The Indus valley civilization(IVC) comprises of an extensive geographical territory from Alamgirpur in the east to Sutkagen Dor on Pakistan-Iran border in the South-West and from from river Chenab in the North to Lothal in Gujrat in the South. The area covered was 1.5 million square kilometres. It was bigger than Pakistan today and much bigger than contemporary civilization in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The IVC which had extensive time period of more or less 18 centuries, at its peak was consisting of well established town planning, agriculture, trade, political organisation, technology, craft and religion.
The primary aim of this article is to look for various cultures and practices that can have its roots in IVC. Don’t let any enthusiastically curious student of any academic discipline jump out with dates and facts because this article is not going to be fodder of your facts and history, rather it’s a search for lineage from IVC in modern period, that can have us get some breakthrough.
Town planning: The town in IVC was laid on a grid plan, with about 10 metres wide road, the houses set on both sides in a row. The roads were straight and crossed each other at right angle, with impressive drainage system. Burnt bricks of precise quality and size were used. The houses varied in shape but plan was same, the rooms opened in central courtyard.
In modern periods, Chandigarh City which stands out to be the first planned city of India traces many similarities with the Indus valley cities. Sectoral planning with the entire area divided into various sectors, under ground drainage system, similarity in the area allotted for residential construction leading to a similar area of houses. In rural India, mainly in Northern states, houses still have a courtyard(aangan) surrounded by rooms on various sides. The Great Bath found at Mohen-jo-Daro was made up of burnt bricks and plaster to avoid water leakage and it was used for religious and ceremonial bathing by the people of IVC. This culture of bath on ceremonial and religious occasions is still prevalent. The Great Mahakumbh is such an example of it.
The agriculture in IVC was flourishing, the farmers were producing sufficient grains which included wheat, rai, barley, peas, etc. Great Granaries found in Mohen-jo-Daro and row of granaries found in Harappa city of IVC were used for storage of agricultural production for use in near future. The same idea of granaries made of mud and hay, known as Dehari are still prevalent in rural India and the same is occupied by metallic containers in urban dwellings.
Animal Husbandry: The people of IVC domesticated various animals including Cow, buffalo, goat, sheep and pigs. Humped Bull had great importance for IVC people, may be it was widely used for goods transport and trade and these humped bulls are still seen with religious respect. Cats and Dogs were also domesticated. If we look at the animals being kept as pet in today’s society even after around 4000 years, the list mere includes any other animal that were not domesticated in IVC.
Class division: Although in early phase, IVC was egalitarian but in its mature phase, IVC society is seen to be divided in classes. It can be seen in their burial practices, those belonging to higher classes of society are found to be cremated with precious jewellery, stones in their burial. The same class division can be found across our modern society supplemented with rigid caste division.
Belief of life after death and other worldly life seems to be co-existing with both the societies.
Religion: Indus valley civilization primarily lacks any religious institution or buildings. Women figurines made up of baked clay are found prevalently across IVC, in such one figure, a tree seems to be emerging out of a woman’s womb. This was probably the figure of mother earth, symbolising that nature worship existed in IVC society. It(Mother earth’s figure) indicates that the society was at some point matrilineal but this needs citation. Following it after 6th century B.C., female goddesses like Durga, Amba, Chandi, Kaali were established in society and it followed the establishment of various local deities in rural India. Even today nature worship including trees, rivers, Sun, Moon are widely seen across Indian territories.
Chhath pooja(छठ पूजा) is a spiritual offering to God Sun, it is celebrated all across India widely in North Indian states.
Chauth(चौथ)- Moon is worshiped on this day.
Sharad Poornima(शरद पूर्णिमा)- This day is believed to be one on which ambrosia or nectar from the universe falls on the earth. All these concepts and patterns of nature worship had their origin in IVC society, which with the passage of time went through sophisticated modification and exist as we see them today.
Phallus worship(ling pooja) was found in IVC society. We find many traces of stone Lingas and Yonis in IVC cities which in the time span were established as a popular form of Shiva worship. The 12 Jyotirlingas found in 12 cities of India trace their origin in IVC. An IVC seal shows a deity sitting under peepal tree and even today peepal trees have huge religious faith among Hindus.
Measurement: Various measuring instruments for weights and Ivory scales have been found during IVC excavations. It justifies that IVC had significant mapping and measuring skill. A unique feature of measurement skills of IVC people shows the measurement scales behaviourally used were 16 or multiples of 16 such as 16, 64, 160, 320 and 640 and interestingly in modern times 1 Indian Rupiah consist of 16 aannas. The weight scale in rural India consists of Sei(सेई) and 16 sei combined together is a Maani(मानी) and 16 Maanis all together makes a quintal. Not so precise but out modern digital storage devices cards also have storage capacity in multiple of 16; 16 GB, 64 GB. But ofcourse IVC people were not using digital storage devices like us.
Craft: The people of IVC had knowledge of spinning wheel and this skill was extensively seen in their artifacts and crafts. Terracotta figurines that are used today for decorative purposes have their origin in IVC. These terracotta were used as toys and religious figurines by IVC people and are widely being used in present society.
IVC has the credit of being the earliest place where cotton was grown. In Mohen- jo- Daro, a piece of cotton cloth was found and on many artifacts cotton prints were seen. The modern craft of cotton as clothing, decorations can be traced back from this piece of cotton cloth which is from IVC.
The advanced Indus Valley Civilization had a prosperous and flourishing society with advancement in crafts, urban planning, social beliefs. Even today if we could decipher the writing scripts of Indus Valley Civilization we would have a lot to achieve and learn from IVC and it may also push us further below of our belief of being most advanced society on the planet. The advancement of any civilization is not only about the extent of exploiting mother earth and nature; there are huge lessons available to us from IVC.
This was an attempt to connect the dots between Modern Indian society with the great Indus Valley Civilization. The list doesn’t end here. We should look around precisely as good observers, so that we can find traces of IVC in modern social, economical and religious practices around us.
Article by:- Avanish Tripathi
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© Copyright reserved Avanish Tripathi