By: Minhaj Sami

It flourished from 7000 to 600 BCE. Indus valley consisted of modern-day Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The significant cities of the era were Mohenjodaro (on indus river in Sindh), Harappa (River Ravi), Chanhundaro (in Sindh) and the sites which are in India are Ropar (Punjab), Banawali (Haryana), Suktoda (Gujarat) and Kalibangan (Rajasthan). It is also referred to as the Harappan civilization because Harappa was the first city to be excavated.  There were 5 phases of the civilization.

Pre Harappan (7000 – 5500 BCE)

Early Harappan (5500 – 2800 BCE)

Mature Harappan (2800 – 1900 BCE)

Late Harappan (1900 – 1500 BCE)

Post Harappan (1500 – 600 BCE)

The total population in the whole Indus valley is estimated to be around 3 million. Mohenjo daro and Harappa had population of around 50 000 while other cities had population of roughly 10 000. The cities were quite advanced and by the looks of it, looked preplanned. There was a citadel and a lower town present in every city. The cities were laid in a grid pattern which is a testimony to their advanced culture. Large scale building projects were also carried out. Highly commendable urban planning was done throughout the civilization. Moreover, small brick houses were constructed which had clay roofs. The bricks from which the houses were made, were uniform in size. The houses had wells, toilets and sewer systems too – as a part of drainage system; an efficient wastewater management system was used. Wind Catcher devices were added on rooftops; they functioned as air conditioners. It is still debated that whether there was a ruling system or not. There could have been separate ruler for every city but there could also have been a central government as there was so much uniformity in everything. The architecture and the design of the cities show how ahead of the time people were of this period.

The writing script which was used during this era was called Indus script: a language which had symbols. But it has not been deciphered yet. Thousands of artifacts have been discovered on which the Indus script was inscribed. Seals were also found on which various animal images, such as bulls and elephants were made.  Five hundred individual signs of the script have been identified which were present on ceramic pots, seals and various other things. However, these characters were mostly pictorial. Seals also served a lot of purposes: signing contracts, identifying property, conducting trade etc.

The people of this valley were inherently artists, merchants and farmers. Agriculture was the primary occupation of the people. Canals were dug, irrigation channels were used, and various farming implements were incorporated. All of these methods were technologically advanced for the time. Barely, wheat, dates, peas, and sesame were grown. Cotton was also grown and then used in textile. People also fished and hunted animals to gather food. Moreover, domesticated animals were also kept such as sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and water buffalos; areas were established for cattle grazing and crops.

They people of this valley were very fine craftsmen. Necklaces, bangles and other ornaments were created by them. Bangles, beads, earring and vessels were made of faience.  They created seals, pottery, sculpture and jewelry from materials such as metal, stone and terracotta. Their skills can be seen by ceramics, jewelry, bricks, soapstone seals and all the other things they handcrafted. Red pottery was also done which had designs in black. All of these objects were quite intricate and detailed.

Inhabitants of the Indus Valley conducted trade with Mesopotamia and Egypt. They did it through dredged canals. Goods which were traded included metals, silvers, metals, gold, beads and these were used to make gem stones, pearls, seashells and tools. Barter system was used while trading and metal money was not used. The people of Indus valley also used to import raw materials from other places. Trade was done using boats which were wide enough to carry goods and also used them to sail. They also developed wheel and used cart drawn by cattle as a mode of transportation. Moreover, the first system of standardized weights and system was developed by the people of this era – some were accurate to 1.6 mm.

It is presumed that there was no caste system back then. Moreover, people of this era used to bury the dead by putting them in wooden caskets and later started cremated them in urns. We also have limited information about the religion that was practiced by the people. No temples or places were found that tell us about religious rites or religious practices that were carried out. But it is speculated that a mother goddess deity and a male consort depicted as a horned figure were worshipped. But we don’t have solid evidence of this.

The decline of the Indus valley started between 1900 BCE and 1500 BCE. Initially, it was thought that the Aryans (Indo European people) invaded the civilization but this theory was later proven wrong. There were various other theories for the downfall of the place. One was that climate change occurred due to which the people moved. Another theory is that the course of the Indus river changed due to which flooding occurred. Moreover, it is also thought that maybe the green cover was destroyed and deforestation took place. Due to a combination of these factors, a slow demise of the Indus Valley Civilization was seen.