Harappan Civilization – Origin and Extent


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

In 1827 Charles Masson, a rather colourful character was the first recorded European to visit Harappa on his way to the Punjab after deserting the army of the British East India Company. Four years later, another soldier and explorer Sir Alexander Burnes visited Harappa after mapping the Indus River. The activities and reports of these early explorers eventually came to
the attention of Sir Alexander Cunningham the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India. He visited the site twice, once in 1853 and later in 1856. However by the time of his second visit much damage had been done from the removal of bricks used to build the bed for the Lahore-Multan railway in what is now Pakistan. He concluded that the material was related to the ruins of nearby 7th Century AD Buddhist Temples. Some minor excavation followed with some pottery, carved shell and a seal depicting either a one horned bovine animal, or the side-profile (Marshall 1931: 68) of a more probable two-horned animal with only one horn showing- one of the so-called unicorn seals. No more work was carried out until the early 1920s. The
first real indications that there was a civilisation rivalling that of Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt came during trial excavations during which Sir John Marshall, the second director general appointed R.Sahni at Harappa in 1921 and at Mohenjo-daro- D. R. Bhandarkar in
1911 followed later by R.D.Banerjee in 1922 (Possehl 1999: 47-62). Later excavations have shown that this culture encompassed many other rivers and extended to a wide area over what are now modern North Western India and Eastern Pakistan. Satellite imaging (BBC, 2002)
has also revealed previously thought mythical Saraswati River flowed along side of some the settlements of this culture. Its mature, developed period lasted for only about 500 years between c. 2400 - 1900 BC.
Later the culture became known as the Harappan Civilisation in order to de-emphasise what early archaeologist thought was a civilization solely geographically linked to the Indus River and also to remove the false assumption that the Indus Valley Civilisation was a superior, non-Indian culture. Today, the terms “Indus Valley Civilisation” or “Harappan Civilisation” are interchangeable and largely free of imperialist or anti-imperialist sentiment.
   The whole period of Harappan civilization is in fact divided into three phases:
(i) Early Harappan phase (3500 BC–2600 BC) – it was marked by some town-planning
in the form of mud structures, elementary trade, arts and crafts, etc.,
(ii) Mature Harappan phase (2600 BC–1900 BC) – it was the period in which we notice welldeveloped
towns with burnt brick structures, inland and foreign trade, crafts of various
types, etc., and
(iii) Late Harappan phase (1900 BC–1400 BC) – it was the
phase of decline during which many cities were abandoned and the trade disappeared
leading to the gradual decay of the significant urban traits.
The Rise
The rise seems to have occurred for the most obvious of reasons- good farming land. Along with many small rivers, the huge Indus and  Saraswati rivers flowed through the land creating fertile alluvial plains from yearly silt deposition. There were also dense forests which along with smaller animals were also large enough to sustain elephants, water buffalo, rhinoceros, various deer species, pigs, humped cattle and tigers to predate on them. Along with this bountiful environment, however, the peoples of this region would have to contend with the yearly inundation/drought cycles; necessity being the mother of invention- they eventually did this by becoming experts in the control of water.
Geographical Extent
The archaeological excavations reveal that this culture was spread over a vast area which included not only the present day states of India such as Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Western Uttar Pradesh but also Pakistan and some parts of Afghanistan. Some important sites of this civilization are: Manda in Jammu and Kashmir; Shortughai in Afghanistan; Harappa in Western Punjab (Pakistan); Mohenjodaro and Chanhudaro in Sind; Kalibangan in Rajasthan; Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat; Banawali and Rakhigarhi in Haryana; Daimabad in Maharashtra while Sutkagendor on the Makran Coast (near Pakistan-Iran border) is the western most site of the Harappan civilization and Alamgirpur in western Uttar Pradesh marks its eastern most limit. The location of settlements suggests that the Harappa, Kalibangan (On R Ghaggar- Hakra generally associated with the lost river Saraswati), Mohenjodaro axis was the heartland of this civilization and most of the settlements are located in this region. This area had certain uniform features in terms of the soil type, climate and subsistence pattern. The land was flat and depended on the monsoons and the Himalayan rivers for the supply of water. Besides the urban settlements of the Harappans, there were many sites inhabited by the primitive communities consisting of stone-age hunter-gatherers or pastoral


Sunday, 23rd Feb 2014, 09:26:41 AM

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Krishna
Very nice article sir...it is very helpful in understanding
Aug 03, 2017 08:51 AM