Indus Valley Civilisation History
Baljit Dhaka

Indus Valley Civilisation History

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Indus Valley Civilisation History


History is considered the most significant part of the civil services examination. I would suggest you guys, first go through the UPSC syllabus for this subject. 

To know more about UPSC complete course, click here

History is divided into three parts i.e,

  1. Ancient History
  2. Medieval History
  3. Modern History

So here in this article, we will discuss a small part of ancient history i.e, Indus Valley Civilisation.

Indus Civilisation

Indus Civilisation (2500 BC - 1750 BC)

  • Indus civilisation is one of the four earliest civilizations of the world.

Others are: 

  • Mesopotamian civilisation
  • Egyptian civilisation 
  • Chinese civilisation 
  • Indus civilisation is the most extensive of all the riverine civilizations encompassing more than 1500 sites over an area of 1.5 million sq. km. 
  • John marshall was the first scholar to use the term “Indus Civilisation”
  • The Indus civilisation belongs to the Bronze Age.
  • It is older but surprisingly more developed than the Chalcolithic cultures in the subcontinent.
  • It was spread over Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Western U.P. and Northern Maharashtra.
  • Called Harappan Civilisation because this civilization was discovered first in 1921 at the modern site of Harappa situated in the province of West Punjab in Pakistan.
  • Haryana has the largest number of sites.

Indus Valley Civilization- History

Sites of Indus Valley Civilisation:

  • Northernmost: Manda (Jammu - Kashmir)
  • Southernmost: Daimabad(Maharashtra)
  • Easternmost: Alamgirpur (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Westernmost: Sutkagen Dor (Pakistan-Iran border)
  • Capital cities: Harappa, Mohenjodaro
  • Port Cities: Lothal, Sutkagen Dor, Allah Dino, Balakot, Kuntasi 










Sindh (Pakistan)



Sindh (Pakistan)













Indus Civilisation: Town Planning

Town Planning:

(Architecture of Indus valley civilisation is already covered in detail in Art and Culture - Lecture 1)

There was systematic town planning on the lines of the grid system, i.e. streets and lanes cutting across one another almost at right angles, thus dividing the city into several rectangular blocks.

There was an impressive fortified Citadel on the western side that housed the ruling class.

Below the Citadel on the eastern side is the lower town consisting of the houses of the commoners.

  • Houses generally had side entrances and there were no windows even facing the main streets.
  • Large-scale use of standardized burnt bricks and the total absence of the stone building.

Indus Valley Civilisation- History                        Indus Valley Civilisation- History


Remarkable underground drainage system connecting all houses to the street drain which were covered with either bricks or stone stabs and equipped with a manhole.

Indus Valley Civilisation- History

Harappan Drainage system

Indus Civilisation: Economy


  • Agriculture: Agricultural technology was well developed.
  • No hoe or ploughshare has been discovered, but the furrows discovered in the pre-Harappan phase at Kalibangan show that the fields were ploughed in Rajasthan.
  • Probably wooden ploughshare was used.
  • No reference of whether plough was drawn by men or oxen.

Main crops:

  • Wheat, Barley, evidence of cultivation of rice in Lothal and Rangpur only. 
  • Other crops included dates, mustard, sesamum, leguminous plants and cotton. 
  • Indus people were the first to produce cotton in the world and as cotton was first produced in this area the Greeks called it Sindon, which is derived from Sindh.

Animal rearing:

  • Reared buffaloes, camels, oxen, sheep, asses, goats, pigs, elephants, dogs, cats.
  • The remains of horses--found at Surkotada in Gujarat.
  • The lion was not known to Indus People.

Indus Civilisation: Export & Import


  • There existed specialized groups of artisans such as goldsmiths, silversmiths, bronze-smiths, brick-makers, stone-culture, weavers, boat-builders, terracotta manufacturers, ivory-workers etc. 
  • Harappans were the first to use silver in the world.

Foreign trade:

  • With Mesopotamia or Sumeria (Iraq), Central Asia, Persia Afghanistan, Bahrain.
  • Shortugai and Mundigak were the Indus sites found in Afghanistan.

Indus Valley Civilisation- History

Main exports: 

  • Agriculture products, cotton goods, terracotta figurines, pottery, ivory products, copper, Certain beads ( From Chanhudaro), Conch shell (from Lothal)etc.


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Main Imports:

  • Teak: from Gujarat,
  • Gold: Kolar (Karnataka), Afghanistan, Persia (Iran)
  • Silver: Afghanistan, Persia (Iran), South India
  • Copper: Khetri(Rajasthan), Balochistan, Arabia
  • Tin: Afghanistan, Bihar
  • Lapis Lazuli and Sapphire: Badak-shan (Afghanistan) 
  • Jade: Central Asia
  • Steatite: Shahr-i- Sokhta (Iran), Kirthar hills (Pakistan)
  • Amethyst: Maharashtra
  • Iron was not known to the people of Indus civilisation.

Indus Civilisation: Seals


  • Made of Steatite (Soft Stone)
  • Size varies from ½ inch to 2-1/2 inches.
  • The two mains shapes are the square type with carved animals and inscription on it, and the rectangular type with an inscription only.

Indus Valley Civilisation- History

  • The animal most frequently encountered on the seals is a humpless bull.
  • The purpose of seals was probably to mark ownership of property. 
  • The Harappan seals are the greatest artistic creations of the Harappans.
  • The majority of them, carry short inscriptions with pictures of the one-horned bull, the buffalo, the tiger, the rhinoceros, the goat and the elephant.
  • Three-cylindrical seals from Mesopotamia have been found from Mohenjo Daro

Indus Valley Civilisation- History

Harappan Script

  • The number of signs of the Harappan script is known to be between 400 and 600 of which about 40 or 60 are basic and the rest are their variants.
  • The writing was Boustrophedon or from right to left and from left to right in alternate lines.

Indus Civilisation: Polity


  • There is no clear-cut evidence about the name of the polity.
  • According to D.D. Kosambi, the priests constituted the ruling class.
  • According to R.S. Sharma, the merchants were the ruling class.
  • Harappans had very efficient and well organised administrative machinery.

Indus Civilisation: Religion


  • The Chief female deity: Mother Goddess (Goddess of Earth), represented in terracotta figurines.
  • A plant is shown growing out of the embryo of a woman.
  • Probably the image represents the goddess of earth, and it was intimately connected with the origin and growth of plants.
  • The Harappans, therefore, looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess.

         Indus Valley Civilisation- History

  • The chief male deity: Pasupati Mahadeva (proto-Siva), represented in seals as sitting in a yogic posture on a low throne, and having three faces and two horns.
  • He is surrounded by four animals (elephant, tiger, rhino and buffalo, each facing a different direction), and two deer appear at his feet.
  • Prevalence of Phallic (lingam) worship came to be closely associated with Siva in later times.
  • Numerous stone symbols of yoni worship have been discovered.

Tree and Animal Worship

  • Animals in the Pashupati seal indicates that they were also worshipped.
  • One-horned unicorn - Most important animal to be worshipped. Identified with Rhinoceros.
  • Humped bull - Next important animal which was worshipped.
  • These Gods in form of trees, animals, were not placed in temples while in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it was common.
  • Scholars have not said anything about the religious beliefs of Harappan as their script is not deciphered.
  • Amulets- These were found in large numbers, probably because of belief in ghosts and evil forces which could harm them and they used amulets that protected them from the evil spirit.
  • Peepal tree- the most important tree which was worshipped and even worshipped today.
  • Evidence - Deity represented on a seal in the midst of the branches of peepal.
  • The origin of the “Swastika” symbol can be traced to Indus civilization.

I hope, this article will help you all in doing your task. To learn more about Indus Valley Civilisation, stay tunes with us for Part 2.

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