The Harappan Civilization

Clyde Winters

Archaeological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Dravidians were the founders of the Harappan culture which extended from the Indus Valley through northeastern Afghanistan, on into Turkestan. The Harappan civilization existed from 2600-1700 BC. The Harappan civilization was twice the size the Old Kingdom of Egypt. In addition to trade relations with Mesopotamia and Iran, the Harappan city states also had active trade relations with the Central Asian peoples.

To compensate for the adverse ecological conditions, the Harappans first settled sites along the Indus river. (Fairservis 1987:48) The Dravido-Harappans occupied over 1,000 sites in the riverine Indus Valley environments where they had soil and water reserves. The Harappan sites are spread from the Indus Valley to Ai Kharnoum in northeastern Afghanistan and southward into India. In Baluchistan and Afghanistan Dravidian languages are still spoken today. Other Harappan sites have been found scattered in the regions adjacent to the Arabian sea, the Derajat, Kashmir, and the Doab.

The Indus region is an area of uncertain rains because it is located on the fringes of the monsoon. Settlers in the Indus Valley had to suffer frequent droughts and floods. Severe droughts frequently occurred in the Indus Valley so the people dug wells to insure for themselves a safe supply of water.

To compensate for the adverse ecological conditions, the Harappans settled sites along the Indus river.

The Mature Harappan civilization is divided into two variants the Sorath Harappan and the Sindhi Harappan. The Sindhi Harappan sites are sites characterized by elaborate architecture, fired brick construction, sewage systems and stamp seals. The Sindhi Harappan styles have been found in Gujarat, Kutch, the Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The major Sindhi cities include Mohenjodaro, Lothal, Rangpur, Harappa, Rangpur, Desalpur, Shirkotada, Manda, Ropar, Kalibangan and Chanhudaro.

The Sindhi Harappans possessed writing, massive brick platforms, well-digging a system of weights-and-measures, black-and-red ware (BRW), metal work and beads. (Possehl 1990:268) The Harappans were masters of hydraulic engineering.

They were a riverine people that practiced irrigation agriculture. They had both the shaduf and windmills.(Fairservis 1991) In the Harappan sites domestic quarters and industrial areas were isolated from each other.

The Sorath Harappan sites lack stamp seals, ornaments and elaborate architecture. Sorath is the ancient name for Saurashtra. The Sorath Harappan sites are located in Saurashtra, Kulli, and the Harappan style of Baluchistan and Gujarat .

The Dravido-Harappans occupied over 1,000 sites in the riverine Indus Valley environments where they had soil and water reserves. The Harappan sites are spread from the Indus Valley to Ai Kharnoum in northeastern Afghanistan and southward into India. In Baluchistan and Afghanistan Dravidian languages are still spoken today. Other Harappan sites have been found scattered in the regions adjacent to the Arabian sea, the Derajat , Kashmir and the Doab.

Monhenjo Daro

The Harappans were organized into chiefdoms, averaging between two and five acres. The Harappans were sedentary-pastoral people organized into various corporations such as sailor-fishermen, smiths, merchants and farmers. The Harappans also possessed the social technology of writing seals.

The Harappan sites are small and occupy only a few acres with little depth. This suggests that the Dravidian speaking colonists settled the Indus Valley over a period of a few decades. Fairservis has shown that the site of Mohenjodaro was occupied for around 200 years.

Many archaeologists are beginning to accept the fact that the Harappan civilization was founded elsewhere and taken to the Indus Valley by the Harappan people.

The Sumerians called the Indus Valley: Dilmun or Tilmun according to Sumerolo- gists S.N. Krammer in The Sumerians:Their History, Culture and Character. Other specialist have begun to popularize the idea that the Indus Valley was called Meluhh- a, because of the Aryan mention of Meluhhaites in India when they arrived. There were Meluhhaites in India living along the Ganges, but these Meluhhaites were settled in India after Sestrosis I, of Egypt conquered the Ganges region. It was also around this time that the Egyptians established colonies in Colchis near the Black Sea.

Harappan Boat

During the times of Sargon the Great of Sumer, Dravido-Harappan ships from Dilmun were anchored at Agade docks in Mesopotamia. The ships of Dilmun exported gold, copper utensils, lapis lazuli, ivory, beads and semiprecious stones.

Today there are isolated pockets of Dravidian speaking groups surrounded by Indo-Aryan speakers. Dravidian languages are spoken by tribal groups in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar.

Priest King

The Harappans were organized into chiefdoms. Their towns were between two and five acres in diameter. The Harappans were a sedentary pastoral people orga nized into various corporations: smith,sailor, fisherman. The Harappans also pos- sessed a social technology of writing.

The Harappans were find engineers and craftsmen. They built large cities with complex drain systems under the streets of some of their cities.

The Harappans cultivated wheat, barley and millet. They had domesticated sheep/- goats and cattle.

Mainly sedentary pastoralist, the Harappans had a highly developed grain storage system. The main cities of the Harappan civilization were Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Chanhudaro, Kalibangan and Lothol. These cities, and the towns, were built on a regular plan of straight streets. The buildings were made of kiln-burned mud bricks.

Male Head From Mohenjo Daro

Each house contained several rooms plus bathrooms and storage areas. A court yard was placed in the middle of most Harappan homes surrounded by the living quarters.

In the center of each city there stood a citadel surround by a wall.This citadel appears to have been a religious center.

The recent discovery of the site of Manda, in the Himalayan foothills points out the Harappan control of the Himalayan timber. Gumba, another Harappan site might have been the trade terminal for the export of metals, minerals and timber from Afghanistan and the former Soviet Central Asia.


The Dravidians built the first major port in Lothol. Lothal was situated at the head of the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat. Here archaeologists have found large warehouses ready to hold goods for export.

At Mohenjodaro, the streets were paved with bricks. The windows of the houses faced interior courtyards not the street. The site of Mohenjodaro was occupied for 200 years.

Kalibangan, situated on the southern bank of the Ghaggar, now a dry bed, in ancient times was a large river. The people here lived in multi-storied buildings, and had streets large enough to carry carts, similar to those that are used in the Sind today.

There were also Proto-Dravidian/Harappan colonies in Central Asia, established in Eastern Bactria. The Harappans had trade relations with the Namazga V site. Masson has proposed that the Altyn-Depe people spoke Proto-Dravidian.

The Proto-Dravidian of the Harappan civilization controlled the trade of Central Asia. The major Harappan colony in this area was Shortughai, situated at the conflu ence of the Amou Darya and the Kokcha river. Shortughai flourished between 2500 and 1800 B.C.

Due to changes in the environment of the indus Valley much of the area became more arid. This led to many Harappans migrating out of the Indus Valley into India, to settle sites in Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and other parts of western Uttar Pradesh between 1700-1000 B.C.

It was in Gujarat, that the Dravidians probably first came in contact with the Aryans. Here we find examples of the plain grey ware (PGW) used by the Indo-European speaking peoples of India.

After 1700 B.C., with the end of the Harappan culture BRW spread southward into the Chalcolithic culture of Malwa and Central India, down to northern Deccan and eastward into the Gangetic Basin.

The users of the BRW of Gujarat between 1700-100 B.C., were in communication with the Dravidians of the Malwa culture. The BRW people of the Malwa culture occu pied the Tapi Valley, Pravara Godavari and the Bhima Valleys. As a general rule the BRW horizon precedes the PGR periods. The PGR period is associated with the Indo- Aryan speakers. (Singh 1982)

Here on the Gangetic plain we see the emergence of PGW. The presence of PGW points to the probable first contact between the Proto-Dravidians and Indo-Aryans.


The Harappan religion was polytheistic. They used cattle, elephants and other animals to represent their gods. The Harappan seals are amulets addressed to the Harappan gods.

The gods of the Harappans depicted on their seals represented the gods of the various economic corporations in the Indus Valley. The unicorn god, probably repre sented Mal, while the cattle god probably represented Kali or Uma, Amma or Pravar- ti, the mother goddess.(Winters 1984,1987)

Seals have been found in almost every room at Mohenjodaro. Many of Indus seals were found in a worn condition and show signs of repair. Archaeologists have found holes on the back of the seals that indicate that the Harappans wore them tied around their neck or ankles with a string.

Perforated boss on the back of Harappan seals


Winters,Clyde Ahmad, "The Unity of African and Indian Agriculture", Journal of African Civilization 3, no1, (1981a),page 103.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad, "Are Dravidians of African Origin", P.Second ISAS,1980,( Hong Kong:Asian Research Service, 1981b) pages 789- 807.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad, "The Harappan script Deciphered:Proto- Dravidian Writing of the Indus Valley", P Third ISAS, 1981,(Hong Kong:Asian Research Service, 1982b) pages 925-936.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad, "The Indus Valley Writing is Proto- Dravidian",Journal of Tamil Studies , no 25 (June 1984a), pp.50-64.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad, "Further Notes on Japanese and Tamil" ,International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 13, no2, (June 1984c) pages 347-353.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Inspiration of the Harappan Talismanic Seals", Tamil Civilization 2, no1 (March 1984d), pages 1-8.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Harappan Writing of the Copper Tablets", Journal of Indian History LXll, nos.1-3 (1984), pages 1-5.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Proto-Culture of the Dravidians ,Manding and Sumerians", Tamil Civilization 3, no1 (March 1985a) ,pages 1-9.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Indus Valley Writing and related Scripts of the 3rd Millennium BC", India Past and Present 2,no1 ( 1985b), pages 13-19.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad Winters ,"The Dravidian Origin of the Mountain and Water Toponyms in central Asia", Journal of Central Asia 9, no2 (1986d), pages 144-148.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad, "The Dravidian and Manding Substratum in Tokharian",- Central Asiatic Journal 32, nos1-2,(1988)pages 131-141.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad,"Tamil,Sumerian and Manding and the Genetic Model",Int- ernational Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 18,(1989) no.l.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad, "The Dravido Harappan Colonization of Central Asia", Central Asiatic Journal 34, no1-2 (1990),pages 120-144.

Revised June 1998

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