Harappa Culture Of The Indus V


Harappa Culture Of The Indus V Essay, Research Paper

Description : Harappa Culture of the Indus Valley The Harappa civilization flourished in the Indus Valley during India+s Bronze Age of

Body of Essay :

Harappa Culture of the Indus Valley The Harappa civilization flourished in the Indus Valley during India+s Bronze Age of the

third millennium b.c. This thriving culture was all but completely descimated in 2500 b.c.

by invading Aryan groups from the west. The archaeological evidence that has been produced

by the famous sites of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro suggest that the people of the Harappa

Culture may have in fact, contributed more substantially to modern Hindu culture than was

previously believed.The Harappa Culture of the Indus valley saw it+s peak during the Bronze

Age of India. It stretched from it+s northern capital, Harappa, in the Punjab, to the

southern city, Mohenjo-daro, on the Indus in Sind (Piggott, 134). These two sites together

comprise the most well known and best excavated representatives of Bronze Age Harappan

culture. However, it should be noted that in addition to these two famous sites, there are

fourteen smaller villages in Harappa+s +Northern Kingdom+, and seventeen smaller sites in

Mohenjo-daro+s +Southern Kingdom+;together, these sites comprise the remains of the once

extensive Harappan culture (Piggott, 136). Both main sites have certain striking features

in common; in particular, both are, or were, located on the banks of major rivers –

Harappa on the Ravi, and Mohenjo-daro on the Indus. Additionally, the plan and lay-out of

the two cities is quite similar, consisting of: +an irregular series of mounds toward the

east and a recognizably higher and more compact mound placed more or less centrally and on

the edge of the site[s] to the west,+ (Piggott,159). These mounds are now recognized as the

remnants of fortified citadels in which stood +certain buildings of peculiar plan defended

by a battered wall of baked bricks… with towers and great gateways,+ (Piggott,159).

Unfortunately the majority of the evidence at Harappa has been destroyed by +brick-robbers+

and has been rendered largely incoherent. Luckily, Mohenjo-daro has been better preserved

and we can turn to it as a model in interpreting Harappa.At Mohenjo-daro, one of the most

striking features is the presence of a remarkable complex of buildings centering on a great

bath, +built of very fine brickwork,+ nearly 40 by 24 feet across, and eight feet deep. Around this central bath was a cloister, and small +changing-rooms+ on three sides (Piggott,

163). If one considers the +tank+ ancillary to every Hindu temple of the middle-ages, the

Great Bath can easily be seen as a sacred site. Also present at Mohenjo-daro were two other

outstanding architectural features: the Collegiate Building and the Pillared Hall. The

Collegiate Building was a large building measuring 230 by 78 feet,with an arrangement of

rooms suggesting a +college+ of some sort, and a cloistered court resembling that which

surrounded the Great Bath. The Pillared Hall was located to the south of these buildings,

and although much altered since it+s original erection, it apparently once consisted of a

+nearly square hall about 80 feet each way, with a roof supported on twenty rectangular

brickwork pillars,+ (Piggott,164). These buildings have led archaeologists to conclude that

Mohenjo-daro was once +a centre of religious or administrative life on a significant scale,+

(Piggott,164). The buildings of Mohenjo-daro followed normal +oriental custom+ of the

time, with the outside walls of the houses being as featureless as possible, save the

presence of doorways (Malik, 83). Most of the buildings were either shops, houses, or a

combination of both. The houses seem to have been built around a central courtyard, and on

two or three sides were grouped rooms of varying sizes — including bathrooms (Piggott,

168). The bath probably would have been taken by pouring water over the body from a large

jar, as it is still done in many parts of India. In addition to the presence of bathrooms,

beneath the city was an elaborate drainage system to which access was gained through brick

man-hole covers (Piggott, 168). This entire system shows a concern for sanitation

unparalleled in the Bronze Age, or even modern Asia. The water supply for both cities was

obtained from brick-lined wells, some of which served private homes, but others were meant

for public use, serving the purpose of the water stall, or piau, of modern India

(Piggott,177). Around these wells numerous fragments of little, mass-produced, clay cups

have been found (Malik,97). This evidence suggests that, as in modern Hinduism, there may

have been a taboo against drinking from the same cup twice.Toward the north of the

Mohenjo-daro site, behind the area known as the +workers quarters+, a collection of grain

mortars were found. These +orderly rows of circular working floors carefully built of baked

brick, …. , and originally containing at the center a massive wooden mortar sunk in the

ground, in which grain could be pounded to flour with long heavy pestles … [are] still

employed in Bengal and Kashmir,+ (Piggott, 179). Within the walls of the two cities, evidence of commerce has been

found in the form of small, cuboid weights made of chert (Piggott, 181). The weights run in

a unit ratio of sixteen; +this use of the multiple of sixteen is interesting and curious, as

the number had a traditional importance in early Indian numerology … [and] in the modern

coinage of sixteen annas to one rupee,+ (Piggott,181).Along with commerce came the need for

a writing system. Essentially, the Harappa script was a pictographic one, +recalling the

formality of Egyptian hieroglyphics,+ (Piggott,179). Like Hebrew, the language was probably

read from right to left, and when a second line of characters was present, the boustrophedon

practice was likely to have been followed (Piggott,180). While the idea of writing may have

come from the Mesopotamians, the Harappa style of script is unique in most respects.

However, the spoken language of the Harappan Culture will likely remain a mystery. The

presence of a +Dravidian type of language in Baluchistan … has given rise to the

supposition that the Harappa language also belonged to this group,+ (Piggott,181).The

majority of the examples of script have survived on the stamp-seals engraved with various

representations of animals, gods, and humans (Piggott, 178). This type of seal (like a

signet ring) was very common all over bronze age West Asia; with examples being found in

Syria as early as Halaf times, and similar seals appearing in the +Tal-i-Bakun A phase in

Southern Persia (Piggott, 184). The Sumerian cylinder-seal is, however, practically absent

from the Harappa sites. The fact that Haraappa is characterized by stamp-seals and not

cylinder-seals +should indicate that its eventual antecedents are likely to have been from

Persia+(Piggott,185).For the most part, the pottery of the Harappa culture was plain,

having been mass-produced for utilitarian reasons (Piggott, 1191). The most common type of

decorated pottery was a black-on-red ware, suggesting ties with North Baluchistan (Piggott,

192). The surface of this pottery type was almost always dull (with the exception of two

pieces), with the lines of the design being flush with the surface of the piece (Malik, 13).

A less common polychromatic ware, which employed the use of green, red, black, and

occasionally yellow pigments was less commonly found at the sites (Sankalia,1978; 13). It

should be noted that this type of polychromatic ware is rarely seen in other Asian sites of

the time (Piggott,195). Typical designs consisted of either geometric or naturalistic

patterns (Sankalia 1975, 132). Among the most common motifs were interlocking circles,

scales, and combs; naturalistic motifs included indigenous animals (peacocks, antelope, and

zebras were common) and plants, with occasional human depictions as well (Malik,13-15). +As

compared to Baluchistan, the designs of the [Harappa] ware are characterized by a certain

boldness and careless freedom of patterning,+ (Malik,12). These uniquely Harappan designs

were probably painted with donkey hair brushes similar to those still used in Sind today

(Malik,14). Among the artifacts produced by the Harappa metal-smiths were simple flat-type

axes, as well as shaft-hole axes, indicating that some of their culture may have been

inherited from early Iranian tradition (Piggott,200). Additionally, chisels, knives, razors,

spears (lacking the strengthening mid-rib), and fish hooks have been found at both sites. The lack of armour at the Harappa sites points to a lack of contact with the warlike

Sumerian culture. And aside from purely utilitarian copper objects, a wide range of bronze

and silver bowls, cups, vases, and various other vessels have been found at both sites

(Piggott,200).Archaeologically, of all the Harappa sites, Mohenjo-daro has produced some of

the most convincing sculpture. In these pieces the use of inlay and was quite common, the

+Bearded Man+ being an excellent example of this technique: +…the trefoils on the robe and

the disk on the bared right arm; probably the eyes and perhaps the ears may also have held

inlays, while the sockets for a metal … collar can be seen … behind the ears,+

(Piggott,186). This type of inlay was +frequent in prehistoric Western Asia,but … not

characteristic of early historic Indian culture,+ (Piggott,186). An abundance of small,

female clay figurines suspected to have been +godlings in household shrines,+ (Piggott,187)

were uncovered at the Harappa sites. Interestingly, Harappa civilization was completely

devoid of all forms of public art — from temples to monuments — and one gets the

impression of cities with threatening blank walls enclosing secret religious practices and

great hordes of wealth.The Harappa Culture was likely to have been administered by

priest-kings (Piggott, 201), a practice which was not uncommon in Western Asia of this

period. Among the religious objects left at the sites, the afore mentioned clay figurines,

and a seal bearing a representation of a woman with a plant emerging from her womb, suggest

the worship of a Mother-Goddess (Piggott, 201-2). These goddesses are commonly worshipped

even today in Hindu practices in the rural areas of India. Depictions of a man with three

faces, sitting in a yogi+s position and surrounded by four beasts has been interpreted as

being a predecessor of the god Shiva (Piggott, 202). References to the sacred fig tree, or

pipal, still considered holy in modern Hindu practice, are seen as common motifs in Harappa

pottery (Piggott, 202). These links between Harappa and modern Hinduism explain many of the

features that cannot be attributed to the Aryan traditions brought to India with the fall of

the Harappa civilization. +The old faiths die hard: it is even possible that early historic

Hindu society owed more to Harappa than it did to the Sanskrit-speaking invaders,+

(Piggott,208).Looking at the burial practices of the people of the Harappa Culture, links

to modern Hindu practices have been noted here as well. For example, the dead were often

placed in +post-cremation urns+. These urns contained the remains of completely cremated

individuals, and according to modern Hindu practice, they were supposed to have been thrown

into a river for proper disposal (Piggott,204).The consistency of grave goods across the

various settlements suggests a relative homogeneity of culture. Most burials were extended,

with the head pointing north. A typical grave was large enough to hold large quantities of

pottery vessels — sometimes up to forty pieces (Piggott, 205). Personal items typically

included in the graves were: copper rings (usually found on the third finger of the right

hand), necklaces and anklets, bangles, bead strings, and rods for applying eye make-up

(Piggott, 205). One burial in particular does stand-out however. In 1946,the body of a

young girl was found wrapped in a shroud of reeds, and buried in a wooden box. This type of

burial was commonly found in Sumerian sites dating between 2800 and 2000 bc (contemporary

with Harappa), and has been taken to imply a link between the cultures (Piggott, 208). However, aside from this possible Sumerian link, parallels with other contemporary cultures

of the time have been difficult to find in the burial practices of the Harappans. Forensic archaeological evidence indicates that the people who created this culture were of

mixed racial backgrounds. Skulls characteristic of the +Mediterranean type+ — long from

chin to forehead — have been the predominant skeletal type found at the Harappa sites. This

type of skull is commonly related to expansion from the west, and is +associated with the

earliest agricultural settlements: at Sialk, … ,[and] Alishar,+ (Piggott,146). The other

main type of skull to be found belongs to people of the Proto-Australiod group (Piggott,

146). These people, having curly hair, darker skin, and flatter facial features, resemble

the Aborigines of Australia and New Zealand, and have long been considered to have been the

original inhabitants of India as well. In Harappa society, these people were probably the

main constituents of the lower working classes, just as in today+s Hindu society, the lower

castes are primarily composed of people belonging to this racial group (Pigggott,

147).Their location on rivers made the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro quite accessible

to trade with foreign cultures as we have seen from the evidence just presented. Evidence of

trade with Sumer dates from 2300 to 2000 bc or later.While evidence of Harappa goods has

been found in Sumerian sites, no such reciprocal evidence has been found at the Harappa

sites, suggesting that the bulk of the Sumerian contribution probably consisted of

consumable goods (Piggott, 208-9). Harappa contact with the Hissar III Culture of North

Persia has been archaeologically established through the presence of the previously

mentioned, mid-rib lacking spear heads. Additionally, evidence of intermittent contact with

the people of the Caucasus and Turkestan has been established through the presence of

characteristic bronze pins at Mohrnjo-daro and Harappa (Piggott, 210). In conclusion,

then, while Harappa Culture may bear the marks of some of its contemporaries, as well as its

Aryan conquerors, it was clearly in no way a second-hand culture. It was, in most ways, a

truly unique and distinctly Indian culture. Much of the evidence contained in the

archaeological remains reveals the foundation of what may have become modern Hinduism. From

the obsession with cleanliness, as exemplified by the baths and drainage systems, to the

identification of seals bearing the likeness of Shiva, we see the significant contributions

made by Harappa Culture to the formation of Indian culture and Hindu practice of today. Works Sited Kashyap, P.C., Surviving Harappa Culture, New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1984. Malik, S.C. ,Indian

Civilization: the Formative Period,Simla, Indian Institute of Advanced Study,1968.

Piggott, Stuart, Prehistoric India,Baltimore, Pelican Books,1961. Sankalia, H.D.,

Pre-Historic Art in India, New Delhi, Vikas Publishing House,1979 Sankalia, H.D.,

Prehistory of India, New Delhi, Munishram Manoharlal Publishers, 1977.

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