What were the main features of Harappan Culture?



The valley of river Indus in India was the centre of great civilization. However till the first quarter of the twentieth century the modern world was completely in dark regarding the civilisation.

In 1922, archaeological excavations were carried out at Harappa in the Montogomery district of West Punjab and Mahenjodaro in the Larkana district of Sind. Under the guidance of R.D Banerjee and Mr. Dayaram Sahani.

They could discover the ruins of a civilisation which flourished many years before the coming of the Aryans of India. Later excavations at various other sites prove that this civilisation covered some parts of the Punjab, Sind, Gujrat, and Rajasthan. The discovery of this civilisation pushed back the antiquity of the. Indian civilisation as far as 5000 B.C.

The important sites of the Harappan culture are Harappa in the Punjab, Mahenjodaro in Sind, Chanhudaro situated at a distance of 130 kilometers from Mahenjodaro, Lothal in Gujrat and Kalibangan in Gujrat and Rupar near Simla.

This civilisation in the beginning was called as the Indus Valley Civilisation .as Harappa and Mahenjodaro were situated on the Valley of the Indus. But during the subsequent periods the remains of this culture were unearthed from various places in Sind.

Rajasthan and Gujrat. So scholars named this civilisation as Harappan Civilisation as the ruins of this civilisation were first discovered at Harappa.

Historians have expressed different views regarding the date of this civilisation. According to John Marshall the civilisation flourished during the period from 3250 B.C to 2750 B.L. On the other hand Sir Martimer Wheeler has opined that this civilisation developed during the period between 2500 B.C. and 1500 B.C.

In spite of these different views most of the scholars believe that this great civilisation flourished during the period from 3000 B.C. to 2500 B.C.. More than five hundred seals have been discovered from the ruins of Mahenjodaro and Harappa but historians so far have been unable to decipher the scripts.

So the information regarding the Indus culture and civilisation is purely based on the objects unearthed from Mahenjodaro and Harappa. The Harappan Civilisation was an urban civilisation.

The people of Nile valley had constructed huge pyramids, palaces and temples but the Indus valley people had given more emphasis on their comforts of life. Scholars believe that the Dravidians were the founders of this civilisation.

Town Planning :

From the ruins of Mahenjodaro and Harappa it is known that Indus valley people lived an advanced and cultured life. The people were expert in the art of town planning.

The distance between Mahenjodaro and Harappa is about 600 kilometers. Harappa was bigger than Mahenjodaro. But the ruins of the buildings of these two places reveal similarity in style and structure.

The city of Mahenjodaro was well planned. Mahenjodaro means "The Mound of the Dead" . The ruins of the city reveal elaborate system of drainage and sanitation. All the roads and streets were straight. These roads and streets ran straight from North to South and from East to West and cut each other at right angles.

The main streets were 30 to 34 feet wide. There were covered drains on the both the sides of the main streets. The drains of the private houses were connected with the street drains. There was also arrangement for street lighting which is evident from the discovery of lamp posts in the street and lanes.

The buildings of Mahenjodaro can be divided into three groups, such as dwelling houses, public building and the Great Bath. The dwelling houses were of different size and structure.

The houses were made of well burnt bricks. Houses were mostly built on elevated or raised platforms. Those were simple and comfortable. The people of the Indus valley laid emphasis on simple and comfortable life. So they were not particular about the artistic decoration of their dwelling houses.

The houses, varied in size and structure. Each house was provided with doors, windows, bath rooms, kitchen, drains, and proper system of ventilation. The houses were generally double storeyed. There were staircases with high and narrow steps leading to upper floor.

The ruins of some spacious buildings of elaborate structure and design have also been discovered from Mahenjodaro. It is difficult to know the nature and exact purpose of these buildings. However it is surmised that these buildings were palaces, Temples or Municipal Halls.

The ruins of some great buildings have been discovered from Harappa. These buildings measure 50 feet in length and 20 feet in width. These buildings were used as granaries.

The most remarkable structure of the city of Mahenjodaro is the Great Bath was 180 feet in length and 108 feet in breadth. In the centre of the Bath which consisted of a quadrangle with galleries on all sides.

In this Bath there is a swimming enclosure which is 39 feet in length, 23 feet in breadth and 8 feet in depth. There was arrangement for the supply of water to the swimming enclosure an adjacent well through the vertical pipes.

Similarly there was provision to take out dirty water from the swimming enclosure through a horizontal drain. The walls of the swimming enclosure from were made completely water tight. The galleries and rooms built all around the swimming pool were used by the people as places to change clothes after bathes.

The architecture of the Indus valley people does not reveal decorative or artistic elements because they preferred a simple and comfortable life.

Social Life:

Food :

The social of the people of Harappan culture quite well- organised. Their food was quite simple. Wheat and barley were their staple food. Milk, milk products, mutton, pork, fish and vegetables were also commonly used. The river Indus facilitated the growth of agriculture and enabled the people to produce wheat, barley, rice, and date palm.

Dress and Ornaments :

The Indus people used different kinds of clothes made of both cotton and wool. Their dress was simple. From the ruins of Mahenjodaro a large number of spindles made of backed earth have been discovered. From this it is known that the people of Indus valley known the art of weaving clothes. Both male and females wore ornaments.

The ornaments were made of gold, silver, copper, ivory precious and semi precious stones. Ornaments like necklace, armlets, finger rings and bangles were used by both men and women. However the ornaments like girdles, fillets ear, ring armlets bracelets were used only by the females.

The poor people were using ornaments made of bones, shell copper and terracotta. The women wore long hairs. From the ruins unearthed at Mahenjodaro and Harappa it is evident that the females used hairs pins, face-paints and mirror of bronze.

Household articles:

Various types of household articles and utensils have been discovered from the ruins of Mahenjodaro and Harappa. These articles and utensils are made of clay, stone and of metals like bronze and copper.

Articles of domestic use of the Indus valley people included needle, razor, daggers and mirrors. Their furniture's included chair, stools, and cots. The discovery of the toys like whistles rattles and dolls refers to the fact that the children were fond of toys.

Gambling, fishing and hunting were the favorite past times of the Indus valley people. The people also enjoyed dancing and singing.

The domesticated animals of the people included humped bulls, cows, buffaloes, sheeps, elephants and camels. They were also familiar with cats and dogs and with the wild animals like deer, tiger, bears and wolves. They did not know the use of horse.

The people used different kinds of weapons of warfare. Axes, spears, daggers, bows and arrows were used as offensive weapons and these were usually made of copper and bronze.

Their defensive weapons included swords, shields and helmets. The people did not know the use of iron, because no iron tools or weapons have been discovered from Mahenjodaro and Harappa.

The Harappans had developed their own process of writing, which is evident from the discovery of seals at Mahenjodaro and Harappa. More than four hundred seals have been unearthed but it is unfortunate that so far the historians have been unable to decipher the nature of the Indus scripts.

Authentic information would be available regarding the Indus valley civilisation when the scripts written on these seals would be deciphered or read. Figures of goddess and of different animals are also engraved on the seals.

From the archaeological remains it is clear that industry and trade developed considerably in the Indus valley. Traders and merchants of this valley established their commercial relations with Sumer, Egypt and Crete.

This fact is corroborated by the discovery of Indus valley objects at various sites in Western Asia. They imported copper, tin and silver from Southern India. However no definite information is available regarding the medium of exchange in the sphere of trade and commerce.

The Indus valley people used a kind of weights and measure. The unit of weight was equal to 1750 grams.

Religion :

The seals, statues and different object & unearthed from Mahenjodaro and Harappa throw light on the religious life of the people. The worship of mother Goddess was widely prevalent among the people.

Figurines of mother Goddess on seals and pottery have been discovered. The people considered female energy as the source of creation.

A seal bearing a figure with two horns on two sides of the head surrounded by wild animals and sitting in a meditative posture, have been discovered. Accordingly it is believed that the Indus people worshipped Pasupati or Lord Siva.

The people believed in animism and worshipped trees and stones and animals like bulls, tigers, elephants and crocodiles. Above all they worshipped sun, water and fire.

This great prehistoric civilisation began to decline towards the year 2000 B.C. The civilisation was destroyed due to the change in the course of the river Indus. The Aryans also came to India through the Khyber Pass.

They defeated the people of the Indus valley or the Dravidians. When the Dravidians were driven out from the Indus valley, their civilisation finally came to an end.