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The Decline of the Cities

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The Decline of the Cities:

  • The Indus Valley Civilization declined around 1800 BCE and scholars debate which factors resulted in the civilization’s demise. One theory suggested that a nomadic, Indo-European tribe called the Aryans invaded and conquered the Indus Valley Civilization, though more recent evidence tends to contradict this claim. Many scholars believe that the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by climate change. Some experts believe the drying of the Saraswati River, which began around 1900 BCE, was the main cause for climate change, while others conclude that a great flood struck the area. Various elements of the Indus Civilization are found in later cultures, suggesting the civilization did not disappear suddenly due to an invasion. Many scholars argue that changes in river patterns caused the large civilization to break up into smaller communities called late Harappan cultures.
  • When Harappan civilisation was discovered, it was presumed that its cities were destroyed by invading tribes who came from outside. Indra is described as ‘Purandara’ meaning the destroyer of fortified cities. The Harappan cities were fortified, thus befitting the definition of ‘pura’. Sir Mortimer Wheeler on this basis concluded that Indra destroyed the Harappan cities. In turn, he declared that the Vedic Aryans destroyed the Harappan cities under the leadership of Indra. This declaration by Wheeler received general approval among the scholars at that time. However, more concrete evidence in the context of Harappan civilisation is available now, which does not agree with Wheeler’s opinion. It is now known that the Harappa civilisation began to decline around 2000- 1900 B.C.E. People had to migrate elsewhere. With this, began the Late Harappan period.
  • Degradation of cultivable land was on the increase. It is mentioned earlier that sites of Harappan civilisation have been discovered in large numbers in the basin of Saraswati, which is now known as Ghaggar/  Hakra. The interrelationship between Harappan cities and villages that formed the support system of the socio-economic life of the cities dwindled in this period. The devastating earthquake in the Saraswati basin was the major reason responsible for it. The earthquake raised the ground level of the river bed causing a barrier causing Sutlaj and Yamuna, the tributaries of the Saraswati to change its course. As a result, the Saraswati dried up and the Harappans had to migrate elsewhere. Harappan cities were abandoned.

Post-Urban Phase of the Harappan Culture:

  • The Harappan culture seems to have flourished until 1800 B.C. Afterward, its urban phase marked by systematic town-planning, extensive brickwork, the art of writing, standard weights and measures, the distinction between the citadel and the lower town, use of bronze tools, and redware pottery painted with black designs practically disappeared.
  • Its stylistic homogeneity disappeared, and the post-urban Harappan stage was marked by sharp stylistic diversity.
  • The post-urban phase of the Harappan culture is also known as the sub Indus culture and is more popularised as the Late Harappan culture.
  • The late Harappan cultures are primarily chalcolithic in which tools of stone and copper are used.
  • During the later phases of the Harappan culture, some exotic tools and pottery indicated the slow percolation of new peoples in the Indus basin. A few signs of insecurity and violence appear in the last phase of Mohenjo-Daro.
  • Hoards of jewellery were buried at places, and skulls were huddled together at one place. New types of axes, daggers, knives with midribs, and flat tangs appear in the upper levels of Mohenjo-Daro. They seem to betray some foreign instruction.
  • Traces of new peoples appear in a cemetery belonging to the late phase of Harappa, sites in Baluchistan.
  • At several sites in Punjab and Harayana, Grey Ware and Painted Grey Ware, generally associated with Vedic people, have been found in conjunction with some late Harappan pottery dated around 1200 B.C.
  • All this can be attributed to the barbarian horse-riding people who may have come from Iran through the hills.
  • But the new peoples did not come in such numbers as to completely overwhelm the Harappan cities in Punjab and Sindh.
  • Although the Rig Vedic Aryans settled down mostly in the land of the Seven Rivers, in which the Harappan culture once flourished, we have no archaeological evidence of any mass-scale confrontation between the native Harappans and the Aryans.
  • The Vedic people may have encountered the people belonging to the late Harappan phase between 1800 B.C. and 1200 B.C.

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For Additional Information:

Mesopotamia is known for its grand temples. The administrative system of Mesopotamian cities revolved around the administration of these temples. Mesopotamian temples are known as ‘ziggurats’. The high priest of the temple used to be the ruler of the city. The social life, cultural events, power and hierarchy of officials, etc. were organised in accordance with the rituals and festivals of the presiding deity of the temple. The notion of a ‘Priest-King’ of the Harappan civilisation was formulated by presuming its close similarity with the Mesopotamian culture. Mesopotamia was rich in agricultural production. However, it did not have enough sources of precious metals, gems, and timber. These things were imported there. Many of the Mesopotamian brick inscriptions contain the lists of imported commodities and the place names from where they were imported. The exports from Mesopotamia included textiles, pottery, and leather products.

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