[Ancient India] All You Need to Know About Indus Valley Civilization AKA Harappan Civilisation c. 3300 – c. 1300 BCE


In the last post, we discussed Prehistoric India. In this post, we will get insights on Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). Indus Valley Civilization was the earliest civilisation located along the fertile plains of the river Indus. 

Notably, the first excavations were done at Harappa in the West Punjab and Mohenjodaro in Sindh province. Interestingly, both places are now in Pakistan. 

Why Indus Valley Civilization is called Harappan Civilization?

IVC is called also called Harappan Civilisation after the name of its first discovered site. 

Among the many other sites excavated, the most important are- 


  • Kot Diji in Sind,
  • Kalibangan in Rajasthan,
  • Rupar in the Punjab,
  • Rakhigarhi, Banawali in Haryana,
  • Lothal, Surkotada, and Dholavira, all the three in Gujarat.
  • Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa in Pakistan
Mohenjodaro is the largest city as it is spread over an area of 200 hectares.

Origin and Evolution

There are four important stages or phases of evolution namely,
  1. pre-Harappan
  2. early-Harappan
  3. mature-Harappan
  4. late Harappan

The pre-Harappan stage

  • Located in East Baluchistan.
  • The excavations @Mehrgarh, 150 miles to the NW of Mohenjodaro shows the existence of pre-Harappan culture.
  • Here, the nomadic people began to lead a settled agricultural life.

In the early-Harappan stage

  • People lived in villages in the plains of Indus
  • This eventually led to the developments of towns.
  • This phase was the phase of transition from rural to urban life.
  • For example- Amri and Kot Diji

In the mature-Harappan stage

  • Great cities emerged at this time.
  • Excavations at Kalibangan shows elaborate town planning + urban features 

In the late-Harappan stage

  • The decline of the Indus culture started.
  • The excavations at Lothal reveal that. Lothal with its port was founded much later. A massive brick wall surrounded the city for flood protection.
  • Taking about Lothal, it remained an emporium of trade.
  • Trade between the Harappan civilization and the remaining part of India as well as Mesopotamia flourished.
Pre Harappan Stage
Early Harappan Stage 
Mature Harappan Stage
Late Harappan Stage
Excavation at
Amri and Kot Diji
Large villages
Elaborate town planning + urban features
Flood protection
Nomadic people started living a settled life
The transition period from rural to urban
Frequent floods and extinction afterwards


Dating of Indus Valley Civilization

  • John Marshall 1931 –> Mohenjodaro between 3250 and 2750 B.C.
  • Fairservis, 1956 –>  dating of the Harappan culture to between 2000 and 1500 B.C. using Radiocarbon Dating
  • DP Agarwal 1964 –> Span of IVC is between 2300 and 1750 B.C. Yet, there is a scope of modification.

Salient Features of the Harappan Culture

  • Town Planning
  • Economic Activities 
  • Social Life
  • Burial Method

Town Planning of IVC

  • Grid System: Streets and lanes cutting across one another at right angles. This divided the city into rectangular blocks.
  • Citadel: Most settlements have a small high western part and a larger lower eastern section, though there are variations. For example, Dholavira and Lothal (Gujarat), where the entire settlement was fortified + sections within the town separated by walls.
  • Lower Town: Below the citadel in each city. Houses were made of bricks and common people lived here.
  • Drainage System: Underground drainage system. Drainage system connected each house. Most remarkable feature. Drains were covered by slabs. Some houses had toilets and bathroom inside home. 
  • The Great Bath: Important public place of Mohenjodaro.
    1. Measurements: 39 feet * 23 feet * 8 feet 
    2. Steps to go inside
    3. Side rooms for changing clothes
    4. The floor was made of burnt bricks.
    5. From where came the water? Adjacent well.
    6. Prediction: Ritual bathing site.
  • Granary: The largest building in Mohenjo-Daro is Granary. In contrast, in the citadel of Harappa, there are six granaries of smaller size.

Economic life

Great progress in all spheres of economic activity = agriculture + industry + crafts + trade.
  • Agriculture:
    1. Cultivated wheat, barley, sesame, mustard, cotton and so on. Surplus stored in granaries.
    2. Domesticated animals like sheep, goats, buffalos (use of horse not yet firmly established) and hunted animals like deer, crocodile*.
  • Craft:
    1. Specialised goldsmiths, brick makers, stone cutters, weavers, boat-builders and terracotta manufacturers.
    2. Metal Craft: Bronze and copper vessels They used gold and silver ornaments. Also, pottery was plain and in some places red and black.
    3. Harappans used precious stones to craft beads.
  • Trade:
    1. Internal trade + Foreign Trade
    2. Foreign Trade = Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, Iran, Sumerians
    3. Import = gold, copper, tin and several semi-precious stones.
    4. Exports
      1. Crops = wheat, barley, peas, oilseeds
      2. finished products = cotton goods, pottery, beads, terracotta figure, ivory products and so on 

Social Life

  • Clothes: The dress consists of two clothes for both men and women, 1 upper garment other lower.
  • Style: People wore beads. Women wore jewellery (bangles, bracelets, anklets, earrings, girdles and so on.) Ornaments made from gold, silver, copper and beads. Use of cosmetics was common.
  • Household items like pottery, stone, shells, ivory and metal at Mohenjo-Daro.
  • Games: Harappans played with marbles, balls, dice etc. Fishing was a regular occupation + hunting and bullfighting were pastimes.
  • Weapons and Tools: Axes, spearheads, daggers, bows, arrows made of copper and bronze.


  • The high degree of workmanship.
  • Figureheads of men and women, animals and birds made of terracotta

Dancing Girl Mohenjo-Daro


  • Bronze sculpture indicates that Harappans were super-craftsman.
  • Pottery: Colorful pots and jars with better quality. Figures of fish or peacock on some pottery. Geometrical patterns like horizontal lines, circles, leaves, plants, and trees. 

Script of Harappans


  • Still, a mystery as not deciphered yet.
  • Difficult because of 400- 600 signs 
  • Right to Left. In some cases, boustrophedon method – writing in the reverse direction in alternative lines
  • Some say that language was Dravidian while others think the script is Brahmi.


Piece of Evidence: the seals, terracotta figurines and copper tablets

  • Pashupati: Chief deity was Pashupati (Proto-Siva) sitting in a yogic posture with three faces + two horns. Four animals are surrounding Pashupati.
    1. Four Animals: elephant + tiger + rhino + buffalo (BERT)
    2. Two deer appear on his feet
  • Mother Goddess: chief female deity. She is represented in terracotta figurines. 
  • Harappans worshipped Trees + animals.
  • They believed in ghosts and evil forces, How can one predict? Because they used amulets as protection against them.

Burial Methods

  • The cemeteries discovered in Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal, and Rupar 
  • We can say that they practised burial method
  • Mohenjo-Daro: Complete burial and post-cremation burial popular
  • Lothal: people buried dead in coffins. These coffins made of burned bricks.
  • No clear evidence for the practice of Sati.
  • Excavators also found wooden coffins at Harappa.

The Decline of the Harappan Culture

There is ambiguity about the cause for the decline. Various theories give the following reasons for the decline of Harappan culture-
  • Natural calamities like recurring floods
  • Drying up of rivers (Mythical river Saraswati/ Ghaggar)
  • Decreasing fertility of the soil because of excessive exploitation
  • Occasional earthquakes (possible reason)
  • Aryan invasion (destruction of forts – mentioned in Rig Veda – Purandar)

Most Probably Aryan Invasion Was the Cause For Decline of IVC, Why?

  • The discovery of skeletons huddled together indicates violence at Mohenjodaro.
  • The Aryans had superior weapons + swift horses which
  • So the theory is that they attacked militarily weak Harappan cities 

Indus Valley Civilisation Map



So this was my effort to make you understand IVC, hope you enjoyed it. We will meet soon with the new post.
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