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.
INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
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.
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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
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
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
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courtyard and a well were the special. Features that brings to light the system of planning
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.
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.
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
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from where the Harappans bought the famous blue gemstones,' Lapiz Lazuli'.
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
(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.
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PERIOD UNDER THE ARYANS
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.
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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.
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
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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
2. Braharishi Desha
3. Madhya Desha
(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
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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.
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
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,
Religion and philosophy in the later Vedic period became more confirmed with elaborate
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sacrifices. The doctrines of Karma, Maya, soul, Mukti were established. Brahma, Vishnu and
Maheswara became the important gods who were worshipped.
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.
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.
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.
LITERATURE IN THE LATER VEDIC PERIOD
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.
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