Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilization in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Indus Valley Civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization. Along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilizations of the region comprising North Africa, West Asia, and South Asia, and of the three, the most widespread, its sites spanning an area stretching from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India.

Indus Valley Civilization
Indus Valley Civilization: Mature Phase

It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along with a system of perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra River in northwest India and eastern Pakistan

In the 1920s, the Archaeological Department of India carried out excavations in the Indus valley wherein the ruins of the two old cities, viz. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were unearthed. In 1924, John Marshall, Director-General of the ASI, announced the discovery of a new civilization in the Indus valley to the world.

Origin of Indus Valley Civilization

Harappan Civilization or Indus Valley Civilization was one of the oldest & greatest civilizations in the history of mankind. It flourished for more than 1000 years in the Indian subcontinent. The discovery of this civilization pushed Indian history back by almost 2000 years because previously it was believed that the Vedic age represented the first phase of evolved life in the Indian subcontinent.

The Harappan Civilization was extensive until now more than 1400 Harappan settlements have been discovered. This civilization covered an extensive area of about 1.3 million square kilometers but the origin of this great civilization has remained at the center of historical controversy different scholars have explained the origin of this great civilization quite differently.

Controversies related to the origin of Harappan Civilization

The origin of Harappan Civilization has been a controversial issue because most of the pieces of evidence gathered from Harappan towns & cities during archaeological excavation belong to the mature phase of civilization. The pieces of evidence related to the early phase of this civilization are quite limited. These limited pieces of evidence have been interpreted which different scholars. As a result of which different theories emerged about the origin of a great civilization.

Most archaeological excavations carried out at Harappan cities have focused on discovering the horizontal expansion of the Harappan settlement. The vertical excavation was quite limited. At many prominent Harappan cities such as Mohenjo-Daro, the lower levels are lying submerged in water. Because of this very limited evidences could be gathered about the early phase of Harappan Civilization. In absence of sufficient evidence associated with the early phase of life in Harappan settlement the picture of their origin has remained quite hazy & different theories have emerged to explain the origin of this great civilization.

Theory of Sudden origin 

According to this theory, Harappan Civilization was established by a group of foreigners coming from Sumerian Civilization. These immigrants knew urban life because they were living in towns & cities for a long time. This knowledge was used by them to establish. Towns & Cities in the Indian subcontinent. This urban phase is referred to as the Harappan Civilization.

This theory was put forward by scholars like Sir John Marshall, R.E. Mortimer Wheelers & V. Gordon Childe. The supporters of this theory believed that Harappan Civilization emerged rapidly. It attained a mature phase within a short span of about 500 years. This time period was estimated by keeping in mind 7 Stratigraphic levels discovered at Mohenjodaro. Such kind of rapid rise was possible only if makers of the cities had prior knowledge of urban life.

Basis of theory

Supporters of the foreign origin theory emphasized similarities between Harappan Civilization & Mesopotamia civilization to prove that both civilizations were the work of the same group of people. The Harappan Civilization & Mesopotamia civilization was similar in their lifestyle & various other features-

Both civilizations were urban. Both used seals (seals – authentication – seal on packed material stamp) to authenticate their transaction. Both used a pictographic script. Potter’s wheel was used by both. Both used bronze. Burned bricks were used by both civilizations. Both were contemporary.

Theory of “Aryan Origin”

Map related to Theory of Aryan Invasion in Indus Valley Civilization
Map related to Theory of Aryan Invasion for Indus Valley Civilization

Before the time of the Aryan migration into the Indian subcontinent, there was a highly developed civilization in ancient India known as the Indus Valley Civilization, which was located in what is Pakistan and northwest India today, on the fertile flood plain of the Indus River and its vicinity.

The earliest evidence of religious practices in this area dates back approximately to 5500 BCE, farming settlements began around 4000 BCE, and around 3000 BCE there appeared the first signs of urbanization. By 2600 BCE, dozens of towns and cities had been established and between 2500 and 2000 BCE the Indus Valley Civilization was at its peak. The evidence suggests that the Indus Valley Civilization had social conditions comparable to Sumeria and even superior to the contemporary Babylonians and Egyptians.

By 1500 BCE the Aryans migrated into the Indian subcontinent. Coming from central Asia, this large group of nomadic cattle herders crossed the Hindu Kush Mountains and came in contact with the Indus Valley Civilization. This was a large migration and used to be seen as an invasion, which was believed by some scholars to be behind the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization; this hypothesis is not unanimously accepted today.

Today scholars have a different understanding of how things developed. We know that a process of decay was already underway in 1800 BCE; some say that the Saraswati River was drying up, others that the region suffered catastrophic floods. The consequences of either event would have had a catastrophic effect on agricultural activity, making the economy no longer sustainable and breaking the civic order of the cities.

Theory of Gradual Evolution

Recent archaeological excavation carried out in the north-western part of the Indian Subcontinent has successfully discovered the antecedent communities & culture of the great Harappan Civilization. The gradual evolution of these communities over a period of 3000 years resulted in the emergence of Harappan Civilization.

This theory has been supported by the evidence discovered by archaeological like Walter A. Fariservis, G.F. Dales, A.N. Ghosh, Stuart Piggott, and Raymond. According to this archaeological evidence, the number of small communities like Kullu, Zhob, Nal Quetta, Mundigak was living in the North-Western part of the Indian subcontinent during the 6th millennium BC.

These communities were small in size; their economy was subsistence & represented a very early stage of human life. The process of gradual evolution transformed these communities into villages by 5000 BC. Evidence of this phase of human life has been found at Mehargarh. It was a flourishing village in 500 BC in the valley of the river Bolan. Mehargarh region was a semi-arid natural resource that was rare in that area. Some people from the Mehargarh region migrated into the valley of the river Indus.

The Indus Valley provided them an extensive fertile alluvial plain perennial source of water a better climate for agriculture & plenty of other natural resources like timber & minerals. This favorable geographical environment gave a boost to the process of evolution & by the middle of 4th, BC Mesopotamia towns like Amri and Kot Diji emerged in the Indus region. These towns represented the proto-Harappan phase (similar to Harappan Civilization).

The process of gradual evolution resulted in the stage of agriculture surplus by around 2800 BC by this time people had started using copper tools. The availability of agriculture surplus paved the way for rapid progress in fields of arts n crafts & trade & commerce. As a result of this number of centers of arts & crafts & the number of centers of trade & commerce emerged. These urban settlements symbolized the emergence of Harappan Civilization.

The balance involving Agriculture surplus arts & crafts and trade & commerce prepared the material basis for Harappan Civilization till the time this balance remained instant, civilization continued to flourish. In beginning, the Harappan traded with nearby people. Their trade & commerce was local and regional in nature. By around 2500 BC, Harappan started trade & commerce with Mesopotamia people because around this age Mesopotamia record started mentioning Meluha, the region identified with Harappan Civilization.

The balance of Harappan external trade was highly favorable (that is positive) because Harappan exported the primary & secondary goods. They imported gold and silver & semi-precious stone this inflow of foreign wealth carried the prosperity of Harappan cities to great Harappan Trade & civilization reached its mature stage. Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro were Mega-cities of this great civilization during this period.