Ancient Indian History (Part-1)


The Indus Valley Civilisation


A. Sources

  1. Archaeology:  The science that enables us to dig the old mounds and to form an idea of the material life of the people.
  2. Radio-carbon Method: The method according to which the dates of the excavated material remains are fixed.
  3. Numismatics: The study of coins.
  4. Epigraphy: The study of inscriptions.
  5. Paleography: The study of old writing used in inscriptions and other old records.
  6. Brahmi Script: Written from left to right; considered the precursor of all the Indian scripts, except the Indus script.
  7. Kharosthi Script: Written from right to left; used only in north-western India.


B. Pre-historical Periods

  1. Palaeolithic Age: Old Stone Age from 5,00,000 BC, i.e. from the time man has started living in India, to 8000 BC. It is divided into three phases according to the nature of the stone tools used by the people.
  2. Pleistocene and Holocene Periods: These are geographical periods. 

Pleistocene Period was the Ice Age, which began in the times immemorial. 

The Paleolithic Age, in fact, began in this period and ended along with this. 

Holecene Period came immediately after Pleistocene Period and continues until today.

  1. Mesolitic Age: Also known as the Late Stone Age, it is the intermediate or transitional stage between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Ages. 

The tools of this age are called microlithis (very small tools.)

    1. Neolithic Age: The New Stone Age covers the period from 4000 BC.  This age has marked by the use of polished stone tools
    2. Chalcolithic Age: The Stone-Copper age covers the period from 1800 BC to 1000 or 800 BC. 

In this age, apart from stone, copper (the first metal used in India) was also used.


C. Period and Extent

      • Indus civilization belongs to the Bronze Age, 
      • It is older but surprisingly more developed than the Chalcolithic cultures in the subcontinent, 
      • Broadly placed between 3000 BC and 1500 BC,
      • The largest cultural zones of the period, extending from Ropar (Punjab) in the north to Bhagatrav (Gujarat) in the south (1100 km) and from Sutkagendor (Pakistan-Iran border) in the west to Alamgirpur (U.P.) in the east (1600 km),
      • According to the latest excavations, the northern most site is Manda (Jammu & Kashmir) and the southernmost, Diamabad (Maharastra). 
      • The latest Indus site has been discovered in Balathal near Udaipur (1994-95), which is probably the oldest known village settlement in India (but the oldest known village or agricultural settlement in the Indian subcontinent in Mehrgarh in Baluchistan). 




      • Origin lies in various indigenous Proto-Harappan cultures.
      • Indus Civilisation was consummation of a long series of cultural evolution.
      • Emerged out of the farming communities of Sind and Baluchistan.
      • Continuous Cultural Evolution from 6000 BC onwards in North West India which finally culminating in the rise of Indus Civilisation.
      • Archaeological excavation and research have founded phases of cultural developed                 bursting up in the emergence of a full-fledged civilization.
      • Began in Baluchistan and Sind and then extended into the plains.
      • Different Phases and Transformation

                    Pre-Harappan – Mehargarh – nomadic herdsmen to settled agriculture                    Early Harappan – Amri – growth of large village and towns.

                    Mature Harappan – Kalibangan – rise of great cities.

                    Late Harappan – Lothal – decline phase.


Town Planning


      • A great uniformity in town planning, the fundamental layout of prominent urban Settlements exhibit apparent similarities.
      • Based on GRID PATTERN; streets and lanes cutting across one another at right angles dividing the city into a number of rectangular blocks. Main streets ran from North to  South and were as wide as 30 feet. Streets and lanes were not paved.
      • Entire city complex was bifurcated into two distinct parts: the ‘CITADEL’ a fortified area,            which housed important civic and religious public buildings including granaries and     residences of the ruling class and the ‘LOWER TOWN’? 
      • Use of standardized burnt bricks on massive scale in almost all types of constructions (an extraordinary feature of the contemporary civilization), complete absence of stone structures.
      • Elaborate and planned underground drainage system. Houses were connected to the main drain equipped with manholes. Mostly made up of bricks with mud mortar.  Cesspits were there inside the houses to deposit solid waste. Bricks culverts meant for carrying rain and storm water have also found.
      • House was plain and did not exhibit any refinement and beauty. As far as the decorative value of the houses was concerned, they lacked it. In general, they gave plain and undecorated look.
      • An average house comprised a courtyard and four to six living rooms, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a well. Presence of staircase gives indication of the second storey. Houses had side-entrances and windows were conspicuously absent.
      • Houses varied from a single-roomed tenements to houses with a number of rooms and having even a second storey. 
      • Floors were generally of beaten earth coated with cow dung. 
      • Fireplaces were common in rooms. 
      • Walls were thick and square holes in them suggest of use of wooden beams. 
      • A narrow space of ‘no-man’s land separated every house. 
      • Staircases were usually of wooden but some made up of burnt bricks have found also. 
      • Roofs were flat. Doors were set in wooden frames and the average width of a door was one meter. 
      • Square and rectangular pillars of burnt bricks were used in bigger rooms, round pillars were absent. 
      • Kitchen was small. A round oven meant for baking chapattis has also found.



Art and Craft Pottery


      • Mainly of two types: Plain Pottery and Red and Black Pottery with Decoration, the majority being the former.
      • Widespread use of potter’s wheel made up of wood, use of firing technique, use of kiln.
      • Variety of Pleasing Design – Horizontal strips, Check, Chess-Board Pattern, Intersecting

Circles (Pattern exclusively found), Leaves and Petals, Natural Motif – Birds, Fish, Animals, Plants, Human Figure – Rare (A MAN and A CHILD found in Harappa), Triangles.

      • Pottery had plain bases. Few ring bases have also found.




      • Seals are the greatest artistic creation of the Harappan people – Cutting and polishing craftsmanship is excellent.
      • Number of seals discovered, approx. 2000
      • Made of steatite (Soft stone), Sometimes of Copper, Shell, Agate, Ivory, Faience, Terracotta.
      • Size– ½ inch. to 2½ inch.
      • Shape – Square, Rectangular, Button, Cubical, Cylinder, Round.
      • Two main Types:-

Square – carved animal and inscription, small base at the back attached. Rectangular – inscription only, hold on the back to take a cord.

      • Dead – White appearance.
      • Displays symbols Circles, Crosses, Dots, Swastika and Leaves of the papal tree.
      • Most frequently depicted animal – Unicorn.
      • Other animals: Elephant, Tiger, Rhino, Antelope, Crocodile.
      • Purpose: marked ownership of property. Used in applying to bales of merchandise and used as amulets.
      • PUSHUPATI SEAL has been found from Mohanjodaro. It depicts Siva seated on a stool flanked by an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros, a buffalo and two antelopes/goats. Marshall identified it with Proto-Shiva.
      • ‘PERSIAN GULF SEAL’ has been discovered from Lothal.


Findings and Evidences


      • Cemeteries ‘H’ and ‘R’ 37  -                                        Harappa
      • Furrow Field  -                                                         Kalibangan
      • City divided into three parts -                                      Dholvira
      • Fragment of Woven cloth -                                         Mohanjodaro
      • City without a citadel   -                                              Chandudaro
      • Small pot (probably an ink-pot) -                                  Chandudaro
      • Cities where lower towns were fortified -                       Kalibangan and Surkotada
      • Cities having both proto -Harappan and Harappan -         Kalibangan and Banwali 
      • Dockyard -                                                               Lothal
      • Evidence of Rice -                                                     Rangpur and Lothal
      • Evidence of Coffin Burial -                                          Lothal
      • Remains of Bones of Horse -                                       Surkotada
      • Fire altars -                                                              Kalibangan and Lothal
      • Terracotta Models of ships/boats -                                Lothal
      • Temple-like structure -                                               Mohanjodaro
      • Human skeletons huddled together indicating Violent death/maasscre - Mohanjodaro 
      • Houses having front entrances -                                  Lothal
      • Bronze rod/stick with measure marks -                         Lothal
      • Single – roomed barracks -                                         Harappa
      • Bronze models of ‘ikkas’ and ‘bullock-carts’ -                 Harappa, Chanhudaro
      • Pasupti Mahadev seal -                                               Mohanjodaro
      • Medical Beliefs, surgery of skull -                                 Lothal and Kalibangan
      • Seal depicting Mother Goddess with a plant growing from her womb -  Mohanjodaro
      • Painting on a jar resembling the story of the Cunning fox of panchtantra - Lothal
      • Harappan game similar to chess -                      Lothal
      • Copper rhinoceros -                                                    Daimabad
      • Copper chariot -                                                         Daimabad
      • Copper Elephant -                                                      Daimabad
      • Devastation by flood -         Chandhudaro, Mohanjodaro

and Lothal

      • Collegiate building -                                                     Mohanjodaro
      • Assembly Hall  -                                                        Mohanjodaro
      • Granaries -                                                               Mohanjodaro and Harappa
      • Steatite figure of a bearded priest -                              Mohanjodaro
      • Bronze dancing girl -                                                   Mohanjodaro
      • Cylindrical seals of Mesopotamian type, three in number - Mohanjodaro
      • Warehouse -                                                             Lothal 
      • Granary outside citadel-                                              Harappa
      • Working platform -                                                     Harappa
      • Sandstone girl dancer -                                               Harappa
      • Terracotta figurine of a horse -                                    Mohanjodaro
      • Absence of mother goddess figurines -                          Rangpur
      • Bead-making factory -                                                Chanhudaro and Lothal
      • Absence of seals -                                                      Alamgirpur
      • Shell-ornament makers’ factory -                      Chanhudaro and Lothal
      • Metal Workers factory -                                              Chanhudaro and Lothal
      • Persian Gulf seals -                                                    Lothal
      • City having a middle town apart from the citadel and the lower town - Dholvira
      • A merchant house -                                                    Lothal
      • Impressions of cloth on sealing -                                   Lothal
      • Six types of pottery -                                                 Kalibangan
      • Evidence of joint burial -                                             Harappa
      • Evidence of pot-burial -                                               Surkotada
      • Male deity -                                                              Pasupati Shiva
      • Animal worship –                                                       Unicorn [one-humped bull]
      • Tree worship –                                                          Pipal
      • Fertility Cult –                                                           Phallic worship
      • Coffin burial -                                                           Harappa
      • Pot burial -                                                               Surkotada
      • Joint burial -                                                             Lothal
      • Pit burial -                                                                Kalibangah
      • Weapons -                                                                 Spears, Axes, Arrow-heads


Weights and Measures –

      • Standard weights and measures, uniformity and accuracy of denominations.
      • Weights were made of a variety of material – slate, Jasper, chart, alabaster, limestone and quartzite, but mainly polished chart.
      • For larger weights, decimal system was used and for smaller ones binary system was followed.
      • The unit weight had the calculated value of 0.8750 grams, the largest weights was 10970 grams
      • A few specimens of scales used with the weights appear to be very ordinary patterns comprising a bronze bar with suspended copper pans.


Crops -

      • Main crops : Wheat and Barley
      • Others Peas : Ral, Seasmons, Mustard, Cotton, Dates
      • No evidence of Sugarcane
      • Rice was rare (from Lothal and Rangpur)


Animals and Birds –

 Elephants, Cats, Dogs, Camels, Asses, Tiger, Buffalo, Dear, Rhino, Goat, Unicom, Pigs, Tortoise, Fowls, Ox, Fish, Stag, Antelope, Partridge.


Metals -

 Copper, Silver, Gold, Jade, Lapis, Lazull, Lead, Tin, Ingot (Lead + Silver), Electrum (Silver + gold).


Tools -

 Needles, Razons, Sickles, Fish-hooks, Saws, Chappers, Spades, Knives, Chisels, Spoons


Professions -

      • Potters, Copper and Bronze workers, Stone workers, Builders, Brick-Makers, Priests, Faience Workers, Farmers, Traders.


Rarities -

      • Rice, Horse, Round Cylindrical seals, Plough, Whetstones. 


Absence -

 Iron, Windows, Temple, Fork, Hair dyes, Round columns, Silk Fabrics, Swords, Shields, Metallic Money, Water closets Brick-kilns, Furnaces, Lamps, Footwears, Linen, Wool, Golden finger rings, Indigenous, Gradual decline.


Language and Script -

 Yet not deciphered, pictographic, approximately 396 signs have been listed    written from right from left and left to right in alternate lines, the style known as SOUSTROPHEDAN, Inscriptions are short.


Religion –

      • The chief male deity was the Pasupati Mahadeva (first proto-Shiva) represented in seals; he is surrounded by four animals (elephant, tiger, rhino and buffalo, each facing a different direction) and two deer appear at his feet.
      • The chief female deity was Mother Goddess (Goddess of Earth), represented in terracotta figurines; prevalence of phallic (lingam) and yoni worship.
      • Worship of trees (pipal) and animals (hump less bull); belief in ghosts and evil forces.



Trade And Commerce – Evidences

      • Sumerian texts make a mention of MELUHA which is identified with Indus

Civilization and two intermediate trading stations DILMUM (BAHRAIN) and MAKAN (MAKARAN COAST)

      • Appearance of Indus seals in the Mesopotamian cities of UR, KISH, SUSA, TELL ASMAR, LAGASH
      • Cylindrical seals of Mesopotamian type have been found in Indus valley (Mohanjodaro)
      • Persian Gulf Seals” of intermediate trading stations have been discovered from Indus region (LOTHAL)


Internal Trade

      • With Saurashtra, Maharashtra, South India, Rajasthan, parts of western UP


External Trade

      • With Mesopotamia or Sumeria (Modern Iraq) Bahrain


Items of Imports

      • Gold, Silver, Copper, Tin, Lapis, Lazuli, Amethyst, Agate, Jade, Shells.


Items of Exports

      • Agricultural Products - Wheat, Barley, Peas, Oil Seeds
      • Finished Products - Cotton Goods, Pottery, Beads, Shells, Terracotta Products, Ivory Products


Main Imports and Areas

§ GOLD              -  

North Karnataka, Afghanistan, Persia

§ SILVER                -

Afghanistan or Iran

§ COPPER               -

Rajasthan (Khetri), South India, Arabia, Baluchistan 

§ LEAD                  -  

East India/South India

      • TIN                   -      Afghanistan Bihar
      • LAPIS LAZULI     -      Afghanistan
      • TURQUOISE        -      Persia
      • AMETHYST         -      Maharashtra
      • AGATE               -      Saurashtra
      • JADE                 -      Central Asia
      • SHELLS              -      Saurashtra, Deccan
      • CHALCEDONIES  -      Saurashtra, West India
      • CAHNELIANS    -      Saurashtra, West India



Important Sites and Archaeologist


                      Sites                                Year


                           Harappa                            1921

   Daya Ram Sahni

  Mohenjodaro                     1922

   R.D. Banerjee

  Amri                               1929


  Chanho-Dard                     1931


  Suktagendor (Suktagendor)1927

   Aurez Stein,Ali Murad

                            Kot Dihi                             1935


  Ropar                               1953

   Y.D. Sharma


  Banawali                             1973

   R.S. Bist



  Kalibangan                          1953

   A. Ghosh



  Lothal                               1957

   S.R. Rao



  Alamgirpur                          1958




  Rangpur                             1931

   M.S Vats



  Surkotada                           1964

   Jagatpati Joshi



                            Dholvira                              -          Dr. J. P. Joshi


Area-Wise Distribution of Settlements


      • Sind       - Mohenjodaro, Amir, Kot Diji, Pandiwahi, Tarkai Quila,

                       Rehman Dheri, Othmaujo, Butha, Sukkur, Allahdino,                     Chanhudaro, Rohri, Lohumjodaro, Ali Murad, Jhukar.

      • Baluchistan - Mehargarh, Damb Sadaat, Killi,,Ghul Mohmmed, Rana Ghundai,

                                              Siah Damb, Moghul Ghundai, Anjira, Nal, Kulli, Level, Dabar

                                              Kot, Balakot.

      • Afghanistan - Mundigak, Shortu-Ghai, Altyn-Depe
      • West Punjab - Harappa, Jalilpur, Ganeriwala,Jhang, Saldhanwala Derawa
      • Gujarat        - Dholvira, Lothal, Surkotada,Bhagatrav, Rangpur, Rajadi,


      • Rajasthan    - Kalibangan, Siswal, Bara, Bhagwanpura, Hulas
      • Uttar Pradesh-Alamgirpur, Manpur, Bargaon
      • Haryana    -   Banmali, Rakhigarhi
      • Punjab      - Ropar, Saral Khola, KotalaNihang Khan


Settlements and their Riverine Locations


      • Mohenjodaro           Indus (Right bank)
      • Harappa                  Ravi (Left bank)
      • Kalibangan               Ghaggar (Left bank)
      • Lothal                     Bhogava
      • Daimabad                Pravara
      • Chanhudaro           Indus
      • Kot Diji                    Indus (Left Bank)
      • Desalpur                  Bhadar
      • Rojdi                     Bhadar
      • Manda                     Chenab
      • Banwali                   Rangoi (Saraswati)
      • Alamgirpur               Hindan
      • Gumala                   Indus
      • Kotla Nihang Khan    Sutlaj
      • Rangpur                  Bhadar


Miscellaneous Facts


    • Mandu (Jammu and Kashmir), Daimbad (MAHARASHTRA), Sutkagendor (Pakistan) and Alamgirpur (western U.P) are the northernmost, southernmost, westernmost and easternmost points respectively.
    • The four Harappan sites in descending order (the first being the largest) are : 
    1. Mohenjodaro in Sind (Pakistan) 
    2. Ganeriwala in Bhawalpur (Pakistan) 
    3. Harappa in West Punjab (Pakistan) 
    4. Dholvira in Gujarat (India)
    • The largest Harappan settlement in India is Dholvira in Gujarat followed by Rakhigarhi in Haryana.
    • Mesopotamian literature stupped mentioning Meluha by the end of 1900 BC – indicates closure of trade links.
    • Crossed furrows, widely spaced in one direction and closely spaced in other, gram or seasmum sown at the former and mustard at the latter have found at Kalibangan.
    • The ‘great bath’ of Mohenjodaro measures 1273 metres.
    • Harppan wheels were solid without spokes.
    • Harappan Weight and Measures systems were as follows:
    1. Of lower denomination – followed Binary system - 1, 2, 4, 8, 64..…160 (b) Of higher denomination – followed Decimal System – 16, 320, 640, 1600…….3200
    • The standard brick size was – length 11 inches, width 5.5 inches and depth 2.75 inches, the ratio being 4:2:1.
    • The largest number of settlements is in Ghaggar – Hakar valleys.
    • Principal Harappan Crops and the areas of their distribution are as follows:
  1. Barley - Rajasthan   
  2. Wheat and Barley - Sind and Punjab
  3. Rice and Millet - Gujarat