Indus Valley Civilization – Points to Remember for UPSC Civil Services Exam

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilization (2600-1900 BCE) extending from what today is North-east Afghanistan to Pakistan and North-west India. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, one of the major rivers of Asia, and the Ghaggar-Hakra River, that once coursed through North-west India and Eastern Pakistan.


The Early Harappan Period

The characteristics of the early Harappan period are:

  • The diverse agriculture communities would have been living in and around the Indus region i.e. Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and Rajasthan.
  • These small agricultural settlements emerged into distinct regional traditions.
  • The use of similar kinds potteries, representations of a horned deity and finds of terracotta mother goddesses show the way to the emergence of a unifying tradition.
  • Trading relations of Baluch people with the towns of Persian Gulf and Central Asia took place during this time.
  • Technological advancements i.e. use of copper, bronze and stone tools led to greater exploitation of fertile plains that resulted in increased grain production. This created possibility for greater surpluses and thus development of trade relations with other countries.
  • The larger surpluses would have permitted the elaboration of non-farming specialization.
  • This is how emergence of priests, potters and craftsmen would have happened.
  • Few early Harappan sites in Indus region are:
    • Amri -> Stone and mud brick houses; Granaries; fortification
    • Kot-Diji -> decorative pottery; fortification
    • Mehrgarh -> prosperous town; use of lapis-lazuli; seals;
    • Kalibangan -> mud bricks houses; pottery in different shapes; ploughed field surface.

Emergence of the Harappan Civilization

Some of the reasons that may have led to the emergence of the Harappan civilization are:

  • The Existence of many agricultural groups and pastoral nomadic communities were living in close contact with each other.
  • This must have led to conflict among them.
  • The agricultural communities would have fought with each other for the control of more fertile tracts of land which is the possible reason for defensive walls.
  • This led to emergence of Mature Harappan period.

Features of Harappan Civilization

The Harappan society was characterized by the presence of

  • specialized craftsmen,
  • long distance trade,
  • the existence of rich and poor people and
  • the presence of kings.

The Harappan communities staying in Rajasthan, Punjab or Sindh may have been using the same sets of weights and measures.

The copper-bronze tools used by them were also uniform in design, shape and size, the bricks they used had a proportion 4:2:1.

The towns were characterized by uniformities in the planning of the buildings, citadels etc.

The seals, shell(shankh) bangles, carnelian beads and the disc beads of steatite were also uniformly designed in the entire geographical space covered by the cities of the Harappan Civilization.

Most of the time a Harappan site is identified by the use of a pinkish pottery with bright red slip. This pottery had standard representations of trees, animals, birds and geometric motifs in black.

It is the oldest civilization of India and also known as the first Urbanization.

After independence it was called “Harappan Civilization”. As Harappa was the first largest city excavated.

Important Centers

During the civilization there were around 1000 cities.


  • It was the first site to be excavated.
  • Substantial section of population was engaged in activities related to administration, trade, craft work or religion.
  • It was located in the midst of some important trade routes of the world.


  • It is the largest site of Harappan Civilization. It is also called “Mound of the Dead”.
  • It is one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements.


  • It has the largest concentration of the Harappan Civilization.


  • It is located in the coastal flats if the Gulf of Cambay.
  • It is called as the dockyard of the Harappan times.


  • Located in the Rann of Kannch is most recently excavated place.

Ancient History adds at least 4 – 5 questions in the UPSC Prelims. UPSC has been focussing on Art & Culture which is a part of Ancient History’s syllabus. Many aspirants ignore Ancient History. History is a continuous flow of events. In order to better understand Modern History, we need to have clarity about Ancient History also.

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