Social structure of Indus Valley Civilization

Social Life of Indus Valley Civilization

The Harrappan society was multiclass. Society was multiethnic. Secular in outlook. The society was materialistic in nature. On basis of predominance of mother goddess in Harrappan Civilization. Sir John Marshal opined that Harrappan society was Matriarchal in nature. Harrappan lived well settled life. Archaeological evidences indicate that Harrappan were peace loving people.

Political Life of Harrappan Civilization

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

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

Harrappan Religious Life

Discovery of figuring (female) in large number from Harrappan settlements indicates that mother goddess was the chief deity of Harrappan people. Harrappan worship male god as well but the status of male deity appears to be inferior when compare with female deity. Only evidence of protoshiva has been found on seal at Mohenjo-Daro.

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

Five Altar discovered at Lothal, Kalibanga & Banawali. Animal worship was also practices. Evidences suggest that bull was worshiped by Harrappan. Harrappan also believed in religious power of Amulets & Talisman as indicated by depiction of these on seals. Black marks found on seals & figuring of Harrappan Civilization indicate that something like oil & fragrance was burnt by H. in front of deities of please them.

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

Burial Practices of Harrappan Civilization

The archaeological evidences suggest that Harrappan 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 was placed in grave on its back in north-south direction with head in the north. At times coffin was used for burning the dead bodies. The evidence of coffin burial was discovered at Harappa.

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

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

Economic life of Harrappan people

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

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

Arts & Crafts

The industries in craft formed an important component of Harrappan economic. Harrappan knew most of metals except iron Metal working was an important craft Gold emitting, silver, copper, bronze smiting were prominent craft of Harrappan Civilization.

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

Trade and Commerce

Trade & Commerce was the main basis of Harrappan economic. Most of Harrappan was involved in Trade & Commerce activities. The Harrappan practiced local regional as well as external trade. Local trade was with nearby settlement. Regional trade was with different parts of Indian subcontinent & external trade was with other contemporary civilization that is Mesopotamia & Egyptian civilization.

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

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

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

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

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

The trade & commerce was also responsible for multiethnic character of Harrappan population without active commercial relation with outside world. Different ethnic group would have not been there in Harrappan civilization people.

Elements of Continuity of Harrappan Civilization

Even after the decline of Harrappan civilization many of its essential elements could continue in later phases of Indian history. These elements could be seen by having a glance at modern culture even today. The multiclass character, multiethnic character, secular outlook. The matriarchal outcome of society & materialistic Outcome continued in later period. The Early Vedic Aryans were also materialistic in their outlook because they worship their god & goddess for cattle wealth, victory in battle & to have sons.

The elements of Harrappan political life could also see in later phases Indian History. Mauryan administration & Gupta administration were centralized in nature even modern administration centralized. The urban administration bodies of Harrappan type could be seen in Mauryan period because city of Patliputra administration by council of 30 members.

The burial practices of Harrappan continued through ages. These are prevalent even today. Most of element of Harrappan religion continued into later period. Many dimensions of Harrappan economy survived the decline of this civilization. Knowledge of agriculture didn’t die out crafts like pottery, seal making, metallurgy & stone cutting etc. continued during later periods.

The symbol of Swastika is coming down from Harrappan Civilization. It is used in religious activities even today because it is considered to be pious. The game of chess can also be traced to Harrappan civilization because evidence of chess board has been found. The knowledge of music & dance also continued in later periods.

Harrappan used multiple stringed harps like instrument. The knowledge of birds & animals of Harrappan civilization also contributed to later period. The means of exportation used by Harrappan to form of carts, boats continued to be used during later periods. The settled life of Harrappan people the knowledge of houses made of burnt bricks, knowledge of digging wells and square pillars used by Harrappan continued into later periods. The metallurgical knowledge of Harrappan people also continued because gold, silver, tin, copper etc. were used in India throughout history. 

Significance of Seals & Sealing in Understanding Harrappan Civilization

The seals & sealing constitute one of the most important sources to understand Harrappan civilization the archaeological excavation has discovered around 2500 seals. The size of seals varies from 0.5 inch to 2.5 inches. Most of seals made up of steatite. Some metal seals have also been found.

Harrappan seals are quadrilateral in shape. Various symbols are found on seals. The examination of these Harrappan seals through light on socio-eco-religious cultural & political life of this great civilization. The discoveries of seals from Harrappan settlement indicate that seal making was an important craft & seal makers formed a part of Harrappan population.

Seals are an important excavation of miniature art (art on small scale) of Harrappan. On a seal found at Lothal, harp like musical instrument is depicted. Harrappan was aware of music. Seals contain pictographic script used by Harrappan. Since seals were made by common people & were used commonly, it appears that most of Harrappan people were literate.

The birds & animals depicted on seals helped in understanding the knowledge of birds & animals of Harrappan. Bull is the most commonly depicted animal. This indicates that bull was having great significance in life of Harrappan people. Fish is the most commonly depicted zoomorphic significance (loving significance). This indicates that Harrappan practiced fishing.

Seals through light on Harrappan external contact. A cylindrical seal of Mesopotamia civilization was found at Mohenjodaro. Persian Gulf seal was found at Lothal. These seals confirm that Harrappan maintained trade & commercial relations with these regions. Seals through light on various dimensions of religious life of Harrappan civilization.

Mother goddess, protoshiva & fertility deity are depicted on seals. The depiction of bull on seals indicates animal worship. The black marks found on seal indicate something like oil & fragrance were burnt by Harrappan to please their deity. The square & rectangle shape of Harrappan seals through light knowledge of geometry.

The materials of which seals are made reveal material culture of Harrappan civilization. Uniformity found among various Harrappan settlements indicates that civilization was administered by central authority.

The Harappa

Harrappan cities divided into two parts – known as upper town & lower town. There was an open ground between the two. The lower town was located to east of upper town. Only at Dholavira (Gujarat) the city was divided into 3 parts. There was a middle town located between the upper town & lower town.

The upper town was surrounded by a fort / citadel (Fort). At Surkotada & Kalibangan even the lower town was fortified. At Chanhudaro there was not fort. Both parts of Harrappan cities were laid out in planned manner. Harrappan followed chess board pattern/ grid pattern.

Details of City Planning

The main street in Harrappan cities moved from north to south direction. It was about 30 feet wide. The main street was interested by a number of narrow lanes at right angle. The houses were built alongside lane.

There was small no main land between two houses (free areas – walls are not touching each other). Harrappan houses comprised two or more rooms build-around a courtyard. The doors were on one side of wall. In one corner of house kitchen was build. Windows were absent, ventilators were there. Some house had double story. Staircase was probably wooden because no evidence has been found.

Mohenjodaro is a type site (most representative site/site from most of features of civilization have been discovered). In Mohenjo-Daro almost every house had a well. There was public well on every street. More than 700 wells had been found in city of Mohenjodaro. Every street was having underground covered drainage.

The drains of side lanes opened in the bigger drain of main street. The drainage had manholes at regular interval which were used to clean the drainage. There was soak pits in drainage for recharging of underground water table. This indicates that Harrappan practiced water harvesting. The left out water in drains carried to field for irrigation purposes. Harrappan collected rain water in pounds.

16 water reservoirs have been found at Dholavira. One reservoir was so big so that it could store more the 250000 cubic meter of water. Some of these reservoirs were interconnecting. This indicates that Harrappan new technology of water filtration by using method of sedimentation.

These pounds were filled by collecting rainwater in that area. In this way Harrappan conserved each & every drop of water available to them. It was because of this highly advance system of water management, Harrappan cities like Dholavira could flourish in arid region where water was external scarce. Dams were built by Harrappan in rivers for flood irrigation. The Harrappan used flush toilets. Harrappan first in would to have such toilets.

The discovery of evidence of such toilets indicates that Harrappan was concerned about Sanitation. To protect cities from threat of flash flood. The upper town was built at some height with respect to lower town. It was surrounded by strong fort. All important installation was located within this fort.