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Exploring the Ancient Cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa

Discover the fascinating history of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, two ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Join us on a journey through time!

ancient cities in indus valley civilization

Introduction to the Indus Valley Civilization.

The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the world's earliest urban civilizations, flourishing in the Indus River Valley in what is now modern-day Pakistan and India. It is believed to have existed from around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE, and was known for its advanced urban planning, sophisticated drainage systems, and impressive architecture. Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were two of the major cities of this civilization, and their ruins provide valuable insights into the lives of the people who lived there thousands of years ago.

Why is Indus valley civilization called Harappan culture?

Initially historians called this civilization the Indus Valley Civilization. But of late historians prefer to call it the Harappan Culture. Can you think of reasons for this change? Most of the sites of this civilization discovered earlier Were in the Indus Valley only. The sites included Harappa and Mohenjodaro. But in recent years, a large number of sites belonging to this civilization have been found in areas far away from the Indus Valley. For example, the sites at Kalibangan and Lothal revealed features similar to those of the Indus Valley. Therefore, historians feel that the name Indus Valley Civilization is not appropriate. Further, most of these sites have many similarities to the urbanised culture of the people of Harappa, the first site of this culture to be discovered in 1921. Therefore, this civilization is called the Harappan Culture.

The discovery and excavation of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa.

The ruins of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were first discovered in the 1920s by archaeologists working in the region. Excavations began soon after, revealing a wealth of information about the Indus Valley Civilization. The cities were carefully planned, with streets laid out in a grid pattern and buildings made of baked brick. The people who lived there were skilled artisans, producing intricate pottery, jewelry, and other goods. The ruins also provide clues about the religion, social structure, and daily life of the people who lived there.

mohenjo daro and harappan civilization

Exploring the Ancient Cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa

The two cities of Mohenjo- daro and Harappa are preserved disproportionately. The ruins of the former city present a grand view from the riverside, the Indus river of today being at a remove of 5 km. A brick-built embankment, 42 apparently old, protects the city. From a distance the round stupa of the later Buddhists appears crowning the older protohistoric ruins of the citadel mound. What is buried beneath the stupa yet remains to be excavated. A lane west of the stupa has been named ‘Divinity Street’ from associated religious antiques. From this street five doorways lead onto a massive structure on the west, which measures 70 × 23 m. Its nucleus consists of an open court of 10 m2 with verandas on three sides facing rooms behind. Many of the rooms are carefully faced with bricks, and there are at least two staircases. It is an imposing building of unusual importance and generally referred to as an educational institution. But the most unique building, farther to the west, beyond another lane, is the Great Bath , consisting of a tank, 12 m long north to south, 7 m broad and 2.5m deep, with steps leading down to the floor from two sides, built of fine bricks rubbed and carefully made watertight by using gypsum mortar.

Furthermore, precaution has been taken by putting a 2.5-cm-thick damp-proof course of bitumen held by a further wall of brick and retained by mud-bricks. All around the tank is a corridor which opens through ranges of brick pier or jambs. Behind them on one side there are other rooms, one of which contains a large well which apparently supplied water to the tank. Near the south-western corner an outlet, a corbel-arched drain about a man’s height, was provided. Farther away to the north is a block containing eight smaller bathrooms, each about 3 × 2 m, carefully and solidly built, with finely jointed brick floors, and disposed, on either side of a passage, in a fashion ensuring that none of the doors opened opposite any other. These bathrooms appear to have an upper storey, supposed to have been residential in nature. This whole complex of the Great Bath and smaller bathrooms has a meaning beyond proper comprehension at present. Its public character can be easily guessed but the attribution of any other concept may well be premature.

Indus Valley, Home of a Civilization

Look at the course of the river Indus on the map of the Indian sub-continent. It originates in the Himalayas, flows west initially and then southwards towards the Arabian sea. This river valley was the home of one of the early civilizations of the world. It was at the begining of this century that the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization were discovered. Some of the sites discovered revealed the existence of a highly advanced people thousands of years ago in this region. These people had achieved a high degree of material life with varied occupations and complex institutions. Therefore, this. early culture is described as a civilization.

The layout and architecture of the cities.

The cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were carefully planned and designed, with streets laid out in a grid pattern and buildings made of baked brick. The houses were typically two stories high, with flat roofs and courtyards. The larger buildings, such as the Great Bath in Mohenjo Daro, were made of more elaborate materials like stone and featured intricate carvings and decorations. The cities also had a sophisticated drainage system, with channels and pipes that carried waste water away from the streets and buildings.

mohenjo daro great bath images

Mohenjo Daro great bath facts

Immediately to the west of the Great Bath is the Granary, standing on a massive brick- work podium with a loading platform on its northern side. As the corbelled drain of the Great Bath cuts the eastern end of this platform the original granary is earlier in date than the bath. The Granary consists of a series of brick plinths, rectangular or square in plan, each separated by air passages. It is on these plinths that granary stores were built, some with wooden supports. A later addition to the Granary on the south was made contem- porarily and in line with the Great Bath, and both of them opened on to a southern lane. On this side Wheeler further identified a grand staircase leading from the level of the plain to the top of the platform, where stood a small bathroom. It is the battered walls of the outer side of the high podium of the Granary that led to the idea of a citadel at Mohenjo-daro.

But strictly speaking, Mohenjo- daro has not as yet produced evidence of any continuous city wall around this high mound, which is almost a parallelogram in shape. However, the south-west corner does show a salient that looks as though it is concealing a tower. A series of towers were actually found in the south-east corner of the 1950 excavations.

These square towers, which are of solid brick, except the earliest which showed slots for timber beams, were meant to strengthen this corner. But the walls on the north and the west do not continue to any great length. What was taken to be a ‘parapet wall’ by Wheeler may be a curtain wall between two towers. Further to the north the later floods penetrated deep into the mound and partly separated the northern half from the southern. In the southern half one important building has been exposed. It consists of a pillared hall with a platform on the southern side corresponding to a later Iranian type of apadana.

ancient city of harappa

Indus valley Harappan civilization

The buildings of the citadel mound of Mohenjo- daro can be compared with what remains at the citadel of Harappa, where the fortification walls were traced in the 1946 excavation.43 Unfortunately the structures within the citadel are poorly preserved but outside to the north three types of buildings were found. The first is a granary consisting of a series of six storerooms in two rows on either side of a corridor. To its south is another group of circular platforms meant for threshing corn. Still further is a series of two-roomed houses of utili- tarian type and hence taken to be workmen’s quarters. These buildings at Harappa make a different setting from what we have seen at Mohenjo- daro.

As far as the ‘lower town’ is concerned, Mohenjo- daro presents a good example, where S. Piggott built up a pattern of a series of blocks of houses arranged in a grid-iron system.

The idea of such blocks can be easily conceived from the system of housing units, which have a central open courtyard with living rooms along the sides in the oriental style, the main door opening on to a lane with a wall provided near the door. The houses, which are simple and plastered with mud, also had second storeys. Some had latrines with seats on the ground floor. Attempts have been made to recognize in the structure some temple, palace, inn and industrial quarters. But except for the potter’s area of a later period, recognition of quarters for specialized crafts has so far not been successful.

The daily life and culture of the people who lived there.

While much is still unknown about the people who lived in Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, archaeologists have uncovered some clues about their daily life and culture. For example, they have found evidence of a writing system, which suggests that the people were literate. They also discovered figurines and other artifacts that suggest the people had a rich artistic tradition. Additionally, the cities were likely centers of trade and commerce, with goods like cotton, pottery, and jewelry being produced and exchanged.

Social stratification has been difficult to determine even on the basis of burials discovered at Harappa, Kalibangan and Lothal. The material from cemetery R–37 at Harappa enabled Wheeler to speak of one single system of inhumation practised by the Indus people, though other sites have produced other types as well. The Harappan burials are all of humble folk and do not show any great variation. Here the skeletons lie extended in the north–south direction accompanied by grave furniture consisting of some fifteen to twenty pots, personal ornaments like shell bangles, necklaces and anklets of steatite or paste beads as well as toilet objects such as a copper mirror, mother-of-pearl shells, an antimony rod and a shell spoon. Only two graves show some special features; one was out- lined internally with mud-bricks, suggesting a structural coffin, and the other was buried in a wooden coffin, the wood being deodar.

Religion in Indus valley civilization

From burial practices we may go on to examine religious rituals and beliefs and seek to understand the pattern of the Indus society. Although no structural evidence for a temple can be definitely cited, other objects suggest a multiplicity of religious ideas. While J. Marshall has tried to trace many of the later Indian practices to these ideas, others prefer to confine themselves to building the great religious tradition of the Indus people with which the little traditions of various communities became integrated. On this consideration the Great Tradition could be attributed to the nature of the urban set-up and the Little Traditions may appertain to the mass of the village population who must have subsisted side by side with their own humble beliefs.

For an agricultural society of this type the concept of the fertility cult must have exerted a great influence. The discoveries of a large number of terracotta figurines of an almost nude female has suggested the idea of a village mother goddess. With them are associated terracotta figurines of pregnant women with children. There is a remarkable scene  depicted on a seal from Harappa that shows a birth scene. The seal bears an inscription of six characters not yet deciphered. On one side two genii are standing, on the other a male is standing with a cutting instrument in his right hand. Before him is a seated lady with her hands raised up and hair dishevelled in distraught mood. The top scene apparently shows the same female upside down with something emerging from her female organ obviously a representation of childbirth. 

What the idea is behind such a scene cannot be exactly stated but here certainly some fertility idea has attracted the attention and found expression in this remarkable sealing. Marshall would also like to attribute his recognition of the phallus (lingam) and ring stones to similar beliefs. The second great element in the popular beliefs is seen in the many animals represented on the seals. Some of the animals are multi-headed and some multi-bodied, and some are no doubt mythological in so far as they combine in a single figure the attributes of several animals. Among these animals the bull certainly predominates. The appearance of the unicorn on a large number of seals still remains enigmatic. Even if these animals were not actually worshipped, an animal spirit appears to have been a component part of religious beliefs and may be seen in the figure of many horned deities.

Another popular idea can be traced in the depiction of trees or tree-trunks on the seals. A tree within a railing is a common feature. These by themselves may not be of any great significance, but combined with the appearance of a pipal leaf motif, noted on several painted pots or carved on seals, they begin to acquire some meaning. One seal  actually shows two heads coming out of a tree suggesting an idea of a living spirit of the tree. The concept of a tree deity is obtained from other seals where a horned figure stands within a tree motif . Here the humble tradition of village folk has become integrated in a ceremonious performance that speaks of urban sophistication.

The tree deity, who is horned and has a pigtail hanging down to one side, stands within a leafy pedestalled bowl. Before her a horned personage kneels down in a supplicating mood and appears to invoke the deity through the intermediary of a mythological animal standing behind. On the lower row stand seven plumed and pig-tailed figures probably awaiting their own chance. Whether these secondary figures are meant for worship or for sacrifice is difficult to say. But the whole scene is a remarkable representation of an intensely emotional ceremony. Such tree deities are also depicted alone. In another example the kneeling man, with a sharp-edged knife in his hand, is pushing a deer before the deity as if in the act of sacrifice. Many of the seals depict a ‘standard’ below the mouth of the unicorn. The emblematic nature of this object is clear from another seal where it is carried in combination with a bull on an altar in the middle with a fluttering flag in front. From Harappa comes another seal,44 which shows two scenes besides some writing. 

The lower one has a horned bull to the left with a standing man in between facing a structure, probably wooden, a square in two storeys with pinnacle tops and a vestibule in front. The upper row depicts two growling tigers on either side of a remarkable human figure sitting on a high-legged seat on his heels, with his toes touching the seat and his knees doubled; his bangled hands rest on his knees, and his head, which is not very distinct, is apparently horned. In another seal the same horned man in a similar pose is being worshipped with folded hands by two men, one on each side. These worshippers have cobra hoods behind them, recalling naga devas ( serpent deities) of a later period. The pose of the seated deity is more simple. Marshall proposed to see in it a yogic posture. The deity has a remarkable history and can be traced back to the horned deities seen in the painted sherds of the pre- Indus period. 

The iconography of the figure reveals the various composite elements. On a clay tablet from Kalibangan the figure is crowned by a simple tree. On a seal from Mohenjo- daro the crown is horned. But a more stylized figure appears on another seal . Here the seated deity has an erect male organ and is multifaced, the horned crown has a stylized stump in the middle and a series of torques around the neck. Below the seat are two ibexes. Four animals are round the seated figure who appears to be motionless in a trance. Out of the four animals the elephant is receding while a tiger, a rhinoceros and a bull are in an aggressive mood. Marshall sees in him a ‘prototype of Siva’ a concept which is biased towards modern Indian beliefs. On the other hand, the different component elements are already there in contemporary beliefs. The representation here is an integrated concept of a sophisticated type that must have evolved in the urban setting of the Indus Civilization.

There are some extraneous elements, like the figures of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, also appearing in Indus seals. But the religious repertoire would not be complete without mentioning the limestone statues. In one example there is a bearded figure with half-closed eyes. In a second example the man is seated in a half-kneeling position with his hands on his knees and a shawl over the body with the right shoulder bare. The third is a highly sophisticated bust of a man (Fig. 4), with his beard trimmed, upper lip shaven, half-closed eyes looking at the tip of a sharp nose, hair combed and held by a gold fillet, ears imitating a shell design, a ring armlet on his right arm, and a shawl over his body except for the right shoulder. The shawl is decorated with the trefoil design. It is this statue that has been taken to be a ‘priest king’ though we have no evidence of any priestly dominance in the Indus Civilization.

The statuettes, seals, terracotta figurines and several other decorative objects also reveal the artistic trends of the time. A total number of eleven stone statuettes have been recovered at Mohenjo- daro, nine of which are human or parts of human figures and two are animals.

One human is made of steatite, two humans are of alabaster and the remainder are of limestone. One animal is clearly a ram but another is a composite animal with ram’s horns and an elephant’s trunk. These figures are all drawn in a conventional style and show a tendency that leaves very little choice for freedom. In physical depictions they have an individuality of their own though it is possible to detect some correspondence with Mesopotamian figures, for example, in the shaven upper lip, sturdy neck, trefoil design on the shawl and the use of inlay for the eyes. All the figures are modelled and belong to a tradition hieratic in origin. On the other hand, there are two other statuettes found at Harappa which belong to an entirely different school.

The first is a young danseuse in grey stone, who is headless with parts of her legs broken, showing remarkable movement as reconstructed by Marshall. The second figure, which is also headless with its arms and legs missing, is modelled in red sandstone and shows the use of tubular drills for the attachment of arms. The muscles are depicted in a superb and naturalistic fashion. Such a naturalistic representation is seen in the case of animals and seals. Particularly, the drawing of the two-horned bull shows a power of keen observation. It is here that Indus art is seen to be far removed from the general run of Indian art, which is generally stylized and over-burdened with iconographic details. The Indus art, as seen in the seals, is steeped in naturalism and the scenes represented on the sealings are derived from the usual activities of man. Unfortunately the sculptures are confined to small figurines. There is nothing to compare with the huge statues of the Egyptian civilization.

A remarkable figure in the round is of a bronze dancing girl which is highly emotional. Although her feet are broken, her remaining bent leg still speaks of the free movement associated with dancers. Her bangled left hand appears to produce a ringing musical sound when striking her wrist on her thigh, while her lips, which are thick and protruding, are open to a soft tune of a song. The figure, which is totally nude, has its hair drawn stylistically to one side. It has been compared to the temple girls of a later period. In physiognomy it is different from other figures but in the free movement of its limbs it carries the agile spirit of the time.

The terracotta figurines, both human and animal, represent the folk art of the time. Among them cattle are preponderant, generally humped bulls, but short-horned ones and buffalo also occur. The cow is not depicted at all. Other animals include dogs, sheep, elephants, rhinoceros, pigs, monkeys, turtles and birds. The human figurines are mostly females in different activities or postures. The standing female figurines  are very common, with a loincloth held by a girdle, a series of beaded necklaces, ear paniers and a fan-shaped head-dress. All these figurines are hand-modelled with appliqué technique used for attachments. Some are very appealing, suggesting that they are more than ordinary toys. However, there was no scarcity of toys, which included bird whistles, wheeled carts (Fig. 6) and animals with holed legs to be drawn by children. Terracotta was the poor man’s medium of expression. This was also used for utilitarian objects like feeder bottles, rattles, bangles for ladies, cubical or tabular discs, spoons, mousetraps, flesh rubbers, etc.

The most abundant are the carrot-shaped cones of plain terracotta, terracotta cakes of trian-gular shape and rounded missiles. The cones look like carrots and are assumed to be used as styli and the cakes as oven stands or for toilet purposes.

Faience is another material used for modelling animals or for making other objects like bracelets, finger rings, studs, buttons and inlays for caskets and furniture. The faience was composed of crushed steatite pressed and modelled to produce the object desired. It was then coated with a glaze and fused in a kiln. The colour as seen today is light blue or green. Faience materials are normally small, yielding tiny figurines of sheep, monkeys, dogs and squirrels.

Faience was also used for making beads, barrel-shaped or convex-bicone, and they were carved with a trefoil design cut with a drill. The bead-making craft was highly developed in the Indus Civilization. Besides faience, other materials include gold, silver, copper, steatite, semi-precious stones, shell and pottery. E. J. Mackay45 gives the detail of a bead-maker’s shop from his excavations at Chanhu- daro, where the processes of sawing, flaking, grinding and boring the stone beads are well illustrated. A series of gold beads was included in a hoard of jewellery found at Mohenjo- daro. The silver beads are mostly globular or barrel- shaped. Another significant type of faience is the segmented bead. Decorated carnelian and etched beads are well known. The trefoil design seen on the beads is the same as that seen in the shawl. At Harappa a great mass of jewellery of gold and semi-precious stones was found underneath the workmen’s quarters. There were nearly 500 pieces of gold, ranging from armlets to beads and many complete necklaces made up of multiple strings of beads and metal.

Two other materials used by the Indus people for preparing decorated designs are lapis lazuli and shell. The lapis, which was imported from Badakhshan, was sparingly used, but shell was plentifully available on the sea-coast. It was used for making various types etched beads are well known. The trefoil design seen on the beads is the same as that seen in the shawl. 

Two other materials used by the Indus people for preparing decorated designs are lapis lazuli and shell. The lapis, which was imported from Badakhshan, was sparingly used, but shell was plentifully available on the sea-coast. It was used for making various types of bangles, studs, cones and cut into different designs for decorative purposes. The shell industry was highly developed.

The metal industry of the Indus people shows many curious and interesting features. S. Piggot 46 has commented that the metalsmiths were manufacturing objects in copper, either crude or refined, in bronze (copper with approximately 10 per cent of tin deliberately or accidently added); and in copper-arsenic alloy, almost certainly accidental but one which gave an added hardness to the metal. The commonest techniques used in metallurgy included casting and forging. Casting was done by pouring molten metal into a mould.

As this process required special care to avoid bubbles, by the addition of a small percent- age of tin or arsenic, it appears to have been used very sparingly. However, the lost-wax method must have given good results. It is by this method that the dancing girl statuette was made. But other tools of copper or bronze were cast by the simple technique. These included simple flat-type axes, tanged spearheads, barbed harpoons, arrowheads, razors, knives, handled mirrors and, occasionally, shaft-hole axes. Copper or bronze was abundantly used for making metal pots, pans, bowls, cups, dishes and small bottles. The find of spindle-whorls and many cloth impressions in the Indus cities is evidence of the growth of textile manufacture out of the good-quality cotton produced in the Indus plains.

For means of transport the Indus people used carts with solid wheels that were tied to the axle and which turned round along with the axle, a type of small cart that is still in use in the villages of Sind. Two types of river-going ships have been noted. One depicted on a seal shows the high prow, central cabin and double steering oar. Before the cabin are poles apparently to hold the standard. At Lothal other terracotta ship models have also been found.

Although a few stone vessels have been found, pottery was the basic manufacture. Potter’s kilns, about six in number, have been found in the latest phase of Mohenjo- daro. They are circular, with a stokehole and furnace beneath a perforated floor originally covered by a domed roof. The pottery from the Indus is for the most part plain, mass produced for utilitarian purposes. The vessels, which have thick sides, are well baked and produce a ringing sound when beaten with the fingers. 

The commonest type is an offering stand with narrow tapering base, probably a development of the pedestalled bowls of the earlier period. Other types include beakers, pointed-base goblets, handled cups, jar stands, perforated cylindrical vessels and varieties of vases, pans and plates. Specialized types are knobbed-ware pottery and perforated vessels. The great bulk of material is wheel-turned, but some hand-made vessels have been recovered from lower levels. Goblets with pointed bottoms and scored exteriors are found in great numbers in the later levels. Some of them bear a short stamped inscription. Most of the pottery is of pinkish ware made of alluvial river-clay mixed with other ingredients. It is coated with bright red slip. The decorated pottery has designs painted in black on a red background. The designs are equally divided between geometric and naturalistic with trees, birds, fish and animals.

The Indus pottery is heavy, well made and sharply contrasts with the delicate vessels of the pre-Indus cultures. Among the distinctive patterns the intersecting circle motif, the pipal leaf, the chequer design and the kidney-shaped motif occur in a mass of foliage and tendrils. Among birds the peacock takes its place. Some of the painted sherds also show human figures. A painted sherd from Harappa shows a fisherman, carrying two nets suspended from a pole across his shoulders with a fish and turtle near his feet. Another sherd shows a doe suckling her kid, with two birds, a fish and a star in the upper part of the panel and secondly a man with one hand raised and the other touching his head, and a child with upraised arms along with fishes and a cock in the field. Wheeler noted that painted decoration is of better quality in the lower levels so far explored at Mohenjo- daro.

Such a diverse paraphernalia of urban civilization could hardly be controlled without a system of writing. It is therefore not surprising that the Indus people adopted a system of writing to suit their purposes. However, this written system has been found in a fully developed form as seen in the many steatite seals and sealings, copper tablets and some stamped on pots and other objects. In the absence of its earlier evolutionary process the beginning of the writing remains unknown, though we have been able to trace some pot marks47 which bear some resemblance to symbols used in the Indus writing. The inscriptions so far discovered are limited to a few signs on the seals and there is a lack of longer inscriptions with the result that great difficulty is faced in the structural analysis of the writing. 

However, attempts have been made to make a full list of the inscriptions, 48 draw up a comparative chart and to break the sign lists into suffixes, main stem, accent marks and numerals. 49 There have also been attempts to decipher 50 them on the basis of analogies and on the supposed basis of the language being some form of proto-Dravidian or some other language. Failing in these deciphering attempts, some scholars51 have tried to interpret them directly on the basis of their own understanding of the cultural pattern. But in the absence of bilingual inscriptions there is no check to the phonetic value given to different symbols. So far the Indus writing has remained undeciphered as it is written in an unknown script and an unknown language. The system of writing is neither pictographic nor alphabetic. It is in the intermediate stage, referred to as logographic or logosyllabic,52 and it appears to have been limited to a class of literati who managed the professional control concerned primarily with the urban set-up. As the writing started full blown in the Indus Civilization, it did not leave behind any trace of the post-urban scene that developed in this part after its decline.

This literate urban civilization of the Indus valley, although rooted in the maximum exploitation of the fertility of the Indus alluvium on the basis of the available knowledge of technology, flourished at a time when there was the greatest amount of sea-faring activity in the Arabian Sea, between the older civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Indus region and along the littoral of Makran and southern Iran. In terms of the Mesopotamia chronology53it coincides with the old Akkadian and Ur III phases. The decline of this sea-trading activity coincides favourably with the latter part of the Mesopotamian Isin Larsa period. In terms of CI4 dates the beginning of the mature phase of the Indus Civilization cannot be placed earlier than 2500 B.C. in round figures and the end should be placed somewhat about 1900 B.C.

In the last phase the city of Mohenjo  daro shows a slackness in the observance of rules regarding the alignment of walls, which are now found to intrude into the streets. Some more squat type of loose construction using older bricks was also noted by Wheeler in his excavations at Mohenjo- daro and Harappa. The old urban set-up appears to have collapsed in a way that has not left sufficient evidence for proper analysis. The Mesopotamian evidence does show that there was a break in the overseas trade and this break must have deeply affected the economic base of the state. On the other hand, the Indus floods, which were recurring phenomena, must have created further difficulties by the over deposit of silt and mud. Whatever may be the reason, this urban pattern crashed to a degree that did not leave behind those distinguishing features that characterized the urban nature of the civilization, and what remained later was a continuity in the rural survival of the older life.

Geography Indus river valley

The above description of the Indus Civilization is derived mainly from the sites in the Indus valley. But now the geographical horizon of this civilization is greatly widened. Within about four years of the partition of the subcontinent, planned surveys were undertaken in India to locate more Indus Civilization sites in the regions contiguous to the frontiers of Pakistan  in Rajasthan and Punjab for an eastward extension and in Gujarat for the southward. The exploration of the Ghaggar valley, conducted in 1951/52, resulted in the discovery of as many as twenty-five Harappan sites within the present-day borders of India in the region beginning right from the Pakistan border (eastwards) up to mid- way between Hanumangarh and Suratgarh in the Sarasvati valley and about 22 km east of Bhadra in the Drishadvati valley.54Noteworthy among these sites was also Kalibangan, which has been subjected to large-scale excavation the findings of which remain still to be fully published. During 1952–55, excavation was undertaken at Rupar, not very far from Kotla Nihang Khan, where the Harappan remains were found for the first time stratified between the deposit yielding the painted grey ware and the natural soil.55Three years later a similar sequence was identified at Alamgirpur, some 45 km north of Delhi on the Hindan, a tributary of the Jamuna, and recently again at Hulas across the Jamuna. Further explo- rations in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and in Meerut and Saharanpur districts of Uttar Pradesh added more Harappan and late Harappan sites in this (eastern) region. With these discoveries the eastern limit of the Indus Civilization now extends to

Alamgirpur, across the Indo-Gangetic divide, and the northern limit to Manda, located on the right bank of the Chenab in the foothills of the Pir Panjal range, 28 km west of Jammu. As regards the distribution pattern, no mature Harappan sites have so far been located in the present-day valleys of the Sutlej and Beas with the singular exception of Kotla Nihang Khan and Rupar situated on the left bank of the Sutlej in the foothills of the Siwaliks. On the other hand, there is a chain of pre-Harappan and Harappan sites in the valleys of vari- ous streams like Sirhind Nadi Sarasvati, Markanda, Patialvi, including Chautang (ancient

Drishadvati), all contributing to the Ghaggar (ancient Sarasvati) system. Late Harappan settlements are, however, found both in the Ghaggar-Sarasvati system and in the Sutlej basin. Among the excavated sites in this region, Rupar and Manda, located in the foothills, represent the limit of the ecological zone which the pre-Harappans or Harappans could exploit, besides being important centres for supplying teak to the settlements in the valleys below. Similarly, Alamgirpur and Hulas located across the divide of the Indus and Jamuna systems, mark the eastern limit of the ecological zone, beyond which lay the real Indian monsoon-fed jungle which the Indus people found difficult to civilize without an ample supply of metal (perhaps iron).

On the southern side, excavations were resumed at Rangpur in 194756 and again in 1953.57 Thereafter large areas in Gujarat, including Kutch and Kathiawad, were extensively explored, resulting in the location of several Harappan and late Harappan sites, the southernmost being situated on the estuary of the Kim.58Recent excavations at Daimabad, located on the Pravara, a tributary of the Godavari, has now extended the limit of the Indus Civilization further south up to almost the latitude of Bombay in the Ahmadnagar District of Maharashatra.

As regards the distribution pattern, we find that the spread of the Indus Civilization was not uniform in this southern region, being conditioned by areas of attraction, namely coastal flats, fertile river valleys, estuarine plains, routes of communication, etc. No mature Harappan sites have so far been located in the narrow corridor connecting the Kutch and Kathiawad peninsula with the mainland. The Harappan expansion to Gujarat may perhaps be explained by the urge to search for raw materials (timber, ivory, carnelian) and ports.

Among the excavated sites in this region Lothal, Prabhas Patan and Bhagatrav were located on the coast, indicating coastal movement of the Harappans, and Surkotada on the possible land route connecting Lower Sind with Kutch and the estuarine plains of north-western parts of Gujarat. We may now turn to the principal sites seriatim.

The decline and disappearance of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Despite their impressive achievements, the cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa eventually declined and disappeared. Scholars have proposed various theories to explain this, including environmental factors like climate change and natural disasters, as well as social and political factors like conflict and invasion. Whatever the cause, the legacy of the Indus Valley Civilization lives on through the artifacts and ruins that have been uncovered, providing a glimpse into a fascinating and complex ancient culture.

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