Social structure of Indus Valley Civilization

The most important section while studying the Harappan Civilization is the Social structure. This structure highlights the culture, science, and technology being used at that time.  Society seems to be materialistic in nature and pre-dominance of the mother goddess in the Harappan Civilization.

Social Structure of Harappan Civilization

The Life of Indus Valley Civilization
Representational Image: The Life of the Indus Valley Civilization

The Harappan society was multiclass. Society was multiethnic. Secular in outlook. Society was materialistic in nature. On basis of the predominance of the mother goddesses in the Harappan Civilization. Sir John Marshal opined that Harappan society was Matriarchal in nature. Harappan lived well-settled life. Archaeological pieces of evidence indicate that Harappan were peace-loving people.

Political Life of Harappan Civilization

The archaeological evidence suggests that Harappan Civilization was administered by some central authority. Its admin system appears to be centralized in nature. The Harappan civilization was having urban admin bodies similar to modern Nagarpalikas because in absence of such bodies planned layout of cities, construction & maintenance of public buildings would have been difficult.

The Harappan political system was secular in character as revealed by the co-existence of multiple religious ideas and practices.

Harappan Religious Life

The Discovery of figures (female) in large numbers from Harappan settlements indicates that the mother goddess was the chief deity of the Harappan people. Harappan worships a male god as well but the status of a male deity appears to be inferior when compared with a female deity. The only evidence of proto-shiva has been found on the seal at Mohenjo-Daro.

The fertility cult was also popular among the Harappan people. The Harappan were Phallus worshipers. Nature worship was also practiced by Harappan. Natural forces such as trees, water & fire, etc. were worshiped by the people. People tree found on seals used by Harappan. The great bath discovered at Mohenjo-Daro appears to have a religious character.

Five Altar was discovered at Lothal, Kalibanga & Banawali. Animal worship was also practiced. Pieces of evidence suggest that bull was worshiped by Harappan. Harappan also believed in the religious power of Amulets & Talisman as indicated by the depiction of these on seals. Black marks found on seals & figures of the Harappan Civilization indicate that something like oil & fragrance was burnt by Harappa in front of deities to please them.

Bull Seal, Social Structure
Bull Seal of Indus Valley Civilization

The items of common use found from the graves suggest that Harappan believed in the idea of life after death. The co-existence of multiple beliefs & practices in Harappan cities indicates that Harappan was tolerant in nature. They believed in ideas of peaceful co-existence. The high level of material advance in Harappan civilization indicates that the materialistic outlook was dominant in the religious life o Harappan. They worshiped their deities for material benefits.

Burial Practices of the Harappan Civilization

The archaeological pieces of evidence suggest that Harappan used 3 main methods to dispose of their dead bodies. These were complete burial fractional burial post-cremation (burning) burial. In complete burial, dead bodies were placed in the grave on their back in a north-south direction with heads in the north. At times coffin was used for burning the dead bodies. The evidence of coffin burial was discovered at Harappa.

At times, males & females were buried together. The evidence of such a joint burial was found at Kalibanga & Lothal. In fractional burial, the dead body was placed in an open ground to be eaten by wild birds & animals. The remains of the bones were buried. Evidence of fractional burial was found at Bahawalpur (Sindh).

In the post-cremation burial, the dead bodies were burnt. The remains of bones & ash were put in a pot & buried. Such evidence was found in Surkotada (Gujarat). Items of common use such as pottery & ornaments were placed with dead bodies perhaps because Harappan believed in the idea of life after death. The graveyard of Harappan was located away from the city. This indicates that Harappan was concerned about sanitation & they had good civic sense.

The economic life of the Harappan people

Agriculture: Agriculture of the Harappan people was highly developed. Barley was the main crop. They cultivated wheat, rice, pea & gram, etc. Harappan didn’t use canals generally they practiced flood irrigation. The river water was blocked by constructing dams seeds that were sown in flood plains after the floodwater had receded. The crops were harvested before the arrival of the next flood.

Agriculture production was high because Harappa had a sufficient surplus. It was stored in greeneries found in cities life Harappa & Mesopotamia. Multiple cropping is also practiced by Harappan. Harappan is also aware of crop rotation.

Arts & Crafts: The industries in craft formed an important component of the Harappan economy. Harappan knew most of the metals except iron Metalworking was an important craft Gold emitting, silver, copper, and bronze smiting were the prominent craft of the Harappan Civilization.

Pottery making was also an important craft. Black on redware, was used by Harappan. Seal making was also an important craft. More than 2500 seals have been discovered from Harappan cities. These seals were mostly made of steatite. Chanhudaro (Sindh) was a prominent toy manufacturing center. Sukkur (Gujarat) was a famous center of the stone-cutting industry.

Toy Cart, Harappan Civilization
Toy Cart, Harappan Civilization

Trade and Commerce: Trade & Commerce was the main basis of the Harappan economy. Most of Harappan was involved in Trade & Commerce activities. The Harappan practiced the local region as well as external trade. Local trade was with the nearby settlements. Regional trade was with different parts of the Indian subcontinent & external trade was with other contemporary civilizations that as Mesopotamia & Egyptian civilizations.

The Harappan imported gold from Karnataka, and lead from Central India. Amethyst from Maharashtra, shells from the western coastal region, copper from the Khetri mine, and lapis lazuli (bluestone) from Badakshan (Afghanistan). Harappan exported primary & secondary products to the outside world. They imported bullion. The external trade was in favor of Harappan as a result of which a huge amount of foreign wealth moved into Harappan cities. It was the main source of prosperity for the Harappan Civilization

The Harappan practiced trade through land as well as sea routes. Rivers were also used for exportation as indicated by the location of greeneries closed to the river. Inland trade carts were used. Harappan were aware of boats & ships. These are depicted in their seals and painting.

According to Mesopotamia records, Dilman (Behren) & Makan (Makaran coast) were intermediate trading stations of the Harappan people. Monetization of the economy was absent Harappan didn’t use coins. Their trade was practiced through Barter (exchange of goods).

The flourishing trade & commerce of the Harappan Civilization left a deep impact on the nature and character of contemporary settlement in the Indian subcontinent in many ways. The flourished Trade & Commerce resulted in the emergence of the Trade & Commerce center in the Indian subcontinent Harappa was one such example. The flourishing trade gave a boost to industries’ arts & crafts by increasing demand for their products.

The favorable balance of external trade was responsible for the high level of material prosperity of the Harappan people. Harappan people could live a comfortable life because of their flourishing Trade & Commerce. Trade & commerce also resulted in the transformation of the character of existing settlements because under its impact village got converted into towns and towns into cities. The cosmopolitan outlook of the Harappan civilization was also an outcome of trade & commerce to a large extent because the elements of foreign culture could enter Harappan life through trade & commercial contact with the outside world.

Trade & commerce was also responsible for the multiethnic character of the Harappan population without active commercial relation with the outside world. The different ethnic groups would have not been there in Harappan civilization people.

Quick Questions on Social Structure of Harappa Civilization for UPSC Preparation

The Harappan social system was largely egalitarian (equality and equal rights). Armed forces, rulers, slaves, social unrest, jails, and other frequently unfavourable characteristics that we generally associate with early civilizations are almost entirely absent from the archaeological record of the Indus civilisation.

The people of the Harappan Civilization had a structured social and economic life. The Australoid, Mediterranean, Mongoloid, and Alpine races made up the population of the Indus valley. 35000 people lived in Mohenjo-Daro, roughly.

Another common aspect of Harappan religious thought was animal worship. There was a lot of worship of common creatures like bulls, tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses. Both serpent worship and worship of the Naga deity were popular. However, bull worship was the most common among all the animals.

The Harappan society was multiclass. Society was multiethnic. Secular in outlook. The society was materialistic in nature.

The Gods, Brahmins (priests and scholars), Kshatryia (warriors and monarchs), Vaishya (merchants and landowners), Sudra (commoners, peasants, and servants), and Untouchables are the principal social classes of the Indus River Valley Civilization (the outcasts of the Caste system).

People in the Indus Valley spent a lot of time outside because it was so hot there. The majority of individuals lived in modest dwellings that doubled as shops. There wasn’t much room to unwind. Wealthier households had courtyards.

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