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Harappan Civilization

Updated: Apr 14

It was the first urban civilization extending from ‘Sutkagan Dor’ (Baluchistan) in the west to ‘Alamgirpur’ (Western Uttar Pradesh) in the east, and from ‘Manda’ (Jammu) to ‘Daimabad’ (Maharashtra) in the south. It is classified into 3 phases- 

  • Early Harappan (3200-2600 BCE), 

  • Mature Harappan (2600-1900 BCE),

  • Late Harappan (1900-1300 BCE).

Archaeological site of Mohenjo Daro

Features of the Harappan Civilization

  • The layout of cities: They followed the Grid system, with uniformity in housing patterns and Bricks. They segregated cities into two divisions, the ‘Citadel’ and the ‘Lower Town’ which was divided by the boundary wall (watch tower). There were a few exceptions like Dholavira which had a three-fold division, and, Chanu Daro the only city without a citadel and Slope-based roads which helped in the Garbage Collection.

  • Water Management: They constructed ponds, lakes, dams, and individual as well as community wells for the effective use of water resources. Mohenjo-Daro had maximum wells. The housing design enabled Rainwater Harvesting. They also made integrated drainage lines and used perforated pottery to filter. An opening was also provided for irrigation, e.g. canal irrigation in Shortughai.

  • Economy and Trade: They had flourishing trade relations with Mesopotamians and Persians. They exported included garments, wool, perfumes, etc., and imported copper, ivory, shell, pearls, etc. They followed the barter system due to the absence of metallic money. They followed a binary system for weights made up of chert, steatite, and limestone.

  • Society And Culture: It was a matriarchal society with no caste system. They wore garments of cotton, silk, and wool, used beads to make jewelry, and also used lipstick and eyeliner. Their fashion style can be inferred from the stone sculptures. 

  • Pottery and script: The Harappans were experts in making a variety of multi-purpose pottery used for storing grains, and filtration of water (perforated pottery). They used the now-lost wax technique. They primarily made red and black pottery with various figures inscribed on it. Their writing was boustrophedon and the script is yet to be deciphered.

  • Religion and Rituals: There was no official religion. They were nature worshippers and worshipped the Peepal tree. They also worshipped proto-Shiva and the mother goddess. The presence of rituals can be traced in Kalibangan and Lothal where fire altars have been found. The great bath at Mohenjo-Daro is also an example of a ritual they practiced.

Town planning of Harappa

Possible causes for decline:

No archaeological evidence can accurately explain the causes of the decline of the Harappan civilization.

  • Aryan invasion: According to Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s theory Aryans led by Lord Indra destroyed the cities. Later, this theory was criticized because there was no massacre, cut marks, and no large skeletal remains except Mohenjo-Daro and eventually he had to accept that this theory was not correct.

  • Environmental changes: Drying and Shifting course of Saraswati River, low rainfall, flooding of rivers e.g. Mohenjo-Daro was flooded 7 times. 

  • Geological changes such as earthquakes, rise in temperature, and soil erosion.

  • Epidemic: Poor hygiene and sanitation.

  • Economic Reasons: Decline of trade and commerce.



  • A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India, Upinder Singh

  • Ancient and Medieval India, Poonam Dalal Dahiya

  • Higher Secondary First year, Tamil Nadu Board

  • Prateek Nayak Notes

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