a sophisticated water drainage system, showcasing engineering prowess.
  • Public Buildings: Cities had public structures, possibly assembly halls or marketplaces, indicating a level of central authority and organized civic life.
  • Trade and Commerce: The presence of granaries and warehouses suggests organized economic activities, with evidence of trade networks extending to Mesopotamia.

Despite the advancements in town planning, many aspects of the Indus Valley Civilization remain enigmatic, as the script used by its inhabitants remains undeciphered, limiting our understanding of their governance and societal structure.

Indus Valley Civilization Great Bath

The “first public water tank in the ancient world” is another name for Mohenjo-Great Daro’s Bath. Mostly and exclusively utilised for religious rituals, the Great Bath was also occasionally used for bathing. There is no indication of a temple around, therefore they may have utilized this for religious rituals. Due to their poverty or perceived lack of purity, some people were not even permitted to attend the Great Bath.

The Great Bath, one of the most important Indus cultural centres, is a part of a massive citadel complex that was unearthed at Mohenjo-Daro during excavations in the 1920s. A thick layer of natural tar, also known as bitumen, which is utilized to hold water, and fine baked waterproof mud bricks are used to construct the huge bath. A large, rectangular tank encircled on all sides by hallways, with flights of stairs leading into the tank on the north and south.

Indus Valley Civilization Society & Political System

Regarding a centre of power or representations of the powerful in Harappan civilization, archaeological evidence do not immediately offer any answers. Pottery, seals, weights, and bricks with regulated sizes and weights are among the artefacts of the Harappan culture that exhibit an amazing degree of consistency, indicating some kind of authority or system of government. Regarding the Harappan system of rule or governance, three significant hypotheses have emerged over time.

The first is that, given the uniformity of the artefacts, the indication of planned colonies, the standardization of brick size, and the apparent placement of towns close to raw material sources, there was a single state that included all the communities of the civilization.

According to the second theory, each of the urban centres, including Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and other settlements, had a number of rulers who represented them.

Finally, researchers have proposed that there were no rulers in the Indus Valley Civilization in the traditional sense of the word; instead, everyone lived in equality.

Indus Valley Civilization Agriculture

Food grain production was adequate in the Harappan communities, which were primarily located close to the river plains. It was possible to grow wheat, barley, rai, peas, sesame, lentil, chickpea, and mustard. Additionally, Gujarati places have millets. While rice was only occasionally used. Cotton was first produced by the Indus civilization. Grain findings suggest the presence of agriculture, but it is more challenging to recreate actual agricultural operations.

Bulls have been depicted on seals and in clay art and extrapolation by archaeologists suggest that oxen were also utilized for ploughing. The majority of Harappan sites are found in semi-arid regions, where irrigation was probably necessary for farming. Canal remnants have been discovered at the Afghani Harappan site at Shortughai, but not in Punjab or Sindh. Despite engaging in agriculture, the Harappans also raised animals on a massive scale.

Mohenjodaro’s surface level and a dubious ceramic statue from Lothal both include evidence of the horse. In any event, horses were not central to the Harappan civilization.

Indus Valley Civilization Craft

The largest of the four ancient civilizations—which also included Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China—the Indus Valley Civilization is the earliest known example of the type of culture on the Indian subcontinent that is generally referred to as “urban” (or focused on large communities). It has been determined that the Indus River Valley’s civilization existed during the Bronze Age, or roughly 3300–1300 BCE. It was situated in what is now Pakistan and India, and it encompassed a region the size of Western Europe.

The two most important towns of the Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, appeared in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan approximately 2600 BCE along the Indus River Valley. Important archaeological information about the civilization’s technology, art, trade, transportation, writing, and religion was uncovered and uncovered during their discovery and excavation in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Indus Valley Civilization Technology

The Indus Valley inhabitants made numerous important technological advancements, including very accurate systems and tools for measuring length and mass.

One of the first civilizations to create a system of standard weights and measurements that followed a scale was Harappa. On an ivory scale that was discovered at Lothal, a significant Indus Valley city in the contemporary Indian state of Gujarat, the smallest division, measuring roughly 1.6 mm, was written. It is the tiniest division of a Bronze Age scale that has ever been identified. The regular size of the bricks used to construct the Indus towns is another sign of an advanced measurement system.

Dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms, and defense walls built by the Harappans served as examples of sophisticated building. The sewer and drainage systems utilized in ancient Indus cities were far more sophisticated and effective than any seen in modern-day Middle Eastern cities, and they are being used in many parts of Pakistan and India today.

It was thought that the Harappans were skilled carvers of patterns into the underside of seals. To mark their properties and impress clay on trade products, they used several seals. A seal decorated with elephant, tiger, and water buffalo patterns has been one of the objects discovered in Indus Valley towns the most frequently.

The Harappans also executed elaborate handicrafts employing items made of the semi-precious gemstone, Carnelian, and created new methods for working with metallurgy, the science of working with copper, bronze, lead, and tin.

Indus Valley Civilization Art

Many different works of art from the Indus Valley culture have been discovered at excavation sites, including sculptures, seals, ceramics, gold jewellery, and anatomically accurate figurines made of terracotta, bronze, and soapstone.

One of the many figurines made of gold, terracotta, and stone depicted a “Priest-King” with a beard and patterned robe. Another bronze figurine, the “Dancing Girl,” stands just 11 cm tall and depicts a female figure in a stance that might indicate the existence of a choreographed dance style that was practiced by people in the civilization. There were also terracotta works of cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs. In addition to figurines, it is thought that the inhabitants of the Indus River Valley also produced necklaces, bangles, and other decorations.

Indus Valley Civilization Script

The Harappans are thought to have spoken a language made out of symbols called Indus Script. At Harappa, written texts on clay and stone tablets with trident-shaped, plant-like patterns were discovered. These texts have been carbon-dated to between 3300 and 3200 BCE. This Indus Script implies that the Indus River Valley Civilization developed writing independently from the script used in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

Indus symbols have been discovered on seals, tiny tablets, pottery pots, and more than a dozen more objects, numbering up to 600 different symbols. The majority of the typically short Indus inscriptions have no more than four or five characters. The longest sign on a single surface is 17 signs long and less than 1 inch (or 2.54 cm) square. Although the figures are mostly illustrated, there are numerous abstract signs that don’t seem to have aged well.

Although it is believed that the inscriptions were largely written from right to left, it is not apparent whether this script represents a full language. Linguists and archaeologists have not been able to decode the symbols because there is no “Rosetta Stone” to compare it to other writing systems.

Indus Valley Civilization Religion

The religion of Harappa is still up for debate. There is widespread speculation that the Harappans revered a mother deity who represented fertility. Indus Valley Civilization appears to have lacked any temples or palaces that would have provided indisputable proof of religious rites or particular deities, in contrast to Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations. A swastika emblem, used in later Indian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, is depicted on some Indus Valley seals.

Numerous Indus Valley seals also feature animal forms; some represent animals being carried in processions, while others show chimaera creations. This has led academics to theories about the significance of animals in Indus Valley religions. One Mohenjo-Daro seal depicts a tiger being attacked by a half-human, half-buffalo creature. It’s possible that this is a reference to the Sumerian narrative about a monster that Aruru—the goddess of the ground and fertility in that culture—created to battle Gilgamesh, the protagonist of an old Mesopotamian epic poem. This is yet another indication of Harappan culture being traded internationally.

Indus Valley Civilization Trade & Economy

Harappan city workshops utilized raw materials imported from Iran and Afghanistan, as well as lead and copper from other regions of India, jade from China, and cedar wood that had been carried down rivers from the Himalayas and Kashmir. Trade was centered on acquiring these resources. Terracotta pots, gold, silver, metals, beads, flints for creating tools, seashells, pearls, and colored gemstones like lapis lazuli and turquoise were among the additional trade items.

The Harappan and Mesopotamian civilizations had a robust maritime trading network in place. At archaeological sites in Mesopotamia, which covers the majority of contemporary Iraq, Kuwait, and parts of Syria, Harappan seals and jewellery have been discovered. The creation of plank boats with a single central mast bearing a sail made of woven rushes or fabric may have made long-distance sea trade over waterways like the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf possible.

The presence of multiple seals, standardized writing, and standardized weights and measures throughout a large area attests to the significance of trade in the lives of the Indus people. The Harappans engaged in extensive trading in goods including shells, metal, and stone. Trade was conducted using the barter system rather than metal money. On the Arabian Sea’s coast, they practised navigation. In the north of Afghanistan, they had established a commercial colony that, presumably, enabled trade with Central Asia.

Additionally, they conducted business with people living in the Tigris and Euphrates region. The long-distance lapis lazuli trade that the Harappans engaged in may have boosted the social standing of the governing class.

Indus Valley Civilization Decline

Although the precise causes of the Indus Valley Civilization’s decline are still up for debate, it happened approximately 1800 BCE. According to one version, the Indus Valley Civilization was invaded and subjugated by the Indo-European tribe known as the Aryans. Different pieces of the Indus Valley Civilization have been discovered in later societies, suggesting that civilization did not abruptly end owing to an invasion.

On the other side, a lot of academics think that the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by natural reasons:

  • Geological and climatic elements may constitute the natural factors.
  • It is thought that the Indus Valley region had a number of tectonic disturbances that resulted in earthquakes and altered the paths of rivers or caused them to dry up.
  • Changes in rainfall patterns could be another natural cause.

There could be also dramatic shifts in the river courses, which might have brought floods to the food producing areas. Due to combination of these natural causes there was a slow but inevitable collapse of Indus Valley Civilization.

Indus Valley Civilization UPSC

  • The phrase “Indus Valley Civilization” was coined by researcher John Marshall.
  • Radio-carbon dating indicates that the Indus Valley Civilization existed from the year 2500 to the year 1750 BC.
  • The urbanization of the Harappan Civilization was its most defining characteristic.
  • Additionally, the Indus Valley Civilization domesticated elephants, humped cattle, dogs, sheep, and goats.
  • Mohenjodaro and Harappa are the two capital cities.
  • Sutkagendor, Balakot, Lothal, Allahdino, and Kuntasi are the harbor cities.
  • The inhabitants of the Indus Valley were familiar with the use of both cotton and wool.


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Indus Valley Civilization FAQs

What is Indus Valley Civilization known for?

Urban planning, a technical and political process dealing with the utilisation of land and the creation of the urban environment, is a skill that the Indus towns are renowned for. They are also renowned for their vast, non-residential building clusters, intricate drainage and water supply systems, and baked brick homes.

Who is the founder of Indus Valley Civilization?

The Indus Valley Civilization was discovered in the early 1900s by a British archaeologist named John Marshall.

What killed the Indus Valley Civilization?

Many historians believe the Indus civilization collapsed because of changes to the geography and climate of the area. Movements in the Earth's crust (the outside layer) might have caused the Indus River to flood and change its direction.

What is the Indus Valley Civilization called today?

The Indus civilisation is also known as the Harappan civilisation, after its type site Harappa, the first to be excavated early in the 20th century in what was then the Punjab province of British India and is now Punjab, Pakistan.

Which is the oldest civilization?

Mesopotamia is the oldest civilization

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