6th Class Social Science The Harappan Civilization Notes - Early Cities In The Indian Subcontinent

Notes - Early Cities In The Indian Subcontinent

Category : 6th Class


Early Cities in the Indian Subcontinent




1.            The Indus Valley Civilisation is believed to have existed between 2500 BCE and 1700 BCE.


2.            Some important sites of the civilisation are Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan and Dholavira.


3.            The cities exhibit excellent planning. The drainage system was also hygienic and planned.


4.            There was internal as well as external trade.


5.            The main crops grown were wheat, barley and rice.


6.            The people were skilled craftsmen.


7.            The cause of its decline is not known. Many historians think it was natural disasters and climate change that led to the decline of this civilisation.



The first civilisations came about in river valleys. The first four river valley civilisations of the world were: Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), China (along the River Hwang Ho), Egypt (along the Nile River) and Indus Valley (along the Indus River).


The British were laying the railway line connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore in 1856. The labourers once an out of bricks and used baked bricks from some ancient ruins near the railway lines. These bricks were used to ake9 3 miles of railway track. It was discovered only later that these bricks were almost 5000 years old! Alexander Cunningham, the director of the Archaeological Survey of India visited this place, Harappa in 1872. He found stone tools, seals and pottery of an ancient civilisation. Also, nearby was a mound called "Mohenjodaro" meaning 'mound of the dead". Often children playing there found articles like bangles, dices, broken clay toys etc. it was suspected that this place was once inhabited by people. Excavations were started there and initially two cities were discovered, Harappa and Mohenjodaro. These were called the Indus Valley Civilisation. Harappa was Discovered first, so it is also called the Harappan civilisation. This civilisation is believed to have existed between 2500 BCE to about 1700 BCE.



The discovery of these two cities changed the whole idea of how the Indian civilisation began.  It was believed that before the Aryans came to India in about 1500 BCE, the place was inhabited by hunters-gatherers. This proved to be incorrect. The Aryans were nomads but the people of the Harappan Civilisation were more advanced. They built planned cities, developed a script and traded with distant lands. This proved that a great civilisation had existed in India much before the Aryans stepped on the Indian soil.


Both Harappa and Mohenjodaro are in modern- day Pakistan. The entire civilisation was spread over parts of Punjab, Haryana, Sindh, Baluchistan, Gujarat, Rajasthan and western parts of Uttar Pradesh. The important cities are Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan, Lothal, Balakot, Dholavira, Rupar and Surkotada. The entire civilisation extended from Baluchistan in the west to River Yamuna in the east and from Jammu in the north to River Narmada in the south.

History Reveals 

Kalibangan gels its name from the thick clusters of black bangles lying over the surface of its mounds.

Town Planning

The cities exhibit excellent planning. Evidence suggests that the cities were first planned and then built. The lanners kept in mind the cleanliness and convenience of the cities. Each town of this civilisation had a similar plan?the town area which was divided on a grid pattern wide streets that ran north to south and east west.


The cities were divided into two parts-the citadel and the lower town. The citadel was in the west and was smaller as compared to the lower town. The citadel was based on a mound or a brick platform. It was fortified and it housed important buildings. The lower town was the residential area. Baked bricks of standard sizes were laid out in an interlocking pattern for construction.

In Mohenjodaro, a big tank has been found. Historians call it The Great Bath'. It is located on the citadel. It is rectangular in shape with a wide staircase leading into it. The floor and the walls were made watertight by finely fitted bricks laid edge to edge with gypsum mortar.

A thick layer of bitumen (tar) was laid along the sides and the floor to prevent seepage. The floor of the tank slopes towards the south-west corner and a small drain leads to a large brick drain for draining water out of the tank. There are a series of rooms along the eastern side of the tank. One of the rooms even has a well. To the north is another large building consisting of eight small rooms with common bathing platforms. The Great Bath was probably a sacred tank where the people took a dip on special occasions.



Q. Why do you think there was a well near the Great Bath?    


The city was divided into rectangular blocks by a network of streets. The main streets were broad and straight. They were laid out in a rectangular manner at right angles to each other. The side roads were less broad.



The houses were single as well as double- storeyed. Each house had a square courtyard in the center surrounded by rooms. The courtyard gave natural light and ventilation. The houses had their entrances on the side streets so that the noise and dust from the main road could not come into the house. Floors were made of hard packed earth. The doors and windows were made of wood. Almost every house had a well. Many houses had separate bathing areas 74 and toilets. Bathing floors were made of tightly fitted bricks with a carefully sloped water-tight surface. Bathing platforms and toilets were often located in rooms next to a well.


Q. The courtyard in the houses gave natural light and ventilation. Think of another reason why courtyards were important?

Drainage System

The drainage system was well-planned. Each house had a connection with the main drain. The sewage pipes and drains were separate from drains collecting rainwater. Terracotta drain pipes directed waste water into open street drains made of burnt bricks. These connected to large drains along the main streets which emptied their contents into fields outside the city wall. The main drains were covered by stone slabs. There were rectangular soak pits for solid waste at regular intervals. This was the world's first sanitation system. The people were very particular about personal hygiene. They made arrangements for the availability of clean water. Mohenjodaro is noted for the large number of wells it had.


Q. Why were the main drains covered with stone slabs?

Living in the Cities

People pursued different occupations. Apart from those engaged in agriculture, there were different types of craftsmen-carpenters, potters, metalworkers and even jewellers.

The men wore a cloth around the waist with a shawl thrown over the left shoulder. They kept a beard and long hair. Clay figurines that have been found can be seen wearing a scanty skirt and a cloak thrown over the upper part of the body. The waist is bare and they wore a headdress. The girls wore plenty of jewellery and used cosmetics too.


History Reveals       

The female figurines which were found had red colour applied to the 'maang7 as the Indian women do today.



 A system of writing was invented. The writing - found inscribed on seals. Most of the inscriptions are very short with an average of to six signs. Unfortunately, the writing has been deciphered so far. It is amongst the                                           biggest mysteries of the civilisation.


History Reveals

Very few weapons have been found in the civilisation.





This civilisation was an agrarian community. Plains were very fertile and provided abundant food. People ploughed the fields with wooden ploughs. Plough furrows have been found at Kalibangan. Also, an extensive network of canals has been found which was used for irrigating the fields in the drier months.

The main crops grown were wheat, barley and rice. Peas and sesame provided oil for cooking. Mustard and cotton were also cultivated. There were granaries in every city which indicate enough food grains were produced and stored. The granary at Harappa is raised on a platform to protect it from floods. Air vents in the walls How the air to circulate and keep the grain dry. Granaries have been found near rivers which suggests that food grains were sent to distant places using river transport.


Animals like cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and even fowls were domesticated. Collecting fruits, fishing and hunting were also done


Art and Crafts

The people of this civilisation were skilled craftsmen. Most craftsmen were specialized to do one kind of craft. Several artefacts made of wood, bone and clay have been found. Some tools and weapons were made of copper and bronze. Craftsmen used gold and silver to make jewellery. Necklaces and amulets were also made using semi-precious stones.

Ceramics include all items involving the heating of clay. Pottery kilns have been found at many sites. Most pots were wheel-turned. The large pots may have been used to store grain or water.


Harappan sites have yielded an abundance of terracotta?s. There are figures of animals such as bulls, buffaloes, monkeys and dogs. There are toy carts with solid wheels. Human figurines, bangles and terracotta masks have also been found.


Copper and bronze objects were made. These include vessels, knives, axes, needles, fishhooks, mirrors and bangles. Copper furnaces have been found in Harappa. Bead-making was a popular raft. Beads were made out of shells, steatite, gold, silver and semi-precious stones.


Cotton and woollen textiles were made. Traces of cotton have been found at Mohenjodaro. At Harappa, cotton threads were found wrapped around the handle of a copper mirror. Spindles of various sizes have also been discovered. They were made of terracotta or faience, an artificially made material using sand and gum and then glazed.


Some excellent examples of sculpture in stone and metal have been found. One is a bust of a male figure wearing an embroidered shawl. This has been called the priest king.



Dancing Girl

A bronze statue of a female figure has also been found at Mohenjodaro. Found in 1926, it is the statue of a very thin girl probably in her teens. Her Ball head is tilted back and her long hair is tied in a bun. She wears a necklace and many bangles. She has a confident look and a cheeky expression on her face.


Seal making was another important craft. Most of the seals that have been found are square or rectangular. They were made of stone or steatite and have motifs of animals on them. Most seals have a short inscription on them. Bone working was another prevalent craft. Combs, pins and gamesmen made of ivory have also been found.



Transport and trade

Animals] boats and carts were used for transport This is evident because a toy clay cart has been found.



There was a regular system of trade to secure raw materials. Trade was carried on within the territory and with other civilisations too. They traded with their neighbours in the Persian Gulf and West Asia. They had trade relations with

Afghanistan, Iran and Mesopotamia. Indus Valley seals have been found in Mesopotamia. Copper, tin, gold, silver and some types of precious stones were imported. Cotton was an item of export.

To facilitate trade, the Indus Valley people had a uniform system of weights and measures. Cubical weights made of chert and blackstone have been found. An ivory scale has been found at Lothal and a shell scale has been found at Mohenjodaro. They accurately measured length, mass and time and used decimal measurements.






Fire altars have been discovered at Kalibangan Harappa. These reveal that the people were ritualistic and believed in worship of fire.

The pictures on the seals are of great importance in determining the religious practices of the people. On one seal, a horned figure is sitting in a yogic posture, surrounded by animals. This is a fingure is identified as Shiva or Pashupati. On another seal, there is a figure of a woman with norns standing among the branches of a peepal tree. She was probably the tree spirit worshipped by the people. Trees were regarded as sacred.

A female figurine has been found with a fan- shaped headdress. It has been labelled as Mother Goddess". Some Indus Valley seals show the swastika.




The flourishing Indus Valley Civilisation declined around 1800-1700 BCE. Historians give different reasons for its decline. Although people still continued to live there, the culture slowly declined. Buildings were now made




HARAPPAN TOWNS IN GUJARAT                     

Dholavira, a town located on Khadir Beyt in the Great Rann of Kutch of Gujarat, is an incredible example of the Indus Valley Civilisation towns. The city, it seems, was fairly important during the Indus Valley days as excavations have found evidence of seven layers, indicating many settlements over a period of 1500 years. Dholavira was a planned city. Like other towns of the Indus Valley Civilisation, Dholavira too is a parallelogram. Some buildings made up of sun-dried mud bricks and stone stand in good condition even today.


Despite its harsh location, the city was an important trading point. There is evidence of rainwater harvesting systems, a network of tanks and ponds that supply water and even a sewage system. The ruins at Dholavira are divided into three zones: the citadel (where the rulers or high officials stayed), the middle city and the lower city.


One very interesting aspect here is an inscription with 10 large signs, which is probably one of the first evidence of a written language. Historians are yet to crack the linguistic code in the inscription.


The refinement of buildings and materials used reveals a high knowledge of engineering that must have been prevalent among the people. Ornaments made in lapis\[lazul{{i}^{1}}\], agate, carnelian, shells, silver and gold, as well as utensils and toys made from clay, also reveal a high artistic and technological sense.


Lothal near the River Sabarmati in Gujarat was a very important port with a huge market and a busy dock where goods from neighboring countries were sold in exchange for imported and locally manufactured goods.


The most outstanding feature of Lothal was the massive dockyard. At least two ships could enter easily. Facilities for handling cargo were also available. A warehouse has been identified which was probably used to pack and store goods.


The main industries here were bead making, ivory and shell working. The bead making industry was very important because of the availability of precious stones. The kilns were made of mud plastered bricks. The stones were; heated and then used to make beads.


Many seals have been found. These were used commercially for stamping the trade goods. Thus, Lothal developed as the most important port and centre of bead making industry.



of inferior materials and the walls and floors were of a lower standard. The streets were not maintained and bigger buildings were broken in into smaller homes. The drainage system broke and the streets were no longer clean. Trading became non-existent.


The decline may have been due to the following reasons:


? The climate changed and it became drier and warmer. There was severe shortage of water to support the people. Some died while others moved to cooler places with more rainfall.


? Another theory says that excessive deforestation led to ecological changes. Floods drowned the villages and cities.


? Some historians believe that the land became less fertile because of over cultivation. There was less food for the growing population and this led to the gradual decay of the civilisation.


? It is also suggested that Aryans entered from the north and killed the people in the main cities. Archaeologists have found skeletons with broken heads in Mohenjodaro.


 It is not certain as to what actually happened. Perhaps there was a combination of reasons that led to the decline of the civilisation. Aromyi the Wtoila Round the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, another ancient river valley civilisation.


Around the Word

Round the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, another ancient river valley civilisation flourished along the River Nile in Egypt. Can you locate Egypt and the River Nile on a map? River Nile was the lifeline of the ancient Egyptian Civilisation. The Egyptian civilisation': flourished between 3000 BCE and 300 BCE. You must have heard is an architectural marvel. It is the only "wonder? of the ancient world still in existence. The ancient Egyptians were skilled builders. They were very advanced in mathematics too. They understood the basic concepts of algebra and geometry. The culture of ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy for the world. Egypt's natural history is documented in the Description de I?E?gypte. Two other ancient river valley civilisations include the Mesopotamian Civilisation (along the River Tigris and Euphrates) and the Chinese Civilisation (along the Yangtze and Hwang-ho). Find out more about these civilisations and compare and contrast them with the Indus Valley Civilisation.



Notes - Early Cities In The Indian Subcontinent
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