The Indus Valley Civilization

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This booklet helps students to learn about the Indus Valley Civilizations which represents the earliest manifestation of urban development in the plains of the Indus valley and its extension along the Arabian sea-coast.
1. ISBN 978-92-3-102719-2 THE INDUS CIVILIZATION
A. H. Dani and B.K. Thapar
Mohenjo-daro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
Harappa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281
Kalibangan and other eastern sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293
Lothal and other southern sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299
The Indus Civilization represents the earliest manifestation of urban development in the
plains of the Indus valley and its extension along the Arabian sea-coast. The four principal
settlements so far excavated provide the material to reconstruct the cultural content of
the civilization. Two lie in Pakistan: Harappa, 2 usually identified with Hariyupiya3 of the
Rigveda, is situated on an old bed (sukbrawa) of the river Ravi in Sahiwal District of
Punjab, and Mohenjo-daro4 (literally ‘mound of the dead’) is on the right bank of the
Indus river in Larkana District of Sind. The other two sites are in western India; Lothal5
is situated on the Sabarmati river at the head of the gulf of Cambay on the west coast of
India, and Kalibangan6 (literally ‘black bangles’) lies some 310 km north-west of Delhi
along the left bank of the now-dry Ghaggar (old Sarasvati) river in northern Rajasthan.
The antecedents of this urban civilization have been described earlier, in Chapter 11 but
it is not clear how and under what conditions a transition of the urban development took
place. Trade through land connections across Afghanistan with eastern Iran and
See Map 9
Vats, 1940.
Dani, 1950.
Marshall, 1931.
Rao, 1973.
Thapar, B. K., 1975.
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Map 9 Distribution of India Cililization.
Turkmenistan was noted in the previous cultures. The Indus Civilization, for the first
time, also established overseas trade. The advantaged gained through new mechanics of
trade may have enabled an adventurous community to make a bid for the mastery of their
resources and lay the foundation of a political system that imposed their supremacy over
the entire Indus zone. Such is the case from the available evidence at Harappa, where a
new citadel complex7 had been imposed on an earlier village settlement. The Kalibangan8
evidence again shows a new pattern of urban planning on an earlier fortified settlement.
Such a sudden change is also noticed at Amri, 9 Balakot10 and Kot Diji.11 It is the Kot
Wheeler, 1947.
Thapar, B. K., 1975.
Casal, 1964.
Dales, 1981.
Khan, 1965.
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Diji cultural type that is widely spread as evidenced by the excavations at Sarai Kala,
12 Gumla,13 Rahman Dheri, 14 on the Indus plain, near Dera Ismail Khan, and several other
places in the Punjab.15 It is only Mohenjo-daro16 which still holds the mystery, as its earlier
levels have not yet been excavated because of the rise of the water table in the present cen-
tury. These levels are likely to reveal a Kot Dijian cultural complex, or an admixture with
other early cultural elements known in Sind and Baluchistan. Yet the new urban develop-
ment shows a basic difference in its cultural features, which, though based on local geog-
raphy and ecology, needed a motivational inspiration not evidenced in the archaeological
data so far recovered. Hence the origin of the Indus Civilization yet remains unknown and
is a matter of several theoretical speculations.17
While the earlier phases of the Bronze Age cultural complex show varying patterns in
the different geographical regions of Pakistan and western India, the Indus Civilization
imposes a certain uniformity in its basic cultural manifestation and hence there is little
difficulty in identifying the urban pattern associated with it. This pattern is confined to a
restricted geographical area and adheres mainly to the alluvial plains of the Indus, east of
the Jhelum river. Hence it belongs to the Indus system, and therefore the name Indus Civi-
lization is appropriate, but it also extends along a wide coastal stretch from the mouths of
the Narmada and Tapti rivers in the east to Sutkagen Dor18 in the west. The last-named is
one of the four major port sites, the other three being Balakot19 and Sotkakoh in Baluchis-
tan, and Lothal20 in Gujarat. The discovery of six mounds in the vicinity of Shortugai21
in the Kunduz province of north-eastern Afghanistan appears to be a case of an isolated
colonial settlement probably acting as a trading depot. The northern limit of the Indus zone
has been extended to Manda, 22 Akhnor, located on the right bank of the Chenab, about 28
km north-west of Jammu, while the easternmost site being Alamgirpur on the banks of the
Hindan, a tributary of the Jamuna, is about 45 km north-east of Delhi. Whereas the western
hilly regions continued with their own older cultural variations and survived side by side
Halim, 1972a1972b.
Dani, 1970/71.
Durrani, 1981.
Mughal, 1981.
Dales, 1965.
Fairservis, 1961.
Dales, 1962.
Dales, 1981.
Rao, 1973.
Francfort and Pottier, 1978.
Thapar, B. K., 1981.
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with the new urban development sites such as Kulli23 and Dabar Kot24 in Baluchistan and
Gumla and Hishamdheri in the Gomal plain have shown the impact of the Indus Civiliza-
tion. On the other hand a far-off place like Daimabad25 on the Godavari has produced late
Harappan material. In brief, among all civilizations of the ancient world that of the Indus
spread over the widest territorial limit.
This vast territorial region of the Indus Civilization remains unnamed because of the
failure to decipher the contemporary writings on the Indus seals. However, Mesopotamian
contact, direct or indirect, has produced some relevant evidence. The contemporary docu-
ments there speak of ships coming from Dil-mun, Makan and Meluha or Melukhkha;26 Sargon
the Great boasts:
The ships from Meluha
The ships from Makan
The ships from Dilmun
He made tie up up alongside the quay of Agade.
Dilmun or Tilmun, which is usually identified with the island of Bahrain, 27 is sup-
posed to be the clearing-house for goods bound for Sumer from the east. From Makan and
Meluha the ships brought copper ingots and implements in huge quantities – carnelian,
ivory, shell, lapis lazuli, pearls, spices, etc. – materials specific to the Indus Civilization. On
these grounds Makan and Meluha have been taken to mean ‘Indus country’. Particularly
Meluha or Melukhkha, which suggestively resembles the much later Prakrit ‘Milakkha’
or Sanskrit ‘Mlechchha’28 – a name meaning ‘a stranger of ill-pronounced speech’, and
applied to foreigners in Sanskrit literature – has the strongest possibility to be the oldest
name of the Indus country. Makan could be a western coastal region, which still bears the
name of Makran.
The Indus country, or the ancient Meluha, lies within 25 ◦ and 35 ◦ N. latitude – a range
which also covers the oldest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the areas which today
have almost desert climatic conditions and which would have been complete deserts but for
the great rivers that bring seasonal floods to revivify the parched lands that have themselves
been built up by silt deposits. These areas are supposed to have been subjected to severe
Piggott, 1950, pp. 98–116.
Fairservis, 1975, p. 153.
Thapar, B. K., 1981.
Kramer, 1964; Thapar, R., 1975.
Possibility of its identification with the Oman coast cannot be ruled out as M. Tosi’s excavations at Ra’s
al-Junayz have been very significant, producing also Indus writing on potsherds. (Personal communication.)
Parpola and Parpola, 1975.
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Post-Pleistocene desiccation. However, recent studies present a different postulate: ‘that the
degraded environment in these regions is more probably due to man’s over- exploitation
than to variation in rainfall and temperature regimes’.29 On the other hand pollen analysis
from Rajasthan lakes carried out by Gurdip Singh30 and meteorological considerations by
C. Ramaswamy31 have enabled them to reconfirm the earlier opinion of Sir John Marshall,
and suggest that there was a period of somewhat higher rainfall in Pakistan and western
India between 3000 and 2000 b.c., although Ramaswamy would like to bring the date
of the wet period down to 500 b.c. There is little doubt that some of the rivers, such as
the Sarasvati and Drishadvati, known to the Rigvedic Aryans, are now dried up and are
represented by the Ghaggar of Hakra. This drying process may be the result of less and less
precipitation in the post- Indus period. R. L. Raikes and others have, however, explained
this drying process by supposing some tectonic activity in the northern Punjab, which
bifurcated the water of the Himalayas from the western drainage system of the Indus to the
eastern drainage system of the Ganges. Under these conflicting opinions it is difficult to be
dogmatic on the actual climatic conditions. However, animals like the elephant, rhinoceros
and tiger, which during the last few centuries have become extinct in the region, were
known to the Indus people. They took measures to protect the exposed walls by baked
bricks, and were also extremely punctilious in providing drains and conduits in their cities
for easy flow of excess water. The Indus valley does receive a moderate rainfall from 125
to 625 mm a year. The precipitation in the northern hills is much higher resulting in the
forested belt of the hilly regions. The hill slopes have grass lands which support sheep, g
oats and cattle. The flooded plains have produced various kind of wheat, barley and oats.
While sheep and goats dominate in the old civilizations of western Asia, cattle are the
hallmark of the Indus. The Indus valley has a character of its own that is derived from the
build of the Himalayan chains which throw their off-shoots towards the Arabian Sea, thus
providing a cultural context south of the Hindu Kush and between the deserts of Iran and
India. Such a wide cultural zone shows variations in climate from extreme cold winters in
the north to more mild temperatures along the sea-coast.
The urban development in the Indus valley introduced the pattern of the earliest urban-
ization in this part. Two things are clear: the first is the surplus food-production in the
fertile soil of the river-irrigated plains, mainly yielding wheat and barley and cotton as
the cash crop. The surplus was stored in granaries, two of which have been exposed, one
at Mohenjo-daro and another at Harappa. Whether there was any centralized
Raikes and Dyson, 1961.
Singh, 1971.
Ramaswamy, 1968.
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cotton-manufacturing industry or handlooms were used in the villages is difficult to say.
In any case cotton fabrics, including those of printed designs, appear to have been pro-
duced. The second aspect of urban life was craft specialization and industrialization of the
cities. Copper, which was available from Baluchistan and neighbouring Rajasthan, was the
basic metal for industrial and commercial development. There is little doubt that timber,
probably from the deodar tree was obtained in the northern hills, as in the excavations at
Mohenjo-daro32 timber beams are known to have been used in brick masonry. Carpenter’s
tools are evidence of skill in carpentry. These three items – copper, cotton and timber –
appear to have been the mainstay of urban prosperity. For luxury goods, shell, ivory, lapis
lazuli, carnelian and other precious stones as well as gold and silver were obtained to man-
ufacture articles of common taste. A bead-making craft was well established. The painted
pottery tradition speaks of another specialized craft. Two kinds of stones were profusely
used: steatite probably from the neighbourhood of Tepe-Yahya33 in eastern Iran was used
for making seals, and alabaster for cups and vessels. Limestone statues, musical instru-
ments, dancing figures tell of the development of fine arts in the cities. Except for the last
few items, others were already in use in the pre- Indus cultures but in this period there is an
acceleration and standardization of these products. The source of surplus food is not clear,
as no information is available on irrigation. Mining, exploitation of forests and import of
raw materials from distant places indicate an intensification of trade. The sea provided
an outlet to overseas markets. There is nothing in this economic exploitation that needed
foreign influence. Material evolution from indigenous sources is well documented.
It is only when we turn to the other aspects of culture that the Indus Civilization shows
no precedents, but they are again so individualistic and rooted in the local fauna and flora
that, as far as material content is concerned, it wholly derives from the local elements.
However, an extremely interesting development is the production of steatite seals which
have no earlier precedents, but depict local art and writing. The purpose of these seals is
not at all clear. However, if they were meant as signet seals for stamping on commercial
goods, pots34 and other objects, they may have had administrative significance.35 On the
other hand, the standardization of goods, enforcement of a definite system of weights and
measures, and above all formulation and execution of municipal rules in the cities, speak
of the emergence of a political system that must be credited to a determined community
of people whose main support lay in the surplus of the Indus plain, but whose prosperity
depended on the growth of the industrial urban centres and a peaceful atmosphere for
Dales, 1965.
Lamberg-Karlowsky, 1972.
Wheeler, 1968, Plate XXXIV, B.
Fairservis, 1976.
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overseas trade and commerce. Such an enterprising people must have felt the need to
develop a system of writing to meet their commercial and administrative requirements. As
will be explained below, there is no earlier beginning of writing except for some symbols
found at random on potsherds.36 On the other hand, the seals themselves provide us with
many animal figures and human scenes that apparently had religious and myth-ological
significance. There is little doubt that some pedestalled emblems and actual figures were
objects of worship. Such a use of religious symbols in connection with commercial trans-
actions suggests a religion-oriented society, though little evidence has been recovered for
institutionalized religion in the architectural remains of the city. Our option for the western
Asian model of a temple-dominated social structure has so far been unproved in the Indus
Civilization. Some of the features of the religion can be derived from the earlier rural-based
social system. In the vast expanse of the Indus system that practice was likely to persist and
even influence new urban beliefs and rituals. In other words, the rural Indus had a major
role to play in the make-up of the Indus Civilization. On the other hand, the urban centres
must have sprung up as cultural foci to serve administrative purposes for the convenience
of a determined group of people who laid the foundation of new cities unparalleled in the
ancient Orient.
These cities show a twin-settlement pattern – a ‘citadel’ and a ‘lower town’, as can be
seen in the excavated remains of sites in Pakistan at Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Sutkagen
Dor. Although Thapar37 seeks the origin of the citadel or high mound from the ‘ziggurat’
model of Mesopotamia, the two formations are entirely different in concept. In the case
of Kalibangan this higher citadel ground is due to an earlier occupation below. But in the
case of Harappa and Sutkagen Dor the two sites are deliberately divided. At Mohenjo-daro
they are separated by a wide gap between the two, the gap at one time being certainly
flooded and hence R. E. M. Wheeler conceives of a canal38 or a branch of the Indus in
between them. It is possible that the two sites were simultaneously occupied on either side
of a channel. It is principally at the citadel mound that a mud-brick platform has been
traced. Out of seven successive phases excavated at Mohenjo-daro, Marshall located the
platform between the lower sixth and seventh – an interval of 6 m built almost entirely
by crude brick and alluvial mud. The same platform was identified by Wheeler in his
1950 excavation, underlying a huge granary contemporary with it, and he assigns it to the
‘intermediate period’ of Marshall’s chronology. Still below lie older buildings and phases
to an unexplored depth. These unexcavated phases continue to a depth of 12 m below the
Fairservis, 1975 p. 281.
Thapar, B. K., 1970;Jansen, 1979.
Wheeler, 1968 p. 47.
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plain. Wheeler believed that the building of the citadel corresponded with no break in the
cultural sequence, yet the material of the lower levels remains to be salvaged, analysed and
properly studied. The exposed structures on this high mound are all later than the granary
and hence appear on a higher level than the ‘lower town’. The purpose of this high mound
is not at all clear, as main buildings still remain unrelated. On the other hand, several
adjacent areas of the eastern ‘lower mounds’ have been partly excavated. All through this
lower mound a wide, straight street has been traced running north and south. A second
possible north-south street has also been located at some distance. The long cross streets
as shown by Wheeler, 39 still remain hypothetical because the suggested lines follow only
the contour of the mound but they remain to be proved by excavation. It is therefore not at
all clear whether the two settlement sites were planned on one grid pattern, as is generally
assumed. The grid system has not been proved in any of these I ndus Civilization sites.
If this grid presumption is set aside, the growth of the city plan of Mohenjo-daro can be
reached with reasonable understanding on the basis of an earlier continued occupation of
the two sites on either side of a small channel – an experience that led to the Indus concept
of twin settlements – a ‘citadel’ and a ‘lower town’ as we like to call them. B. B. Lal40
has attributed religious significance to at least half the portion of the citadel mound at
Kalibangan but so far no such idea has been proposed for the other city sites.
The Indus cities are unique in their conception. The north–south alignment of long thor-
oughfares at such an early period is unparalleled in history. The only other site where such
a planning appears to have been preceded is surmised from the aerial photograph of Rah-
man Dheri.41 Such planning was followed by a straight alignment of house walls along the
streets, and of still greater significance are the long covered public drains built through the
middle of the wide streets, with manholes in between for the ultimate removal of rubbish.
Such drains were properly connected with private drains and water chutes coming from
private houses which had a highly developed system of brick-on-edge flooring in the bath-
rooms. The long thoroughfares appear to have been dictated by wind direction. The street
patterning was designed to catch the fresh breeze by those who were familiar with the local
climate and environment and, probably for the same purpose, the house ventilations were
opened on the side of the main streets. This arrangement and the high sense of sanitation
and strict observance of the rules of regularity suggest a community of people who were
certainly disciplinary and punctilious in their behaviour patterns at least during the mature
phase of the Indus Civilization.
Wheeler, 1968 FIG. 1.
Lal, 1981.
Dani, 1970/71 Plate IVb.
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The two cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa(Fig. 1) are preserved disproportionately. The
ruins of the former city present a grand view from the riverside, the Indus river of today
being at a remove of 5 km. A brick-built embankment, 42 apparently old, protects the
city. From a distance the round stupa of the later Buddhists appears crowning the older
protohistoric ruins of the citadel mound. What is buried beneath the stupa yet remains to
be excavated. A lane west of the stupa has been named ‘Divinity Street’ from associated
religious antiques. From this street five doorways lead onto a massive structure on the west,
which measures 70 × 23 m. Its nucleus consists of an open court of 10 m2 with verandas
on three sides facing rooms behind. Many of the rooms are carefully faced with bricks,
and there are at least two staircases. It is an imposing building of unusual importance and
generally referred to as an educational institution. But the most unique building, farther to
the west, beyond another lane, is the Great Bath (Fig. 2), consisting of a tank, 12 m long
north to south, 7 m broad and 2.5m deep, with steps leading down to the floor from two
sides, built of fine bricks rubbed and carefully made watertight by using gypsum mortar.
Furthermore, precaution has been taken by putting a 2.5-cm-thick damp-proof course of
bitumen held by a further wall of brick and retained by mud-bricks. All around the tank is a
corridor which opens through ranges of brick pier or jambs. Behind them on one side there
are other rooms, one of which contains a large well which apparently supplied water to the
tank. Near the south-western corner an outlet, a corbel-arched drain about a man’s height,
was provided. Farther away to the north is a block containing eight smaller bathrooms, each
about 3 × 2 m, carefully and solidly built, with finely jointed brick floors, and disposed, on
either side of a passage, in a fashion ensuring that none of the doors opened opposite any
other. These bathrooms appear to have an upper storey, supposed to have been residential
in nature. This whole complex of the Great Bath and smaller bathrooms has a meaning
beyond proper comprehension at present. Its public character can be easily guessed but the
attribution of any other concept may well be premature.
Immediately to the west of the Great Bath is the Granary, standing on a massive brick-
work podium with a loading platform on its northern side. As the corbelled drain of the
Great Bath cuts the eastern end of this platform the original granary is earlier in date than
the bath. The Granary consists of a series of brick plinths, rectangular or square in plan,
each separated by air passages. It is on these plinths that granary stores were built, some
with wooden supports. A later addition to the Granary on the south was made contem-
porarily and in line with the Great Bath, and both of them opened on to a southern lane. On
Wheeler, 1968 p. 37.
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FIG. 1 Site plans of Mohenjo-daro and Harapa.
FIG. 2 Mohenjo-daro: the Great Bath.
this side Wheeler further identified a grand staircase leading from the level of the plain to
the top of the platform, where stood a small bathroom. It is the battered walls of the outer
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side of the high podium of the Granary that led to the idea of a citadel at Mohenjo-daro.
But strictly speaking, Mohenjo-daro has not as yet produced evidence of any continuous
city wall around this high mound, which is almost a parallelogram in shape. However,
the south-west corner does show a salient that looks as though it is concealing a tower.
A series of towers were actually found in the south-east corner of the 1950 excavations.
These square towers, which are of solid brick, except the earliest which showed slots for
timber beams, were meant to strengthen this corner. But the walls on the north and the west
do not continue to any great length. What was taken to be a ‘parapet wall’ by Wheeler may
be a curtain wall between two towers. Further to the north the later floods penetrated deep
into the mound and partly separated the northern half from the southern. In the southern
half one important building has been exposed. It consists of a pillared hall with a platform
on the southern side corresponding to a later Iranian type of apadana.
The buildings of the citadel mound of Mohenjo-daro can be compared with what remains at
the citadel of Harappa, where the fortification walls were traced in the 1946 excavation.43
Unfortunately the structures within the citadel are poorly preserved but outside to the north
three types of buildings were found. The first is a granary consisting of a series of six
storerooms in two rows on either side of a corridor. To its south is another group of circular
platforms meant for threshing corn. Still further is a series of two-roomed houses of utili-
tarian type and hence taken to be workmen’s quarters. These buildings at Harappa make a
different setting from what we have seen at Mohenjo-daro.
As far as the ‘lower town’ is concerned, Mohenjo-daro presents a good example, where
S. Piggott built up a pattern of a series of blocks of houses arranged in a grid-iron system.
The idea of such blocks can be easily conceived from the system of housing units, which
have a central open courtyard with living rooms along the sides in the oriental style, the
main door opening on to a lane with a wall provided near the door. The houses, which are
simple and plastered with mud, also had second storeys. Some had latrines with seats on the
ground floor. Attempts have been made to recognize in the structure some temple, palace,
inn and industrial quarters. But except for the potter’s area of a later period, recognition of
quarters for specialized crafts has so far not been successful.
Social stratification has been difficult to determine even on the basis of burials discov-
ered at Harappa, Kalibangan and Lothal. The material from cemetery R–37 at Harappa
enabled Wheeler to speak of one single system of inhumation practised by the Indus
Wheeler, 1947.
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people, though other sites have produced other types as well. The Harappan burials are
all of humble folk and do not show any great variation. Here the skeletons lie extended
in the north–south direction accompanied by grave furniture consisting of some fifteen to
twenty pots, personal ornaments like shell bangles, necklaces and anklets of steatite or
paste beads as well as toilet objects such as a copper mirror, mother-of-pearl shells, an
antimony rod and a shell spoon. Only two graves show some special features; one was out-
lined internally with mud-bricks, suggesting a structural coffin, and the other was buried in
a wooden coffin, the wood being deodar.
From burial practices we may go on to examine religious rituals and beliefs and seek to
understand the pattern of the Indus society. Although no structural evidence for a temple
can be definitely cited, other objects suggest a multiplicity of religious ideas. While J.
Marshall has tried to trace many of the later Indian practices to these ideas, others prefer
to confine themselves to building the great religious tradition of the Indus people with
which the little traditions of various communities became integrated. On this consideration
the Great Tradition could be attributed to the nature of the urban set-up and the Little
Traditions may appertain to the mass of the village population who must have subsisted
side by side with their own humble beliefs.
For an agricultural society of this type the concept of the fertility cult must have exerted
a great influence. The discoveries of a large number of terracotta figurines of an almost
nude female has suggested the idea of a village mother goddess. With them are associated
terracotta figurines of pregnant women with children. There is a remarkable scene (Fig.
3a) depicted on a seal from Harappa that shows a birth scene. The seal bears an inscription
of six characters not yet deciphered. On one side two genii are standing, on the other a
male is standing with a cutting instrument in his right hand. Before him is a seated lady
with her hands raised up and hair dishevelled in distraught mood. The top scene apparently
shows the same female upside down with something emerging from her female organ –
obviously a representation of childbirth. What the idea is behind such a scene cannot be
exactly stated but here certainly some fertility idea has attracted the attention and found
expression in this remarkable sealing. Marshall would also like to attribute his recognition
of the phallus (lingam) and ringstones to similar beliefs. The second great element in the
popular beliefs is seen in the many animals represented on the seals. Some of the animals
are multi-headed and some multi-bodied, and some are no doubt mythological in so far as
they combine in a single figure the attributes of several animals. Among these animals the
bull certainly predominates. The appearance of the unicorn on a large number of seals still
remains enigmatic. Even if these animals were not actually worshipped, an animal spirit
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Fig. 3 (a) Harappa: a seal showing a birth scene; (b) Mohenjo-daro: a seal showing a tree with two
chimerical heads; (c) Mohenjo-daro: a seal showing a tree deity and other figures; (d) Mohenjo-
daro: a seal showing a horned deity in a yogic posture.
appears to have been a component part of religious beliefs and may be seen in the figure of
many horned deities.
Another popular idea can be traced in the depiction of trees or tree-trunks on the seals.
A tree within a railing is a common feature. These by themselves may not be of any great
significance, but combined with the appearance of a pipal leaf motif, noted on several
painted pots or carved on seals, they begin to acquire some meaning. One seal (Fig. 3b)
actually shows two heads coming out of a tree suggesting an idea of a living spirit of
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the tree. The concept of a tree deity is obtained from other seals where a horned figure
stands within a tree motif (Fig. 3c). Here the humble tradition of village folk has become
integrated in a ceremonious performance that speaks of urban sophistication.
The tree deity, who is horned and has a pigtail hanging down to one side, stands within a
leafy pedestalled bowl. Before her a horned personage kneels down in a supplicating mood
and appears to invoke the deity through the intermediary of a mythological animal stand-
ing behind. On the lower row stand seven plumed and pig-tailed figures probably awaiting
their own chance. Whether these secondary figures are meant for worship or for sacrifice
is difficult to say. But the whole scene is a remarkable representation of an intensely emo-
tional ceremony. Such tree deities are also depicted alone. In another example the kneeling
man, with a sharp-edged knife in his hand, is pushing a deer before the deity as if in the
act of sacrifice. Many of the seals depict a ‘standard’ below the mouth of the unicorn. The
emblematic nature of this object is clear from another seal where it is carried in combi-
nation with a bull on an altar in the middle with a fluttering flag in front. From Harappa
comes another seal,44 which shows two scenes besides some writing. The lower one has a
horned bull to the left with a standing man in between facing a structure, probably wooden,
a square in two storeys with pinnacle tops and a vestibule in front. The upper row depicts
two growling tigers on either side of a remarkable human figure sitting on a high-legged
seat on his heels, with his toes touching the seat and his knees doubled; his bangled hands
rest on his knees, and his head, which is not very distinct, is apparently horned. In another
seal the same horned man in a similar pose is being worshipped with folded hands by two
men, one on each side. These worshippers have cobra hoods behind them, recalling naga
devas ( serpent deities) of a later period. The pose of the seated deity is more simple. Mar-
shall proposed to see in it a yogic posture. The deity has a remarkable history and can be
traced back to the horned deities seen in the painted sherds of the pre- Indus period. The
iconography of the figure reveals the various composite elements. On a clay tablet from
Kalibangan the figure is crowned by a simple tree. On a seal from Mohenjo-daro the crown
is horned. But a more stylized figure appears on another seal (Fig. 3d). Here the seated
deity has an erect male organ and is multifaced, the horned crown has a stylized stump in
the middle and a series of torques around the neck. Below the seat are two ibexes. Four ani-
mals are round the seated figure who appears to be motionless in a trance. Out of the four
animals the elephant is receding while a tiger, a rhinoceros and a bull are in an aggressive
mood. Marshall sees in him a ‘prototype of Śiva’ a concept which is biased towards mod-
ern Indian beliefs. On the other hand, the different component elements are already there
Vats, 1940 Plate XCIII No. 303.
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in contemporary beliefs. The representation here is an integrated concept of a sophisticated
type that must have evolved in the urban setting of the Indus Civilization.
There are some extraneous elements, like the figures of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, also
appearing in Indus seals. But the religious repertoire would not be complete without men-
tioning the limestone statues. In one example there is a bearded figure with half-closed
eyes. In a second example the man is seated in a half-kneeling position with his hands on
his knees and a shawl over the body with the right shoulder bare. The third is a highly
sophisticated bust of a man (Fig. 4), with his beard trimmed, upper lip shaven, half-closed
eyes looking at the tip of a sharp nose, hair combed and held by a gold fillet, ears imitating
a shell design, a ring armlet on his right arm, and a shawl over his body except for the right
shoulder. The shawl is decorated with the trefoil design. It is this statue that has been taken
to be a ‘priest king’ though we have no evidence of any priestly dominance in the Indus
The statuettes, seals, terracotta figurines and several other decorative objects also reveal
the artistic trends of the time. A total number of eleven stone statuettes have been recovered
at Mohenjo-daro, nine of which are human or parts of human figures and two are animals.
One human is made of steatite, two humans are of alabaster and the remainder are of lime-
stone. One animal is clearly a ram but another is a composite animal with ram’s horns and
an elephant’s trunk. These figures are all drawn in a conventional style and show a tendency
that leaves very little choice for freedom. In physical depictions they have an individuality
of their own though it is possible to detect some correspondence with Mesopotamian fig-
ures, for example, in the shaven upper lip, sturdy neck, trefoil design on the shawl and the
use of inlay for the eyes. All the figures are modelled and belong to a tradition hieratic in
origin. On the other hand, there are two other statuettes found at Harappa which belong to
an entirely different school.
The first is a young danseuse in grey stone, who is headless with parts of her legs
broken, showing remarkable movement as reconstructed by Marshall. The second figure,
which is also headless with its arms and legs missing, is modelled in red sandstone and
shows the use of tubular drills for the attachment of arms. The muscles are depicted in
a superb and naturalistic fashion. Such a naturalistic representation is seen in the case of
animals and seals. Particularly, the drawing of the two-horned bull shows a power of keen
observation. It is here that Indus art is seen to be far removed from the general run of Indian
art, which is generally stylized and over-burdened with iconographic details. The Indus art,
as seen in the seals, is steeped in naturalism and the scenes represented on the sealings are
derived from the usual activities of man. Unfortunately the sculptures are confined to small
figurines. There is nothing to compare with the huge statues of the Egyptian civilization.
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FIG. 4 Mohenjo-daro: stone bust of a ‘priest-king’.
A remarkable figure in the round is of a bronze dancing girl (Fig. 5a) which is highly
emotional. Although her feet are broken, her remaining bent leg still speaks of the free
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movement associated with dancers. Her bangled left hand appears to produce a ringing
musical sound when striking her wrist on her thigh, while her lips, which are thick and
protruding, are open to a soft tune of a song. The figure, which is totally nude, has its hair
drawn stylistically to one side. It has been compared to the temple girls of a later period.
In physiognomy it is different from other figures but in the free movement of its limbs it
carries the agile spirit of the time.
The terracotta figurines, both human and animal, represent the folk art of the time.
Among them cattle are preponderant, generally humped bulls, but short-horned ones and
buffalo also occur. The cow is not depicted at all. Other animals include dogs, sheep,
elephants, rhinoceros, pigs, monkeys, turtles and birds. The human figurines are mostly
females in different activities or postures. The standing female figurines (Fig. 5b) are very
common, with a loincloth held by a girdle, a series of beaded necklaces, ear paniers and
a fan-shaped head-dress. All these figurines are hand-modelled with appliqué technique
used for attachments. Some are very appealing, suggesting that they are more than ordi-
nary toys. However, there was no scarcity of toys, which included bird whistles, wheeled
carts (Fig. 6) and animals with holed legs to be drawn by children. Terracotta was the poor
man’s medium of expression. This was also used for utilitarian objects like feeder bottles,
rattles, bangles for ladies, cubical or tabular discs, spoons, mousetraps, flesh rubbers, etc.
The most abundant are the carrot-shaped cones of plain terracotta, terracotta cakes of trian-
gular shape and rounded missiles. The cones look like carrots and are assumed to be used
as styli and the cakes as oven stands or for toilet purposes.
Faience is another material used for modelling animals or for making other objects like
bracelets, finger rings, studs, buttons and inlays for caskets and furniture. The faience was
composed of crushed steatite pressed and modelled to produce the object desired. It was
then coated with a glaze and fused in a kiln. The colour as seen today is light blue or green.
Faience materials are normally small, yielding tiny figurines of sheep, monkeys, dogs and
Faience was also used for making beads, barrel-shaped or convex-bicone, and they were
carved with a trefoil design cut with a drill. The bead-making craft was highly developed in
the Indus Civilization. Besides faience, other materials include gold, silver, copper, steatite,
semi-precious stones, shell and pottery. E. J. Mackay45 gives the detail of a bead-maker’s
shop from his excavations at Chanhu-daro, where the processes of sawing, flaking, grinding
and boring the stone beads are well illustrated. A series of gold beads was included in a
hoard of jewellery found at Mohenjo-daro. The silver beads are mostly globular or barrel-
shaped. Another significant type of faience is the segmented bead. Decorated carnelian and
Mackay, 1943 pp. 180, 210.
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FIG. 5 Mohenjo-daro: bronze figurine of a dancing girl; (b) Mohenjo-daro: terracotta female fig-
etched beads are well known. The trefoil design seen on the beads is the same as that seen
in the shawl. At Harappa a great mass of jewellery of gold and semi-precious stones was
found underneath the workmen’s quarters. There were nearly 500 pieces of gold, ranging
from armlets to beads and many complete necklaces made up of multiple strings of beads
and metal.
Two other materials used by the Indus people for preparing decorated designs are lapis
lazuli and shell. The lapis, which was imported from Badakh-shan, was sparingly used,
but shell was plentifully available on the sea-coast. It was used for making various types
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FIG. 6 Mohenjo-daro: terracotta toy-cart.
of bangles, studs, cones and cut into different designs for decorative purposes. The shell
industry was highly developed.
The metal industry of the Indus people shows many curious and interesting features.
S. Piggot46 has commented that the metalsmiths were manufacturing objects in copper,
either crude or refined, in bronze (copper with approximately 10 per cent of tin deliber-
ately or accidently added); and in copper-arsenic alloy, almost certainly accidental but one
which gave an added hardness to the metal. The commonest techniques used in metallurgy
included casting and forging. Casting was done by pouring molten metal into a mould.
As this process required special care to avoid bubbles, by the addition of a small percent-
age of tin or arsenic, it appears to have been used very sparingly. However, the lost-wax
method must have given good results. It is by this method that the dancing girl statuette
was made. But other tools of copper or bronze were cast by the simple technique. These
included simple flat-type axes, tanged spearheads, barbed harpoons, arrowheads, razors,
knives, handled mirrors and, occasionally, shaft-hole axes. Copper or bronze was abun-
dantly used for making metal pots, pans, bowls, cups, dishes and small bottles. The find of
spindle-whorls and many cloth impressions in the Indus cities is evidence of the growth of
textile manufacture out of the good-quality cotton produced in the Indus plains.
Piggott, 1950 p. 196.
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For means of transport the Indus people used carts with solid wheels that were tied to
the axle and which turned round along with the axle, a type of small cart that is still in
use in the villages of Sind. Two types of river-going ships have been noted. One depicted
on a seal shows the high prow, central cabin and double steering oar. Before the cabin are
poles apparently to hold the standard. At Lothal other terracotta ship models have also been
Although a few stone vessels have been found, pottery was the basic manufacture. Pot-
ter’s kilns, about six in number, have been found in the latest phase of Mohenjo-daro. They
are circular, with a stokehole and furnace beneath a perforated floor originally covered
by a domed roof. The pottery from the Indus is for the most part plain, mass produced
for utilitarian purposes. The vessels, which have thick sides, are well baked and produce
a ringing sound when beaten with the fingers. The commonest type is an offering stand
with narrow tapering base, probably a development of the pedestalled bowls of the earlier
period. Other types include beakers, pointed-base goblets, handled cups, jar stands, per-
forated cylindrical vessels and varieties of vases, pans and plates. Specialized types are
knobbed-ware pottery and perforated vessels. The great bulk of material is wheel-turned,
but some hand-made vessels have been recovered from lower levels. Goblets with pointed
bottoms and scored exteriors are found in great numbers in the later levels. Some of them
bear a short stamped inscription. Most of the pottery is of pinkish ware made of alluvial
river-clay mixed with other ingredients. It is coated with bright red slip. The decorated
pottery has designs painted in black on a red background. The designs are equally divided
between geometric and naturalistic with trees, birds, fish and animals.
The Indus pottery is heavy, well made and sharply contrasts with the delicate vessels
of the pre-Indus cultures. Among the distinctive patterns the intersecting circle motif, the
pipal leaf, the chequer design and the kidney-shaped motif occur in a mass of foliage
and tendrils. Among birds the peacock takes its place. Some of the painted sherds also
show human figures. A painted sherd from Harappa shows a fisherman, carrying two nets
suspended from a pole across his shoulders with a fish and turtle near his feet. Another
sherd shows a doe suckling her kid, with two birds, a fish and a star in the upper part of
the panel and secondly a man with one hand raised and the other touching his head, and
a child with upraised arms along with fishes and a cock in the field. Wheeler noted that
painted decoration is of better quality in the lower levels so far explored at Mohenjo-daro.
Such a diverse paraphernalia of urban civilization could hardly be controlled without
a system of writing. It is therefore not surprising that the Indus people adopted a system
of writing to suit their purposes. However, this written system has been found in a fully
developed form as seen in the many steatite seals and sealings, copper tablets and some
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stamped on pots and other objects. In the absence of its earlier evolutionary process the
beginning of the writing remains unknown, though we have been able to trace some pot
marks47 which bear some resemblance to symbols used in the Indus writing. The inscrip-
tions so far discovered are limited to a few signs on the seals and there is a lack of longer
inscriptions with the result that great difficulty is faced in the structural analysis of the
writing. However, attempts have been made to make a full list of the inscriptions, 48 draw
up a comparative chart and to break the sign lists into suffixes, main stem, accent marks
and numerals.49 There have also been attempts to decipher50 them on the basis of analogies
and on the supposed basis of the language being some form of proto-Dravidian or some
other language. Failing in these deciphering attempts, some scholars51 have tried to inter-
pret them directly on the basis of their own understanding of the cultural pattern. But in the
absence of bilingual inscriptions there is no check to the phonetic value given to different
symbols. So far the Indus writing has remained undeciphered as it is written in an unknown
script and an unknown language. The system of writing is neither pictographic nor alpha-
betic. It is in the intermediate stage, referred to as logographic or logosyllabic,52 and it
appears to have been limited to a class of literati who managed the professional control
concerned primarily with the urban set-up. As the writing started full blown in the Indus
Civilization, it did not leave behind any trace of the post-urban scene that developed in this
part after its decline.
This literate urban civilization of the Indus valley, although rooted in the maximum
exploitation of the fertility of the Indus alluvium on the basis of the available knowledge of
technology, flourished at a time when there was the greatest amount of sea-faring activity in
the Arabian Sea, between the older civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Indus region and
along the littoral of Makran and southern Iran. In terms of the Mesopotamia chronology53 it
coincides with the old Akkadian and Ur III phases. The decline of this sea-trading activity
coincides favourably with the latter part of the Mesopotamian Isin-Larsa period. In terms
of CI4 dates the beginning of the mature phase of the Indus Civilization cannot be placed
earlier than 2500 b.c. in round figures and the end should be placed somewhat about 1900
In the last phase the city of Mohenjo-daro shows a slackness in the observance of rules
regarding the alignment of walls, which are now found to intrude into the streets. Some
Fairservis, 1975.
Koskenniemi and Parpola, 1973; Mahadevan, 1977.
Ross, 1938.
Pande, 1969.
Meriggi, 1934.
Zide, 1970.
Dales, 197.
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more squat type of loose construction using older bricks was also noted by Wheeler in his
excavations at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. The old urban set-up appears to have collapsed
in a way that has not left sufficient evidence for proper analysis. The Mesopotamian evi-
dence does show that there was a break in the overseas trade and this break must have
deeply affected the economic base of the state. On the other hand, the Indus floods, which
were recurring phenomena, must have created further difficulties by the over deposit of
silt and mud. Whatever may be the reason, this urban pattern crashed to a degree that did
not leave behind those distinguishing features that characterized the urban nature of the
civilization, and what remained later was a continuity in the rural survival of the older life.
The above description of the Indus Civilization is derived mainly from the sites in the
Indus valley. But now the geographical horizon of this civilization is greatly widened.
Within about four years of the partition of the subcontinent, planned surveys were
undertaken in India to locate more Indus Civilization sites in the regions contiguous to the
frontiers of Pakistan – in Rajasthan and Punjab for an eastward extension and in Gujarat
for the southward. The exploration of the Ghaggar valley, conducted in 1951/52, resulted
in the discovery of as many as twenty-five Harappan sites within the present-day borders
of India in the region beginning right from the Pakistan border (eastwards) up to mid-
way between Hanumangarh and Suratgarh in the Sarasvati valley and about 22 km east
of Bhadra in the Drishadvati valley.54 Noteworthy among these sites was also Kalibangan,
which has been subjected to large-scale excavation the findings of which remain still to be
fully published. During 1952–55, excavation was undertaken at Rupar, not very far from
Kotla Nihang Khan, where the Harappan remains were found for the first time stratified
between the deposit yielding the painted grey ware and the natural soil.55 Three years later
a similar sequence was identified at Alamgirpur, some 45 km north of Delhi on the Hindan,
a tributary of the Jamuna, and recently again at Hulas across the Jamuna. Further explo-
rations in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and in Meerut and Saharanpur
districts of Uttar Pradesh added more Harappan and late Harappan sites in this (eastern)
region. With these discoveries the eastern limit of the Indus Civilization now extends to
Alamgirpur, across the Indo-Gangetic divide, and the northern limit to Manda, located on
the right bank of the Chenab in the foothills of the Pir Panjal range, 28 km west of Jammu.
As regards the distribution pattern, no mature Harappan sites have so far been located in
the present-day valleys of the Sutlej and Beas with the singular exception of Kotla Nihang
Khan and Rupar situated on the left bank of the Sutlej in the foothills of the Siwaliks. On
Gosh, 1952; Anon., 1955; Sankalia and Deo, 1979; Pandya, 19581959; Deshpande, 1959; Sali, 1981;
Soundara Rajan, 1967; Joshi, 1979, 1980; Dikshit, 1981.
Sharma, 1956.
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the other hand, there is a chain of pre-Harappan and Harappan sites in the valleys of vari-
ous streams like Sirhind Nadi Sarasvati, Markanda, Patialvi, including Chautang (ancient
Drishadvati), all contributing to the Ghaggar (ancient Sarasvati) system. Late Harappan
settlements are, however, found both in the Ghaggar-Sarasvati system and in the Sutlej
basin. Among the excavated sites in this region, Rupar and Manda, located in the foothills,
represent the limit of the ecological zone which the pre-Harappans or Harappans could
exploit, besides being important centres for supplying teak to the settlements in the valleys
below. Similarly, Alamgirpur and Hulas located across the divide of the Indus and Jamuna
systems, mark the eastern limit of the ecological zone, beyond which lay the real Indian
monsoon-fed jungle which the Indus people found difficult to civilize without an ample
supply of metal (perhaps iron).
On the southern side, excavations were resumed at Rangpur in 194756 and again in
1953.57 Thereafter large areas in Gujarat, including Kutch and Kathiawad, were exten-
sively explored, resulting in the location of several Harappan and late Harappan sites, the
southernmost being situated on the estuary of the Kim.58 Recent excavations at Daimabad,
located on the Pravara, a tributary of the Godavari, has now extended the limit of the Indus
Civilization further south up to almost the latitude of Bombay in the Ahmadnagar District
of Maharashatra.
As regards the distribution pattern, we find that the spread of the Indus Civilization
was not uniform in this southern region, being conditioned by areas of attraction, namely
coastal flats, fertile river valleys, estuarine plains, routes of communication, etc. No mature
Harappan sites have so far been located in the narrow corridor connecting the Kutch and
Kathiawad peninsula with the mainland. The Harappan expansion to Gujarat may perhaps
be explained by the urge to search for raw materials (timber, ivory, carnelian) and ports.
Among the excavated sites in this region Lothal, Prabhas Patan and Bhagatrav were located
on the coast, indicating coastal movement of the Harappans, and Surkotada on the possible
land route connecting Lower Sind with Kutch and the estuarine plains of north-western
parts of Gujarat. We may now turn to the principal sites seriatim.
Kalibangan and other eastern sites
Kalibangan, a site of considerable importance in the Ghaggar valley with a twofold culture
sequence, has already been referred to in Chapter 11 wherein the characteristics of its
Dikshit, 1950.
Rao, 1962/63, 1973, 1978a.
Rao, 1963; Possehl, 1979a; Raikes, 1968.
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pre-Indus and early Indus occupations were discussed.59 The Harappan metropolis at this
site consisted of two principal parts: the citadel on the west, represented by a smaller
mound (KLB I); and the lower city towards the east, represented by a fairly extensive
mound (KLB 2). The former was situated atop the remains of the preceding occupation to
gain an eminence over the lower city which was laid out towards the east, leaving a gap of
over 40m.
The citadel complex is roughly a parallelogram, some 240 m from north to south and
120 m from east to west consisting of two almost equal but separately patterned parts,
rhomboid on plan, with a bipartite wall in between and reinforced at intervals with rectan-
gular bastions (Fig. 7). The fortifications were built throughout of mud-bricks of two sizes
(40 X 20 X 10 cm and 30 X 15 X 7.5 cm) representing two principal phases of construc-
tion, the larger one in the earlier phase and the smaller one in the later. On the north and
west, the fortification wall overlies that of the preceding period, while on the east and south
including the bipartite portion, it was built on the ruins of the earlier occupation, obviously
to achieve the proportion of 1:2.
The southern half of the citadel was more heavily fortified not only with corner bastions
but also with rectangular salients along the southern and northern (bipartite wall) sides, the
latter projecting imposingly into the areas of the northern half, indicating thereby that the
southern half formed the main part of the citadel complex. The enclosed area contained
some five to six massive platforms of mud and mud-bricks. Of these, the complete out-
line of one (50 X 25 m) and sizeable portions of four have so far been exposed. Access
to the working floors of platforms was by means of steps which rose from the passage.
Of the buildings that stood upon these platforms, no intelligible plans are available being
obscured by the depredations of brick-robbers. Nevertheless the available remains do indi-
cate that these might have been used for religious or ritual purposes of a public character.
On the only one with a surviving complete plan, besides a well and a fire altar, a rectan-
gular pit (1.24 X 1 m) was built with baked bricks and contained bovine bones and antler
representing perhaps a sacrifice; on top of another was noticed a row of seven rectangular
fire-altars aligned in north-south axis. A short distance away on the same platform was
a well with some bath-pavements. Baked brick drains ran through the passages carrying
ablution water.
The entrances to this part of the citadel were located on the south and north. The south-
ern one was situated between the central salient and the northwestern corner bastion. The
passage, which has been extensively ransacked for bricks, seems to have been a stepped
one fronting the fortification wall. The northern entrance comprised a mud-brick stairway,
Thapar, B. K., 1973a, 1973b, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1982; Vats, 1937.
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FIG. 7 Plan of Kalibangan.
which running along the outer face of the bipartite fortification wall, between the two cen-
trally located salients, led up to the required height at which passage across the fortification
wall was provided. From the locations of the entrances it is surmised that the southern may
have been the main one intended for the general public from the ‘lower city’ and the north-
ern that for the dwellers in the residential annexe (i.e. the northern half) of the citadel. The
structural features of both these entrances precluded the possibility of any vehicular traffic
within the southern half of the citadel.
The northern half, which was also fortified, contained residential buildings, perhaps
of the élite, including the priestly class. A complete street plan of this part of the citadel
has not been exposed. Meanwhile, a thoroughfare running north-south has been partially
explored (Fig. 8). Starting from the easterly of the two salients of the partition fortification
wall it ran obliquely in the direction of the entrance on the north. There were three entrances
to this part of the citadel on the eastern, northern and western sides, none of which were of
the ramp or stairway type.
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FIG. 8 Kalibangan: excavated street in the northern part of the citadel.
The ‘lower city’ was also a parallelogram, some 240 m from east to west and 360 m
from north to south and lay to the east beyond a broad space of 40 m. It was also found to be
enclosed by a fortification wall. Within it there was a gridiron or irregular net plan of streets
running north to south and east to west, dividing the area into blocks. The existence of four
arterial thoroughfares running north to south and three (with an indication for the fourth in
the northern part) running east to west was established by excavation. Besides, there were
quite a few lanes that served only one or two blocks. The streets do not seem to lead to
any important building or open public space. The width of the thoroughfares seems to have
been maintained throughout the occupation, the only structural encroa chments into the
thoroughfares being rectangular platforms immediately outside some of the houses which
may have represented semi-public spaces serving as bazars or for sitting and gossiping.
The streets, except in the late phase were unmetalled. No evidence of regular street-drains
has so far been encountered: house-drains discharged themselves into soakage jars buried
under street floors.
Two entrances to the walled area were exposed by excavation. Of these, one was located
on the west and the other in the north-western angle. From the location of these two
entrances, it could be inferred that the western one was used by the city-dwellers for
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communicating with the citadel and the northern one for the city’s commercial river traf-
fic. It is likely that there may have been other entrances particularly on the east and south.
From the very beginning of the occupation, the houses were built of mud-bricks (30 × 15
× 17.5 cm), the use of baked bricks (both of the same size and of wedge-shaped type)
being confined mostly to drains, wells, sills and bathing-pavements. Some of the houses
had a ‘fire altar’ in one of the rooms, intended for private ritual.
Besides the above two principal parts of the metropolis, there was also a third one,
namely a modest structure situated upwards of 80 m east of the lower city. The structure,
of which the complete outline could not be recovered, consisted of an impressive wall
enclosing a room containing four to five ‘fire altars’ located individually. The absence of
any normal occupation on this mound suggests that the lonely structure with the fire altars
was used for ritual purposes.
The cemetery of the Harappans was located upwards of 300 m west-southwest of the
citadel. Three types of burials were attested: (a) extended inhumation in rectangular or oval
graves along with pottery and other funerary objects; (b) pot-burials in a circular pit; and
(c) rectangular or oval graves containing only funerary furnishings. The latter two methods
were unassociated with any skeletal remains.
The finds including pottery obtained from the occupation of this period were all charac-
teristic of the Indus Civilization. Among these the following deserve special mention: (a)
a cylinder seal; (b) a terracotta cake incised on the obverse with a horned human figurine
and on the reverse with a human figure pulling an obscure object (perhaps an animal); (c)
a terracotta human head; (d) a copper bull showing the dynamic mood of the animal; (e) a
terracotta graduated scale; and (f) an ivory comb.
Environmental studies have indicated that one of the compelling reasons for the aban-
donment of Kalibangan was the drying up of the Ghaggar river.
Banawali is situated along the ancient bank of the Sarasvati river (now merely a storm-
water drain known as Rangoi), some 220 km north-west of Delhi. A threefold sequence of
cultures has been identified at this site, of which the upper one belongs to the late Harappan,
the middle one to the Harappan and the lower one to the pre-Harappan occupation. Dur-
ing the Harappan occupation, the settlement was fortified, showing two subjoined parts,
with a bipartite wall, the south-western quarters perhaps used as a citadel and the remain-
ing part as a residential annexe. The former, as at Kalibangan, was located on top of the
pre-Harappan occupational strata to gain an eminence. An intercommunicating entrance
reinforced by a massive square salient seems to have been provided in the mid-portion of
the partition wall. No structures within the citadel have so far been exposed. The residen-
tial part was found, however, to be subdivided into an irregular plan, and not a complete
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chessboard. The houses were made of mud-bricks of average size, 30 × 15 × 7.5 cm.
As at Kalibangan, larger-sized bricks of average size 40 × 20 × 10 cm were used for
the fortification walls. The typical finds recovered from the deposits of this period include
cubical weights, seals bearing the Indus script, long chert blades, copper or bronze arrow-
and spearheads, fish hooks, bangles, a double spiral-headed pin, gold beads, including one
of copper with a gold foil and painted pottery. Noteworthy among these finds, however,
are two examples of terracotta mother-goddess figurines with characteristic head-dress. It
may be recalled that this type, though commonly found at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, is
completely absent in the southern and eastern regions, even at the extensively excavated
sites of Kalibangan and Lothal.
The late Harappan occupation, the remains of which were found outside the walled
town on the east, was attested by a number of pits containing pottery which was different
alike in fabric and decoration from the Harappan.
Mitathal lies some 118 km north-west of Delhi along the dried-up former course of
the Jamuna.60 The site attracted the attention of archaeologists through chance finds, while
ploughing, of two copper harpoons and, through canal digging, of thirteen copper rings.
Excavation revealed a twofold sequence of cultures of which the latter was further divided
into two sub-periods, labelled Period I, Sub-period IIA and Sub-period IIB. Of these,
Period I represented a stage when both the pre-Harappans and Harappans lived together,
though with a larger bias towards the former, as indicated by the pottery. The structures
were built of mud-bricks 30 X 20 X 10 cm in size as prevalent at Kalibangan in Period I.
Sub-period IIA is characterized by the typical Indus equipment including pottery, house-
hold objects and architecture. The pre-Harappan element (labelled here as Siswal B), con-
tinued in a lesser degree. The houses were made of mud-bricks 40 × 20 × 10 or 36 × 18
× 9 cm in size. Cubical agate weights, a few long blades also of chert, triangular terracotta
cakes and toy-cart wheels, faience and terracotta bangles and pottery confirm the Harap-
pan affiliation of the site. Sub-period IIB is distinguished by a general deterioration and
impoverishment of the material culture of the Harappans. The pottery shows degeneration
in treatment and decoration apart from introduction of new forms. The surface find of the
harpoons in all likelihood may have belonged to this phase.
Manda is situated 28 km west of Jammu on the right bank of the Chenab river, in
the foothills of the Pir Panjal range.61 .The excavation revealed a 9-m-thick occupation
deposit, a threefold sequence of cultures with two sub-periods in the earliest. Sub-period
IA is marked by the occupation of the Harappans. Besides the typical Harappan pottery
Suraj Bhan, 1975, 1976..
Joshi and Bala, 1982; see IAR, 1978–80.
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and terracotta cakes, sherds of pre-Harappan fabric were also found in the deposits belong-
ing to this sub-period. Perforated jars were conspicuously absent in this assemblage. A
noteworthy find, however, was a double spiral-headed pin of copper. Sub-period IB shows
two distinct ceramic traditions, namely Harappan red ware and the plain grey ware, usu-
ally associated with the well-known painted grey ware. Periods II and III belong to the
historical period.
Hulas is situated some 140 km north-east of Delhi across the Jamuna river in Saharanpur
District. The excavation62 yielded a fivefold sequence of cultures of which the earliest
belonged to the Harappan culture and the remaining to the historical. A seal bearing Indus
characteristics confirms the Harappan affiliation of the site.
Bara lies some 8 km south of Rupar. The excavation63 revealed an occupation of over 4
m thick, in which such typical forms as Indus goblets or terracotta cakes were rare, confined
to the lower levels. The antecedents of this culture are traceable to a pre-Harappan tradition.
Harappan elements are also represented in this assemblage albeit in a transformed manner.
Bhagwanpura is situated on the right bank of the Sarasvati. The excavations64 revealed,
in a 2.7-m-thick occupation stratum, a twofold sequence of cultures of which the earlier
was represented by the late Harappan and the later, which was found interlocked with the
preceding one, by the painted grey ware culture. This evidence purports to fill the earlier
gap between the two cultures. A noteworthy find from the overlapped phase was a terracotta
seal, bearing incised Indus characters. An identical culture sequence was also observed at
Dadheri in the Sutlej valley.
Lothal and other southern sites
Lothal is situated on the coastal flats at the head of the Gulf of Cambay65 80 km south-west
of Ahmedabad. Being located only 16 km north-west of the junction of Sabarmati and
Bhogawo rivers it was subjected to frequent floods. At the same time it had the advantage
of commanding the navigable estuaries of both these rivers. The settlement, therefore, had
to be reinforced with mud and mud-bricks against flooding on more than one occasion. The
excavations revealed five phases of continuous occupation, of which the first four labelled
Lothal A, are Harappan and the fifth, labelled Lothal B, variant or sub-Indus, representing
a late or degenerate phase. While the ceramics belonging to Lothal A show all the essential
elements of the Indus Civilization in the substantive sense, there are two which are not
Sali, 1981.
Sharma, 1976.
Joshi, 1979.
Rao, 1979.
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met with on the sites in the Indus valley proper and the eastern region and as such require
our attention: the micaceous red ware and the black-and-red ware, both showing painted
decoration.66 The former was represented by round-bottomed bulbous jars and bowls, the
type fossil being the convex-sided bowl with stud handle. This type was also adopted by the
Harappans. A pre-Harappan horizon yielding the above-mentioned ceramics has, however,
not been recorded at the site, though it would be reasonable to argue for the existence
of a settlement near by using these ceramics. Among the other noteworthy ceramics of
Lothal A is the reserved slip ware which indicates its connections with Mohenjo-daro. The
painted decorations on the Harappan pottery include, besides the typical patterns like the
pipal leaf, intersecting circles, fish-scale, peacocks, etc., free-style painting of cranes and
fish-eating storks as well as depictions of caprids etc., which indicate a provincial style.
Other finds were characteristically Indus, like the seals, cubical weights, chert blades, disc
beads, copper fish-hooks, etc. Coming to the settlement plan (Fig. 9), we find that Lothal
was a fortified settlement oriented to cardinal directions some 300 m from north to south
and 225 m from east to west, a trapezoidal south-eastern part of which was intended to
serve as a citadel or acropolis, being separated from the remaining part of the city by high
plinths made of mud, and a mud-brick platform. The prominent structures located on the
acropolis included what the excavator terms the ‘ruler’s residence’, the regimented series
of rooms each with a brick-paved bath, a remarkable system of underground drains and
a warehouse. On the eastern flank of the settlement was an oblong enclosure (Fig. 10)
measuring some 225 m in length (north–south) and some 36 m in width (east–west) and
perhaps 4.15 m in depth (the extant height of the embankment in the south-west corner
of the basin being 3.3 m, with forty-two extant courses of bricks), claimed to have been
a dock for shipping; this interpretation, however, is disputed by some scholars.67 Both the
dock and warehouse coupled with the discovery of a Persian Gulf style seal68 at the site are
indicative of the maritime trade of this coastal site. To the west of the city lay the cemetery,
where as many as sixteen graves were excavated. Of these, thirteen contained one skeleton
each and three, two. While extended inhumation along with funerary objects seems to have
been the normal burial practice, simultaneous inhumation of two bodies has not been met
with at any other Harappan site except at Damb Buthi.69
The Lothal B Phase was marked by certain changes in ceramics; the goblet beaker
and perforated jars became scarcer; the dish-on-stand became squattish; concave-sided
bowls became concavo-convex in profile; the complicated crisp geometrical designs were
Ibid., 1979, pp. 28–33.
Ratnagar, 1981.
Rao, 1963.
Majumdar, 1934.
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FIG. 9 Plan of Lothal.
FIG. 10 Lothal: Brick structure, known as a dockyard, with a spillway in the foreground.
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replaced by groups of horizontal and wavy lines, loops, fronds, triangles, volutes, panels,
stylized peacocks and birds drawn in a free style on a limited surface of the pot; terra-
cotta bangles were completely replaced by those of conch shell, cubicle chert weights by
spheroid-shaped ones of schist and sandstone and long ribbon flakes by the short blades. A
significant change in the seals was the absence of the animal motifs and other pictures.
Rangpur, long recognized as the southern outpost of the Indus Civilization, is situated
on the river Sukha Bhadar, a sluggish stream which disappears in the salty waste farther
down the ancient site. The excavation revealed a threefold sequence of cultures, the ear-
liest of which was marked by crude microliths of jasper and agate without pottery. The
succeeding culture, termed Period II, represents the Harappan occupation showing three
phases, IIA, IIB and IIC, denoting respectively the mature, the decadent and the transition
stages of the Indus Civilization. In Sub-period IIA, the pottery is impeccably Harappan
and also includes the micaceous red ware and the black-and-red ware of Lothal affiliation;
in Sub-period IIB the fabric of the pottery becomes coarser, and forms like beakers and
goblets, already scarce in the preceding sub-period, were almost discarded. In Sub-period
IIC new forms and fabrics were introduced. The last cultural period at the site is marked
by the dominant use of the lustrous red ware which in fact began to be made in Sub-period
IIC itself. The ware was often painted in black with less ambitious designs and animals
like bulls, running deer, rows of birds, etc. Among the noteworthy finds was a terracotta
figurine of a horse. Faience and steatite were almost unknown in the period.
Prabhas Patan is situated on the south-western coast of Saurashatra at the mouth of
the Haranya river near the port town of Vereval.70 The excavation revealed a fivefold
sequence of cultures of which the earlier three are Chalcolithic. These were marked by
the use of what is termed Prabhas ware – a mossy grey-coloured pottery, painted in purple
or dark brown with a design ornament usually set in panels or registers. The most predom-
inant shape is a sub-spherical bowl which occurs in all sizes. Among the Harappan forms
were the dish-on-stand and the stud-handled bowl. Late Harappan pottery of Rangpur Sub-
period IIB was also in use, but there were no beakers, goblets or terracotta cakes. In the
later phases, the lustrous red ware also came to be used. They used blades of chalcedony
and even imported a few of obsidian. Besides they also used cubical chert weights and
segmented faience beads. A unique seal amulet of steatite, obtained from levels ascribable
to the later half of the second millennium b.c. and engraved on one side with seven stylized
deer and on the other with five, deserves special mention.
Pandya, 1957.
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Rojdi is situated on the left bank of the Bhadar river about 55 km south of Rajkot.71 The
ancient site is thought to have been girt with a fortification wall built with large boulders.
The excavations provided a sequence of two phases, of which the earlier was Harappan and
the latter showed links with Prabhas, Rangpur IIB and IIC. An important evidence of the
Harappan connection was the discovery of a convex-sided bowl inscribed with four Indus
Desalpur is located on the northern bank of the one depredatory stream Bamu-chels in
Kutch.72 The excavation revealed a 3-m-deep cultural deposit, of which the upper 75 cm
belonged to the early historic period and the remaining 2.25 m to the Chalcolithic, further
divided into Sub-period IA as mature Harappan and Sub-period IB as late Harappan. The
Harappan settlement, measuring 130 × 100 m, was contained by a fortification wall built
of partially dressed stones and reinforced with rectangular salients. A partially exposed
structure in the central part of the settlement may have served as a partition wall separating
the citadel part from the residential area. In Sub-period IA, besides the typical Harappan
pottery and other finds, sherds of the so-called reserved slip ware were also found. In
Sub-period IB the white-painted black-and-red ware of the Ahar genre and cream-slipped
bichrome ware were introduced. The excavation confirmed the Harappan affiliation of the
site by the find of two script-bearing seals (Fig. 11), one in steatite and the other in copper,
and a lettered terracotta sealing and segmented beads of faience.
Surkotada, situated some 160 km north-east of Bhuj in Kutch73 provides much useful
evidence relating to the diffusion of the Indus Civilization from the lower Indus valley
to Gujarat by the land route. The excavation brought light to a sequence of three cultural
phases of the Harappa culture. From the very beginning of the occupation (Sub-period
IA) the settlement was fortified on a rectangular plan (approximately 130 × 65 m, with
east–west as the larger axis) divided into two parts: the western half was used as a citadel
while the eastern half was residential. The fortification wall was made of mud with a veneer
of rubble masonry. Some of the structures were made of mud-bricks (size 40 × 20 × 10
cm). The finds obtained from the deposits of this sub-period included a typical steatite seal,
sherds bearing painted Indus characters, long chert blades, etc. Besides the characteristic
Harappan pottery a cream-slipped bichrome ware showing painted designs in brown and
purplish red or black and the so-called reserved slip ware were also found. The cemetery
area lay to the north-west of the settlement. The people practised urn-burial as one of
the modes of the disposal of the dead. In Sub-period IB, the Indus elements become less
Pandya, 1958.
Soundara Rajan, 1967.
Joshi, 1972,1973,1974
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FIG. 11 Seals from Surkodata, Lothal, Kalibangan and Desalpur.
pronounced with the appearance of a new ceramic tradition of coarse red ware. The upper
levels yielded sherds of white-painted black and red ware. In Sub-period IC the Harappan
pottery tradition had further waned, the dominant ceramic being the white-painted black-
and-red ware. The fortifications were reconstructed in rubble masonry. Noteworthy finds
included a terracotta seal bearing signs in the Indus script, chert weights, etc. The presence
of the horse is indicated by the discovery of horse bones in deposits of this sub-period.
Daimabad is situated on the Pravara, a tributary of the Godavari in Ahmadnagar District,
Maharashatra. The site had attracted the attention of the archaeologists through the find of a
cache of four solid bronze objects; an elephant, a rhinoceros, a buffalo and a chariot yoked
to a pair of bulls and driven by a standing human figure, all weighing 65 kg. A closely
observed excavation74 at the site revealed a fivefold sequence of cultures labelled as: Period
I – Sawalda culture; Period II – late Harappan culture; Period III – buff- and cream-ware
culture; Period IV – Malwa culture; and Period V – Jorwe culture. Of these, the Sawalda
culture takes its name from the site of the Tapti valley where it was first encountered and
is characterized by a wheel-made painted pottery of medium-to-coarse fabric. The thick
slip coat on this pottery often shows crazing and has turned red, pink, greyish brown or
chocolate in colour and is painted in black or red, or in both colours. The types represented
include the dish-on-stand, high-necked jar, basin, etc. Along with this ware burnished grey
and thick coarse wares were also in use. Period II is distinguished by a sturdy red ware of
Rao, 1978
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late Harappan tradition, painted with simple designs like cross-hatched triangles, groups
of vertical or wavy lines, chains, loops sometimes interlaced, etc. The types represented in
this ware are the dish-on-stand vase with collared rim, dish and bowl. Associated with this
was also a bichrome ware. Other objects included copper/bronze celt, small-sized blades
and microliths. The burial practice of the people was evidenced by the discovery of a grave
(within the habitation area itself), showing an extended articulated inhumation with the
head towards the north, the body being covered with fibrous material like hemp, the sides
of the grave being lined with mud-bricks 32 × 16 × 8 and 28 × 14 × 7 cm in size. The
continuing sequence in Periods II, IV and V ties up the site with the Chalcolithic culture
of central India and provides the Indus Civilization with a rational sequel.
The problem of the chronology of the wide territories of the Indus Civilization requires
some measure of circumspection. Within its widely distributed area, the spread of the civi-
lization from the nuclear to the peripheral regions was obviously conditioned by the urge to
seek out familiar environments and to search for resource material and trading ports. The
spread would thus show a sloping horizon for the civilization in terms of time and space.
The evidence at present available both from the eastern and the southern regions indicates
that such was indeed the fact.
It has already been postulated that the nuclear cities of the Indus Civilization were
founded some time before 2400 b.c. and that they endured in some shape to the eighteenth
century b.c. 75 (These and all other data mentioned in the remainder of this chapter are with-
out MASCA calibration.) In the eastern region five sites, namely Kalibangan, Banawali,
Mitathal, Sanghol and Bara have been radiocarbon dated. Among these, Kalibangan, which
is located nearest to the nuclear region of the civilization, was sampled very extensively
(six from the early, nine from the middle and nine from the late levels), showing an inclu-
sive time-bracket of 2300–1700 b.c. (or, with MASCA calibration, 2850–2060 b.c.) for
the Harappan occupation with a margin on the earlier side. Banawali, which lies some 120
km east of Kalibangan on the same river, namely Sarasvati, seems to have been occupied
by the Harappans around 2250 b.c., middle levels of the occupation being radiocarbon
dated to circa 1950 b.c. (MASCA calibrated 2200 b.c.). Mitathal, which is situated some
110 km farther south-east of Banawali along the dried up course of the Jamuna, shows a
still later beginning of the Harappan occupation at the site as indicated by the radiocar-
bon dates (around 1800 b.c.) for the middle levels of the occupation. However, it is likely
that sites like Rupar and Manda, due to their proximity to the source of timber, which
was an essential requirement, would have been occupied by the Harappans not much later
than Kalibangan. Of these Harappan sites, Banawali and Mitathal also show late Harappan
Wheeler, 1968 pp. 110–26.
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occupations, for which no absolute dates are available. However, from Sanghol, located
along the ancient bed of the Sutlej, where a distinct late Harappan occupation was attested
with cultural equipment comparable to that of Banawali and Mitathal, five radiocarbon
dates have been obtained. Of these, excepting the one aberrant determination, the remain-
ing four indicate a range of 1750–1500 b. c. (MASCA calibrated 2110–1690 b.c.). The
late Harappan occupation at Bhagwanpura, which shares some of the characteristics of
those of Mitathal and Sanghol, also falls broadly within the same range, with perhaps a
margin on the younger side as shown by the scatter of thermoluminescence dates obtained
from the samples of pottery. Bara which lies close to Rupar did not have any Harappan
occupation in a substantive sense, but instead shows an effete culture with some of its
antecedents traceable to the pre-Harappan tradition, and having limited contacts with the
Harappans. The four radiocarbon dates obtained from this site indicate a time-bracket of
circa 1900–1000 b.c. (MASCA calibrated 2180–1100 b.c.), which responds consistently
to the current evidence discussed above.
Turning to the southern region we find that the picture is somewhat different; unlike the
eastern region the spread of the civilization did not follow a single directional course.
Four sites, namely Lothal, Surkotada, Prabhas Patan and Rojdi have been radiocarbon
dated. Of these, Lothal, which was a port town, is amply, though inadequately, sampled,
on the basis of which, as also of other factors, Phase A (mature Harappan) may be dated
to 2300–1900 b.c. (MASCA calibrated 2850–2180 b.c. and Phase B (sub- or late Harap-
pan) to 1900–1600 b.c. (MASCA calibrated 2180–1800 b.c.). Surkotada which was on
the land route connecting southern Sind with northern Gujarat, was founded almost at the
same time as Lothal, if not somewhat earlier. Rojdi which was located inland north of
Lothal was occupied by the Harappans a century or so later, resulting from the movement
of people from flood-prone Lothal. The C14 dates for Period IB (1970 ± 115 and 1745 ±
105 b.c.) (MASCA calibrated 2190 b.c. and 2110 b.c.) fully support this premise. Prabhas
Patan, with its individualistic pottery was in the main contemporary with Rojdi, notwith-
standing the two early dates around 2400 b.c. which seem to be inconsistent with the
general chronology of the region. The so-called late Harappan phase in this region is rep-
resented, besides the sites discussed above, at Rangpur (Period III), Daimabad (Period II)
and Desalpur (Period II) and carries the sequence to the middle of the second millennium
b.c. or a little later.
From the foregoing it would be seen that in the two regions the spread of the civi-
lization varied both in pattern and content. In the eastern region, the settlements had an
advantage of the alluvial plains, while in the southern regions, the settlements conform to
areas of attraction namely coastal flats, routes of migration, fertile hinterland plains, etc.
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There is thus an apparent uniformity in the cultural manifestation in the former region and
regional diversities in the latter. The diverging trends are more prominent in the later phase
of the Indus Civilization. At Kathiawad, Prabhas and the lustrous red ware are the two
distinct ceramic industries which overtake the Indus Civilization; at Kutch it is the white-
painted black-and-red ware of Ahar genre; and at other sites in Gujarat it is the sturdy red
ware painted with elementary designs. As compared with this the late Harappan phase in
the eastern region is represented by an amalgam, consisting of distant traditions of pre-
Harappan, Harappan and Bara cultures resulting from interaction and communication of
these cultures over a long period when the former cultures were becoming impoverished.
Thus in the southern region it was a case of transmutation while in the eastern it was one
of cultural fragmentation.
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