Monday, May 3, 2010




India is home to one of the richest and the most ancient civilizations in the world, which

existed over 5,000 years ago. This civilization originated in the Indus River Valley, hence the

name given to it was Indus Valley civilization. It is the origin of many of the ideas,

philosophies and movements which have shaped the destiny of mankind. The civilization

with its main cities Mohenjadaro and Harappa flourished for over eight centuries. Its people

thought to be Dravidians, whose descendants still inhabit the far south of India.


Human inhabitation in the Indian subcontinent is traced to the Paleolithic and Neolithic

period. Dated from about 2500 to 1500 BC. This civilization is considered to be at par with

the other civilizations of the world.


(4) of (12)

Sir John Marshal, the Director General of archaeology with his team excavated sites at Sind

and Punjab. The ruins at Mohenjodaro in the Larkana district of Sind in the lower Indus and

at Harappa on the banks of the

Ravi has brought to light the

existence of the Indus valley

civilization. These excavations

were further supported by the

discovery in 1931 at

Chanhudaro near

Mohenjodaro. Traces of the

Indus valley civilization was

discovered at Rupar in

Ambala district and Rangpur,

and Lothal in Saurashtra,

Bharatpur in Rajasthan,

Kalibangan in the Burdwan

district of West Bengal are a

proof of the existence of the

Indus valley civilization.

Harappa being the main

source of knowledge about the

civilization historians also call

this civilization as the

Harappan culture.

a) Town Planning

The ruins of Mohenjodaro provides evidence to confirm the existence of a system of planning

in the city. The streets were broad and straight cutting each other at right angles. The drains

were lined with bricks and manholes to facilitate regular cleaning. This speaks highly of the

civilization's advanced nature.

The citadel was the main part of the city built on a raised platform. It consisted of public

buildings, a bath, granaries and quarters for providing shelter to the persons propagating

religion. The planning of the city brings to light the existence of an active and efficient

bureaucracy to administer the activities of the city.

Around the citadel was spread the remaining part of the city where the common people dwelt

and pursued their profession. Houses were well planned and was built on both sides of the

street. It had flat roofs and were connected by stairs to the upper storeys. They had thick

walls and windows were few. Every house had a kitchen with a fireplace and large jars for

storing grains or keeping other articles of use. The roofs of houses were flat. Each house had

bathrooms with a system of covered drains connected to the main drain of the street. A


(5) of (12)

courtyard and a well were the special. Features that brings to light the system of planning

existing then.

b) Society

Society in the Indus valley civilization is said to have comprised of three distinct social

groups. One group ruled and administered the city, the other group included the merchants

who were associated with trade and other business activities in the city. The third group were

the labourers who worked in the city. They also included the farmers who cultivated wheat

and barley as their main crops. Animals like the buffaloes, sheeps and pigs and the humped

bull were bred. Fish, mutton, beef, poultry and pork consisted the food they ate. Animals like

the elephant, camels and dogs were also domesticated. The discovery of a large number of

clay spindles suggest the use of cotton besides woolen and linen fabrics.

Men also seemed to have worn ornaments like fillets, necklaces, finger rings and armlets.

Women were fond of ornaments like earrings, bangles, bracelets, necklaces, girdles and

anklets made of shell, beads, gold and silver and copper. Razors, bronze mirrors and combs

made of ivory speaks of the people interest in personal upkeep. Toys like the whistle and

carts besides puppets, rattles and dolls made of terracotta speaks greatly about the attitude of

the people in child care. People enjoyed playing in dice and marble. Gambling was a

favourite past time of the elder members in the society.

c) Occupation

The discovery of various equipments such as axes, knives, spears and daggers made of

bronze and copper suggest metal work as a major profession commonly pursued in the towns.

Copper was used for making weapons and utensils besides ornaments. Spinning, weaving and

pottery also formed important occupation. Pottery in red with designs painted in black

resembling shapes such as interesting circles, pipal, leaves, peacocks were on it. The

discovery of numerous seals made of clay with figures of animals like the tiger, rhinoceros,

elephant and crocodile gives us more information of the significance of these animals in the

Harappan society. These seals also have inscriptions in pictographic script.

Agriculture with domesticating animals was a major occupation. The location of granaries

near river, where the civilization itself flourished was an important feature. The ornaments of

these period worn by both men and women reflects the skilled craftsmanship of the people in

the Harappan culture.

d) Trade

The Indus valley people maintained commercial contacts with Egypt and Crete, Mesopotamia

and the towns in the Persian Gulf. Excavations at Lothal reveals the existence of a dock

supporting the activities of trade in that period. Trade also existed with Northern Afghanistan


(6) of (12)

from where the Harappans bought the famous blue gemstones,' Lapiz Lazuli'.

e) Religion

The clay seals discovered during excavation reveals the presence of a male god. The figure

of a female god also suggest their beliefs on the female was source of creation. The seal with

a male god wearing a head dress surrounded by various animals exhorts the belief in the male

symbol of strength. The Indus valley people cremated their death. This idea has been

established owing to the discovery of many urns containing human bones and ashes. In

general it can be derived that worship of the forces of nature in its lively forms such as

stones, strong animals was the religion they followed. This must have been the principles

upon which the present day Hinduism has prescribed as its principles.

The Indus valley civilization is believed to belong to the copper stone age as the presence of

iron tools and implements has not yet been established at any part of this civilization.

Archaeological excavation indicates that the Indus valley civilization could have flourished in

about 300 BC much before the existence of other West Asian civilization. Contacts with the

civilization of Mesopotamia, Elam and Babylon can be deduced by the discovery of the Indus

valley clay seals, pottery there. This suggests that the civilization flourished from about 3000

BC to 1500 BC.

Anthropological investigation and examination of the human remains shows that four racial

types existed in this civilization. They were the proto - Australiod, Mediterranean, Alpine and

the Mongoloid. Archaeological excavation reveal the existence of various racial types. Of all

these the existence of the Dravidian race holds its relevance owing to its wide spread


Decline of the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus valley culture though existed in its modern form else where it had to submit to the

ultimate ravages of time which is the universal law. The physical existence of the civilization

ended due to various factors.

(a) Changes in the climate leading to the decline of land and agriculture, thereby enforcing

the need to evacuate to other area might have been the reason for the dissertation of the

Indus valley.

(b) Increase in population, excessive deforestation decline in agriculture etc might have

created economic problems leading to the gradual decay of the culture.

(c) Frequent floods may have led to the devastation of the city.

(d) The invasion of the Aryans is the other view that is said to be another reason which might

have also led to the extinction of the life in the Indus valley.

The Indus valley civilization has put India at par with the other civilization of the world,

which is said to be the foundation on which the present cultures of nations are built.


(7) of (12)


Origin of the Aryans

Opinions differ regarding the original home of the Aryans. The most accepted view is that the

region between Poland to the

Central Asia might have

been of the Aryans. They

were said to be seminomadic

people, who started

moving from their original

home towards the west, south

and east. The branch which

went to Europe were the

ancestors of the Greeks,

Romans, Celts and Teutons.

Another branch went to

Anatolia. The great empire of

the Hitties evolved from the

mixture of these immigrants

with the original people. The

branch which remained were

the ancestors of the Slavonic people. The group which moved south came to conflict with the

west Asian civilization. In course of their journey towards the east or south a group of Aryans

had settled in Iran. They crossed the Hindukush and entered India through Afghanistan and

captured the greater part of the northern India. They came to be known as Indo-Aryans to

distinguish them from the others who spoke a language different from those who settled in

western Asia and Europe.

The Indo-Aryans entered Punjab and the other north-western part of India. They moved

towards south-east and eastwards into the Ganga Valley. The Aryans were pastoral Nomads.

They settled in villages. The region which the Aryans occupied was known as Sapta Sindhu.

Moving further eastwards they settled along the Ganga and Jamuna. In due course of time the

whole of northern India were under the Aryans and it was called Aryavarta or the land of the

Aryans. The period of Aryan settlement was between 2500 and 1500BC. The early Aryans

were divided into many tribes. A few among them are Anus, Druhyus, Yadus, Turvasas and

Purus. They settled on either side of the river Saraswati. They were involved in fighting

among themselves. Besides these tribal warfare the Aryans were engaged in struggles with

the dark skinned people or Dasyus. The Dasyus were the Dravidians who occupied the

regions of the Indus valley civilization. The superiority of the Aryans resulted in the

Dravidian submission and retirement to the south.


(8) of (12)

Political Organization

Family served as the basis of the both social and political organization. Families together

formed the grama. Villages together formed is and they turn formed the janas. The

community was patriarchical and each tribe was under the chief whose position was

hereditary. The rastra was ruled by the king which was normally hereditary. The king led the

tribe in battle, and protected the people. The Purohita was one of the important signatory. He

was the sole associate of the king his friend, philosopher and guide. The Senani the leader of

the army, and Gramani the head of the village. The main duty of the king was the protection

of his subjects, property, defence and maintenance of peace. The king was not an autocrat he

was controlled by two popular assemblies Sabha and Samiti. These assemblies brought forth

the people's view on various issues. The Sabhas also discharged legal duties like providing

justice. Individual ownership of property was recognized. The land was a property owned by

the family. The property passed on in a hereditary manner from father to son.

Economic Condition

The Aryans who were semi-nomadic people also domesticated animals which helped them in

the activities of agriculture and other pastoral and hunting acts. Agriculture consisted the

major share of their economy. Canals to provide irrigation was a significant feature of this

occupation. Coins were unknown and trade was through the Barter system. Craft was not a

popular profession. The lack of good roads might have hampered trade, but river navigation

was existing. Specialization in areas such as carpentry, smithy, weaving, pottery, etc had

been taking place.

Family being the basis of the Aryan social life needed to be a healthy bond. Monogamy was

the usual rule but polygamy was also practiced. Women played an important role in the

family. They also excelled in education. Apata Visvara and Ghosa were a few who even

composed mantras. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food were common. Wheat and

barley was the common food grains. Drinks included the Soma and Sura which were

intoxicating and was drunk during festivals.

The dress consisted of two or three garments- an under garment, garment and a cloak. These

were made of wool or skin and colored yellow and red. Gold ornaments such as necklaces,

searrings, anklets, and bracelets were common and was worn by both men and women.

Women enjoyed equal status and received education with the men. They also freely

participated in public life.


The Aryans worshipped many gods and goddess. Most of the objects they worshipped were

the personification of the forces of nature. The religious beliefs of the Aryans and its


(9) of (12)

essential elements were contained in the Rig Veda. It was based on the beliefs that the the

numerous gods and goddess were personifications of whatever that was noble splendid and

striking in nature.

The common people sought refugee under these powers who did good answer as evil. To get

the good offerings as food and drinks has to be made.

Fire was the means of messengers who carried the offerings to the gods . This was done

amidst the chanting of hymns of praise .

There were numerous deities, classified under terrestrial, atmospheric, and celestial group.

Agni, Indra and varuna were the chief deities. They also included Agni, vayu, surya,

prithivi,etc. Gods and goddess were worshipped with simple ceremonials known as Yajna or


Extent of Aryans in India

The Aryans were said to have been spread into four divisions of the country as portrayed by


1. Brahmavarta

2. Braharishi Desha

3. Madhya Desha

4. Aryavarta

(a) The Brahmavarta or the land of Gods was the region lying between the rivers Saraswati

and Drishadwati It also included parts of Kurukshetra as mentioned in the Mahabharatha.

(b) The Braharishi Desha or the country of the holy sages. Comprised the territories of the

Kurus, Matsya, Panchalas and Swsenas. Today they are known as Thaneshwar, Eastern

Rajputana, the Doab and Mathura district.

(c) The Madhya Desa or the middle country occupied the region lying between the

Himalayas and Vindhyas.

(d) The Aryavarta occupied the region between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas from the

east to west.

Though a physical terrain segregated North and South India and resulted in the development

of a Dravidian culture, yet the Aryans influenced the religious thoughts of the Dravidians


(10) of (12)

The later vedic period is said to have begun after the composing of the Atharva Veda, Yajur

veda and Sama veda. This period indicated changes in the political, social economic and

religious conditions of the life of the Aryans. These changes were different from those in the

early vedic period during the composition of the Rig Veda.

Political Condition

The Rig vedic Aryans were divided into several tribes. Their was frequent internal strife

among them. The weaker tribes were absorbed into the stronger ones and thus the kingdoms

and larger areas of residence emerged. The political influence of the Aryans extended

towards the east and south. The Aryan now established a powerful kingdom in the Deccan, to

the north of the river Godavari. The mode of succession continued to be hereditary. The

expansion of the territory also resulted in the increased domination of the king assisted by a

hierarchy of nobility. These nobles were assigned official duties. Thus an administrative

machinery developed. The king now had a council of advisers which included the kings

relatives, his courtiers, heads of various departments. The purohita (the priest ), the senani

(the commander), the suta (the charioteer), the Samgrahitr (the treasurer ), tax collector, etc.

were the individuals which assisted in the kings activities. The role of the popular assemblies

was important. A notable feature of this period was the extinction of the Samiti. The sabha

transformed from being a popular village assembly, continued as a court or judicial


Social Condition

The need to perform the ceremonial yajnas required the services of a highly trained priests

who were skilled in the religious matters. This group came to assume the title of the

Brahmanas. They occupied a high status and were respected and honoured by the king.

The constant inter tribal fighting for establishing supremacy, and struggle with the original

inhabitants gave birth for the need of persons skilled in the warfare. Thus arose the new class

of the Kshatriyas. Remaining people in the Aryan society were called Vaisyas. The group

who were not Aryans were called Sudras. These separation in the society was on the basis of

the profession they pursued. Gradually the Aryans were divided into the four varnas,

succession to these in course of time became hereditary. The caste system became rigid,

Education was confined to the upper classes. An Aryan's life was divided into stages which

began with Upanayana, which was the inception of the pupil to education. After a period of

12 years study of the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, Ithihasa, Puranas, Grammer, Ethics

etc. the individual could chose one of the four ashramas i.e. Brahmacharya, Grihastha,

Sanyasa, Vanaprastha.

Religious Condition

Religion and philosophy in the later Vedic period became more confirmed with elaborate


(11) of (12)

sacrifices. The doctrines of Karma, Maya, soul, Mukti were established. Brahma, Vishnu and

Maheswara became the important gods who were worshipped.

The Vedas

The vedas were the sources of reconstructing the vedic period. The oldest being the Rigveda,

The Samaveda, Yajurveda and Adharvaveda had their own significance. The sama veda

contains the verses from the Rigveda. The hymns in it were relevant to the soma sacrifice .

The Yajurveda also consist of hymns from the Rig Veda, more than half of this is in prose to

facilitate the performance of sacrifices. It depicts the social and religious condition of this

period. The Atharva Veda contains philosophic speculations, popular cults and superstitions.

The Brahmanas

They are prose of the sacrificial ceremonies. These explanatory treatises lay emphasis on

ritualism. They mark the transition from Vedic to classical Sanskrit. It also marks the period

which marks the advance of the Aryans from the Panchala country to the Vidha (North


The Vedangas and the Upavedas

These are said to be supplementary sections of the Vedic literature. These gives us idea about

Jotish (Astronomy), Medicine (Ayurveda), Dhanurveda (war), Gandharvaveda, (music) etc.

The Vedanta: It is the philosophy taught in most of the Upanishads.

The Upanishads

This contains the main idea that constitute the intellectual aspect of the Hindu philosophy.

They do not lay emphasis to rites, ceremonies and austerities. The Upanishads are dated

between 800 BC and 500 BC. The Upanishads are about 100 in number. The Brahadaranyaka

Upanishads, Chandogva Upanishad, Aitreya Upanishad are a few. The Upanishads

reflects the richness and universality of the Indian culture. They are said to be the thinking

power of the Brahmana and the Kshatriyas.


The Epics

They are the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. They introduce us to a period of

transformation in the social and religious institutions of the Vedic age.


The Ramayana written by Valmiki is said a poetic legend based on mythology. It portrays the

ideal man- god Rama and the ideal woman Sita. The sacrifices made by the characters for the

preservation of truth appealed to the people.This was edited by the Brahmanas in course of

time to convert it a book of devotion.

The Mahabharatha which consist of 18 parvas (sections) contains about 100,000 verses. This

is an encyclopedia of history, morals and religion.


These are legends connected with epics and law books. They are 18 in number and are mostly

recognized in North India . The Vishnu Purana, for example, should treat of five subjects

namely primary creation, secondary creations, Genealogies of gods and patriachs reigns of

various Manus and history of ancient dynasties. The Vayupurana is one of the oldest the

Puranas. It was edited during the age of Guptas when there was a great revival of the

Sanskrit language. The other Puranas include Matsya and Brahmanda which gives us

account of the kings up to the imperial Gupta dynasty with other contemporaries.

Laws of Manu

Also known as Manav Dhramshastra in Sanskrit, it comprises of 2684 couplets arranged in

twelve chapters. It is the earliest of law books. The laws of Manu forms the foundation of the

court of law in India under the name of Hindu law. The book makes a distinction between

varna and jatis. The varnas were in the order of the occupations pursued by the people. This

was given as below,

The learned, literate and priestly order

The fighting or the governing class

The trading and agricultural group

The common folk, labourers

The composition of this may be between 200BC and 200AD by a sage named Bhrigu.


(12) of (12)

No comments:

Post a Comment