Indus Valley Civilization and the Aryans



1.    Timeline: See “Timeline” at the top of the online syllabus

2.    Origins of Hinduism in two ancient cultural complexes:

a.    Indus Valley (“Harappan”) Civilization (c.2500 BCE to 1500 BCE)

b.    Aryan culture (developed during 2nd millennium BCE)


Indus Valley (“Harappan”) Civilization

3.    The Indus Valley civilization: Began to develop around 3000-2500 B.C.E., around the Indus River in what is now Pakistan and western India. Ruins of ancient cities such as Harappā and Mohenjo-Daro (about 40 miles apart) show that those ancient people built drainage systems that ran into brick-lined sewers. Brick homes many stories high were common. They also developed systems of writing and counting, and dug canals to irrigate their farms.

a.    Trade w/Middle East, Gujarat

b.    Unity of culture across 1000 sites over 750k square miles (link: Map of Indus Valley Civ)

                                     i.     Pottery, architecture, writing

                                    ii.     Indigenous development, not influenced by Egyptian or Sumer

c.    Little known about polity or religion: the “faceless civilization”

d.    Language

e.    Matrilineal?

f.     Religion

                                     i.     Temples, terracotta figurines, stone seals

1.    Goddess worship

2.    Land as feminine

3.    Goddess as forces of nature and its creativity, fertility or barrenness

4.    Cyclicality in Indian religion: impetus from agricultural settings?  Cycles of fertility, menstrual cycle

                                    ii.     Yoga?

                                  iii.     Proto Shiva (Link: Ancient Indus Valley: Slide Show: #33)

The Aryans


1.    The Aryans: arya means “noble” or “honorable”

a.    Indo-European speaking > Vedic Sanskrit > Classical Sanskrit

b.    Nomadic, superior war technology (metallurgy, chariots, horses)

2.    Vedic Religion:  Visionary and Sacrificial Dimensions

a.    Visionary:

                                     i.     Rishis – “seers.” And soma.  Seeing beyond ordinary appearances.  Direct hearing (ri) of the ultimate truth and forces of the universe

b.    Sacrificial:

                                     i.     Priestly elite

                                    ii.     Sacrificial rites centered on the god Agni




1.    Beachcombers

2.    Indus Valley Civilization

3.    Aryans

4.    Sir John Marshal

5.    Harappa

6.    Sansrkit

7.    rishi

8.    yajna

9.    Mohenjo-Daro


Any locations on the map exercises and information from the course Timeline (top of syllabus) can appear on a quiz or exam.