Chapter 1: The Birth of Civilization

Terms in this set (66)

The largest cities of this civilization were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. This civilization had bronze tools, covered drainage systems, a diversified social and economic organization, and possibly a writing system which is still disputed today.

Cities: City layouts, building construction, weights and measures, seal inscriptions, patterned pottery and figurines, and even burnt brick used for buildings and flood walls are unusually uniform in all Indus towns, suggesting an integrated economic system and good internal communications. Because the main cities and towns lay in river lowlands subject to flooding, they were rebuilt often, with each reconstruction closely following the previous pattern. The possible Indus script shows no evidence of change over time, with all of this indicating that perhaps a conservative theocracy controlled this society rather than an unstable royal dynasty and court.

Economy: The economy was based on agriculture, with wheat and barley being the main crops. Rice, peas, lentils, sesame, dates, and cotton were also important. Cattle, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, and fowl were raised, and elephants and water buffalo were likely used as beasts of burden. The Indus valley people wove cloth from cotton, made metal tools, and used the potter's wheel. Evidence points to trade between the Indus culture and Mesopotamia, with the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf being a staging point for this trading.

Religion: Elaborate bath facilities suggest that ritual bathing and water purification were important. The many images of male animals suggest animal worship.A recurring image of a male figure with leafy headdress and horns, often seated in a posture associated later in India with yogic meditation, has been likened to the Vedic Aryan "Lord of All Creatures." He has features in common with the later Hindu god Shiva, especially where he is depicted with three faces and an erect phallus. Also found in Indus artifacts are the pipal tree and the left-handed swastika, both symbols of later importance to Hindus. Terra-cotta figurines of females, often pregnant or carrying a child, are similar to female images in several pre-historic cultures. As possible precursors of Shiva's consort, they too may represent a feminine element in pre-Aryan religion. Everything reminds us, however, that the Indus people, like all others, had their own ways of coming to terms with the mysteries of birth, life, and death.

The end: Between 1800 and 1700 B.C.E., Indus civilization disappeared. Some think (though unlikely) that the warlike Aryan invaders subdued the Indus civilization. Some scholars think it was destroyed by abnormal flooding, changes in the course of the Indus, collapse of military power, or a long period of desiccation even before the Aryans arrived.
All knowledge of this civilization comes from the Vedas. The Vedic texts date from about 1500-500 B.C.E. The were originally transmitted orally and was not written down until after 700 B.C.E., when the writing system was formed. The Vedas are ritual, priestly, and speculative, not historic works.

For Hindus, Veda is the eternal wisdom of primordial seers preserved for thousands of years in an unbroken oral tradition. The Vedas are the four major compilations of Vedic ritual, explanatory, and speculative texts. The Rig-Veda, a collection of 1,028 religious hymns, represent the oldest materials of the Vedas. The hymns date with the oldest from 1700-1200 B.C.E. and the latest hymns from 1000 B.C.E.

The Vedic Aryans were seminomadic warriors who reached India through the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush. They were horsemen and cattle herders. They left their mark through the changes that their conquests brought to the regions they overran: a new language, social organization, techniques of warfare, and religious forms and ideas. They penetrated first into the Punjab and the Indus valley around 1800-1500 B.C.E., presumably in search of grazing lands for their livestock. Their horses, chariots, and copper-bronze weapons likely gave them military superiority. The god Indra, as echoed in the Rig-Vedic hymns, is hailed as a warrior who smashes the fortifications of enemies (Indus citadels?) and slays the great serpent who had blocked the rivers (referring to the destruction of the dams that controlled the Indus waters?). The references of humans rather than divine warriors later on may reflect actual historic events. One late hymn praises the kind of the Bharatas, giving us the Indian name for modern India, Bharat, "land of the Bharatas."