Harappan Civilization

Most of us find ourselves thinking about the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt when we stumble upon the topic of ancient civilizations. Even many academics only go as far as the Mesopotamian and Chinese civilizations while exploring the history of the earliest civilizations. However, there was another equally significant ancient civilization that remained undiscovered till the 20th century. The Harappan Civilization or the Indus Valley Civilization was contemporary with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and surpassed them as a civilized society in many respects.


The Harappan Civilization flourished along the banks of the Indus river in what is now Pakistan. The Harappans depended on the annual flooding of the Ravi river and Indus river for sustenance as it left rich alluvial deposits on their agricultural lands. The Indus civilization reached its peak in terms of economic growth and population from 2600 to1900 BCE. This mature phase of the Indus Valley Civilization is known as the Harappan civilization. Its gradual decline started around 1900 BCE and the IVC ceased to exist by 1300 BCE.

The Harappans established their major urban settlements in the cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, both of which were excavated by archaeologists during the first half of the 20th century. These excavations have led to the discovery of many important artifacts such as Harappan seals bearing Indus inscriptions, weighing stones, terracotta figurines, and shards of pottery vessels. Harappan Jewelery has also been found at many of these sites.


All archaeological findings point to the fact that it was a highly developed civilization. The Harappans were skilled artisans and artists. They had established a sophisticated trade network that led to its becoming a thriving economic center in the subcontinent. There is ample evidence of trade with distant cities such as Sumer and other Mesopotamian settlements. Their most remarkable achievement of all is the level of city planning they accomplished, which was highly developed and organized compared to their contemporary civilizations. The streets and buildings were build in a grid-like pattern and fully functional drainage systems were laid out throughout the city. The Harappans even constructed large public baths that might have been used for religious rituals.


Studies indicate that rather than being governed by military rulers the cities were ruled by wealthy traders and religious leaders. Instead of erecting monumental statues like military dictators in ancient Egypt, the Harappans used seals to exhibit their power. These seals were often inscribed with the Indus Valley script and portrayed a variety of animals. Some of the excavated seals and tablets even depict narratives and religious figures.A number of these inscribed seals also include swastika symbols.

The Harappan Civilization had a larger population than any of its contemporary civilizations, but we have barely tapped into the knowledge about its culture and city life as no one has been able to decipher the Harappan script till now. Several attempts have been made to decipher the Harappan language. However, many scholars believe that only something similar to a Rosetta Stone can enable us to decode the Indus script.