Indus Valley Civilization
a Primary Phase Culture
 little continuity with the cultures that
followed them
 forgotten until the 19th Century
◦ rediscovered by the British
Harappan Culture
Indus valley
◦ not desert
◦ well-watered and heavily forested
500 miles along the river valley
◦ 10-20 times larger than Mesopotamia or
Hydraulic Culture
like Egypt and Mesopotamia
 agriculture and flood-control
 significant industry and trade
 cities very common
Indus Valley
Lack of Sources
literate culture
◦ we cannot read their writing
◦ writing on bricks and seals
◦ did not use paper or clay tablets
“Unicorn” seal + writing
More seals
…and more seals...
Seated “yogi” : early Shiva?
Reasonable generalizations
rapid development: early 2,000s B.C.
 roughly contemporary with Egypt and
 early village culture
 changing rapidly to urban civilization
Generalizations, con’t
cities dominated both economic and
political activity
 origins of the people are unclear
◦ similar to the Mediterranean type
Major Cities
Harappa and Mohenjo-daro
◦ surrounded by smaller cities, towns, and
one situated in the north
 one situated in the south
Cities, con’t
uniform culture over a wide area
 cities built on a common plan
◦ a grid: always NS and EW axes
 with twelve smaller grids
◦ kiln-dried brick
Grid map of
Mohenjo-daro : aerial view
of the “Citadel”
The “Great Bath”
another view of the “Great Bath”
view of a small, side street
looks like a small
tower, but actually it
is a neighborhood
A bathroom on a private residence
A public well in Harappa, or perhaps an
ancient laundromat...
A large drain or sewer
Monumental architecture
very-large scale building
 walled cites, with fortified citadels
 always on the same scale
 palaces, temples
Architecture, con’t
large grain storage facilities near temples
 a theocracy ??
 planned economy
Harappan granary
very densely populated
 houses: two to three stories
 every house is laid out the same
Culture and Society
advanced agriculture
 surplus production
 textiles: wool and cotton
 domesticated animals and fish
Bronze Age technology
no swords
 spears and bows
 stone arrow heads
dominated by priests ?
 from the fortified palaces and temples ?
 power base: fertility ?
 deities: male and female, both nude
 bull worship
A priest?
A bull
with lower Mesopotamia
 but gradually declined
domination of an indigenous people ?
◦ who rebelled ?
foreign invasion? - Aryans
 gradual decline ?
 Earthquakes- Evidence
 Floods- Evidence
 River changed course- evidence
Combination of Changes
climate shift: the monsoon patterns
 flooding
 destruction of the forests
 migrations of new peoples: the Aryans
The Aryan Invasions
Indus civilization on the verge of collapse
 about 1500 B.C.
 settlement by a nomadic people
◦ the Aryans
Possible route of the Aryan invasions
The Aryans
not to be confused with Hitler’s “Aryans”
 these Aryans speak an Indo-European
 related to other languages like Greek and
Map of Language Families
The Aryans, con’t
they called themselves “Aryans”
 their land: “Aryavarta”
◦ land of the Aryans
Gradual settlement
over a long period of time
 gradual infiltration
 more primitive than the earlier culture
Settlement, con’t
new society by 1,200 B.C. or so
 little evidence
 not literate
 no record system
Oral Tradition
passed down from priests and singers
 written down in the 500’s
 The Vedas
◦ “Veda” means “knowledge”
The Vedas
our primary source
◦ early Aryan tradition
◦ later Hindu religion
four “vedas”
◦ the Rig Veda is the oldest
Krishna with
Arjuna on the
battlefield of
Krishna reveals
himself to Arjuna
in his manifold
The Vedas
oral poetry
 come to have a sacred character
 provide some historical information
The Aryans
restless, warlike people
 tall, blue-eyed, fair-skinned
 describe the indigenous population as
◦ short, “black”, noseless, and slaves
The Aryans, con’t
originally pastoralists
 family, clan, tribe (typical Indo-Europeans)
 eventually settled down to farming
 living in villages
The Aryans, con’t
villages and kingdoms constantly fighting
 warchiefs and kings
 aristocrats and freemen
The Aryans, con’t
fond of fighting, drinking, chariot racing,
gambling chasing women and bragging
about their spears
◦ any modern comparisons ???
fond of taking soma
◦ a psychedelic drug
◦ probably psychotropic mushrooms
Aryans and Hindus
Aryans give rise to Hindu society
 but different characteristics
◦ cows: they ate them
◦ classes, but no castes
◦ priests subordinate to the nobility
the Mahabharata- longest poem ever
written….20,000 stanzas; idea of “just
war” contemplated; Sanscrit
Sanskrit- Indo European Language
used by Aryans
The Iron Age: new sources
the Vedas: passed on orally
 the Brahamanas: interpretations on the
 the Upanishads: interpretations and
symbolic studies
◦ forerunners of later dissenting literature
Strain of change
Iron Age change causes strain on the class
 blurring of lines between Aryans and Daas
(agricultural workers)
◦ answered with the caste system
Caste System
skin color
 ritual purity
 “Us--Them” feelings
 divine order of four castes
Caste System (“Varnas”)
Brahmins: the priests
 Kshatriyas: the warriors
 Vaisyas: merchants and peasants
 Sudras: non-Aryans (Daas)
Caste system, con’t
produced by Brahmins
 literature emphasized the divine order
 hierarchical relationship
 inheritance and marriage
Caste system in practice
warrior class did not always accept it
 nor the other classes
 the process of evolution is still going on
 the most powerful organizer of Indian
◦ thousand of castes today
define a person’s social universe
 define a person’s standard of conduct
 define a person’s expectations
 define a person’s future
 define how a person deals with others

Indus Valley Civilization