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Ancient India Harappan Civilization and Culture

Indus Valley civilization was primarily an urban culture with persistent surplus agricultural production and commerce. The commerce included trade with Sumer in southern Mesopotamia. The constant similarities between Mohenjodaro and Harappa resulted in arguments among the historians. These arguments pertained to the existence of a standardized system of urban layout and planning. The reasons for such similarities are largely due to the presence of a semi-orthogonal type of civic layout.

However, after a close comparison of the layouts of Mohenjodaro and Harappa indicate that they were arranged in a quite dissimilar fashion. The weights and measures of the Indus Valley Civilization, on the other hand, were highly standardized. Additionally, these also conformed to a set scale of gradations. Distinctive seals were used, among other applications. This was perhaps for the purpose of identification of property and shipment of goods.

Although copper and bronze were used. Iron was, however, not yet used. Cotton was woven and dyed for the purpose of making clothes. The Harappans were an agricultural people. Their economy was almost entirely dominated by horticulture. Massive granaries were built at each city. Additionally, there also existed an elaborate bureaucracy while distributing this wealth of food. Crops like wheat, rice, a variety of vegetables and fruits were cultivated. Also, a number of animals like for instance the humped bull were domesticated.

Apart from this, the Harappans also had a wide variety of domesticated animals like camels, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, and buffalo. Wheel-made pottery with some of it adorned with animal and geometric motifs have been found in abundance at all the major Indus sites.

An inference to a centralized administration for each city, if not the entire civilization revealed the cultural uniformity. However, it is quite uncertain whether authority lay with a commercial oligarchy. There appears to be a complete lack of priestly "pomp or lavish display" which was common in all the other civilizations.

Till date, the most exquisite and incomprehensible artifacts unearthed are the small, soapstones seals engraved with human or animal motifs. A large number of seals have been found at such sites of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. In addition, many of the Harappan seals have pictures of animals that imply a wet and marshy environment. These animals include rhinoceroses, elephants, and tigers.

Many bear pictographic inscriptions. These are generally thought to be a form of writing or script. Despite of the efforts put in by the philologists from all parts of the world, and the use of modern cryptographic analysis, the signs remain some sort of a mystery. It is also unknown if they reflect proto-Dravidian or other non-Vedic languages.

It is highly problematic to acknowledge the iconography and epigraphy of the Indus Valley Civilization to historically known cultures. This is due to the rather unsubstantiated archaeological evidence of such claims. Another reason was the projection of modern South Asian political concerns onto the archaeological record of the area. This is especially evident in the drastically varying interpretations of Harappan material culture observed by both Pakistan and India-based scholars.

Life in the Harappan cities was apparently quite good. A typical feature of such ancient cities was the cramped living quarters. The residents nevertheless had drains, sewers, and even latrines. Undoubtedly, the ancient Harappa civilization had an active trade with cultures to the west.

Several Harappan seals along with pictures of animals like tigers have been found in excavations of Sumerian cities. This aspect could have in no way existed in Mesopotamia. There is no evidence as to the religion of the Harappans. There is no such building which can be construed as temple or involve any kind of public worship. This is contrary to Mesopotamia or Egyptian civilization.

There also existed a bulk of public buildings in the city. This proved the sole orientation towards the economy which made life comfortable for the Harappans. However, there have been figures inscribed on the various seals and statues found. This proves that the Harappans probably exercised some sort of goddess worship.

There is, however, some sort of male god who had the head of a man with the horns of a bull. Apart from this there were various other artifacts as well which were found. This, again, proves that the Harappans may also have worshipped natural objects or animistic forces. However, the circumstances of this worship can only be presumed.

In 2005, a controversial amusement park scheme at the site was abandoned. This took place when builders unearthed many archaeological artifacts during the early stages of construction work. This was a result of a plea from the prominent Pakistani archaeologist Ahmed Hasan Dani to the Ministry of Culture.


This site covers all areas for Ancient Indian History for kids. There are several essays to refer to for your school history study. We start off with ancient India timeline, various ancinet empires like the Mauryan empire and the Gupta empire. You will find information about ancient Indian society and culture, rulers, wars, costumes and several such facinating subjects. History of ancient India for kids is quite fascinating and long.