Indus Valley Civilization: History & Facts

31 Dec 2022  Read 8092 Views

Historically, India is referred to mainly by two short names, each of which is equally significant: "Bharata" & "Hindustān". The name “Bharata” is said to have been derived from the name of King Dhashrath’s son, Bharat or Dushyanta’s son, Bharata. Previously, Bhārat was referred only to the western part of the Ganges in North India but was later applied to the entire Greater India, just like "India". Then the name "India" was originally derived from the river Sindhu (Indus River) and has been in use in Greek since Herodotus (5th century BCE).

Along the flood plains of Indus and Ghaggar- Hakra (intermittent river in India & Pakistan that flows only during the monsoon season), one of the four great civilisations of the world flourished, the Indus Valley Civilization. This article discusses the history, cities, geography, script & religion, the end of the Indus Valley Civilization and many more.

What is the Indus Valley Civilization?

Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and the Indus Valley Civilization are considered to be the four great civilisations of the ancient world. Amongst these, the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was spread across the western part of South Asia that now lies in India, Pakistan & Afghanistan. It flourished in 2500 BC., The Indus Valley Civilisation was somehow lost to human memory and, to date, remains a puzzle compared to the other three civilisations, which are well known to everyone.

It was in the 20th century that the lost and forgotten Indus Valley Civilization was rediscovered and then acknowledged with the other three civilisations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China).

8 Major Cities of Indus Valley Civilization

Various cities belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization have been found and excavated. Amongst these, archaeologists were able to find some of the major cities belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. They are:

S.No.  City State/ Country

Facts about Cities on Indus Valley Civilization

1 Mohenjodaro Sindh Province, Pakistan Located on the right bank of the River Indus


Rajasthan Located on the banks of the Ghaggar River


Sindh Province, Pakistan It was on the left bank of the River Indus & to the South of Mohenjodaro


Gujarat Located at the head of the Gulf of Cambay


Gujarat Situated at the head of Rann of Kutch


Haryana Situated on the banks of the Saraswati River (now-extinct)


Gujarat Excavated in the Kutch district


Pakistan Its reach is as far to the south as the Gulf of Khambhat and as far east as the Yamuna (Jumna) River


Source: PCS studies

Geography of Indus Valley Civilization

  1. Indus Valley Civilization was the largest among the four civilisations of the world.

  2. Because the first settlement was discovered along the river Indus's banks, the archaeologists named the civilisation as Indus Valley Civilization. 

  3. However, in contradiction, only around 100 sites have been found in the Indus Valley, while over 500 sites were found along the Ghaggar-Hakra River.

  4. Most of archaeologists refer to this civilization as the ‘Indus-Saraswati Civilization’ based on the two river systems, while others refer it as ‘Harappan Civilisation’ as the first settlement was discovered in the city of Harappa.

  5. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, British archaeologist who is known for his discoveries in Great Britain & India and also for his advancement of scientific method in archaeology, he after serving in World War II was made Director General of archaeology for the Indian Government (1944–47), wherein his research was based on the origins & development of the Indus civilization.

  6. Wheeler’s work details the foundation of Indus Valley Civilization from its rise to fall. And the chronology was primarily based, on physical evidence excavated from Harappan sites but also from knowledge of their trade contacts with Egypt & Mesopotamia.

Indus Valley Civilization Craft and Artifacts

Excavations of Indus cities provided much evidence of artistic activity. Such findings are important as they provide insights into the minds and livelihoods of their creators. Stone sculpture is extremely rare, and much of it is quite crude. There were figures which were intended as images for worship which included seated men, recumbent composite animals, a standing nude male and a dancing figure etc. The finest pieces are of excellent quality. There were bronze figures, and the technical excellence of these bronzes suggests a highly developed art, but the number of examples is still small, but it seemed to be Indian workmanship rather than imports.

Lapis Lazuli was the only product immensely popular in the early and late Harappan phases (a blue metamorphic rock that people have used as a gemstone, sculpting material or ornamental purposes etc.). Although scholars knew it came from India, they did not know precisely where until the Indus Valley Civilisation was discovered. Even though this semi-precious stone continued to be imported after the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization, it was clear that, in the beginning, few exports came from this region. Several regions evolved at different phases of the Harappan civilisation, which projected a chronology of human advancement. These phases can be categorised as follows:

  • Pre-Harappan – c. 7000 - c. 5500 BCE: The Neolithic period was best illustrated by sites such as Mehrgarh, which shows evidence of agricultural development, domestication of plants & animals, and production of tools and ceramics.

  • Early Harappan – c. 5500-2800 BCE: Trade was established with Egypt, Mesopotamia, and probably China. Ports, docks, and warehouses were built near waterways by villages’ communities.

  • Mature Harappan – c. 2800 - c. 1900 BCE: Construction of the great cities & increased urbanisation such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were both flourishing, other cities, like Ganeriwala, Lothal, and Dholavira, were built as per the same models, and this land development continued with the construction of hundreds of other cities until there were over 1,000 of them.

  • Late Harappan – c. 1900 - c. 1500 BCE: Fall of the Civilisation was due to the migration of the Aryan people from the north (alleged), most likely the Iranian Plateau, whereas physical evidence suggests climate change caused the floods, drought, & famine. Also even a loss of trade relations with Egypt & Mesopotamia can also be a contributing cause.

  • Post-Harappan – c. 1500 - c. 600 BCE: The cities were abandoned, & the people moved south. The Civilisation already fell by the time Cyrus II (the Great, r.c. 550-530 BCE) invaded India in 530 BCE.

Indus Valley Urban infrastructure and architecture

By 2600 BCE, small Early Harappan communities converted into large urban centers, including Harappa, Ganeriwala, and Mohenjo-daro in modern-day Pakistan and Dholavira, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Rupar, & Lothal in modern-day India. More than 1,052 cities and settlements have been found in total. The two prime infrastructures of Indus Valley civilisation included:

  • Mohenjo-daro- It is thought to have been built in the 26th century BCE; it not only became the largest city of this Civilization but one of the world’s oldest major urban centers. Located west of the Indus River in the Larkana District, it was the most sophisticated cities with excellent engineering and urban planning.

  • Harappa was a strong and secured city in modern-day Pakistan which is believed to be a home to as many as 23,500 residents residing in sculpted houses with flat roofs made of red sand & clay. It had fortified administrative and religious centers of the same type used in Mohenjo-daro.

Both cities had similar organization and featured forts, with being safeguarded with defensive military structures. Along with this, both cities were situated along the Indus River. Even the remains suggest that there were well-ordered wastewater drainage and trash collection systems with possible public baths and granaries for storing grains.

The massive walls likely safeguarded the Harappans from floods and may have prevented military conflicts. The Indus Valley inhabitants did not build large, monumental structures. No conclusive evidences found of temples or palaces

Indus Valley Script and Religion

Harappans are said to use the Indus Script, a language comprising of symbols. A collection of written texts on clay & stone tablets was exacavated at Harappa, which have been carbon-dated to 3300-3200 BCE, and contained trident-shaped, plant-like markings. This Indus script suggests that writing independently developed in the Indus River Valley Civilisation.

Moreover, 600 distinct Indus symbols have been discovered on seals, small tablets, ceramic pots, & more than a dozen other materials. The inscriptions are considered to have been primarily written from right to left, but it is unclear whether this script comprises a complete language.  As per the evidence, they used to worship the Mother Goddess, Worship of a male deity, most likely to be of Lord Shiva; Worship of animals, nature, semi-human, or fabulous.

End of Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization declined around 1800 BCE because of climate change and migration which eventually disappeared along with its two big cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Archaeological evidence hints that trade with Mesopotamia, located mainly in modern Iraq, seemed to have ended & the advanced drainage system and baths of the Indus Valley were built over or blocked. Writing began to disappear and scholars have presented different theories to explain the disappearance of the Harappans, inclusive of an Aryan Invasion Theory and climate change marked by overwhelming monsoons. Let’s check out the Aryan Invasion theory as of the causes of the end ofthis civilization.

The Aryan Invasion Theory (c. 1800-1500 BC)

The Indus Valley Civilisation might have ended due to an invasion by Aryans as according to a theory by Mortimer Wheeler- a nomadic, Indo-European tribe, known as the Aryans suddenly conquered the Indus River Valley. He, being the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1944 to 1948, submitted that many unburied corpses were found in the top levels of the Mohenjo-Daro who were victims of war. As Aryans using horses and more advanced weapons against the Harappan people might have easily defeated them.

On the other hand, the opponents of the Aryan invasion theory stated that in the 1940s, it was the British government’s policy of intrusion into, and subsequent colonial rule over India which led to the end of this civilization.


Hence, to conclude one must know that several elements of the Indus Valley Civilisation were found in later cultures, suggesting that Civilisation did not disappear or end suddenly due to an invasion. Many scholars believed in an Indo-Aryan Migration theory providing that the Harappan culture was incorporated during the migration of the Aryan people into northwest India.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

She is a Legal Content Manager at Finology Legal! With a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a BBA.LL.B from ITM University, and patent analyst training from IIPTA, she truly specializes in her field. Her passion for IPR and Criminal laws is evident from her advanced certification in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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