The discovery of the ancient ruins of Harappa by Dayaram Sahni in 1921 and of Mohenjodro by Rakhaldas Banerjee in 1922-23, both officers of the Archaeological survey of India, exploded an age – old myth. It was earlier believed that the history of India began with the coming of the Aryans. The excavation of the ruins of the highly planned cities of Harappa and Mohenjodro pushed back the history of India by almost 2,000 years. It proved beyond doubt that a highly advanced urban civilization flourished in India about 5,000 years ago.
The civilization belonged to the Chalcolithic Age and no trace of iron has been found. It is estimated that the Indus Valley Civilization flourished between 3,000 B.C. and 2,000 B.C. the discovery of Indus Valley seals and pottery among the ruins of ancient Sumerian cities shows that India had trade links which was a contemporary civilization of the Indus Valley civilization.
Mohenjodaro means ‘mound of the dead’. It is located in the banks of the river Indus in the Larkana district of Sind (now in Pakistan). Harappa is situated on the banks of river Ravi in Montgomery district of western Punjab (in Pakistan).
For many years after the discovery of these sites, it was believed that the civilization was confined to the valley of the Indus and its tributaries. However, last excavation of similar sites proved that this civilization extended far beyond the Indus Valley to many parts of northern and western India. About 250 sites have been discovered so far, making the Indus Valley Civilization the largest civilization of the ancient world.
Since the principal cities of his civilization were first discovered around the river Indus and its tributaries, it is referred to as the Indus Valley Civilization. It is also called the Harappan civilization because Harappa was the first site to be unearthed and features of the other sites resemble those of Harappa.
Some major sites of Indus Valley civilization are Lothal (Gujrat), Ropar (Punjab), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Alamgirpur (Uttar Pradesh) and Banwali (Haryana). The two newest sites are Rakhigarhi (Haryana) and Dholavira (Gujrat).
Main Features of the Cities
The excavation carried out at various sites prove that 5,000 years ago highly civilized people lived in this region and gave to the world its earliest cities, its first town planning, its first architecture in stone and clay and its first example of sanitary engineering and drainage system.
The Indus Valley cities were much planned. The major streets ran parallel to each other, cut at right angles by smaller streets, dividing the cities into rectangular blocks. The main roads were straight and very wide (about 30 feet) and curved at the corners to allow carts to pass easily. The streets were paved with baked bricks.
The Indus Valley people were skillful builders. The buildings were of two types – the dwelling house and the public house.
Large blocks of houses were built along the sides of the streets. the houses, many of them double storeyed, had flat roofs. They were of different sizes. Some were like palaces while other were like small rooms. They were made of baked bricks of very good quality. An average house had a courtyard surrounded by rooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a well. A narrow staircase led to the rooms upstairs.
The Great Granary at Harappa was a large building. It was used to store surplus food grains. There were two rows of granaries. Each row had six granaries. A similar granary has been found in Mohenjodaro. All the granaries were built close to the river bank so that grains could be easily transported with the help of boats.
Near the Great Granary in Harappa, circular brick platforms have been found which were probably used for threshing grain. There were also many furnaces where metal workers produced a variety of objects.
Another important building was the Great Bath at Mohenjodaro. This building resembles the large swimming pool. It has six entrances, a central bathing pool, gallaries and dressing rooms. Two flights of steps led to the bottom of the pool. The floor and the walls of the pool were made of burnt bricks. Water from adjacent well was used to fill the pool with fresh water and the used water was drained out through the outlet in one corner. The Great Bath was probably used during religious ceremonies.
The Assembly Hall was another striking building found in Mohenjodaro. It was a pillared hall with thick walls and twenty pillars made of burnt or bakes bricks. This may have been an assembly hall, a prayer hall or a palace.
The people of the Indus Valley had an excellent, well-planned drainage system. The kitchens and the bathrooms (with sloping floors) had drains. The street drains ran along the side of the streets and were usually covered. They had manhole at regular intervals (for inspection and cleaning). The drainage system proves that the Indus Valley people paid great attention to sanitation and cleanliness.
Characteristic features of the Indus valley Civilization:
Society: Harappan society probably consisted of several social groups: rulers, merchants, traders artisans, farmers and manual labourers.
Food: Wheat was the staple food. They also grew barley, mustard, fruits and vegetables. Milk, meat, fish and eggs formed a part of their diet.
Dress and Ornaments: people ore cotton and woolen garnaments. Two- pieces dresses were worn by both men and women. The men wore a garnament similar to the dhoti while women wore skirts. The upper garnament was shawl worn around the shoulder. Both men and women wore ornaments. They wore necklaces, amulets and finger rings. The women also wore a headdress, earrings, bangles, girdles, bracelets and anklets. The rich wore ornaments made of gold, silver and ivory. The poor wore shell, bone and copper jewellery. The men kept beards. Their hair was combed backwards and was either cut short or coiled in a knot on top of the head. The women probably tied their hair tightly and used hairpins and combs to keep their in place. They also used cosmetics.
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