Indus Valley Civilization

The first urban civilization in the Indian subcontinent, Indus Valley Civilization, evolved from earlier rural communities. The Indus Valley Civilization (3500-1700 BCE), also called the Harappan civilization or the Indus Civilization, is one of the four ancient civilizations in the world. Spread over western India and Pakistan, the major sites of the Indus Civilization are Harappa, Mohanjodaro, Banawali, and Dholavira. India is home to more than 100 sites of Indus Valley Civilisation, and they are across various western Indian states, such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, and Punjab.

Indus Valley Civilization was a highly developed urban culture known for its urban planning, baked brick houses, well-designed drainage and water supply systems, and expertise in metallurgy. At its zenith, the estimated population of this civilization was about five million.

First excavated in the early 20th Century, numerous seals, sculptures, bronze articles, and terracotta figurines, including six-faced dices, have been found in excavated sites. The image gallery below shows a few examples of the above-mentioned artefacts.

Trade, travel, and economic activities

The Harapans practised agriculture and commerce, extending their commercial contacts to Oman and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Their merchants traded in various commodities of import and export. People followed varied professions such as priests, physicians, warriors, peasants, traders, and artisans who worked with copper and other metals, used stone tools, and made various ornaments.

Similarities in pottery, figurines, ornaments and other artefacts show that the Harappans traded extensively with Persia, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Iran, among others. The trade routes and sea ports ascertain that the Harappans travelled through seas.

Unearthed near the Lothal port, are many small objects carved out of stones, called the seals. Probably the traders of the era used them for trade and commerce. A few Harappan seals are found in Mesopotamia and vice versa, establishing that the two ancient civilizations were indeed conducting business with each other.

The most important discovery is the Pashupati seal, where the deity is sitting amidst wild animals. Scholars speculate that this is an iconography of Shiva and the Indus Civilization worshipped the God.

Harappan Civilization - economic activities
Pashupati seal - from the Indus Valley Civilization
Unicorn seal - Indus Valley Civilization

Decimal system in the Indus Valley Civilization

The Harappans used cubical stones in graduated sizes for weights, where the smallest weight found is 13.7 gms. These standard weights and measures indicate well-regulated commercial exchanges.

Rock art along the Karakoram highway

The Karakoram highway traces the same region as the ancient silk route; hence, the carvings and drawings are attributed to travelling merchants and pilgrims from Iran, Central Asia, India, and China.

Decimal system in the Indus Valley Civilization
Rock art beside the Karakoram Highway - Indus Valley Civilization

Significant structural remains of the Harappan towns

Lothal Port

A brick structure at Lothal is a dockyard for berthing ships and handling cargo. The excavated massive structure suggests that Lothal was an important port and trading centre for the Harappan people

Lothal port - Indus Valley Civilization
Dockyard at Lothal, Gujarat, Indus Valley Civilization

Great Bath at Mohenjo Daro

The 'great bath' excavated at Mohenjo-Daro (present-day Pakistan) is probably one of the earliest public bathing pools. This large 12 meters by 7 meters pool has a depth of 2.4 meters. The pool's base is water-tight with closely laid bricks and packed in between with a layer of bitumen. Scholars conclude that people used the great bath during religious events.

Great Bath, Mohenjo-daro