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The Harappan civilisation was the first urban civilisation in South Asia, contemporaneous with the civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Of the three aforementioned civilisations, the Harappan civilisation occupied most area (about 8,00,000 sq km). Earlier historians had called this civilisation the Indus Valley Civilisation, but since then, major settlements have been excavated in the Ghaggar-Hakra belt that spread far beyond the Indus region. Harappa, as the first archaeological site to be discovered, therefore gives its name to the entire civilisation. It forms a part of the proto-history of India, and belongs to the Bronze Age. While it is classified as a civilisation that is older than Chalcolithic civilisations, in many ways it was far more developed than settlements in the Chalcolithic Age. The Harappan civilisation can be classified in three phases*:

(i) The Early/Pre-Harappan phase (c. 3200-2600 ) (ii) Mature Harappan phase (c. 2600-1900 BCE)

(iii) Late Harappan phase (c. 1900-1300 BCE) *A general time range is specified as there is a great deal of variation in the dates for different phases. ВСЕ

There exists an undeniable cultural continuity among all the phases of the Harappan civilisation, yet they differ slightly from each other.

The Early Harappan phase, known as the Regionalisation Era, was the formative, proto-urban phase of the Harappan civilisation. It is related to the Hakra phase of settlements, and the settlements in this period are marked by their fortification, a fairly high level of expertise in specialised crafts such as stone-working, bead-making, and metalcrafting, the use of wheeled transport, and the existence of trade networks. Most raw materials except jade, which has not been found in early Harappan settlements, are similar to the ones used in the mature Harappan phase. However, it did not have the large cities that defined the mature Harappan phase, neither did it have as much expertise in craft specialisation. Some of the early Harappan archaeological sites are Padri in Gujarat, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Dholavira in Kutch, Harappa in West Punjab, Balakot, Amri, and Bhirrana in Haryana, Kot Diji and Gumla. It is noteworthy to add that there are no early Harappan sites in the active Indus plain.

The Mature Harappan phase, or the Integration Era, was the urban phase of the Harappan civilisation, which shows the characteristics of a full-fledged civilisation. It is pertinent to note that the unqualified term, ‘Harappan Culture’ or ‘Harappan Civilisation’, primarily refers to this mature urban phase. It is equally important is to understand the fact that the use of term ‘Harappan Culture’ or ‘Harappan Civilisation’ for all the excavated sites does not mean that all the other sites are identical to Harappa. It only pertains to the fact that the other sites have the same basic set of Harappan material traits, such as the typical red and black pottery, terracotta figurines, standardised brick size in 1:2:4 ratio, and So on.


The last phase of the Harappan civilisation, that is to say, the Late Harappan phase or the Localisation Era, was the post-urban phase defined by a decline in the cities. This is the final period in the Harappan civilisation and refers to the fragmentation of the culture of the Integration Era. The Late Harappan phase comprises five geographical zones each having distinct phases the West Punjab Phase (Cemetery- H Culture), the East Punjab Phase, the Jhukar Phase, the Rangpur Phase, and the Ganga Yamuna Doab Phase. Late Harappan settlements were small compared to mature Harappan ones. The transition from the mature phase does not show any sudden discontinuity as such, but there is a gradual change in seals, pottery confined writing, in the frequency of cubical weights, and so on. The Late Harappan settlements were also more in number, but they were smaller and more rural, though marked by a diverse agricultural base. Important Jhukar sites are Jhukar, Chanhudaro, and Amri. Rangpur Phase sites are in Kutch, Saurashtra and mainland Gujarat.



Archaeological evidence reveals a great deal about the Harappan civilisation, which is marked by both cultural homogeneity as well as diversity. There is still no totally accepted theory on the origin of Harappan culture but generally it is believed to have either emerged from pre-Harappan/indigenous village culture (which may be the more reasonable view), or, as argued by diffusionist theorists, owes its origin to the Mesopotamian Civilisation. The area occupied by the Harappan civilisation was triangular in shape and was largest among the three ancient urban civilisations, the other two being ancient Egypt and Mesopotamaia (present day Iraq). It roughly covers modern day Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, and Pakistan.

N (Manda in Jammu)

W (Sutkagendor in Baluchistan)

E (Alamgirpur in UP)

S (Malvan in South Gujarat)

Town Planning-Harappan civilisation is known for its urban outlook and sophisticated sense of civic planning and organisation. In most cases the Harappan city was divided into two parts:

Citadel/Raised Part – This part occupied a smaller area, and was frequently situated to the west of the city. Rulers of the city lived here. It also contained public buildings, granaries, and important workshops.

Lower Part The common citizenry lived and carried on their professional lives in this part of the city.


City planning roughly followed a grid pattern and streets ran from north and cut at right angles. Distinguishing aspects of Harappan town planning are as follows:

The streets were wide, the main street being ten metres wide and Houses were often of two or more storeys, though varied in size but quite monotonous. No window faced the streets and the houses had tiled bathrooms. Some houses had their own wells.

dividing the town into rectangular and square blocks. There were lamp-posts at intervals. They used burnt bricks of good quality and the unique feature of this brick was its identical ratio of 1:2:4 in terms of thickness:width:length across all Harappan structures. Equally striking was the uniformity in the average size of bricks — 7 x 14 x 28 cm3 for houses and 10 x 20 x 40 cm for city walls. They had an excellent drainage system drains were made of mortar, lime and gypsum and covered with large brick slabs for easy cleaning of Society.

The Harappan society was an urban society, comprising mostly of the middle classes. The houses excavated suggest at least three distinct social groups: Ruled, rich merchants and poor labourers who lived in the lower part of the city. However, there is still no clear idea among historians about the nature of inheritance in Harappan society. Other characteristic features of the Harappan society were:

The Harappans were great experts in the use of the potter’s wheel but were poor in artistic works of stone. Primarily red black pottery (red ware pottery painted with black designs, usually that of trees and circles) was popular. Some of these pots were used for storing grain or water, while some perforated pots were probably used for brewing fermented alcoholic beverages. A lot of terracotta has been found at many sites, including figurines of animals such as bulls, buffaloes, dogs, monkeys, toy carts, and humans. Terracotta bangles have also been found. It is important to note that more female figurines have been uncovered in comparison to male figurines.

The Harappans refined the art of bead-making, and jewellery excavated includes gold and silver jewellery, including necklaces, bracelets, pendants, earrings, brooches. At Allahdino (near Karachi), a lot of necklaces made of gold, silver, carnelian and semi-precious stones have been found. .Copper, bronze, silver, and gold were metals known and used by Harappans, but iron was not.

They were also good at metallurgy and producing alloys. The craftsmen used to both make artifacts out of pure copper as well as bronze such as spears, knives, short swords, mirrors, axes, needles, rings, and bangles. It is rather interesting that the number of pure copper artifacts was far greater than alloyed bronze ones, but it does not mean technological backwardness rather points towards cultural preference in all likelihood. Harappan people generally wore garments of cotton / wool. The Harappans relished non-vegetarian food. Fish-eating was common. Milk and curd was also consumed.

The Harappan societies of Sindh and Punjab largely consumed wheat and barley while those of Rangpur and Surkotda consumed rice and millets.

The Harappan script was pictographic and logosyllabic (each symbol stood for a word/syllable). Harappan writing was boustrophedon, that is to say, right to left and left to right in alternate lines. The Harappan script has not been deciphered so far. The evidence of a common script however points to great cultural integration, and its virtual disappearance by c.1700 BCE hints at the lack of sufficient downward percolation of writing.

The inferences about Harappan Economy have been derived from its flourishing trade relations with its contemporary Mesopotamian and Persian civilisations. The Mesopotamians called the Indus Region ‘Meluhha’. The Mesopotamian texts speak of three intermediate trading stations called Dilmun (probably Bahrain on Persian Gulf), Makan (probably the Makran coast, Oman) and, Meluhha. Seals hold a special significance in the Harappan context. Every merchant probably had a seal bearing an emblem, often of a religions character and a name / brief description on one side. The standard Harappa seal was a square / oblong plaque made of steatite stone. Though its primary purpose is

A remarkable aspect of the Harappan Culture was its standardisation and accuracy in the context of weights and measures. Weights followed a binary system in the lower denominations 1, 2, 8, 16, 32 to 64, and then in decimal multiples of 160 like 160, 320, 640, 1600, 3200, and so on.


Weights were made of chert, limestone, and steatite and were generally cubical in shape.

Measures of length were based on the foot (37.6 cm) the cubit (51.8 to 53.3 cm). A shell scale has been found at MohenjoDaro, a shell object probably used to measure angles has been found at Saurashtra, and an ivory scale has been discovered at Lothal.



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