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The Indus Valley Civilization       [2500 BC - 1500 BC]


In the north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent, there flourished a highly developed civilization. It derived it's name from the main river of that region, 'Indus '. At it's peak, it stretched across the whole of Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab, Northern Rajasthan, Kathiawar and Gujarat. The cities were far more advanced than their counterparts in prehistoric Egypt, Mesopotamia or anywhere else in Western Asia. As in most other contemporary civilizations, agriculture was the backbone of the Indus economy. The people made extensive use of the wooden plough.

Barley and wheat were the main food crops. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement was the cultivation of cotton. The people ate, besides cereals, vegetables and fruits, fish, fowl, mutton, beef and pork. There is also evidence of the domestication of cats, dogs, goats, sheep and perhaps, the elephant.

The Indus people made extensive use of bronze and copper. However, iron was not known to them. The people were very artistic. Evidence can be found in the pottery, stone sculpture and seal making. The pottery was made up of well-levigated and well-fired clay, with painting in black pigment. People worshipped natural forces like the tree, humped bull and Mother Goddess. Even amulets and charms were used by the people to ward off evil spirits.

Unlike their counterparts in the rest of the world, who were managed by kings, the Indus people were ruled by groups of merchants. They had commercial links with Afghanistan, Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Samaritans. Trade was in the form of 'barter '. There was a cleverly organized system of weights and measures. The script during this time, which was seemingly pictographic, has not yet been deciphered.

There is a striking contrast between the rest of the civilization and the Indus valley in the way it was managed. In other areas, much money and thought were lavished on the building of magnificent Temples of Gods, Palaces and Tombs of kings. The common people seemingly had to content themselves with insignificant dwellings of mud. In the Indus, valley the picture is reversed. The finest structures were erected for the convenience of the citizens.

After 2000 BC, the Mohenjo-daro and Harappan culture slowly declined and gradually faded out. Some ascribe this to the decreasing fertility of the soil on account of the increasing salinity, caused by the expansion of the neighbouring desert. Others attribute it to some kind of depression in the land which caused floods. Still others point out that it was destroyed by the Aryans. Even though there are various theories for the downfall of this civilization, there is no clear picture as to how or why it came to an end.