Short Essay On Town Planning Of Harappan Civilization Wikipedia


Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri





             Among the great civilizations of the ancient world, India may be said to possess the only surviving Heritage from the remote past as a living force even today. The history of India was supposed by earlier historians to begin only with the alleged aryan invasion in the middle of the second millennium B.C. But the almost accidental discovery of the Harappa civilization, definitely assignable to the fourth millennium B.C., if not earlier, compelled the historians to acknowledge that India took its rank as one of the oldest civilised countries in the world.



     Recent explorations and excavations have revealed the wide diffusion of this Proto-Indic culture. From Rupar and the foothills of the Himalayas to Lothal and the Narmada Valley in the south, from Assam in the east to the borders of Persia in the west, a single homogenous culture prevailed for at least two thousand years continuously. From the supposed affinity with the Sumerian civilization, it was at first styled as Indo-Sumerian. Others called it “The Indus Valley Culture”, the “Indo-Mediterranean Culture”, etc., but now it is called Proto-Indic or Harappa Culture.


       The two most important sites almost fully excavated are at Harappa in the Punjab and Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh at a distance of about 350 miles from each other. The Indus river and its tributaries and its fluctuations brought about the destruction of the cities. But the sites were reoccupied and new cities were constructed on identical plans.


        Harappa is chronologically earlier and lasted longer than the southern city of Mohenjo-Daro. In spite of the long duration there is absolute uniformity of culture. The earlier stages of this culture may be traced in some of the outlying sites like Rana Ghundai, Amri and Nal, but the chronology is disputed. Similarly, the end of Harappa culture is undefined. Probably in 2000 B.C. the Harappa Culture was displaced in some places by Jhukar Culture and still later by Jhangar culture. The absolute and almost monotonous uniformity of Harappa culture compels us to postulate at least a millennium of development before 3000 B.C. Further, the Harappa civilization did not vanish without leaving a trace, for a good deal in the spiritual and religious heritage of Hinduism today can be traced to Harappa civilization.



        The civilization of Harappa was the product of various racial factors. A cosmopolitan population composed of Proto-Austroloid, Alpine, Nordic, Mediterranean and Mongoloid elements has been proved from the evidence of the skeletal remains. Some scholars have tried to assert that the predominating element was the so-called Mediterranean race having affinities with Sumerians.


The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), or Harappan Civilisation,[1] was a Bronze Agecivilisation (3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE) mainly in the northwestern regions of South Asia, extending from what today is northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India. Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early cradles of civilisations of the Old World, and of the three, the most widespread.[note 1]

Aridification of this region during the 3rd millennium BCE may have been the initial spur for the urbanisation associated with the civilisation, but eventually also reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation's demise, and to scatter its population eastward.[4][5][6][7][note 2]

At its peak, the Indus Civilisation may have had a population of over five million.[8] Inhabitants of the ancient Indus River valley developed new techniques in handicraft (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin). The Indus cities are noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, and clusters of large non-residential buildings. Children's toys were found in the cities, with few weapons of war, suggesting peace and prosperity.[10] Their trade seals, decorated with animals and mythical beings, indicate they conducted thriving trade with lands as far away as Sumer in southern Mesopotamia.[10]

The Indus Valley Civilisation is also named the Harappan civilisation after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated in the 1920s, in what was then the Punjab province of British India.[11] The discovery of Harappa, and soon afterwards Mohenjo-daro, was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India in the British Raj. Excavation of Harappan sites has been ongoing since 1920, with important breakthroughs occurring as recently as 1999.[13] This Harappan civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan culture to distinguish it from the cultures immediately preceding and following it. Of these, the earlier is often called the Early Harappan culture, while the later one may be referred to as the Late Harappan, both of which existed in the same area as the Mature Harappan Civilisation. The early Harappan cultures were preceded by local Neolithic agricultural villages, from which the river plains were populated.[14] A total of 1,022 cities and settlements had been found by 2008,[1] mainly in the general region of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra Rivers, and their tributaries; of which 406 sites are in Pakistan and 616 sites in India;[1] of these 96 have been excavated.[1] Among the settlements were the major urban centres of Harappa, Mohenjo-daro (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dholavira, Ganeriwala and Rakhigarhi.

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.[17][18]


The Indus Valley Civilisation is named after the Indus Valley, where the first remains were found. The Indus Valley Civilisation is also named the Harappan civilisation after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated in the 1920s, in what was then the Punjab province of British India.[19]

The Indus Valley Civilisation has also been called by some the "Sarasvati culture", the "Sarasvati Civilisation", the "Indus-Sarasvati Civilisation" or the "Sindhu-Saraswati Civilisation", as the Ghaggar-Hakra river is identified by some with the mythological Sarasvati river,[1][20][21] suggesting that the Indus Valley Civilisation was the Vedic civilisation as perceived by traditional Hindu beliefs.[note 3]


The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) encompassed much of Pakistan, western India, and northeastern Afghanistan; extending from Pakistani Balochistan in the west to Uttar Pradesh in the east, northeastern Afghanistan in the north and Maharashtra in the south.[27]Shortugai to the north is on the Oxus River, the Afghan border with Tajikistan, and in the west Sutkagan Dor is close to the Iranian border. The Kulli culture of Balochistan, of which more than 100 settlement sites are known, can be regarded as a local variant of the IVC, or a related culture.

The geography of the Indus Valley put the civilisations that arose there in a highly similar situation to those in Egypt and Peru, with rich agricultural lands being surrounded by highlands, desert, and ocean. Recently, Indus sites have been discovered in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well. Other IVC colonies can be found in Afghanistan while smaller isolated colonies can be found as far away as Turkmenistan and in Maharashtra. The largest number of colonies are in the Punjab, Sindh, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Gujarat belt Coastal settlements extended from Sutkagan Dor[28] in Western Baluchistan to Lothal[29] in Gujarat. An Indus Valley site has been found on the Oxus River at Shortughai in northern Afghanistan,[30] in the Gomal River valley in northwestern Pakistan,[31] at Manda, Jammu on the Beas River near Jammu,[32] India, and at Alamgirpur on the Hindon River, only 28 km from Delhi.[33] Indus Valley sites have been found most often on rivers, but also on the ancient seacoast,[34] for example, Balakot,[35] and on islands, for example, Dholavira.[36]

It flourished along a system of monsoon-fed perennial rivers in the basins of the Ghaggar-Hakra River in northwest India, and the Indus River flowing through the length of Pakistan.[38][6][note 4] There is evidence of dry river beds overlapping with the Ghaggar River in India and Hakra channel in Pakistan.

616 sites have been discovered along the dried up river beds of the Ghaggar-Hakra River and its tributaries,[1] while 406 sites have been found along the Indus and its tributaries.[1] According to Shereen Ratnagar the Ghaggar-Hakra desert area has more remaining sites than the alluvium of the Indus Valley, since the Ghaggar-Hakra desert area has been left untouched by settlements and agriculture since the end of the Indus Valley Civilisation.[39][page needed]

Discovery and history of excavation

The ruins of Harappa were described in 1842 by Charles Masson in his Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, and the Punjab, where locals talked of an ancient city extending "thirteen cosses" (about 25 miles or 41 km).[note 5]

In 1856, Alexander Cunningham, later director-general of the archaeological survey of northern India, visited Harappa where the British engineers John and William Brunton were laying the East Indian Railway Company line connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore. John wrote, "I was much exercised in my mind how we were to get ballast for the line of the railway". They were told of an ancient ruined city near the lines, called Harappa. Visiting the city, he found it full of hard well-burnt bricks, and, "convinced that there was a grand quarry for the ballast I wanted", the city of Harappa was reduced to ballast.[41] A few months later, further north, John's brother William Brunton's "section of the line ran near another ruined city, bricks from which had already been used by villagers in the nearby village of Harappa at the same site. These bricks now provided ballast along 93 miles (150 km) of the railroad track running from Karachi to Lahore".[41]

In 1872–75, Cunningham published the first Harappan seal (with an erroneous identification as Brahmi letters).[42] More Harappan seals were discovered in 1912 by John Faithfull Fleet, prompting an archaeological campaign under Sir John Hubert Marshall. Marshall, Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni and Madho Sarup Vats began excavating Harappa in 1921, finding buildings and artefacts indicative of an ancient civilisation. These were soon complemented by discoveries at Mohenjo-daro by Rakhal Das Banerjee, Ernest J. H. Mackay, and Marshall. By 1931, much of Mohenjo-daro had been excavated, but excavations continued, such as that led by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, director of the Archaeological Survey of India in 1944. Among other archaeologists who worked on IVC sites before the independence in 1947 were Ahmad Hasan Dani, Brij Basi Lal, Nani Gopal Majumdar, and Sir Marc Aurel Stein.[43]

Following independence, the bulk of the archaeological finds were inherited by Pakistan where most of the IVC was based, with new discoveries India now has 50% more sites than Pakistan. Outposts of the Indus Valley civilisation were excavated as far west as Sutkagan Dor in Pakistani Balochistan, as far north as at Shortugai on the Amu Darya (the river's ancient name was Oxus) in current Afghanistan, as far east as at Alamgirpur, Uttar Pradesh, India and as far south as at Malwan, in modern-day Surat, Gujarat, India.[1]

In 2010, heavy floods hit Haryana in India and damaged the archaeological site of Jognakhera, where ancient copper smelting furnaces were found dating back almost 5,000 years. The Indus Valley Civilisation site was hit by almost 10 feet of water as the Sutlej Yamuna link canal overflowed.[44]


Main article: Periodisation of the Indus Valley Civilisation

The cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation had "social hierarchies, their writing system, their large planned cities and their long-distance trade [which] mark them to archaeologists as a full-fledged 'civilisation.'"[45] The mature phase of the Harappan civilisation lasted from c. 2600 to 1900 BCE. With the inclusion of the predecessor and successor cultures — Early Harappan and Late Harappan, respectively — the entire Indus Valley Civilisation may be taken to have lasted from the 33rd to the 14th centuries BCE. It is part of the Indus Valley Tradition, which also includes the pre-Harappan occupation of Mehrgarh, the earliest farming site of the Indus Valley.

Several periodisations are employed for the periodisation of the IVC. The most commonly used classifies the Indus Valley Civilisation into Early, Mature and Late Harappan Phase. An alternative approach by Shaffer divides the broader Indus Valley Tradition into four eras, the pre-Harappan "Early Food Producing Era," and the Regionalisation, Integration, and Localisation eras, which correspond roughly with the Early Harappan, Mature Harappan, and Late Harappan phases.[14]

According to Rao, Hakra Ware has been found at Bhirrana, and is pre-Harappan, dating to the 8th-7th millennium BCE. Hakra Ware culture is a material culture which is contemporaneous with the early Harappan Ravi phase culture (3300-2800 BCE) of the Indus Valley. According to Dikshit and Rami, the estimation for the antiquity of Bhirrana as pre-Harappan is based on two calculations of charcoal samples, giving two dates of respectively 7570-7180 BCE, and 6689-6201 BCE.

DatesMain PhaseMehrgarh phasesHarappan phasesOther phasesEra
7000–5500 BCEPre-HarappanMehrgarh I
(aceramic Neolithic)
Early Food Producing Era
5500–3300 BCEPre-Harappan/Early HarappanMehrgarh II-VI
(ceramic Neolithic)
Regionalisation Era
c.4000-2500/2300 BCE (Shaffer)
c.5000-3200 BCE (Coningham & Young)
3300–2800 BCEEarly Harappan
c.3300-2800 BCE (Mughal)
c.5000-2800 BCE (Kenoyer)
Harappan 1
(Ravi Phase; Hakra Ware)
2800–2600 BCEMehrgarh VIIHarappan 2
(Kot Diji Phase,
Nausharo I)
2600–2450 BCEMature Harappan (Indus Valley Civilisation)Harappan 3A (Nausharo II)Integration Era
2450–2200 BCEHarappan 3B
2200–1900 BCEHarappan 3C
1900–1700 BCELate HarappanHarappan 4Cemetery H
Ochre Coloured Pottery
Localisation Era
1700–1300 BCEHarappan 5
1300–600 BCEPost-Harappan
Iron Age India
Painted Grey Ware (1200-600 BCE)
Vedic period (c.1500-500 BCE)
c.1200-300 BCE (Kenoyer)
c.1500-600 BCE (Coningham & Young)
600-300 BCENorthern Black Polished Ware (Iron Age)(700-200 BCE)
Second urbanisation (c.500-200 BCE)

Pre-Harappan - Mehrgarh

See also: Neolithic revolution, Fertile Crescent, and Demic diffusion

Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000 BCE to c. 2500 BCE) site to the west of the Indus River valley, near the capital of the Kachi District in Pakistan, on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, near the Bolan Pass.[63] According to Ahmad Hasan Dani, professor emeritus at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, the discovery of Mehrgarh "changed the entire concept of the Indus civilisation […] There we have the whole sequence, right from the beginning of settled village life."[45] Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in South Asia.[64][65][note 7] According to Parpola, the culture migrated into the Indus Valley and became the Indus Valley Civilisation.

Mehrgarh was influenced by the Near Eastern Neolithic, with similarities between "domesticated wheat varieties, early phases of farming, pottery, other archaeological artefacts, some domesticated plants and herd animals." Gallego Romero et al. (2011) notice that "[t]he earliest evidence of cattle herding in south Asia comes from the Indus River Valley site of Mehrgarh and is dated to 7,000 YBP."[note 8]

Lukacs and Hemphill suggest an initial local development of Mehrgarh, with a continuity in cultural development but a change in population. According to Lukacs and Hemphill, while there is a strong continuity between the neolithic and chalcolithic (Copper Age) cultures of Mehrgarh, dental evidence shows that the chalcolithic population did not descend from the neolithic population of Mehrgarh, which "suggests moderate levels of gene flow."[note 9] Masacernhas et al. (2015) note that "new, possibly West Asian, body types are reported from the graves of Mehrgarh beginning in the Togau phase (3800 BCE)."

Early Harappan

The Early Harappan Ravi Phase, named after the nearby Ravi River, lasted from c. 3300 BCE until 2800 BCE. It is related to the Hakra Phase, identified in the Ghaggar-Hakra River Valley to the west, and predates the Kot Diji Phase (2800–2600 BCE, Harappan 2), named after a site in northern Sindh, Pakistan, near Mohenjo-daro. The earliest examples of the Indus script date to the 3rd millennium BCE.[82][83]

The mature phase of earlier village cultures is represented by Rehman Dheri and Amri in Pakistan.[84]Kot Diji represents the phase leading up to Mature Harappan, with the citadel representing centralised authority and an increasingly urban quality of life. Another town of this stage was found at Kalibangan in India on the Hakra River.[85]

Trade networks linked this culture with related regional cultures and distant sources of raw materials, including lapis lazuli and other materials for bead-making. By this time, villagers had domesticated numerous crops, including peas, sesame seeds, dates, and cotton, as well as animals, including the water buffalo. Early Harappan communities turned to large urban centres by 2600 BCE, from where the mature Harappan phase started. The latest research shows that Indus Valley people migrated from villages to cities.[86][87]

The final stages of the Early Harappan period are characterised by the building of large walled settlements, the expansion of trade networks, and the increasing integration of regional communities into a "relatively uniform" material culture in terms of pottery styles, ornaments, and stamp seals with Indus script, leading into the transition to the Mature Harappan phase.[88]

Mature Harappan

Indus Valley pottery, 2500–1900 BCE
Haplogroup L-M20 has a high frequency in the Indus Valley. McElreavy & Quintana-Murci (2005) note that "both the frequency distribution and estimated expansion time (~7,000 YBP) of this lineage suggest that its spread in the Indus Valley may be associated with the expansion of local farming groups during the Neolithic period."[62][note 6]
Early Harappan Period, c. 3300–2600 BCE
Mature Harappan Period, c. 2600–1900 BCE
View of Granary and Great Hall on Mound F in Harappa


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