Indus Valley Civilization: History, Religion, Language, and Culture - ORCHIDS
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Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization

History of Indus Valley Civilization

In 1856, British officials in India were busy monitoring the construction of railway lines connecting the cities of Lahore and Karachi along the River valley. As they continued to work, some workers discovered many fire-baked bricks lodged in the dry terrain of the valley. There were thousands of bricks of uniform size, which seemed to be quite old.

Nonetheless, the workers used some old bricks to construct the roadbed, unaware they used ancient artefacts. They soon found that among the bricks, there were some stone artefacts made of soapstone featuring intricate artistic markings. They did not know anything about it then, so these railway workers continued their work on the remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization.

The first major excavations took place in the 1920s. The first site excavated was Harappa. It is located in the Punjab province of British India, present-day Pakistan. Initially, the archaeologists thought they had found ruins of the ancient Mauryan Empire-the large empire that dominated ancient India between 322 BCE and 185 BCE.

Before excavating these Harappan cities, historians thought that Indian Civilization had begun in the Ganga valley as Aryan immigrants from Serbia and Central Asia populated the valley region around 1250 BCE. The discovery of ancient Harappan cities unsettled this conception. It moved the timeline to another 1500 years, situating this mysterious civilization in an entirely different environmental context.

Planning of Civilization


The ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization cities indicate remarkable organization. The marvelous town planning of the Indus Valley Civilization astonishes historians even today. There were well-ordered wastewater drainage systems and even public baths and granaries, which were warehouses for grain. Most city dwellers were artisans, traders, and merchants. The brilliant quality of urban planning suggests efficient municipal bodies prioritize hygiene or planning.

Religion, Language, and Culture

Language and Religion

Little is known about the religion and language of the civilization. A collection of written texts on seals and stone tablets unearthed at Harappa carbon dated 3300–3200 BCE contain pictographic script written from right to left. Even after many years of linguistic research, the Indus script remains indecipherable. Researchers are using technological advances to attempt to decipher this script.

The religion of the Harappans also remains a topic of speculation. It has been widely suggested that they worshipped a mother goddess symbolizing fertility. Contrary to Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization lacked temples or palaces that clearly shows the absence of religious deities.

Institutions and Hierarchy

How was Harappan society so organized? What institutions functioned as centres of authority? Archaeological records provide no clear answers regarding a centre of authority or depictions of ruling power in Harappan society. 

There are very few written records to consult. However, Harrapan artefacts display extraordinary uniformity. Pottery, seals, weights, and bricks with standardized sizes and weights suggest a presence of authority and governance. However, it needs to be clarified exactly what that form of government was.

Over time, various theories have developed concerning Harappan systems of rule. One of the theories is that there was a single seat of power encompassing all the communities of the civilization. This theory was supported by the fact that there was similarity in artefacts, the evidence of planned settlements, the standardized ratio of brick size, and the uniform drainage and sanitation system. 

Another theory posits that no single authority exists but many leaders representing each urban centre, including Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Lothal, Kalibangan, and other communities. 

It seems likely that there was no single centralized system or a powerful state; the individual centres of power in this decentralized structure themselves took lifestyle decisions that appeared unanimous upon further examination.

The Decline of the Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization declined around 1800 BCE, and historians debate the factors that resulted in the civilization’s ultimate demise. 

One theory suggested that a barbaric, nomadic, Indo-European tribe called the Aryans invaded, plundered, and conquered the Civilization. However, more recent evidence tends to contradict this claim. 

Some historians believe that the great Indus Valley Civilization’s collapse was caused by gradual climate change. The drying of the Saraswati River, which began around 1900 BCE, could have caused severe drought in some areas, while the change in river course caused the flood in some regions.

Various elements of the Indus Civilization found in later cultures suggest that the civilization did not disappear due to a sudden invasion but was a gradual process. Many historians argue that the change in river course caused the large civilization to break into smaller communities during the late Harappan phase.

Another noticeable change in the Harappan climate might have been the eastward-moving monsoons that bring heavy rains. Monsoons can be helpful and detrimental to an environment depending on whether they support or destroy vegetation and agriculture. In the case of the Indus Valley, it was proven disastrous and harmful.

By 1800 BCE, the Indus Valley’s climate had become arid. Due to some tectonic event, the river routes were disrupted or diverted, causing a flood in one region and a drought in the other. This continuous flood and drought might have forced Harappans to migrate toward the Ganga basin on the eastward side of the Indian sub-continent, where they could have established villages and agriculture farms. Around 1700 BCE, most of the Indus Valley Civilization cities had been abandoned.

Frequently Asked Question’s

1) When was Indus Valley Civilization Discovered?

Answer: The civilization was first discovered in 1921 at Harappa in the Punjab region, near the Indus River in the Sindh (Sind) region.

2) Harappa is Located on the Bank of Which River?

Answer: Harappa is situated on the left bank of river Ravi. It is one of the main tributary of river Indus.

Also Read…

List of Rivers in India

Historical Monuments of India

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