Harappan (Indus Valley) Civilization

India was also part of the Bronze Age Civilisations, which flourished in the valley of river Indus and neighboring regions. This ancient civilisation was discovered when archaeologists began excavating the sites connected with it in the 1920s.

The first sites to be excavated were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. That is why it is also called Harappa Civilisation. At present, hundreds of sites of this culture are known. The most important cities were Harappa (Western Punjab), MohenjoDaro (Sindh), Lothal (Gujarat), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Ropar (Punjab), Banawali and Rakhigarhi (Haryana), and Dholavira (Gujarat).

Town Planning

One of the most interesting features of this civilisation was the emergence of the first urban societies in South Asia. The most remarkable aspect was the high level of sophistication in town planning, crafts and culture. The people lived in well-planned cities.

A general feature of the cities was the presence of a fortified citadel which housed public buildings. The cities had wide roads, which cut each other at right angles. The houses were brick - built and most of these were two-storied. There were wells, baths, drains and sewage in each house. Paved roads and street lightings were also known.

Apart from the living houses in the lower town, big multi–pillared halls have also been discovered at the citadel area in Mohenjo-Daro. Here, the most striking feature was the Great Bath (180 ft long and 108 ft long and 108 ft wide). The bathing pool in it was 39 feet long, 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

The Great Granary of Harappa was another important building. The surplus produced by the peasants was stored here. 

Society and Economy

The people practiced agriculture, animal husbandry, art and crafts, trade and commerce. Main crops were wheat, barley, rye, sesame and pea. Evidence of rice has been found at Lothal and Rangpur. Furrow marks found at Kalibangan show that ploughing was known to them. Sickles were used for harvesting.

Various forms of irrigation were practiced. Cotton was a known product. Animals like cows, goats, sheep, humped bulls, dogs, cats, camels and donkeys were domesticated. The people consumed cereals, fish, meat, milk, egg and fruit. Tools and weapons made from copper and bronze were mostly used.

Ornaments were made of gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones, conch and ivory. Iron was not known to them. Among artisans and craftsperson, there were potters, weavers, masons, carpenters, smiths, jewelers, sculptors, stone cutters, brick-makers and terracotta manufacturers.

Trade and commerce were also very important economic activities. Both inter-regional trade and external trade were carried out. Several evidences point to Harappa trade with Mesopotamia. Main imports consisted of metals like gold, tin, copper and various kinds of precious and semi-precious stones. Among the exports were agricultural products, cotton goods, potteries, jewelleries, ivory products and other crafts. Harappa seals were probably used for commercial purposes. The society was divided into classes.

Religion and Culture

The cult of Mother Goddess seems to have been very popular among them. Many figurines of Mother Goddess have been found. One male deity has also been found at Mohenjo-Daro which has been called the prototype of Lord Shiva (Pashupati). This deity is represented in a seal, sitting in a yogic posture and surrounded by animals.

Lingam worship and nature worship of trees were prevalent. Can you see the similarities in the religious practices among the Hindus in India even today? When you visit a Shiva temple, you can see that Shiva lingam is worshipped. You must be aware that Hindus also worship trees like Peepal.

Technical Skills

They had also acquired high levels of technical skill. They had knowledge of urban engineering, weights and measures, health and hygiene. They also knew how to write. They used a script which has not yet been deciphered. 


It is difficult to say what actually caused the ultimate decline of this civilisation. Natural calamities seem to be the most important cause of the decline of this civilisation. Recurring floods, drying up of rivers, decreasing soil fertility, deforestation due to constant consumption of wood, earthquakes, scanty rainfall, extension of desert seem to have played havoc with this civilisation.

According to some scholars, the decline of overseas trade with Mesopotamia may have contributed to the decline of this civilisation. With its decline, literacy and urban life disappeared in India for more than a thousand years.