Indus Valley Civilization
The earliest Indian art emerged from the valley of the Indus River during the second half of the 3d millennium B.C. The best-known sites are Harappa, destroyed in the 19th cent., and Mohenjo-Daro; these are among the earliest examples of civic planning. Houses, markets, storage facilities, offices, and public baths were arranged in a gridlike scheme. There was also a highly developed drainage system.
The Indus civilization produced many statuettes made of steatite and limestone. Some statuettes resemble the hieratic style of contemporary Mesopotamia, while others are done in the smooth, sinuous style that is the prototype of later Indian sculpture, in which the plastic modeling reveals the animating breath of life (prana). Also found in this region are square steatite seals adorned with a range of animals, including naturalistically rendered bulls; ceramic storage jars with simple, stylized designs; toys with wheels; and figurines, which may be mother goddesses. Bronze weapons, tools, and sculptures indicate a sophistication in craftsmanship rather than a major aesthetic development.
The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilisation (3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE, pre-Harappan cultures starting c.7500 BCE) in northwest Indian subcontinent (including present day Pakistan, northwest India) and also in some regions in northeast Afghanistan. Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilisations of the Old World, and the most widespread among them, covering an area of 1.25 million km2. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, one of the major rivers of Asia, and the now dried up Sarasvati River, which once coursed through northwest India and eastern Pakistan together with its tributaries flowed along a channel, presently identified as that of the Ghaggar-Hakra River on the basis of various scientific studies. Due to the spread of the civilization along both the river valleys, some scholars use the term Indus-Sarasvati Civilisation.
At its peak, the Indus Civilization may have had a population of over five million.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.
The Indus Valley Civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization, after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated in the 1920s, in what was then the Punjab province of British India, and is now in Pakistan. 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. There were earlier and later cultures, often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan, and pre-Harappan cultures, in the same area of the Harappan Civilization. The Harappan civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan culture to distinguish it from these cultures. Bhirrana in Haryana, India may be the oldest pre-Harappan site, dating back to 7570-6200 BCE.
By 1999, over 1,056 cities and settlements had been found, of which 96 have been excavated, mainly in the general region of theIndus and the Sarasvati River and their tributaries. Among the settlements were the major urban centres of Harappa, Mohenjo-daro (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dholavira,Ganeriwala in Cholistan and Rakhigarhi, Rakhigarhi in Haryana, India, being the largest Indus Valley Civilization site with 350-hectare (3.5 km2) area.
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-Dravidianlanguage family is favoured by a section of scholars, while others suggest an Austroasiatic language related to Munda.
History of excavation
The ruins of Harappa were first described in 1842 by Charles Masson in hisNarrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, and the Punjab, where locals talked of an ancient city extending “thirteen cosses” (about 25 miles), but no archaeological interest would attach to this for nearly a century
In 1856, General 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.They were told of an ancient ruined city near the lines, called Brahminabad. 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 Brahminabad was reduced to ballast. 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”.
In 1872–75 Alexander Cunningham published the first Harappan seal (with an erroneous identification as Brahmi letters). It was half a century later, in 1912, that more Harappan seals were discovered by J. Fleet, prompting an excavation campaign under Sir John Hubert Marshall in 1921–22 and resulting in the discovery of the civilisation at Harappa by Sir John Marshall, Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni andMadho Sarup Vats, and at Mohenjo-daro by Rakhal Das Banerjee, E. J. H. MacKay, and Sir John 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.
Various sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, and anatomically detailed figurines in terracotta, bronze, and steatite have been found at excavation sites.
ART IN HARAPPA
A number of gold, terracotta and stone figurines of girls in dancing poses reveal the presence of some dance form. These terracotta figurines included cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs. The animal depicted on a majority of seals at sites of the mature period has not been clearly identified. Part bull, part zebra, with a majestic horn, it has been a source of speculation. As yet, there is insufficient evidence to substantiate claims that the image had religious or cultic significance, but the prevalence of the image raises the question of whether or not the animals in images of the IVC are religious symbols.
|Peak and decline: 2000 – 1700 BC|
|The reach of the Indus civilization is extensive. After the discovery of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, further sites have been revealed – as far down the coast as Lothal, making the spread of the Indus civilization greater than that of Egypt and Mesopotamia together.
At Lothal there is even a specially designed dockyard, of kiln-baked bricks, from which vessels trade along the coast and possibly up the Persian Gulf as far as Mesopotamia.
|The sense of order, so evident in the Indus cities, begins to diminish after about 1900 BC. Less imposing buildings, of more flimsy construction, are inhabited now by a declining population. Many reasons have been suggested – an impoverished agricultural base due to over-exploitation, or a succession of devastating floods. The discovery of several unburied bodies in a street in Harappa has led to suggestions of a sudden and violent end.
Certainly the Indus civilization is followed by a violent intrusion into northwest India, that of the Aryans. But they do not arrive until about 1500 BC. The cities of the Indus seem to have declined before then into their long spell of invisibility.