Some Cities of the Harappan Civilisation



  1. Harappa
  2. Mohenjodaro
  3. Kalibangan
  4. Lothal
  5. Dholavira
  6. Rakhigarhi


Some Cities of the Harappan Civilisation:

Harappa :

Harappa is situated on the banks of the river Ravi (District Sahiwal in Punjab, Pakistan). The ancient site of Harappa had spread on 150 Hectares. The first excavation at Harappa began in 1921. More excavations were conducted at the site, from time to time. Among them the excavations conducted in 1946 by Sir Mortimer Wheeler is important. At that time, he was the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India. During the excavation, he could trace the fortification wall around the citadel of Harappa. The first settlement of the Early Harappan period was established around 3300 B.C.E. It evolved to the Mature Harappan (urban) phase around 2600 B.C.E. It reached its peak during 2450-1900 B.C.E. Around 1900 B.C.E. some internal changes begin to appear in the Harappan cities. This is the time of the onset of the Late Harappan phase. This phase indicates the decline of Harappan civilisation. The evidence of the first excavations at Harappa had indicated that the city of Harappa was divided into two parts – the ‘Citadel’ and the ‘Lower Town’. However, recent excavations show that it had four divisions. Apart from the citadel and the lower town, there were factories and the quarters of artisans in the Southeast part of the city. The area toward the north of the -citadel had a granary and the quarters of the workers working there. It is obvious that the officials staying in the citadel supervised over the granary and the workers working there. A few working platforms were found near the granary.

Mohenjodaro :

The excavations at Mohenjodaro by Rakhaldas Banerjee began in 1921 22. He concluded, because of the similarity between the seals and other artefacts, that the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia and Harappa had cultural ties with each other. In 1923- 24 to gather more information about Mohenjodaro Madho Sarup Vats, Kashinath Narayan Dikshit, Earnest Mackay and others conducted further excavations under Sir John Marshall’s direction. He was the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India at that time. During these excavations, various artefacts, houses and public monuments were unearthed. Mohenjodaro was built on the banks of the river Sindhu (Indus) in Pakistan (District Larkana, Sindh). It was not possible to reach the bottom layer during the excavations because of the high levels of groundwater.

However, it is likely that a neolithic settlement contemporary to the one at Mehrgarh existed there. Areawise, Mohenjodaro is the biggest city, among those discovered in Pakistan so far. It was thought that the city was divided into two fortified sections, namely the ‘Citadel’ and the ‘Lower Town’. However, there was an additional section of the market.

In this section were found various workshops, kilns for baking pottery and beads. The remains at Mohenjodaro were considerably intact. So the glory of the city was revealed in way of the houses, majestic buildings, wide streets, etc. Thus the evidence administration, characteristic of the Harappan civilisation came into light. The town planning of the Harappan cities can be easily compared with the town planning of a modern city like Chandigarh. Considering the economic and human resources required for the creation of a pre-planned city like Mohenjodaro, it is obvious that it was created to serve a distinctive purpose.

Kalibangan :

The site of Kalibangan is 205 kilometres away from Bikaner. It is located in the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan. It was one of the important urban centres of the Harappan civilisation, situated on the banks of the river Ghaggar. L. P. Tessitore, an Italian linguist had visited Kalibangan during his study tour of the region. He had reported that Kalibangan is an ancient site and it could be prehistoric. It was confirmed to be a Harappan city only after the excavations began there in 1960. It was conducted under the direction of Brijabasi Lal, the then Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India and Balkrishna Thapar. At Kalibangan two settlements, one of the Mature Harappan period and the other of the Early Harappan period, were found. Kalibangan was a small city compared to Harappa and Mohenjodaro. The division of the city into the ‘Citadel’ and the ‘Lower Town’ was found here also. The site of Kalibangan is important for two things. The first is the ploughed field of the Early Harappan period. This field is dated to about 2800 B.C.E. The furrow marks in this ancient field are similar to the furrows of modern fields in the surrounding area. The other thing is the series of six to seven fire altars in the citadel. Evidence of fire alters inside the houses of common people has also been unearthed. Apart from this, there was a house with a series of fire altars outside the fortification wall. Some of them contained animal bones. According to some archaeologists, this might be indicative of fire worship.

Lothal :

The centre of the Harappan civilisation at Lothal was situated near the Gulf of Kutch, in Gujarat, 80 kilometres away from Ahmedabad. It is known for the remains of Harappan dock. Lothal was excavated from 1955 to 1960 under the supervision of S.R. Rao. The ‘Citadel’ and the ‘Lower Town’ at Lothal do not have separate fortification walls. Rather they are surrounded by a single fortification wall. Lothal was established on the banks of the river Bhogao. The presence of platforms built for stalls, a warehouse, and the dock confirm that Lothal was an important Harappan port and trading centre. The architecture of the dock at Lothal is an example of the engineering excellence of ancient people. At present Lothal is away from the sea. However, in the ancient times, Lothal was in the delta region of the Gulf of Kutch. It is clear that the Harappan settlers of Lothal had a good knowledge of the high and low tides and accordingly the rising and receding pattern of Bhogao waters. The dock was built to facilitate the entry of boats during the high tide and their exit during low tides. Once the boats entered the dock, the water was drained out through a sluice gate into a canal. The sluice gate of baked bricks was built to reduce the water level in the dock as and when required. Then the repair work of the boats was completed and with the rise of water, the boats could sail back.

Dholavira :

Dholavira was discovered by J.P. Joshi, the Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India. The site is in ‘Khadirbet’ in Gujarat (Dist. Kutch). Excavations at the site were started by R.S. Bisht in 1990. Among the excavated Harappan sites, extents Dholavira is the fifth-largest city. Its town planning is somewhat different compared to other Harappan cities. An Early Harappan settlement was discovered at Dholavira. There was a protective wall built around it by using mud bricks (unbaked bricks) and dressed stones. The layers above this settlement had the Harappan city of Mature Harappan phase. It was surrounded by an outer fortification wall. The settlement within the outer fortification was divided into four sections.

(1) Citadel

(2) The adjacent section  reserved for high officials

(3) Lower Town – These three sections had walls, which separated them from each other.

(4) The fourth section inside the outer fortification did not have any additional separating walls. This fourth section was perhaps meant for the workers. A dam of baked bricks and stone was built to obstruct the water of two streams, which flowed near the closed city and the water was diverted to canals and lakes. This was the most ancient system of planned water management.

Rakhigarhi :

In the Hissar district of Haryana is situated the site of Rakhigarhi, a Harappan city. It is on a distance of 150 kilometres from Delhi. It is located on the banks of Chautang (ancient Drishdvati river). Rakhigarhi is the largest Harappan site, among all the sites from India and Pakistan. Its total area was more than 350 Hectares. The excavations at Rakhigarhi started in 1963. It continued in 1997-2000. Later, Dr.Vasant Shinde of the Deccan College, Pune also conducted excavations at the site. At Rakhigarhi, all characteristics of the Harappan cities were present. It was the main centre of the Harappan civilisation in its eastern region. At this site too, evidence of fire altars like Kalibangan has been found. Indeed, cemeteries were found at various other Harappan sites, but the human skeletal remains from there were not studied to analyse the hereditary characteristics of the population. However, the human bones from Rakhigarhi were subjected to genetic analysis. Scientists believe that in due course it would provide satisfactory answers to the question of the origin of Harappan people.

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