Wednesday, October 6, 2010


One of the two sites of the Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa is located in the Punjab Province of Pakistan and the site lies some 35 kilometers southwest of Sahiwal. Harappa is the first site of the Indus Valley Civilization that was discovered in the 1920s. Harappa is located about 250 kilometers from Lahore.

Harappa has been the center of curiosity and interest among history students, historians and archaeologists since its discovery some 85 years ago. A date with history is what takes many tourists to Harappa. Excavations in Harappa have revealed a civilization, which was excellent in town planning and other sphere of every day life.
But it is the excellent town planning that have received kudos from the historians and archaeologists. The houses at Harappa were built in burned brick and had excellent drainage system. Every house had a well as an integral part of it. Roads were wide and were well connected to the streets. Excavations have unearthed a number of artitacts that provide a glimpse of the way of life and various customs and traditions prevalent in Harappa. The cemeteries found in Harappa gives a clear indication that the Harappan people used to burry their dead. They were fond of wearing necklace, ring, bangle and other jewellery. As, many skeletons found in Harappa had beads and anklets in their grave.
The earliest imprints of human activities in India go back to the Paleolithic Age, roughly between 400,000 and 200,000 B.C. he remains of famous Indus Valley Civilizations were first discovered in 1920-21 when engraved seals were discovered near present-day. It was from here that archaeologists in their quest to find more remains finally bumped into the remains of Moenjodaro in Sind. In fact the Harappan and indus valley civilizations extend to the Yamuna along the bed of the river Ghaggar in Rajhastan, Gujrat and upto the mouths of the rivers Narbada and Tapati. Most of the the major sites of this civilization are in Pakistan. The ruins of Harappa lie 35-km southwest of Sahiwal (about 250 km from Lahore). Situated besides an earlier course of the Ravi River, the remains of Harappa were ravaged by brick-hunters using the material as blast when the railway tracks between Lahore and Multan were laid. However, several cemeteries, which escaped the attention of vandals, have been excavated to reveal the richness and sophistication of its culture. The Hrappan excavations reveal a series of cities, stacked one upon another. The site, with its citadel and great granary, seems similar in many ways to Moenjodaro and like its southern sister-city appear to have thrived around 2000 to 1700 B.C. with an economy based largely on agriculture and trade. The Harappan society seems to have been egalitarian, pursuing a rather simple way of life. The cemeteries discovered at Harappa confirm that the Indus Valley people buried their dead, many of them wearing finger rings, necklaces of steal tile beads, anklets of paste beads, earnings and shell bangles. Copper mirrors, antimony rods, shell spoons and vessels and urns of various shapes and size lay in the graves. Some of the female skeletons had anklets of tiny beads and girdles studded with semi-precious stones.

The major cities contained a few large buildings including a citadel, a large bath--perhaps for personal and communal ablution--differentiated living quarters, flat-roofed brick houses, and fortified administrative or religious centers enclosing meeting halls and granaries. Essentially a city culture, Harappan life was supported by extensive agricultural production and by commerce, which included trade with Sumner in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). The people made tools and weapons from copper and bronze but not iron. Cotton was woven and dyed for clothing; wheat, rice, and a variety of vegetables and fruits were cultivated; and a number of animals, including the humped bull, were domesticated. Harappan culture was conservative and remained relatively unchanged for centuries; whenever cities were rebuilt after periodic flooding, the new level of construction closely followed the previous pattern. Although stability, regularity, and conservatism seem to have been the hallmarks of this people, it is unclear who wielded authority, whether an aristocratic, priestly, or commercial minority.
By far the most exquisite but most obscure artifacts of Harappa unearthed to date are steal tile seals found in abundance at Mohenjo-daro. These small, flat, and mostly square objects with human or animal motifs provide the most accurate picture there is of Harappan life. They also have inscriptions generally thought to be in the Harappan script, which has eluded scholarly attempts at deciphering it. Debate abounds as to whether the script represents numbers or an alphabet, and, if an alphabet, whether it is proto-Dravidian or proto-Sanskrit (see Languages of India, ch. 4).
Like the civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, Harappa grew on the floodplains of a rich and life-giving river, the Indus. The original cities and many of the towns seemed to have been built right upon the shores of the river. The Indus, however, is destructive and unpredictable in its floods, and the cities were frequently leveled by the forces of nature. Mohenjo-Daro in the south, where the flooding can be fairly brutal, was rebuilt six times that we know about; Harappa in the north was rebuilt five times.

The people of Harappa had an economy almost entirely dominated by horticulture. Massive granaries were built at each city, and there most certainly was an elaborate bureaucracy to distribute this wealth of food. The Indus River valley is relatively dry now, but apparently it was quite wet when the Harappans thrived there. We know this because the bricks that they built their cities with were fired bricks; since sun-dried bricks are cheaper and easier to make, we can only assume that over-abundant humidity and precipitation prevented them from taking the cheaper way out. In addition, many of the Harappan seals have pictures of animals that imply a wet and marshy environment, such as rhinoceroses, elephants, and tigers. The Harappans also had a wide variety of domesticated animals: camels, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, and buffalo.

The Harappan civilization was mainly urban and mercantile. Inhabitants of the Indus valley traded with Mesopotamia, southern India, Afghanistan, and Persia for gold, silver, copper, and turquoise. The Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture was used to take advantage of the fertile grounds along the Indus River. Earth-links were built to control the river's annual flooding. Crops grown included wheat, barley, peas, melons, and sesame. This civilization was the first to cultivate cotton for the production of cloth. Several animals were domesticated including the elephant which was used for its ivory. Most of the artwork from Harappan civilization was small and used as personal possessions. The first objects unearthed from Harappa (and also Mohenjo-Daro) were small stone seals. These seals were inscribed with elegant portrayals of real and imagined animals and were marked with the Indus script writing. The seals suggest a symbolic or religious intent. Stone sculptures carved in steal l, limestone, or alabaster depict a male figure who may have represented a god. Pottery figures were shaped into humans and animals. Very few bronze figures have been recovered.

The similarities in plan and construction between Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa indicate that they were part of a unified government with extreme organization. Both cities were constructed of the same type and shape of bricks. The two cities may have existed simultaneously and their sizes suggest that they served as capitals of their provinces. In contrast to other civilizations, burials found from these cities are not magnificent; they are more simplistic and contain few material goods. This evidence suggests that this civilization did not have social classes. No hard evidence exists indicating military activity; it is likely that the Harappans were a peaceful civilization. The cities did contain fortifications and the people used copper and bronze knives, spears, and arrowheads.


The exact origins of the IVC people is disputed but appears to belong to four ethnic types including the Protectionists, Mediterraneans, Mongoloids and Alpines. People enjoy a comfortable life with a variety of luxuries like ornaments in agate and gold, cosmetics (kajal) and elaborate toys for children. Painting on pottery is skillful and covers various themes while small sculptures in terracotta (animals, toys), soft stone (bearded man) and metal jewels abound.

The greatest artistic skill is in the seals. These engravings of animals, flowers and other symbols have artistic, religious and economic value .

Town Planning:

The city of Mohenjo Daro is testimony to the town planning activities of the IVC. Cities are divided into lower dwellings & the Citadel which houses important buildings. The streets form a grid system and are of modulated width. Bricks of fixed sizes are used for building while stone and wood are also used.Municipal authorities who are responsible for the whole of the valley also regularly maintain a highly efficient drainage system.Buildings in the lower area are rather monotonous, being mainly functional rather than decorative. But many houses are 2 stored.


Great Bath: Mohenjo Daro has a sophisticated system of water supply & drainage and its brickwork, is highly functional and the amazing part of it is - that it is completely waterproof. The granaries are also intelligently constructed, with strategic air ducts and platform are divided into units.
The Dock at Lothal is to be used for inland & foreign trade.


The culture and religion of the IVC overlap and perhaps repetitive symbols such as the pupal leaf and swastika have religious significance. Human die ties include a "proto type of Shiva" and a mother goddess. Animal symbols such as the bull and unicorn and those of tree spirits and water deities are also common.

These are images from the Harappan culture which existed in the Indus River Valley and which reached its peak around 2600 BC, shortly after the development of urban societies in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Additional information can be found on the " India and South Asia " Chronology.

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