The Facts on Indus Valley Civilization for a Complete Insights on How did The Harappan Living Look Like

Updated December 20, 2022

When it comes to Harappan or Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), there are numerous facts to discuss about. However, some of these are more important than others. Team Career101 took a dive to bring you the facts, likely to help you score higher in exams.

Harappan Civilization was the first thing that I was taught in history books, when I was in std. 6. When I recall those days, I thought: “wow, this is the only thing that meant history of humans”. And, my amazement just grew as the lecture by the teacher advanced.

I got to know that possibly it was the first urban civilization that existed 4500 years ago. To me, this revelation in itself was amazing, because urbanization that we witness today had started much earlier in Harappan way of life.

What Was Harappan aka Indus Valley Civilization?

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age/ Chalcolithic Age civilization in the northwestern regions of South Asia, which belongs to Proto-History Period. Protohistory was a period between Prehistory and History, during which writing was not much evolved but other civilizations have noted its existence in their own writing.  This Civilization lasted from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE.

Harappan/ Indus Valley Civilization was one of three early civilizations of the Near East and South Asia together with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was the most widespread Civilization among the three. Sites of this civilization stretched from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along a system of perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.

Urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin) were the facts Indus Valley Civilization was known for.

The large cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa very likely grew to containing between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals and the civilization itself during its florescence may have contained between one and five million individuals. Gradual drying of the region’s soil during the 3rd millennium BCE may have been the initial spur for the urbanization associated with the civilization but eventually also reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilization’s demise, and to scatter its population eastward.

Harappa was the first of its sites to be excavated early in the 20th century in what was then the Punjab province of British India and now is Pakistan. That is why, The Indus Valley civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization, after its type site.

The discovery of Harappa and soon afterwards Mohenjodaro was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India during the British Raj. There were however earlier and later cultures often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area; for this reason, the Harappan civilization is sometimes called the Mature Harappan to distinguish it from these other cultures.

By 2002, over 1,000 Mature Harappan cities and settlements had been reported, of which just under a hundred had been excavated, However, there are only 5 major urban sites. Harappa, Mohenjo-daro (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dholavira, Ganeriwala in Cholistan, and Rakhigarhi. The early Harappan cultures were preceded by local Neolithic agricultural villages, from which the river plains were populated.

The Harappan language is not directly attested, and its affiliation is uncertain since the Indus script is still undeciphered. A relationship with the Dravidian or Elamo-Dravidian language family is favoured by a section of scholars.

Excavated Sites of Indus Valley Civilization, Excavators etc.

HarappaRaviMontgomeryPunjabPakistanDayaram Sahni (1921), Madho Swaroop Vatsa (1926), Wheeler (1946)
Mohenjodaro (Nakhilistan i.e. Oasis of Sindh)IndusLarkanaSindhPakistanRakhal Das Banerjee (1922), Mackay(1927), Wheeler (1930)
ChanhudaroIndusNawabshahSindhPakistanMackay (1925), N.G. Mazumdar(1931), S.R. Rao (1954)
LothalGhaggarKathiyawarGujratIndiaS.R. Rao(1954)
KalibanganGhaggarGanganagarRajsthanIndiaAmalanand Ghosh (1951), B.B. Lal & B.K. Thapar (1961)
BanawaliGhaggarHissarHaryanaIndiaR.S. Bisht (1973)
DholaviraLuniKutchhGujratIndiaJ.P. Joshi (1967-!968)
Table: Excavation Sites of Indus Valley Civilization

Remarkable Facts on Indus Valley Civilization

1.The most appropriate name of Indus Civilisation is Harrapan Civilizattion because Harappa was the first site to be discovered.

2. The most common name of of Harappan Civilization is Indus Civilization because largest concentration of the settlements were settled along Indus Valley river.

3. The most valid period of Indus Civilization according to Carbon 14 dating is 2500 BC-1750 BC. Here, valid period refers to the period of its existence.

4. The first scholar who used the term Indus Civilization for Harappan Civilization was John Marshall.

5. The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze age / Chalcolithic age Civilization which belogs to Proto-Historic period. Protohistory was a period between Prehistory and History, during which a culture or civilization has not yet developed a writing but other cultures have already noted its existence in their own writing.

6. The Indus Civilization was extended over Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab, Haryana, Rajsthan, Gujrat, Western U.P. & Northern Maharashtra.

7. Majority of Scholars believe that the axis of Harappa-Ghaggar-Mohenjodaro represents the Heartland of Indus Valley Civilization.

8. There were four important sites in Indus Valley Civilization. These were Northern-Most Site, southern-Most Site, Eastern-Most Site and Western-Most Site

I. Ropar(Sutlej)/ Pujanb (earlier); Manda(Chenab)/ Jammu Kashmir(now) Came under Northern-most Sites.

II. Bhagatrav(Kim)/ Gujrat(earlier); Daimabad(pravara)/ Maharashtra(now) came under Southern most site

III. Alamgirpur(Hindon)/ Uttar Pradesh came under Eastern-most site

IV. Sutkagendor(Dashk)/ Makran Coast, Pakistan-Iran Border came under Western-most site.

9. There was two types of cities noticed in Indus Valley Civilization. These were:

I. Capital Cities:- Cities where all financial activities had been operated from. Harappa and Mohenjodaro were the Capital Cities of Indus Valley Civilization.

II. Port Cities:- Cities where all Import and Export goods had been practiced from. Lothal, Sutkagendor, Allahdino, Balakot and Kuntasi were the Port Cities of Indus Valley Civilization.

10. Mohenjodaro Was the largest site of Indus Valley Civilization and Dholavira was the largest Indian site of Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization facts & Insights

Below we have many interesting facts with the insightful info on Harappan Civilization. I read about the civilization in std 6th, 10th and later for competitive exams but it was all part of the entire thing.

1. Indus Valley Civilization is taken interchangeably with Harappan Civilization 

Yes, it can be taken interchangeably but the catch has to be marked. Harappa settlement was only a small part of all Indus valley settlements that could be over 1000 in number.

Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) is also called Harappan Civilization because Harappa was the first site excavated to identify a bronze age civilization to which some historians coined as Indus Valley Civilization.

Harappa is an archaeological site in Punjab province of Pakistan, about 24 km (15 mi) west of Sahiwal. The site takes its name from a modern village, Harappa located near the former course of the Ravi River.

Indus valley civilization (IVC) was spread out over an area of 1,260,000 sq. km from today’s Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest part of India. If assume the total spread of this civilization as country it would rank 23rd in the world.

2. One of the Oldest Civilizations that existed on Earth

Civilizations of Mesopotamian and Egyptian are considered contemporary to that of Indus Valley Civilization. A tentative existence span of Indus, Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations is 3300 BC–1900 BC, 3500 BC–500 BC and 3150 BC–30 BC respectively.

3. A pre-historic Civilization, Scripts not decipherable yet

Indus Valley Civilization doesn’t have a written proof of what the civilization worked like. What we know about, are the extrapolations made from the findings of excavations by the Archaeological department of India. First excavation was in Harappa in 1921-22 under the supervision of Indian archaeologist, Dayaram Sahni. All that we know, are based on the observations of excavation materials.

The scripts of IVC are the most intriguing of all undeciphered scripts in the world. Indus script is made up of partially pictographic signs and various human and animal motifs. Further, the scripts have been found inscribed on miniature steatite seals, terracotta tablets and sometimes on metal. Linguistic experts and scientists have been trying to decipher this challenging script for decades as same could be holding the key to the secrets of this mysterious culture.

4.  Over 1056 cities have been discovered pertaining to Indus Valley Civilization

Over 1,056 IVC settlements have been identified, of which 96 have been excavated. These settlements/cities are mostly located in the broad regions of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra Rivers and their tributaries. Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira, Ganeriwala in Cholistan and Rakhigarhi are found to be the major urban centres of Indus Valley Civilization.

5. Ruins of IVC or Harappan Civilization add Special attributes IVC

There are prominent attributes to characterise the whole Harappan Civilization. For instance, Mohenjodaro and its Great Bath, Great Granaries Of Harappa, World’s Earliest Known Dockyard at Lothal, Fire Altars of Kalibangan, A Game Like Chess and a modern Town Planning.

A well-planned street grid and an elaborate drainage system discovered under IVC are indicative of the facts that the inhabitants of the Indus civilization settlements were skilled urban planners.

6. Harappa was the Number Two biggest Settlements Under Indus Valley Civilization

Yes, Mohenjo- Daro was the number one biggest settlement and it was followed by Harappa. The area of Mohenjo-daro is estimated at 300 hectares (741 acres). In terms of population, it had a peak population of around 40,000 as suggested the ‘Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History’ as quoted by Wikipedia.

The Harappa city was is believed to have spread over 150 hectares (370 acres) inhabited by a peak population of 23,500 residents occupied with clay brick houses.

7. Mohenjo- Daro was the largest City discovered under Indus Valley Civilization

Mohenjo-daro was discovered in 1922 by Rakhal Das (R. D.) Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India, two years after major excavations had begun at Harappa, some 590 km to the north. Large-scale excavations at Mohenjo-daro were carried out at the site under the directions of John Marshall, K. N. Dikshit, Ernest Mackay, and other directors through the 1930s.

Currently, Mohenjo-daro is located west of the Indus River in Larkana District, in Sindh province of Pakistan. It rests in a central position between the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River.

8. Mohenjo- daro assumes many different ways to be spelled

Yes, however, Mohenjo- daro is the most common form found in most of the publications. Apart from being spelled as Mohenjo-daro (the Mound of Mohen or Mohan) other spellings are equally valid, for instance, Mohanjo-daro (Mound of Mohan = Krishna), Moenjo-daro (Mound of the Dead), Mohenjo-daro, Mohenjodaro or even Mohen-jo-daro etc.

9. Many believe that Mohenjo-daro is located in India but it is not

The matter of fact is that it was located in India but since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the site falls under their territory.

10. Harappa is identified with the battle of Hariyumpa

Rigveda speaks of a battle named ‘Hariyumpia’ which has been identified as Harappa.

11. People of IVC used Bricks although Stones Would have been The Easiest Resource

Almost 5000 thousand years ago, between 3300BC to 1900BC, using baked bricks simply wonders the modern civilization. This is one core building material that has never changed till date even after lot of advancements in technology. Merely, giving a thought on what made the people of IVC choosing baked bricks over easy alternative of stone reveals a lot. The civilization was way ahead of time.

11. Dravidian and NOT the Aryans were maker of Indus Valley Civilization

Yes, it is true that majority of historians believe that makers of the Indus Valley Civilization were Dravidian.

12. Disputable reason of destruction of IVC and Historians of Aryan fold take objections when Aryans are also cited as one of the reasons.

This civilization is believed to have come to an abrupt end on account of no ascertained reasons. The Historians put forward following reasons for its abrupt end:

(i) The neighbouring desert encroached on the fertile area and made it infertile.

(ii)Regular floods destroyed the area.

(iii)Aryan invaders killed people and destroyed the Indus Valley Civilization. Evidences are there that the Harappan people were peace loving. They did not have weapons to attack others or to defend themselves. They possessed implements for hunting or farming. It is thus believed that they could not defend themselves against the invaders. It is evidenced that the Aryans lived in villages and knew nothing of urban life. Thus, it took hundreds of years again for India to have beautiful cities like Mohen-jo-daro and Harappa.

(iv) The partial reason for end of IVC is believed to be caused by changing river patterns. These changes included the drying up of the Gaggar-Hakra River and changes in the course of the Indus River. It is believed that the river changes disrupted agricultural and economic system, and many people left the cities of the Indus Valley region.

(v) Possible Earthquakes and Epidemics caused destruction.

13. Indus Valley Civilization fast gaining One more term for it

The archaeologists of beginning preferred coining the term ‘Indus Valley Civilization’.  And, the reasons were obvious, the first settlements of IVC were identified along the banks of river Indus. Yet other archaeologists preferred calling the civilization as Harappan Civilization based on the name of the first city discovered called Harappa.

In terms of number of settlements however, about 100 sites are found along the Indus and its tributaries. Even major numbers over 500 sites are discovered along Gaggar-Hakra River. Archaelogists believe it to be the long-lost river, Saraswati.

So, now modern archaeologists prefer to term the Harappan Civilzation/IVC as ‘Indus-Saraswati Civilization based on the two river systems.

14. UNESCO is pretty much involved in conservation of IVC structures & ruins

(i) Archaeological ruins at Moenjodaro comes under UNESCO’s world Heritage List. The recent work by the international organization focusses on conservation of the standing structures undertaken by them in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Pakistan as well as various foreign consultants.

(ii) Archaeological Site of Harappa is on tentative list of UNESCO’s World Heritage and ruins of structures may come under conservation ambit of the International Organization anytime soon.

(a) Recent developments have adversely affected the properties at Harappan site and ruins might be lost beyond redemptions.  Many of the structures conserved by Wheeler in the 1940s have been completely destroyed on account of certain activities and in lack of a comprehensive policy to preserve the marvels of pre-historic civilization.

(b)The removal of thousands of bricks for ballast in the construction of the Lahore–Multan Railway in 1850s destroyed many of the late phases of occupation.  An ever-increasing use of irrigation agriculture, resulted in gross salination. And, then the large-scale archaeological excavations exposed the structures to the destructive nature of salination.

Beyond Indus Valley Facts Under Awareness Reads

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