Harappan Civilisation

Harappan Civilisation (2600–1900 BC)

In the year 1921, on the bank of river Ravi in Punjab, found the remains of an ancient civilization which existed 5000 years ago. The people from this culture knew the use of metal. They had made progress in the fields like town planning, house building, trade etc.

Similar kind of remains were found at Mohenjodaro – a place situated in the Indus valley, 650 km south to Harappa.
Other places like Kalibangan, Lothal, Surkotda, Dholawira, Rangpur, Daimabad also show similar kind of remnants during excavations.

All these places were situated in the bank of river Indus (Sindhu). Based on all these facts Historians concluded that people who lived at these widespread locations had similar culture and life-style and thus they belonged to a unique culture. This culture was named as Harappan Civilization.

1. Geographical Extent

  1. Harappan Civilization originated in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent.
  2. It covered an area larger than its contemporary civilizations like Egypt and Mesopotamia.
  3. It was spread over parts of Punjab, Haryana, Sindh, Baluchistan, Gujarat, Rajasthan and western parts of Uttar Pradesh.

2. Important Sites

Some of the important sites of Harappan civilization that were discovered by the archaeologists are as follows:

Name Current location Country
Mohenjodaro Larkana district Sindh Pakistan
Harappa Montgomry district Punjab Pakistan
Kalibangan Rajasthan India
Lothal Gujarat India
Chanhudaro on river Indus
Banawali Haryana India
Surkotada Gujaat India
Rojdi Gujarat India
Dholavira Kutch district Gujarat India

3. Features : Town Planning

Conscious town-planning is important feature of Harappan civilization. The cities were divided into two main sections

1. Citadel

  1. Smaller part situated at higher location
  2. Buildings were constructed on mud brick platform.
  3. Physically separated from the lower town by a fortified wall.
  4. Citadel contained structures that were probably used for special public purposes such as :
    • The warehouse
    • The Great bath
  5. Large rectangular tank in a courtyard surrounded by a corridor on four sides
  6. Scholars suggests that it was meant for special ritual bath

2. Lower town

  1. This is the larger part of the town situated at lower level
  2. It used to be surrounded by a wall
  3. Buildings in lower town were built on a platform
  4. Bricks used to construct the buildings had a standardized ratio– L: B: H = 4: 2: 1
  5. Town had a carefully planned Drainage System
  6. Roads and Streets were laid out in grid pattern i.e. intersecting at right angle
  7. Streets and grains seems to be laid out before building of houses
  8. Houses Lower town contained residential buildings
  9. Houses consist of central courtyard with surrounding rooms
  10. Every house had its own bathroom paved with bricks and with drains connected through the wall to the street drain.
  11. Some houses were two storeys with staircases
  12. Some houses had wells
  13. Total number of wells in Mohenjodaro is estimated to be 700

4. Social and Cultural Life

Harappans ate wide range of plants and animal products. Various findings at Harappan sites are Grains found at Harappan sites are –

Wheat barley lentil
chickpea sesame millets

millets are found from sites in Gujarat and these findings of rise are relatively rare.

Domesticated Animals:

Cattle, Sheep, goat, buffalo and pig

Wild Animals:

Boar, Deer and Gharial, Bones of fish and fowl are also found at Harappan sites


Various findings related to prevalence of agriculture at different Harappan sites are as follows:

  1. Representations of bull on seals and a terracotta bull
  2. Terracotta models of plough have been found at sites in Cholistan and Banawali (Harayana)
  3. A ploughed field is found at Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
  4. Field has two sets of furrows at right angles to each other-> two different crops were grown together
  5. Traces of Canals have been found at the Harappan site of Shortughai in Afghanistan but not in Punjab and Sindh
  6. Water reservoirs have been found in Dholavira (Gujarat)


  1. The dead were generally laid in pits
  2. Some graves contained pottery and ornaments

Artifacts found at Harappan sites:

Objects of daily use include:
Querns, Pottery, Needles, Body-scrubbers

Objects of luxury:
Little pots of faience (a material made up of ground sand or silica mixed with colour and a gum and then fired)
Gold was considered to be precious

Craft production:

Chanhudaro was almost exclusively devoted to craft production
Craft producing activities were:
• Bead-making:

Materials used for bead-making includes:
Stones like: Carnelian (Red colour), Jasper, crystal, quartz and steatite
Metals like: Copper, Bronze and Gold
Shell, faience, terracotta or burnt clay

• Shell-cutting:
Specialized drills have been found at Chanhudaro, Lothal and Dholavira
Nageshwar and Balakot were specialized settlements for making shell objects such as bangles, ladles and inlay

• Metal-working
• Seal-making
• Weight-making

Harappans procured materials for craft production in various ways

Shell –> Nageshwar and Balakot
Lapis lazuli (A precious blue stone) –> Shortughai, Afghanistan
Carnelian –> Lothal
Steatite –> Rajasthan and north Gujarat
Metal –> Rajasthan
Copper –> Khetri, Rajasthan
Gold –> South India

Contact with the outside world:
Copper was also probably brought from Oman, Arabian Peninsula
A large Harappan jar coated with thick layer of black clay has been found at Omani sites
Meluha -> name used to refer Harappa in Mesopotamian texts
Haja bird –> name used to refer Peacock in Mesopotamian texts
Mesopotamian texts refer to Meluha as the land of seafarers
Depiction of ship and boat is found on the Harappan seals


• Seals were used to facilitate long distance communication
• Sealings were used to convey the identity of the sender

• Harappan seals usually have a line of writing
• The script is not alphabetical
• Script consist of 375 to 400 different signs
• Script was written from right to left
• The script is not deciphered yet
• Objects on which writings have been found are:
o Seals
o Copper tools
o Rims of jars
o Copper and terracotta tablets
o Jewellery
o Bone rods
o An ancient sign-board

• Exchange was carried out by precise system of weights
• Weights were made of a stone called chert and generally cubical with no markings
• Lower denominations of weights were binary (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc.)
• Higher denominations weights were decimal (10, 20, 30 etc.)

5. Religious beliefs

Mother Goddesses

  1. A terracotta figurines of women
  2. Heavily jewelled
  3. Some with elaborate head-dresses
  4. These were regarded as mother goddesses


  1. Rare stone statuary of men
  2. In a standardized posture
  3. Seated with one hand on the knee
  4. Was regarded as a priest king

Great Bath and fire altars

  1. Structures found at Kalibangan and Lothal
  2. These have been regarded as the evidences of practices of rituals


  1. The one-horned animal depicted on seals
  2. Seems to be mythical
  3. Indicate the prevalence of nature worship


  1. A figure on some seals of a man seated cross-legged in a “yogic” posture
  2. Surrounded by animals
  3. This has been regarded as a depiction of “proto-Shiva”


  1. Conical stone objects found at some sites
  2. These have been regarded as lingas

6. End of Harappan Civilization

Below are some of the reasons which are responsible for end of Harappan Civilization

  1. Climatic changes
  2. Deforestation
  3. Excessive floods
  4. The shifting and drying up of rivers
  5. Overuse of the landscape
  6. Invasion of Aryans

Some of these reasons may hold for certain settlements, but they do not explain the collapse of the entire civilization.