Origin & Salient Features of Indus Valley Civilization

The question about the origin of the Indus valley civilization is largely unanswered. Various researches have linked significantly the origin of Indus Valley civilization to the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh. Mehrgarh which lies on the “Kachi Plain” of Baluchistan in Pakistan is a Neolithic site. Mehrgarh was a centre of transformation from the hunter gatherer to farming (wheat and barley are found) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats were reared).

Apart from this, a Neolithic settlement has been found in South India which is contemporary with the Early Indus valley Civilization. These sites were characterized as Neolithic sites by Bruce Foot at sin Karnataka such as pikkalilal, Utnur, Kupgal, Kodekal, pallavoy. Ash mounds have been found and they have given the evidence that cattle were herded there. This along with views of some other scholars indicates that this was a “Dravidian Civilization”.

However, Mehrgarh dates back to 7000 BC and as early as 5000 BC, trade links with Arabian Sea coast and with central Asia have been established. So in the light of these evidences it has been made clear thatFoundation of Indus valley civilization was laid in the Neolithic period.

Before we move to the each site and settlements of the civilization let’s have a look at some basic common features of the urban centers of the Civilization. These features vary little from place to place.

  • The first common feature is Indus script on seals. This script has not been deciphered yet, so not much information is available about the social life, customs etc.
  • The second most important feature is town planning. The main features of town planning were use of baked as well as sundried bricks, well planned straight roads and a system of drainage.
  • A fortified citadel at most of the cities. The number of the citadels varies.
  • Houses with kitchens and wells, tanks or water reservoirs.
  • Use of standard weights and measurement throughout the civilization.
  • Presence of wheel made pottery.
  • The Practice of burying the dead.

Salient Features of Harappa and Mohen Jo-dero

Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro are 500 kms apart from each other. These, along with Dholavira, are called the nucleus cities of the civilization. Harappa, the first discovered site of this civilization was on bank of river Ravi, while Mohenjo-Daro was on banks of Indus River. Each of them has two prominent mounds where excavations took place. Notable findings at Harappa are rows of granaries, Citadels, Furnaces and a crucible to melt the bronze. Notable findings at Mohenjo-Daro are the magnum opus Great Bath, uniform buildings and weights, hidden drains and other hallmarks of the civilization. This is the site where most unicorn seals have been found. Mohenjo-Daro is also sometimes known as largest urban centre of the civilization.

Great Bath

The most famous building found at Mohenjo-Daro is a great bath. It is a 6×12 meter specimen of beautiful brick work. The water for the bath was provided from a well in an adjacent room. The floor was made up of bricks. Floor and outer walls were bituminized so that there is no leakage of water. There are open porch’s on four sides of the bath. There is use of Burnt bricks, Mortar and Gypsum in the Great bath but NO use of stone is there.

The largest building found at Mohenjo-Daro is a granary. Then, there was also a pillared hall for social gatherings. The other notable findings at Mohenjo-Daro are instruments of cotton weaving, Bronze figurine of dancing girl, evidence of violence and killing, seal of the mother goddess, the figurine of beared man, the seal of Proto Shiva, a seal in which a man is sacrificing a woman with his knife.

Observations about other sites

  • Third important centre of the civilization is Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch area. The site is relatively newly discovered and here the historians found a tantalizing signboard with Indus script.
  • Dholavira is different from Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro on the account that its drainage system is much more elaborated then these two cities. While the two cities had two mounds each, leading to conclusion that there were two citadels, Dholavira had three citadels. Each of these three citadels of Dholavira was improved than Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro and had an inner enclosure as well.
  • The Dholavira is the largest Indus Valley Site in independent India. The second largest is Rakhigarhi near Hissar in Haryana. Near Hissar, there is another site called Banawali where Barley was a common crop in Indus valley times.
  • The westernmost site Suktagendor is located near present borders of Iran and it was an important coastal / port town. Another important port town was Lothal. One more coastal city was Balakot, which is located near Karachi in Pakistan.
  • The presence of horse has been doubtful in Indus Valley Civilization. The site where the historians were able to collect some bones of Horse is Surkotada in Bhuj area of Gujarat.
  • The Kalibangan site in the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan has given evidence of both Pre-harappan and harappan civilization. Here the historians have found a ploughed field and bones of camel. The peculiar type of circular and rectangular graves is another feature of Kalibangan. In terms of town planning, Kalibangan was not as developed as Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Dholavira because here we neither find use of baked bricks nor a drainage system.
  • A different kind of town planning we found at Lothal; this city was divided into 6 sections and each section had a wide platform of earthen bricks. Lothal and Rangpur are two sites where historians found rice husk. The magnum opus of Lothal is an artificial dock. Lothal’s dock—the world’s earliest known, connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert of today was a part of the Arabian Sea.It was a vital and thriving trade centre in ancient times, with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching the far corners of West Asia and Africa.
  • A bead making factory has also been found in Lothal. A seal from Iran has been found which indicates its link with overseas countries.
  • Then, Lothal is different from other sites of Indus Valley Civilization in terms of town planning that it has entry to the houses on the main street while in other sites have shown lateral entry.
  • The only city in the Indus Valley civilization which does not have a citadel was Chanhu Daro, located some 130 kilometers south of Mohenjo-Daro.
  • Alamagirpur was the eastern boundary of the Indus Valley Civilization. The evidences say that this site developed in mature Harappan phase. Kot Diji and Amri were pre-harappan sites.

The above information has been summarized below:

  • Dholavira : Signboard, 3 citadels with improved inner enclosure
  • Suktagendor, Lothal and Balakot : Coastal Cities and Port Towns
  • Surkotda : Horse Bones
  • Kalibangan: Ploughed Field, Bones of Camel, Circular and Rectangular Graves, Neither Baked Bricks nor a Drainage system.
  • Lothal: 6 sections in city, Artificial dockyard, Entry from the main street instead of lateral entry that was common, The vase depicting a thirsty crow as been found at Lothal.
  • Lothal and Rangpur: Rice Husk


  • azad

    good materials

  • veera

    very much informative. thanks

  • ramesh prehar

    very informative indeed.


    Really omniscient

  • Poorva dalvi

    tysm fr helping me in ma project….