Harappan Civilization: Introduction and Extent


The history of India begins with the birth of the INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION (IVC), also known as Harappan Civilization. Indus Valley Civilization was the first major civilization in South Asia, which spread across a vast area of land in present-day India and Pakistan (around 12 lakh sq.km). Soon after, the discovery of cities such as Lothal, Dholavira, Mohenjodaro, and Kalibangan, have also come to be known as the Harappan cities or the advent of the Harappan civilization. These Harappan sites have been found around the Indus River, proving the existence of the Indus Valley Civilization.

The Harappan civilization did not appear suddenly.. It developed from different Neolithic villages. It is believed that the technology that was used to exploit the fertile plains of river Indus might have caused the increase of agricultural production. This has led to the production of larger surpluses, to feed and help non-agricultural people such as artisans, administrators, etc. It also gave way to the promotion of exchange or trading contracts with distant regions. It has brought prosperity to the Harappan people, and they were able to set up different cities.

By around 2000 BC, several regional cultures had developed in the different parts of the subcontinent which were also based on the usage of stone and copper tools. These Chalcolithic cultures which did lay out of the Harappan zone were not that rich in nature and flourishing. These were basically very rural in nature. The origin and development of these cultures has been placed in the chronological span between 2000 BC–700 BC. These are mainly found in Western and Central India and are described as non-Harappan Chalcolithic cultures.


  1. EARLY HARAPPAN PHASE (3500 BC–2600 BC) – it was marked by some town-planning in the form of mud structures, elementary trade, arts and crafts, etc., 
  2. MATURE HARAPPAN PHASE (2600 BC–1900 BC) – it was the period in which we notice welldeveloped towns with burnt brick structures, inland and foreign trade, crafts of various types, etc., and 
  3. LATE HARAPPAN PHASE (1900 BC–1400 BC) – it was the phase of decline during which many cities were abandoned and the trade disappeared leading to the gradual decay of the significant urban traits.


CITADEL : The western part, which was smaller but higher, was called the citadel.

LOWER TOWN : The eastern part was larger, but the lower part was called the lower town.

The walls of the baked brick were built around each part of the city. The bricks were so excellently baked that they survived centuries. The walls were laid in an interlocking pattern, making the buildings strong. In several cities, special structures were constructed on the citadel. For instance, in Mohenjodaro, a very special tank, called the Great Bath, by historians, was built in this area. Some towns like Mohenjodaro, Harappa, and Lothal had elaborate storage facilities. These were some of the special facts about Harappan civilization.

Trading network both internal and external, was a very important feature of the urban economy of the Harappans. As the maximum urban population had to depend on the surrounding countryside for the supply of food and other necessary products, there did emerge a village town interrelationship. Both were interdependent on each other for their own benefit. The urban craftsmen needed different markets to sell their goods in some areas. It led to contact between different towns. The traders also made sure to establish contacts with foreign lands particularly Mesopotamia, where these goods were in demand.

It is important to note that different kinds of metals and precious stones which were needed by craftsmen to make goods, but as these were not readily available in the local market, they had to be brought from outside. The presence of such raw materials found at sites away from the place of its origin, n indicates that it must have reached there through an exchange activity. Thus, Rajasthan region is rich in various copper deposits and the Harappans acquired copper mainly from the Khetri mines which were located here. Kolar gold fields of Karnataka and the river beds of the Himalayan rivers might have supplied some of the gold there. The source of silver may have been the Jwar mines of Rajasthan.


  • Around 3300 BC, the Indus Valley Civilization was established.
  • It flourished from 2600 BC to 1900 BC (Mature Indus Valley Civilization).
  • Around 1900 BC, it began to decline and vanished around 1400 BC.
  • It is also named the Harappan Civilization after Harappa, the first town to be excavated (Punjab, Pakistan).
  • In Mehrgarh, Pakistan, the pre-Harappan civilization was discovered, showing the first evidence of cotton cultivation.
  • Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Western Uttar Pradesh were covered geographically by this civilization. It stretched from Sutkagengor (in Baluchistan) in the West to Alamgirpur (Western UP) in the East; and from Daimabad (Ahmednagar, Maharashtra) in the South to Mandu (Jammu) in the North.
  • Several sites in the Indus Valley were also located as far away as Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.


The geographical extent of the Harappan civilisation was the most extensive out of the three most ancient civilisations. At its height, the Harappan civilisation was spread over the whole of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Western Uttar Pradesh. It is said to have reached from Sutkagendor (in Balochistan) in the West to Alamgirpur (Western UP). 

Its boundaries are as follows:

  1. The western boundary started from Sutkagendor on the Makran coast of Pakistan.
  2. The eastern boundary was till Alamgirpur in Western UP.
  3. The Southern boundary reached Daimabad in Maharashtra.
  4. The Northern boundary was till Manda Akhnoor in Jammu and Kashmir.