Nature and Character of Harrappan Civilization

The Harrappan Civilization flourished in Indian subcontinent during 3rd millennium B.C. It was a great civilization & evidences discovered during archaeological excavation through light on nature & character of this civilization. These evidences helped in understanding socio-cultural-religious-eco & political life of Harrappan people.

Harrappan Civilization was an indigenous civilization. Harrappan Civilization was not result of any sudden development but in reality it represented the culmination of long process of gradual evolution spanning across more than 3000 years.

The Harrappan Civilization was an urban civilization. The population size of Harrappan settlements, their population density the pattern of their economic activities and other such dimensions reflect the urban character of Harrappan settlements (city). The settlement like Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro was mega-cities of this great civilization because more than 30,000 – 40,000 people lived there.

Till now more than 1400 Harrappan towns & cities were discovered. This large number of urban centers indicates that Harrappan Civilization reflected on urban revolution in Indian subcontinent in 3rd millennium BC. Harrappan Civilization was highly evolved because Harrappan lived a well settled life socio-religious institution were well developed. The Harrappan cities didn’t represent any haphazard growth but their cities were laid out in planned manner.

Harrappan Civilization was a multiclass civilization because rich and poor very import and less important people lived together in Harrappan cities. Some of the Harrappan people lived in big houses while many other lived in single room barrack. The evidences discovered from graves also support multiclass character of Harrappan Civilization. The similarities of Harrappan cities in terms of town planning, common script system of weights & measures, uniform size of bricks and similar religious life indicate that Harrappan Civilization was administered by some centralized authority.

It appears that Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro were two capital of this great civilization. Nothing is known definitely about nature of polity on basis of predominance of merchant class in Harrappan cities. Scholars have opined that civilization was administered by merchants. Presence of modern municipality type urban institution in Harrappan cities was another important feature of this great civilization.

Without such urban institution, planned layout of cities, construction & maintenance of public buildings etc. would have been impossible. The science & technology know how to Harrappan Civilization was highly advanced. The Harrappan know how to make bronze by mixture tin & copper in definite proportion. Their medical knowledge was at advance level as revealed by evidence of skull surgery found at Kalibangan & Lothal.

Harrappan knew technology of making books & ships. They were aware of technology used in water proofing walls & surface. The civil engineering knowledge was quite advance because Harrappan builds-Dams-forts & other big public buildings. Harrappan Civilization was secular in nature because till now not clearly identical public religious building has been discovered. Religious evidence associated with this civilization has been found from private houses. This suggests that religion was private affair in life of Harrappan & public life was not much influenced by religion.

Predominance of secondary & tertiary economic activities was another important feature of Harrappan Civilization. Most of the Harrappan were involved in arts & crafts and trade & commerce. The Harrappan practices agriculture & domesticated animals but these were not identical feature of this great civilization.

Materialistic outcome was dominant among Harrappan people. The high level of prosperities of Harrappan cities revealed by archaeological evidences suggests that Harrappan didn’t waste their time & energy in ritual ceremonies & philosophical speculation. But they invested their efforts in improvement of their worldly life. Harrappan has extensive resource at their disposal.

Utilitarian outcome was also dominant in Harrappan Civilization. The Harrappan focused upon making life comfortable rather than luxurious & refine. Walls of their houses were plain without any painting etc. door was simple without any carving. Harrappan Civilization belongs to great tradition because archaeological evidence suggests that most of Harrappan were literate. Script was known to Harrappan people. Evidence of script has been found from the pottery & seals of common use. These pots & seals were manufactured by common people who confirmed that the makers & users of these pots & seals were literate.

The Harrappan Civilization was peace loving civilization. Harrappan lived a defensive life because their cities were fortified. Weapons like sword & shield were rare in discoveries from Harrappan settlements. The Harrappan Civilization was an extensive civilization till now more than 1400 Harrappan towns & cities have been discovered. It was 20 times bigger than its contemporary Egyptian civilization & 12 times bigger than Mesopotamian Culture.

Distance between its northern most & south was about 1400 km & the distance between east & west was about 1600 km. Harrappan Civilization was proto-historic civilization because Harrappan script yet to be deciphered. It was bronze-age civilization because the use of bronzed was typical feature of 3rd millennium BC worldwide. Harrappan Civilization was river in civilization because most of Harrappan settlements were located in river vallies. Harrappan Civilization was long lasting civilization because it flourished for more than 1000 years.

Decline of Harrappan Civilization

After flourishing for more than 1000 years Harrappan Civilization came to an end; the decline of this great civilization has been explained quite different by different section of scholars. This controversy about decline of Harrappan Civilization is outcome of the fact that excavation carried out at various Harrappan settlements have brought to light different evidences indicating decline caused by different factors. This varied evidence has been used by scholars to put forward different theories to explain the decline of this great civilization.

Theory of sudden decline due to invasion of Vedic Aryans

According to this theory Harrappan Civilization was attacked by Vedic Aryans, these Aryans came from outside, they were warlike people & they destroyed Harrappan towns & cities. Harrappan were massacred & civilization came to end suddenly. This theory was put forward by R.C. Mortimer wheeler, V. Gordon Childe, Stuart Piggott.

Supporting Evidence

Supporters of this theory put forward a number of archaeological evidences discovered during excavation at Harrappan settlements & literary reference found in Rigveda. The archaeological excavation carried out at Mohenjodaro discovered 37 skeletons some of these skeletons were found in streets, some were wells & 13 of these were found in one single room.

Some of this skeleton has wound mark which indicates that these people were attacked with sharp edged weapons. These skeletons indicate that city of Mohenjo-Daro faced a sudden attack. The people were caught unaware; they were massacred while running for safety.

In Rigveda Indra was mentioned as Purandar & Vritrahana. Purandar refers to destroyer of fortified settlements. Vritrahana means slayer of daemon Vritrahana this demon obstructing flow of water in river. This description of Vritrahana indicates it was nothing but Dams builds for flood & irrigation. The destruction of dams severely affected agriculture production. The destruction of fortified settlement brought an end of urban life. As result of this Harrappan Civilization declined suddenly.

Other views about decline of Harrappan Civilization

According to John Marshal, S.R. Rao, flood was responsible for decline of Harrappan Civilization. The Harrappan settlement located on river banks. They were vulnerable to floods. The city of Mohenjo-Daro was destroyed by floods no less than 7 times. According to M.R. Sahni & B.L. Rice, Harrappan civilization was destroyed by Inundation caused by rise in water level. The H. cities got flooded & life in those cities came to an end.

According to M. Dmitriev the civilization was destroyed by physiochemical explosion. This explosion resulted in massive fire & Harrappan cities got burned. Evidence of destruction by fire was discovered by him at Rakhigarhi.

According to K.V. R. Kennedy the civilization was destroyed by Malaria epidemic. Evidence of destruction by Malaria was found by him at Mohenjodaro. According to H.T. Lambrick, the civilization was destroyed by change in course of river. On basis of archaeological excavation carried out at Kalibangan he found that city was destroyed due to change in course of Ghaggar.

According to D.P. Agarwal & R.K. Sood civilization destroyed by increase in aridity. Amount of waters in rivers got reduced. The life became non-sustainable & civilization came to end. According to Robert Raikes, the civilization was stricken by technology tonic disturbances. A massive earthquake took place in area of Harrappan Civilization that destroyed its towns & cities. Evidence of earthquake was found at Kalibangan.

Theory of Gradual Decline  due to Economic Imbalance

Recent archaeological excavation carried out but archaeologist like M. Aurel Stein, Walter A. Fariservis, Remmond & Bidge Alehin, A.N. Ghosh & Md Rafiq Mughal have revealed that the decline of Harrappan Civilization was a gradual phenomenon and economic imbalanced / climate change was primary responsible for decline of this great civilization.

The Harrappan practiced intensive agriculture for period of more than 1000 years as result of which fertility of soil got reduced. The Harrappan cleared forest by using fire. The burning of forest released huge quantity of carbon dioxide in atmosphere this resulted in phenomenon of global warming climate change was witnessed, as result rainfall became erratic, floods & droughts became frequent.

The decline in fertility of soil, erratic rainfall, frequent floods & droughts adversely affected agriculture of Harrappan people. Amount of agriculture surplus available with them got reduced. As result of which the fine balance on which Harrappan Culture was resting got disturbed. This civilization continued to flourish till, the time balance evolving agriculture surplus, arts & crafts, Trade & Commerce was intact when this balance got destruct, the proc. of decline of Harrappan Civilization commenced. This procedure of decline was strengthening further like decline in external & conservative outcome of Harrappan.

Role of Decline of External trade in disappearance of Harrappan Civilization

Around 1900 BC, Mesopotamia record stopped motioning Meluha. This indicates that Harrappan trade and commerce with Mesopotamia was no longer significant after 1900 BC. Archaeological excavation carried out in Central Asia have brought to light that some ware like group had got settled in that region in around 2000 BC.

Presence of these groups obstructed the overland, external trade of Harrappan Civilization. Decline in external trade severely affected the health of Harrappan cities because inflow of foreign wealth was no longer significance & demand of manufacture good got reduced. These factors made urban life unsustainable.

People had to abandoned urban centers. Many of them migrated into western coastal region (Gujarat) where large number of settlement emerged after 1900 BC. Many Harrappan migrated into nearby villages. Abandonment of cities resulted in decline of Harrappan civilization. This proc. started in north-west region which was dependent on external trade later on it moved into other areas of this civilization.

Role of conservative attack of Harrappan

The excavation of Harrappan scripts their tools & implements, the quality of bronze & pottery etc. used by them indicate that no significance evolution took place in life of Harrappan for more than 500 years. There was high degree of stagnation in Harrappan Civilization.

In spite of having close commercial relations with Mesopotamia, Harrappan failed to learn technology of making bronze of superior quality. As result of which they could not benefit from use of stronger material. This stagnation didn’t allowed Harrappan to prepare for challenges of future when these serious challenges emerged in front of Harrappan Civilization. It failed to counter them & this great civilization came to end.

Causes of continuity

After flourishing for more than 1000 years, Harrappan Civilization came to an end but all the elements and ideas of this civilization didn’t disappear. Many elements of great Harrappan Civilization could continued into – later periods of Indian history because the term decline of urban phase only. The entire human life didn’t come to end with decline of Harrappan Civilization.

Even after the decline of urban phase the associated rural life continued unabatedly. Along with this rural life, many elements of Harrappan Civilization could continue in later phase of Indian History. The decline of Harrappan Civilization was not result of annihilation of Harrappan people. The cities declined because dot their abandonment by Harrappan. Harrappan Civilization declined when urban life was no longer sustainable.

The resident of Harrappan town & cities carried their ideas, beliefs & practices with their when they migrated into nearby villages. The process of decline of Harrappan Civilization was long drawn out process. It continued over long period of over 600 years. The process of decline of Harrappan Civilization commenced around 1900 BC & at many settlement civilization survived up to 1300 BC.

During this long period of many centuries many elements of Harrappan Civilization could assimilates with contemporary culture to continue during later periods. The process of decline of Harrappan Civilization had regional variation at first the settlement of North-West declined. The settlement of western coastal region declined much later. This factor also facilitated the continuation of Harrappan culture into later ages.