The importance of ancient Indian history lies in the fact that it’s one of the oldest civilisations seen on the face of the earth. Several civilisations came up at approximately the same time in different parts of the world —Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, China — and that was 5000 years ago. Ancient Indian history and culture was extremely advanced all those years ago and excavations have shown remarkable artefacts and town planning that is amazing. The Indus valley civilization was one of the earliest human settlements in the world but when it was first discovered it was not considered anything beyond an uninteresting archaeological site.
Archaeological work under the Archeological Survey of India continues at the Indus valley civilization even today and archaeologists now say that it was an extremely evolved civilisation with complex administrative, social, economic and cultural structures. It was among the greatest of the ancient civilisations and covered more territory than any other civilisation. Ancient Indian history and culture boasted of a progressive and vibrant culture that was unsurpassed.
Discovery of the Indus Valley Civilisation at Harappa
This ancient civilisation which covers vast areas of present
day India and Pakistan was first discovered in 1853 by Alexander Cunningham when he found a seal stamped with a bull and 6 letters.
The foundations of this civilisation are believed to go back 5000 to 8000 years ago to the Bronze Age and was named Harappa
after the city situated on the banks of the river Ravi.
Further excavations conducted in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh between 1921 and 1946 unearthed much more information about this civilisation. As of now, experts in the field have identified approximately 2800 sites which can be divided into 3 phases of development of Harappa — early, mature and late. After independence in 1947, both India and Pakistan began excavations in the connecting sites. The ancient Indian history and culture of Indus was discovered in the north-western part of pre-independent India, Punjab and Sindh.
Age of this Civilization
Some of the recent archeological discoveries of advanced technological artefacts at Rakhigarhi, an Indus Valley site, are testimony that this civilization began as early as 8000 years ago.
For a long time, the remains found at Indus were not given the attention they deserved due to conflicts between the governments of India and Pakistan, ignorant locals and agriculturalists and delayed publication of information. In addition, archaeologists are still trying to piece together information about the Indus and are discovering new things all the time. What we do know is that the Indus valley civilization had human settlements with twenty thousand to forty thousand people. It was impressively advanced in town-planning, technology, agriculture and domestication of animals. It had a fairly refined culture in pottery, arts and crafts, trade and commerce, written script, religious practices, weights and measures, seals, stonework and figurines. Its economic, social and administrative systems were very advanced.
Life in the Indus Valley Civilisation
Contrary to popular opinion, the Indus valley civilisation wasn’t just another agricultural human settlement. Archaeological excavations prove that they lived in gated communities with well defined social hierarchies. There is evidence that the urban inhabitants who had more sophisticated economic systems and technologically superior inventions, looked down upon the tribes whose livelihood depended on agriculture and lived on the periphery of Indus societies. The caste system, which is so typical of Indian society, probably had its roots in this ancient form of discrimination. Some of the crops grown by the farmers were wheat, barley, sesame peas,and cotton.
The cities here were larger than settlements in other countries at the same time, were built in compliance to cardinal points and were built of kiln fired mud bricks. Houses were built with a large courtyard in which most family activities took place. The buildings were technologically advanced with many houses featuring flush toilets. Some also had ‘wind catchers’ on the roof which worked as air conditioners. The drainage and sewer systems of the cities were far are more advanced than those found at other civilisations at that time
Archaeologists are amazed at the complex and elaborate design of the drainage systems, houses and street construction. You also get a good idea of the social system at the time through the architecture of the cities. The richer people enjoyed a better status with bigger houses, high quality crafts and access to wells.
The streets of Mohenjo-Daro were laid out evenly at right angles. and a sophisticated drainage system. The Great Bath, which appears to have been a community bath, was heated. The discovery of the bronze statue of the Dancing Girl and other artefacts is evidence that the people of this ancient Indian civilisation were skilled in the use of metals like bronze, copper, lead and tin. Well defined burial ceremonies also indicate that the society was intellectually and technologically developed. There is evidence that they had strong trade links spanning Central Asia to Mesopotamia. Artefacts from the Indus valley civilization have been found in Mesopotamia and other places as well.
The Collapse Of Harappan Civilization
The Indus valley civilization is believed to have started declining around 1900 BCE and the advanced urban culture of that time slowly degraded to scattered regional communities. There is a lot of debate and theories about what ended this ancient civilization among researchers. Some are of the view that there could have been one or a combination of reasons — floods, droughts, earthquakes, ideological conflicts and foreign invasions. But historians are still divided over the reason this glorious civilisation came to an end.
Apart from the flooding and heavy rainfall patterns seen in this area, another reason behind the destruction of these settlements was because people began moving inland to relocate to higher and safer regions. They tried to recreate the Harappan lifestyle and a human settlement found Narmada shows similar Indus-like cultures that were comparatively primitive.
Unfortunately the Indus culture was forgotten somewhere along the way, unlike the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures. But what can’t be denied is the advanced culture and its vital role in commerce and technology.
Will the Roots of this Ancient Civilization Survive
It is commonly believed among scholars that India is too invested in Western culture and modernism to survive its ancient roots. The youth of today doesn’t really care about the past of ancient Indian civilizations. Material pleasures have replaced the quest for knowledge to understand the significance of ancient Indian history.
The importance of ancient Indian history cannot be underestimated. It was far ahead of any other civilisation anywhere in the world at that time. It also gives us a perspective about our roots and the life and culture of our ancestors thousands of years ago. For more such exciting blogs, visit the EuroKids website.