- Indus Valley civilization
- The Indus Valley civilization (c. 3600 B.C.E. to 1900 B.C.E.) was one of the largest civilization complexes in the ancient world. Excavations at the primary sites of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa show that the civilization stretched at least from the lower to the middle reaches of the Indus River, now almost entirely in Pakistan. First excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1921, the remains show a highly developed city culture with grana-ries, bath houses, city planning, sculpture, and a form of writing.Most important for the history of Hinduism, there are elements that foreshadow later develop-ments in the religion. Several artifacts seem to indicate goddess-oriented worship. These godlike forms, interestingly, closely resemble those exca-vated in Neolithic Europe.Among the Indus Valley artifacts are numer-ous seals, possibly used for commercial purposes, which depict animals, humans, and possibly gods and goddesses. One of these seals seems to show a female divinity being worshipped in a tree, resem-bling very much the later worship of YAKSHAS, or tree beings.One artifact that has garnered a lot of attention is a depiction of a seated figure with an erect penis and a buffalo style headdress. This figure has been called Proto-SHIVA and linked to the later concept of Shiva as Pashupati or lord of the animals.The relationship between the Indus Valley remains, later VEDIC culture, and the ARYANS has been the subject of much controversy. Most modern Western scholarship dates the Rig Veda, India’s oldest extant text, to around 1500 B.C.E., comfortably after the fall of the Indus Valley civili-zation. Some, particularly in India, however, seek to find in the Indus Valley the earliest Aryan and Vedic culture.Two facts complicate this claim of a Vedic Indus Valley civilization. First, the Rig Veda barely mentions city life. Most Vedic hymns dwell on horses and herds of cows; none of them even men-tions a large building, let alone any feature that might be associated with advanced city life. More importantly, the Vedas frequently mention large horses pulling men in chariots. Archaeological research indicates that large horses are not indig-enous to India, but are of Middle Eastern genetic stock. Large horse remains have been found in the northern Punjab, where the Vedic people are believed to have lived, but not a single verifiable find has been made at any Indus Valley site—only remains of the smaller native Indian horse.Undoubtedly, certain Hindu traditions may trace back to the Indus Valley civilization. Recent research has shown that elements of Indus Val-ley culture survived and spread in western and central India several centuries after 1900 B.C.E., previously believed to be the end date for the civilization. Additional research will probably find more examples of continuities in Indian traditions, particularly ceramic and pottery tradi-tions. Cities did not emerge again in India until 800 B.C.E., so there is no reason to believe that the historical cities owed their existence to this early civilization.Further reading: Bridget and Raymond Allchin, The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982); B. B. Lal, The Earliest Civilization of South Asia: Rise, Maturity, and Decline (New Delhi: Aryan Books Inter-national, 1997); Gregory L. Possehl, The Indus Civiliza-tion: A Contemporary Perspective (Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2002).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.