The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the most ancient and wide-spread societies that is considered to be the earliest cradles of the oldest civilizations of man. Earlier, in people’s view, there were only two ancient civilizations; “Egypt” and “Mesopotamia”. But people were proved wrong when large scale excavations were carried out by archaeologist in the early 1930s under the directions of John Marshall in Punjab (present-day Pakistan) & they uncovered a 4500-year-old civilization which was absent in all historical records. It flourished around 3300-19000 BC. More excavations indicated prior urban planning with straight roads and elaborate drainage systems whereas houses were made of wood bricks or baked mud. The total area was over 1500 Kms which presently extends to North-West India and Eastern Pakistan. It is also known as “Harappan Civilization” named after “Harappa”, the first site to be excavated. The Civilization revolved around two prime cities- Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro. Mohenjo-Daro had two districts- The citadel, for the elite upper class and the lower town for ordinary citizens. The ruins of Mohenjo-Daro were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1981.
Factors like trade, farming suggested peaceful coexistence and the common practices played a vital part in development and sustainability. The civilization’s growth took place around 3000 BC which constitutes some of the earliest discovered and documented civilizations. Perhaps the significant rise can be attributed to its location, that being along with a calm, reliable water supply i.e. the Indus River and also, Ghaggar-Hakra river. The rivers proved extremely useful for the ancient civilizations since they provided to be a great source of fresh water and an area to hunt and gather food. Even when they flooded, they left behind nutrient-rich sediments and fertile soil proved great for agricultural purposes. In the case of the Indus River, the annual flooding allowed for the growing of crops in mass quantities which was enough to feed a growing population. Rivers also proved to be a great transport system, both for transportation of goods & migration.
The Indus Valley Civilization had begun as simple farming villages and later transformed into urban centres with well-developed city structures. These developments further aided in the rise of the population as well as the adoption of economic activities like trade that led to the growth of these cities and between 2600-1900 BC, the Indus Valley Civilization was flourishing. Everything we know about civilization comes from archaeology, it remains the largest ancient civilization ever discovered by archaeologists with a total excavation of over 1500 sites. All the buildings & houses were built by skilled craftsmen who produced every brick of the same size. There was an advanced water supply and sanitation system which provided a clean environment to the community. Where today, people still struggle for toilets, Indus Valley is believed to be the first with private toile systems. It is hard to believe that these ideas were the brain-child of civilization, so ancient! One of the most opulent features of the Indus Valley Civilization can be found at Mohenjo-daro, historians and archaeologists named it the Great Bath, which is believed to be the earliest water tank for public use. They speculated that it was used for religious practices, perhaps as a spiritual cleansing effected for those who bathed in it. With time, the population is believed to be upto 5 Million.
The cities which were full of life and thriving more than ever ended up in shambers & would sit in ruins for centuries to come. The cities were lost for more than 3000 years. But the mysterious part is, how? What happened?
People stopped living in many of the cities, writing, seals were no longer used. Raw materials brought from long distances became rare. The garbage piled up in the streets of Mohenjo-Daro. But why did this happen? One thing that is certain, and often overlooked is that Civilization did not disappear suddenly. Many elements of it appear in later cultures. For ex- the Vedic Period followed the Bronze Age and had similar designs & markings to the Indus Valley Civilization.
One of the most accepted causes of the downfall by most of the scholars is the Climate Change & Draught which was the most severe climatic event on the Earth and has been hypothesized to have initiated the collapse of this Ancient Civilisation. The climate grew significantly cooler and drier from 1800 BC linking to the general weakening of monsoon at the time. The Ghaggar-Hakra river system was rain-fed and the water supply depended on the monsoons, but as the Indian monsoon declined and the earth became dry, Ghaggar-Hakra shifted and re-traced towards foothills of the Himalayas leading to less sustainable agricultural practices. The drought reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilization’s demise.
There were also theories by some archaeologists that the invasion by Aryans- an Indo-European tribe from Central Asia cause the decline of the Indus Valley. A group of 37 skeletons was found in various parts of Mohenjo-Daro & passages in the Vedas that referred to battles were evidence for this theory. However, scholars soon started to reject this theory since the skeletons belonged to a period after the abandonment of the cities. Further examinations of the skeletons made it clear that the reason behind marks on the skulls was erosion and not violence.
Although we may not be sure as to how Indus Valley Civilisation collapsed, there is no denying the fact that it had a great and ever-lasting impact on the culture & heritage of India. It shall always be known for its well-planned cities and urban culture.
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