Ancient Civilisations: The Indus Valley

One might wonder how the world would have looked like to-day if Britain never invaded and colonised so many areas across the world.

Would the natives still have been able to install railways and telephones? Would they think of preserving ancient artefacts that they happened to find rather than use them for themselves? Would they have discovered ancient civilisations on their own and be able to tell the world about them?

I like to think they could, but I have serious doubts about Indians – from what I have observed, most of them seem to not give a shit about their past; instead, they want what’s on the other, seemingly greener side. Or maybe they would’ve been a little more concerned than that.

To-day, I am here to tell the world about a certain civilisation that was discovered accidentally by a British soldier in South Asia, in a land that used to be the Indian subcontinent. Before this discovery, it was thought that the Vedic Age was the oldest civilisation in the region – around 1500 BCE. The discovery of the ancient site at Harappa, in present-day Pakistan, set the history of civilisation in the subcontinent back about two centuries!

Well, yes, India had a civilisation that was one of the oldest in the world. Yes, it came before the Greeks.

Harappa is a place along the Indus river. By nomen clature, this civilisation came to known as ‘Harappan Civilisation’ or ‘Indus Valley Civilisation’.

Its known contemporaries were civilisations in the Mesopotamia and Egypt, regions with which evidence says the Harappans had trade connections.

Not a lot is known about the Harappan culture, economy, and society, because it language still, to this day, remains undeciphered. Historians and linguists have tried attributing it to Sanskrit and Tamil, but neither has stuck. Perhaps it was a whole new language altogether?

Despite this hurdle, there is a lot we have uncovered about the Indus Valley Civilisation. Such as figurines, weights and measures, buildings, and toys – it’s actually a vast chapter in the Ancient Indian History. Through these artefacts, we have come to some conclusions and theories about Harappan lifestyle, society, and economy.

We’ll be looking briefly about the Indus Valley Civilisation in this article.

By Archaeological Survey of India – (Marshall, John; Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilisation, volume III, place XCVII), Fair use (Old-50),

This is the image of what historians have dubbed ‘The Priest King’. We don’t know what kind of a person they were – it is a theory based on the headgear and the clothing. Were there priests or kings in the Harappan Civilisation? Priest kings? Nobody knows, so far. Or maybe, he was just a rich man who loved to indulge in fancy jewellery and clothing. Who knew what fashion was at the time?

The next image is that of what historians have called ‘The Dancing Girl’. By the posture of her limbs, she is quite obviously dancing. She also has a lot of jewellery, so maybe she’s representing fashion trends during her time.

A 3D model of the Citadel and the Lower Town at Kalibangan, a Harappan site. Source:

We have also discovered that almost all the 1500 sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation found have been divided into two zones – or, in rare cases, three: The upper citadel and the lower town. It is assumed that the citadel is occupied by rich people and the lower town by common people. The citadel has, in most cases, been fortified.

The Indus Valley Civilisation is known for having a great sewage system, unlike cities of the Indian subcontinent to-day. Most of the cities found so far were organised, well-planned, with all the streets build at right angles to each other, like a grid, like the image above of the aerial view of the city of Mohenjodaro.

The two most important and well-known cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation are Harappa and Mohenjodaro – two cities that are situated along the Indus river. These are known to have been at the highest peak of civilisation.

This brings us to the three phases of this ancient civilisation – Early Harappan Phase, Mature Harappan Phase, and Late Harappan Phase. Of course, like all events in History, this division is not definitive; that is, these three phases do not have fixed time periods. The Early Harappan Phase was approximately between 3200 BCE and 2600 BCE; the mature phase was roughly between 2600 BCE and 1800 BCE; the late Harappan phase was around 1900 BCE to 1300 BCE.

By Avantiputra7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Historians placed Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the Mature Phase of the civilisation. The cities of Lothal and Kalibangan show evidence of Early Phase.

That is all for to-day! We shall learn more about the Indus Valley Civilisation in another post!


(Dates of the Indus Valley Civilisation taken from: “The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives” by Jane R McIntosh)


Historical Personalities in Short: Rajaraja Chola I

When students of India hear about the Chola Dynasty, the first person that comes to their mind is its

Mural depicting Rajaraja and his guru, Karuvuruvar, found in the Brihadisvara Temple, Tamil Nadu, 11th century.

most famous ruler, Rajaraja Chola I. It is easy to assume that he was the first ruler of the dynasty, but in fact, he was not; he was about the fourth or the fifth ruler!

Below is a brief biography about this famous emperor of India, including some of the customs and traditions of his time:


Born around 947 CE (not definitive), the son of Parantaka Chola II was named Arulmozhi Varman. The

title of “Rajaraja” (translation: “King of Kings”) was assumed much later, when he assumed power to the Chola throne. “Chola” was his family name. His birth name meant “blessed tongue”.

Arulmozhi Varman came to power at a time when the Chola Dynasty had nearly weakened and disintegrated. His deeds have him known to be one of the greatest rulers of the Indian sub-continent.

During his rule, the Chola Dynasty grew into an empire and controlled territories not only within the Indian sub-continent, but also beyond. Recent findings yielded that he had set up colonies in the present-day countries of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Malaysia (Sailendra Empire). His son went on to occupy more, which we shall see at a later date. Even the then China had connections with the Chola Empire, when Rajaraja Chola I sent a trade mission in 1015 CE. He established a dynasty in northern Sri Lanka and named it as “Mummadichola Mandalam”, which can be translated to: “The area ruled by Mummudi Chola”. “Mummudi” in the Tamil means “King with three crowns”, a title won by Rajaraja Chola I.

Within the Indian sub-continent: He was known to have broken the confederation between the Pandya Dynasty and the dynasties of Kerala and Sri Lanka. He destroyed the navy of the Chera Dyansty at Thrivandrum, attacked Quilon (ancient name of Kollam, a seacoast at Malabar in present-day India), and captured Madurai (a city in present-day Tamil Nadu). He defeated the Western Chalukya Dynasty, the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (present-day Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), and the Kalyani Chalukya Dynasty. He conquered Vengi (999 CE).

There is a lot of evidence that betel leaves and areca nuts were eaten during this time, mostly inscriptions and carvings in temples, around 10th-12th century CE. References say that betel vines and areca gardens were given to temples as gifts! An inscription from the 11th century even states the method of harvesting and processing areca nuts. The frequent mention of these two commodities could imply that they were largely used not only with temple groups, but also the elite community. The 10th-century Arab writer, Abu Zaid, writes that betel leaf was offered as a token of friendship and honour. Also, findings suggest that there was a custom of exchanging betel leaves during the time of Rajaraja Chola I.

Betel leaves are used even to-day as part of a return gift to guests of a pooja or a grand celebration in India.

The best thing that Rajaraja Chola I is known for to-day is the Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur,

Brihadeshwara inscription reading "Rajaraja"

By David George – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

the then capital of the Chola Empire, built approximately in 1010 CE. It is dedicated to Shiva, one of the three main gods of Hinduism. It is called “Rajarajeshwara Temple” or simply “Rajaraja Temple”.




Rajaraja Chola I was succeeded by his son, Rajendra Chola I.