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CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
By Muzaffar Ahmad
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CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
Table of contents
Defining "CULTURE" The Indus Valley Civilization Harappan Town planning Science Arts, Games & toys Sculptures of the Indus Valley Indus Valley Seals Buddhist Sculptures Hindu Art Ajanta and Ellora Khajuraho Elephanta Caves The Art Of MAHA YOGI Writing Or Symbol System The Decline of Culture of Indus Valley Civilization
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codify and communicate their experiences symbolically.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Over a period of time ax man started to understand the ways of living as a medium of information. or criteria for evaluating. meaning "to cultivate". which described culture as follows: ". Traditions and Beliefs". material." As such." In my discussion I will follow the definition of Culture given by the United Nations Educational.. Primatologists such as Jane Goodall have identified aspects of culture among human's closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Edward Burnett Tylor while writing from the perspective of social anthropology in the UK in 1871 described culture in the following way: "Culture or civilization. Value systems. language. it includes codes of manners. morals. taken in its wide ethnographic sense. in addition to Art and Literature. Defining "CULTURE" Culture has been called "the way of life for an entire society. Lifestyles. is that complex whole which includes knowledge. Page No 3 . religion. culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual. and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. belief. This capacity has long been taken as a defining feature of the humans. art. Culture as from the Latin cultura stemming from colere. different definitions of "culture" reflect different theoretical bases for understanding. Ways of living together. and that it encompasses. rituals. dress. custom. intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group. Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO (2002). human activity. However. Anthropologisats most commonly use the term "culture" to refer to the universal human capacity to classify.. law. generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance. Before we start our discussion of the culture of the Indus Valley civilization we must forst set our square for what we mean by culture. norms of behaviour and systems of belief.
" In 1952. Values Norms Institutions Artifacts Values comprise ideas about what in life seems important. norms that a society enforces formally have the status of laws. Each culture has methods. they do not exhaust the many uses of the term "culture. Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of more than 100 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION While these two definitions cover a range of meaning. They guide the rest of the culture. Page No 4 . Norms consist of expectations of how people will behave in various situations. 3. Artifacts—things. 4. Institutions are the structures of a society within which values and norms are transmitted. called sanctions. 2. Key components of culture A common way of understanding culture sees it as consisting of four elements that are "passed on from generation to generation by learning alone": 1. of enforcing its norms. or aspects of material culture—derive from a culture's values and norms. Sanctions vary with the importance of the norm.
but its significance was not realized until much later. Following the partition of British India in 1947. An alternative term for the culture is Saraswati-Sindhu Civilization. resulting in the discovery of a hitherto unknown civilization by Dayaram Sahni. possibly. Fleet. 1826-1838. Harappan seals with then unknown symbols were discovered by J. for Sumerian references to Meluhha. The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was discovered in the 1920s and is known only from archaeological excavations. Among other names for this civilization is the Harappan Civilization. 3300–1300 BC. In 1912. much of Mohenjo-Daro was excavated.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION The Indus Valley Civilization An Introduction The Indus Valley Civilization (c. but minor campaigns continued. which triggered an excavation campaign under Sir John Marshall in 1921/22. such as that led by Mortimer Wheeler in 1950. Afghanistan and Punjab. Discovery and Excavation The ruins of Harappa were first described by Charles Masson in his Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan. Page No 5 . the British authorities used Harappan bricks in the construction of the East Indian Railway line connecting Karachi and Lahore. except. based on the popular identification of the Ghaggar-Hakra River with the Sarasvati River. the area of the IVC was divided between Pakistan and the Republic of India. By 1931. Indian archaeologist Nani Gopal Majumdar and German archaeologist Michael Jansen. which has been proposed to correspond to the IVC. flowered 2600–1900 BC) was an ancient civilization thriving along the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River in what is now Pakistan and north-western India. In 1857. Influential in the field were British archaeologist Aurel Stein. in reference to its first excavated city of Harappa.
identified in the Ghaggar- Page No 6 . named after the nearby Ravi River. It has been surmised that the inhabitants of Mehrgarh migrated to the fertile Indus river valley as Balochistan became arid due to climatic changes. including cattle. The earliest evidence of sedentary lifestyle in South Asia was discovered at Mehrgarh in the foothills of the Brahui Hills. It is related to the Hakra Phase. lasted from circa 3300 BCE until 2800 BCE. North Eastern Balochistan is connected to Afghanistan by passes over the Toba Kakar Range. Pottery was in use by around 5500 BCE. This settlement is dated 7000 BCE and was located on the west bank of the Bolan River. Brick-lined basins in the remains of a room used for making pottery at the ancient Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjo-daro. Early Harappan The Early Harappan Ravi Phase. which took place in the Fertile Crescent around 9000 to 6000 BCE. 3rd-2nd century B. about 30 kilometres from the town of Sibi. These early farmers domesticated Wheat and a variety of animals. In the "Era" terminology. ca.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Predecessors The Indus Civilization was predated by the first farming cultures in South Asia. taken to initiate the "Regionalisation Era". to the west of the Indus Valley. the aceramic Neolithic is known as the "Early Food Producing Era". Through these routes Balochistan was in contact with West Asia and took part in the so-called Neolithic Revolution. Valleys on the Makran coast are open towards the Arabian Sea.C. which emerged in the hills of what is now called Balochistan.
and by around 1700 BCE. Another town of this stage was found at Kalibangan in India on the Hakra River. Harappan 2). by this time. mainly in the general region of the Ghaggar-Florence River and its tributaries. dates and cotton. Late Harappan Around 1800 BCE. along with Gonorreala. 1000-900 BCE. In total. six such urban centers have been discovered. However. most of the cities were abandoned. including peas. named after a site in northern Sindh near Mohenjo Daro.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Hakra River Valley to the west. and was partially contemporaneous with the Painted Grey Ware and perhaps early NBP cultures. Villagers had. Mature Harappan By 2500 BCE. and predates the Kot Diji Phase (2800-2600 BCE. with the citadel representing centralised authority and an increasingly urban quality of life. the Early Harappan communities had been turned into urban centers. Dokalingam and Mangalore in India. Thus far. Some of the most important discoveries in the Ravi Phase relate to writing. sesame seeds. The mature phase of earlier village cultures is represented by Rehman Dheri and Amri. irrigation had transformed the region. the Indus Valley Civilisation did not disappear suddenly. including the water buffalo. as well as a wide range of domestic animals. domesticated numerous crops. signs of a gradual decline began to emerge. By 2500 BCE. including: Harappa. Current archaeological data suggests that material culture classified as Late Harappan may have persisted until at least c. Archaeologists have emphasised that there was a continuous series of cultural developments that link "the so-called two major phases of urbanisation in South Asia". Mohenjo Daro and Dicki in Pakistan. Kot Diji (Harappan 2) represents the phase leading up to Mature Harappan. over 1052 cities and settlements have been found. and many elements of the Indus Civilization can be found in later cultures. Page No 7 .
individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. warehouses. which may have been a public bath. The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and drainage that were developed and used in cities throughout the Indus Empire. Within the city.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Town Planning A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture is evident in the Indus Valley Civilization. The streets of major cities such as Mohenjo-daro or Harappa were laid out in perfect grid patterns. There is no conclusive evidence of palaces or temples . no large monumental structures were built. waste water was directed to covered drains. this urban plan included the world's first urban sanitation systems. The advanced architecture of the Harappans is shown by their impressive dockyards. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing. Some structures are thought to have been granaries. Although the citadels Page No 8 . were far more advanced than any found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East and even more efficient than those in some areas of Pakistan and India today. The massive citadels of Indus cities that protected the Harappans from floods and attackers were larger than most Mesopotamian ziggurats. which lined the major streets. granaries. The houses were protected from noise. As seen in Harappa. Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Found at one city is an enormous well-built bath.or of kings. The purpose of the citadel remains debated. In sharp contrast to this civilization's contemporaries. Mohenjo-daro and the recently discovered Rakhigarhi. The quality of municipal town planning suggests knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene. brick platforms and protective walls. or priests. armies. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes. and thieves. odors.
Indus Civilization cities were remarkable for their apparent egalitarianism. They may have been built to divert flood waters. Among the artifacts discovered were beautiful beads of glazed stone called faïence. Pakistan A stone staircase in the Siddikui area of the ancient Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjo-Daro Dated ca. who lived with others pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. Most city dwellers appear to have been traders or artisans.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION were walled. Although some houses were larger than others. Materials from distant regions were used in the cities for constructing seals.. This gives the impression of a society with low wealth concentration. gods and other types of inscriptions. All the houses had access to water and drainage facilities. Some of the seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods and most probably had other uses.C. Page No 9 . 3rd-2nd century B. beads and other objects. The seals have images of animals. Staircase at Mohenjo-Daro. it is far from clear that these structures were defensive.
871. Harappan engineers followed the decimal division of measurement for all practical purposes. They were among the first to develop a system of uniform weights and measures. Their measurements were extremely precise.1. 0. and smaller objects were weighed in similar ratios with the units of 0.704mm. 20. Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro. The weights and measures of Kautilya's Arthashastra are the same as those used in Lothal. 0. including the measurement of mass as revealed by their hexahedron weights. with each unit weighing approximately 28 grams.2. and 500.C. 2. 100. Brick sizes were in a perfect ratio of 4:2:1 and the decimal system was used. 200.5. 50. 0. the smallest division ever recorded on a scale of the Bronze Age. mass and time. was approximately 1.05.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Science The people of the Indus Civilization achieved great accuracy in measuring length. 10. 3rd-2nd century B. Page No 10 . Weights were based on units of 0. ca.. Their smallest division. similar to the English Imperial ounce or Greek uncia. 1. which is marked on an ivory scale found in Lothal. 5. Pakistan Ruined brick steps lead down into the Great Bath at the ancient Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjo-Daro.
especially in building docks after a careful study of tides. Pakistan made the startling discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation. had knowledge of dentistry. made the discovery while he was cleaning the teeth from one set of remains. Professor Andrea Cucina from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The engineering skill of the Harappans was remarkable. archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh. Harappans evolved new techniques in metallurgy and produced copper.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Unique Harappan inventions include an instrument which was used to measure whole sections of the horizon and the tidal dock. Page No 11 . The physical anthropologist who carried out the examinations. In addition. bronze. lead and tin. even from the early Harappan periods. waves and currents. In 2001.
that these figures had found their way into levels some 3000 years older than those to which they properly belonged. that some mistake must surely have been made. bronze and steatite have been found at the excavation sites. therefore. they seemed to completely upset all established ideas about early art. it is just Page No 12 . … Now. and I thought. gold jewelry and anatomically detailed figurines in terracotta. Games and Toys Mother goddess from the Indus Valley civilization. in these statuettes. Modeling such as this was unknown in the ancient world up to the Hellenistic age of Greece. seals. A number of bronze. pottery. terracotta and stone figurines of girls in dancing poses reveal the presence of some dance form.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Arts. Sir John Marshall is known to have reacted with surprise when he saw the famous Indus bronze statuette of a slender-limbed "dancing girl" in Mohenjo-daro: "… When I first saw them I found it difficult to believe that they were prehistoric. Various sculptures.
that makes us wonder whether. Greek artistry could possibly have been anticipated by the sculptors of a far-off age on the banks of the Indus.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION this anatomical truth which is so startling. A harp-like instrument depicted on an Indus seal and two shell objects found at Lothal indicate the use of stringed musical instruments. of the practice of yoga." Indus Maze Games and Dice These maze games and dice are from the Indus Valley Civilization and are currently housed in the National Museum of New Delhi. Seals have been found at Mohenjo-daro depicting a figure standing on its head. perhaps the earliest indication. and one sitting cross-legged. in this all-important matter. A horned figure in an advanced yogic pose has been interpreted as one of the earliest depictions of the Lord Shiva. Page No 13 . at least illustration.
Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The lion capital of the pillar is now the official emblem of the Indian Page No 14 . Indus Valley Seals . Tiny terra-cotta seals discovered from the valley reveal carvings of peepal leaves. These inscriptions which served as edicts can be seen in Buddhist monuments in Gujarat.The first one shows a Swastika. a prominent symbol in Hinduism. when the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka adopted Buddhism and set out on a mission to spread the teachings of the faith as far and wide as possible.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Sculptures of the Indus Valley The story of Indian art and sculpture dates back to the Indus valley civilization of the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC. Buddhist Sculptures . The bust of a priest in limestone and a bronze dancing girl show tremendous sophistication and artistry. Gandhara and Mathura The next golden chapter of Indian sculpture opens in the 3rd century BC. deities and animals.000 stupas or domeshaped monuments constructed with the teachings of Buddhism engraved on rocks and pillars.Sarnath and Sanchi. The famous Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath in Madhya Pradesh gleams in polished sandstone representing the hieratic art under the Mauryan Empire. Bihar. Two other objects that were excavated from the ruins of the Indus valley indicate the level of achievement that Indian art had attained in those days. He had 85. These elemental shapes of stones or seals were enshrined and worshipped by the people of the civilization.
The foundation of the Stupa was laid by Ashoka and he set up monasteries here as a retreat for the Buddhist monks. The Udaigiri caves in Madhya Pradesh house a colossal image of Vishnu. his life as a prince. This site at Sanchi also includes remains of smaller stupas. Its finely carved gateways depict Buddhist legends and lifestyles of two thousand years ago. Images of Vishnu. Shiva. Here he is presented as the great savior who rescued 'mother earth' from the depths of the ocean. Consequently. his sermons and his worshippers. Other statues of this period found in various temples and museums are indicative of the various dimensions of early Hindu art and sculpture. the Sun-God and goddess Durga evolved in this period. pillars and monasteries. Krishna. Hindu Art The 4th. this era was also marked by the emergence of innumerable images of popular Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The Great Stupa is fifty-four feet high and is surrounded by a stone railing and four elaborately carved gateways on each side. in his incarnation as a varha (boar). The Great Stupa at Sanchi is perhaps the finest surviving relic of the Mauryan Empire and is a renowned Buddhist monument. Sculpture Head From Indus Valley Settlement Page No 15 . The gateway reliefs depict tales of Buddha's incarnations. 5th and 6th centuries AD witnessed a tremendous resurgence of Hinduism when it became the official religion of the Gupta Empire.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION Republic and the sacred wheel of law or the dharmachakra is symbolic of the first sermon that Buddha delivered at Sarnath. his moment of enlightenment.
Pillars. All of these were carved from the rock cliff at Ajanta. Situated near Bombay. During the 4th century AD. evoking the grandeur of the snow-capped Himalayas as well as the earthly pleasures of life. spires and towers combine to produce an awe-inspiring representation of Shiva's Himalayan abode. a synthesis embodied in the caves at Ajanta and Ellora and the temples of central and South India. these caves present an introduction to some Page No 16 . As centuries passed. literature and art became crucial to aesthetic expressionism in centuries to come. These caves are adorned with elaborate sculptures and paintings which have withstood the ravages of time. podiums. in the central state of Madhya Pradesh boasts of the best medieval temples in India. Amid the beautiful images and paintings are sculptures of Buddha. some cells. The site was forgotten for centuries before it was rediscovered in 1838.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION The link between dance. numerous Buddhist monks and artisans excavated a set of twenty-nine caves. These temples were created by the Chandela rulers in the Indo-Aryan style. celestial dancers and animals. only 22 survive today. besides those of couples in erotic poses. seem to be the underlying theme of these sculptures. glowing with the warmth of sandstone and ornamented with the sinuous curves of sculpture unparalleled in their beauty. The Hindu philosophy of Yoga and Bhoga (physical pleasure). known all over the world for their erotic sculptures. near Aurangabad are two astonishing series of temples carved out of living rock over the course of fourteen centuries. Ajanta and Ellora North-east of Bombay. These glorious temples are the state's most famous attraction. The sculptures are finely wrought images of animals. The sculptures include statues of gods and goddesses. The temples were restored and attract visitors from all over the world. warriors. Khajuraho The tranquil town of Khajuraho. Elephanta Caves The most profound aspect of the mighty Shiva is in evidence at the Shiva temple in the Elephanta caves. Amid green lawns and brilliant pink flowers is a complex of temples. monasteries and Buddhist temples. drama. This new era in art and sculpture witnessed a unique fusion. in a remote valley. The temples of Khajuraho display a wealth of sculptural beauty. calm and serene in contemplation. Out of the 85 temples built originally. work began on the Ajanta caves to create a complex of Buddhist monasteries and prayer halls. the two paths leading to final liberation. guards and deities while the paintings tell ancient tales of courtly life and depict hundreds of Buddhist legends.
The targets vary as per ones own desire but the effort and concentration remains in nature. feminine and meditative aspects of the great ascetic and the three heads represent Shiva as Aghori. Here the afford to enter into the heart begins in uniting the divergent thought process and the vital energy particles into a single movement . Typical Indus inscriptions are no more than four or five characters in length. verily the Yogi does record the Supreme triumph of Nirvana. which is less than 1 inch (2.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION most exquisitely carved temples. It is the choice less path of involution into the Source through an effortless effort where the form ful abides in the form less and the word. This image symbolizes the fierce. yogi is from the root yuj-to unite or to join. Every one. is a Yogi in the day-to-day experience. the longest on a single surface. The Art Of MAHA YOGI The word. since he joins all the vital energy within and the mental force in concentrating on the targeted desire for achievement. The Yogi's desire is to discover his true nature and the target is the Self-realisation. He is. Writing Or Symbol System Well over 400 distinct Indus symbols have been found on seals or ceramic pots and over a dozen other materials. the great yogi. most of which (aside from the Dholavira "signboard") are exquisitely tiny. the quietened mind in the beginning and then further compressing it and constricting into its Cause. The process of struggle is deep penetration through the intervening adjuncts and the involution into the primal substance and.54 cm) square.a thoughtless state. in fact. created by India's expert stone carvers of the sixth century. is 17 signs long. One can witness a symphony in stone in praise of Lord Shiva. The central attraction here is a twenty-foot high bust of the deity in three-headed form. Page No 17 . the Supreme.sound in the silence. Ardhanarishvara depicts Shiva as half-man/half-woman signifying the essential unity of the sexes. therefore. Aghori is the terrible form of Shiva where he is intent on destruction. including a "signboard" that apparently once hung over the gate of the inner citadel of the Indus city of Dholavira. the Maha Yogi. the same. Ardhanarishvara and Mahayogi.the word in Sanskrit is rich in content and coined to mean human experience. the longest on any object (found on three different faces of a mass-produced object) has a length of 26 symbols. The Maheshamurti is built deep into a recess and looms up from the darkness to fill the full height of the cave.
which may depict female fertility. edited by A. Based partly on this evidence. However.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION An Indus Valley seal with the seated figure termed pashupati. likely contributing to what eventually resulted in the rise of Vedic culture and eventually historical Hinduism. that they left behind. this description has been challenged on linguistic and archaeological grounds: it has been pointed out that the brevity of the inscriptions is unparalleled in any known premodern literate society. remnants of the IVC's culture would (the socalled Cemetery H culture) amalgamated with that of other peoples. has been announced for several years. Parpola and his colleagues. Also these people ate beef and buried their dead. there is no firm agreement among experts as to whether or not these figurines actually depict female fertility. Sproat. IVC people worshipped a Mother goddess (compare Shakti and Kali). argues that the Indus system did not encode language. which will reportedly republish photos taken in the 20s and 30s of hundreds of lost or stolen inscriptions. along with many discovered in the last few decades. and Witzel (2004). In the course of the 2nd millennium BCE. Page No 18 . a controversial paper by Farmer. or if they depict something else. 1991). but has not yet found its way into print. While the Indus Valley Civilization is often characterized as a "literate society" on the evidence of these inscriptions. Publication of a final third volume. Judging from the abundant figurines. but was related instead to a variety of non-linguistic sign systems used extensively in the Near East Photos of many of the thousands of extant inscriptions are published in the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions (1987.
burials have been found that correspond to a regional culture called the Cemetery H culture. and the Brahui people of Pakistan and Balochistan are possibly a linguistic remnant that remained in the area. the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture expanded from Rajasthan into the Gangetic Plain. The late IVC is a likely candidate for a Proto-Dravidian culture. to varying degrees showing the influence of the Indus Civilisation.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION IVC seals depict animals. perhaps as the objects of veneration. The Cemetery H culture has the earliest evidence for cremation. a practice dominant in Hinduism until today. At the same time. comparable to the zoomorphic aspects of some Hindu gods. regional cultures emerged. In the aftermath of the Indus Civilization's collapse. Page No 19 . In the formerly great city of Harappa. Seals resembling Pashupati in a yogic posture have also been discovered.
the Indo-Aryan war god Indra "stands accused" of the destruction.CULTURE OF INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION The Decline of Culture of Indus Valley Civilization A possible natural reason for the IVC's decline is connected with climate change: The Indus valley climate grew significantly cooler and drier from about 1800 BCE. and not generally accepted. the hypothesised Indo-Aryan migration was as a result of the collapse. its collapse at precisely the time of the conjectured invasion was seen as an independent confirmation. will have been due to a combination of various reasons. if there was one. In the early twentieth century. this migration was forwarded in the guise of an "Aryan invasion". It is however far from certain whether the collapse of the IVC is the result of an Indo-Aryan migration. as with any other civilisation. This makes it seem more likely that the adoption of Indo-Aryan languages was the result of cultural mixing and integration of the Cemetery H people (likely Dravidians) and Indo-Aryans rather than invasion. A crucial factor may have been the disappearance of substantial portions of the Ghaggar Hakra river system. It is in this context of the aftermath of a civilisation's collapse that the hypothesis of an Indo-Aryan migration into northern India is discussed. The region lies on the ancient route used by successive waves of migrations from Aryans to Huns. Although this particular factor is speculative. and later by Turks and Mughals to South Asia over the passes in the Hindu Kush. though there is some uncertainty about the date of this event. the decline of the IVC. A tectonic event may have diverted the system's sources toward the Ganges Plain. Page No 20 . comparable with the decline of the Roman Empire and the incursions of relatively primitive peoples during the Migrations Period. The Swat culture of northern Pakistan is a likely candidate for the first settlements of Indo-Aryans in the subcontinent. on the contrary. It seems rather likely that. In the words of the archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler. and when the civilization was discovered in the 1920s.