Indus Valley Civilization oldest urban civilization

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Anupama Nair

India has one of the oldest civilizations in the world. In a time when we are forgetting our heritage and culture, I am making a humble effort to make everyone proud of our country. The major ancient civilizations of the world were Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BC–1900 BC), Greek (2700 BC–479 BC), Roman (550 BC–465 AD), Egyptian (3150 BC 332 BC), Mesopotamian (3500 BC–500 BC), Mayan (2600 BC–900 AD) among a few.

Before the excavation of these Harappan cities, it was thought that Indian civilization had begun in the Ganges valley as Aryan immigrants from Persia and central Asia populated the region around 1250 BC. The discovery of ancient Harappan cities unsettled that conception and moved the timeline back another 1500 years, situating the Indus Valley Civilization in an entirely different environmental context.

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age Civilization in the northwestern regions of Indian Subcontinent from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Western and Northwestern India. It existed from 3300 BC to 1300 BC, and in its mature form from 2600 BC to 1900 BC. Along with Egyptian and Mesopotamian, it was one of three early civilizations of the Asian continent. It flourished in the basins of the Sindhu River (Indus), which flows through Pakistan, and is perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal  Ghagar-Hakra river northwestern India and eastern Pakistan.

It is to be noted that this is the only urban civilization while the rest of the above-mentioned civilizations were rural. The civilization's cities were noted for their urban planning, baked bricks houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and new techniques in handicraft (seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin).  The large cities of Mohenjo-Daro (Sind) and Harappa (Punjab) likely had a population of between 30,000 and 60,000 and the civilization itself during its peak may have contained between one and five million people.

The Indus civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization, after one of the sites, Harappa was the first of the sites to be excavated in the 1920s while trying to lay a railway line.  The discovery of Harappa and soon afterwards Mohenjo-Daro was the culmination of work beginning in 1861 with the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India during the colonial rule. There were however, earlier and later cultures often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area.

By 2002, over 1000 Mature Harappan cities and settlements had been reported, of which just under a hundred had been excavated. The Indus civilization was roughly contemporary with the other civilizations of the ancient world around the rivers: Egyptian along the river Nile, Mesopotamia in the lands watered by the Euphrates and the Tigris. By the time of its mature phase, the civilization had spread over an area larger than the others, which included a core of 1500 kilometers (900 miles) up the alluvial plain of the Indus and its tributaries. In addition, there was a region with disparate flora, fauna, and habitats, up to ten times as large, which had been shaped culturally and economically by the Indus river.

The Indus Valley Civilization extended from Pakistan's Baluchistan in the west to India's western Uttar Pradesh in the east, from North Eastern Afghanistan in the north to India's Gujarat and Maharashtra in the south. The largest number of sites are in Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, in India, and Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan provinces in Pakistan. Coastal settlements extended from Suktagan Gor in Western Baluchistan to Lothal in Gujarat. The southernmost site of the Indus valley civilization is Daimabad in Maharashtra. Indus Valley sites have been found most often on rivers, but also on the ancient seacoast, for example, Balakot, and on islands, for example, Dholavira.

As seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and the recently partially excavated Rakhigarhi, which included the world's first known urban sanitation systems. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells with clean water. From a bathroom, waste water was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner court-yards and lanes. The house-building in some villages in the region still resembles in some respects the house-building of the Harappans.

The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and drainage throughout the Indus region were far more advanced than ones found in in the Middle East, Pakistan and India today. The advanced architecture of the Harappans is shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms, and protective walls. The massive walls of Indus cities most likely protected the Harappans from floods and may have dissuaded military conflicts.

Most city dwellers appear to have been traders or artisans, who lived with others pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. Among the artefacts discovered were beautiful glazed beads. Seals have images of animals, people and gods, and other types of inscriptions, including the yet un-deciphered language. Some historians argue the language was similar to Dravidian languages especially Tamil. Some of the seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods.

Although some houses were larger than others, all the houses had access to water and drainage facilities. This gives the impression of a society with relatively low wealth concentration. There was an extensive maritime trade network operating between the Harappan and Mesopotamian civilizations as early as the middle Harappan Phase, with much commerce being handled by "middlemen merchants from Dilmun " (modern day Bahrain) Such long-distance sea trade became feasible with the development of plank-built watercraft, equipped with a single central mast supporting a sail of woven rushes or cloth.

Around 1900 BC signs of a gradual decline began to emerge, and by around 1700 BC most of the cities had been abandoned. Recent examination of human skeletons from the site of Harappa has demonstrated that the end of the Indus civilization saw an increase in inter-personal violence and infectious diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis. Many historians believe the great civilization ended due to Aryan invasion, while others believe it was floods in the Indus, climate change and earthquakes. Whatever be the reason a great civilization came to end.

After the never-ending monsoon delige this year in Sind, the historians are sure this is how the great civilization ended.

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