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HomeLearnHistorySignificance of the Harappan Civilization

Significance of the Harappan Civilization


The Harappan Civilization, spread over a large part of India subcontinent, existed between 2500 BC and 1750 BC and had educed out of the indigenous settlements that have been found in Baluchistan and at Kalibangan in Rajasthan.

The Harappan Civilization added a great deal to the life of the people in ancient India. Even today in the realm of religion and other fields, one can see the Harappan tradition contributing in India.

The Harappan Civilization: its Legacy

Despite political and social changes and migration of new ethnic groups of people into India through the north-western passes, the cultural patterns that emanated in Harappa continued till later times.

Our Knowledge of the Indus Civilization (the another name for the Harappan Civilization or the Harappan Culture) is very limited because the range of objects that have survived are less than those of Egypt and Mesopotamia about which we have got much more information. On the contrary, no pictorial evidence of the life of the people of the Harappan Culture could be found.

Must Read: World’s Earliest Civilizations – Egyptian, Sumerian, Indus Valley and Phoenician

The writing that has been found in the form of inscriptions on the seals has still remained undeciphered. However, these seals cater to us an idea of the religious beliefs of people of Indus Civilization that seems to have added greatly to the development of religious practices and mythology of later periods.

On a seal of Mohen-jo-daro the figure of a male deity surrounded by animals reminds our mind the traditional image of Pashupati Shiva. The animals may have served as vehicles of God, since in later Hinduism every God has been projected with his own mode of conveyance.

The Harappans worshipped phallus as linga that symbolized the generative power of nature. In later ages, this form of worship came to be identified as worshipping Shivalinga.

In one of some terracotta figures found in Harappa a plant growing out of the womb of a woman has been shown; it hinted that the people there looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess. And in course of time the fertility cult and concept of mother goddess expanded widely in different parts of the India, and they are still deep rooted in some regions.

The mother goddess, in many village, is represented as the principal deity who is known by various names. Through the Vedic texts reflect reverence to the earth as a goddess; she has not been given any prominence. References to various mother goddesses such as Durga, Kali, Amba, Chandi, etc. in Purana and Tantra can be found only from the 6th century AD.

Harappan worshipped trees too. On a seal a man has been shown in the midst of branches of a Peapal; this tree continues to be worshipped to this day. It is also interacting to note that same seal also indicates the practice of animal sacrifice for appeasing the god.

The most common animal shown on the seals is humped bull Nandi; it still continues to be held in great esteem by the Indians. The crocodile on the Harappan seals possibly represented the river Indus; the cult of the Ghariyal still survives in Sindh.

Some of the figurines discovered at Harappa are smoke-stained indicating that some oil or incence was burnt before them. The representation of a seated deity with a hooded Cobra over its head suggests the existence of some form of Naga worship.

There are examples of the use of ‘vermillion’, lighting “diya” on certain holy occasions, holding swastika and the wheel as the symbol of the Sun by the Harappans. All these religious beliefs and practices have been in practice and continuing in India till today.

The numerous ‘amulets’ found in Harappa suggest that Harappans believed, rather firmly, in ghosts and evil spirits and they had a belief that these evil spirits could be kept away with the use of amulets.

Since Atharva Veda comprises of many charms and spells and prescribes amulets for getting rid of diseases and evil spirits, anyone can come to the conclusion that the ideas of Harappan people regarding evil spirits were later on accepted by the Indo-Aryans.

Also Read: Indus Valley Civilization – 4700 years ago in Harappa and Mohenjodaro

Harappans and the Vedic Aryans

The Harappan Civilization or Culture, in comparison with the Vedic Civilization or Culture, in comparision with the Vedic Civilisation or Culture, was much more advanced and civilised. The Rig Vedic Aryans grew from the nomadic pastoral state to a rural culture, whereas the Harappans had well-planned cities. The houses of Harappans were made of burnt bricks but those of the Aryans were made of mud and wood.

The Harappans seem to have been the worshipper of Mother Goddess, Pashupati Siva whereas the Rig Vedic Aryans worshipped the forces of nature such as Indra (God of rain and thunders), Surya, Vayu and Agni.

A vast difference in the religious rites of the people of these two cultures: Harappan people most probably believed in yoga and household-worship; however, the early Aryans had belief in yojana, bali or sacrifice and composed hymn in praise of their gods.

The people of the Harappan Civilization knew the use of metals such as tin, copper, bronze, gold and silver, but they did not know about ‘iron’; iron was discovered by Aryans after and when they settled in the Gengetic plains around 1000 BC.

Both the people of the Harappan Civilization and the Vedic Civilization knew of axes, spears, knivas  and bows and around; however, the Harappan weapons, as emphasized by some scholars, were more of a defensive nature in comparison with the weapons of the Aryans. So it suggests that while the people of the Harappan Civilization were peace-loving traders, the Aryans were basically and mostly fighters. It is the reason perhaps that we find evidences of Harappan people establishing trade relations with lands in West Asia such as summer  and Mesopotamia. But the early Aryans did not have any cultural or trade relations with other land.

The Harappans had a pictographic script that has not yet been deciphered. We also have no Vedic script available either; the Vedas are termed Sruti meaning they were heard, memorized and transmuted orally to future generations.

Thus, it can be concluded that Harappan Civilization and Vedic Civilization were basically different. With the extinction of the highly developed socio-economic system of the Harappan Civilization, city life disappeared for several centuries. The Rig Vedic Aryans knew nothing of the city culture and it the Gangetic plains during the Sixth century BC.

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