The Indus valley civilisation, also referred to as the Harappan civilisation, is the first civilisation said to have dwelled in the Indian subcontinent. The estimated dates for the civilisation go far back to 2500-1700 BCE.
This civilisation is one of the three earliest known civilisations on the planet. The other two are the Mesopotamian civilisation and the Egyptian civilisation. However, the Indus Valley civilisation is said to be the most widespread.
Their culture is also known as the Harappan culture, described by archaeologists as a group of objects, distinctive in style, found together within a particular geographical area and period. Several unique objects were found, classified as seals, weights, stone blades and brick, and many other things.
Named after the region Harappa, where this civilisation was discovered, they are sometimes divided into early Harappan culture and the Late Harappan culture. Both were found to be in the same area.
More than two hundred bodies have been dug out at the excavated Harappan sites. The burials were primarily conducted in large pits, sometimes oval or even rectangular. They were lined with mud bricks. Sometimes they would contain a wooden coffin, evident only by the stains left on the sites after all these years.
Discoveries at different sites
- At the site of Rakhigarh, some unique pits were chipped away to form an earthly protuberance beneath which bodies were buried.
- At Kalibangan. Many pots have been found buried along with the individuals. This was possibly done so that the individuals could use them in the afterlife. A copper mirror was also found buried with a woman, proving that the Harappans were superstitious about looking into the spirit world with the mirror.
- In Lothal, the graves sometimes had the presence of the bones of two individuals. It has been suggested that it is likely the evidence of sati. But this suggestion has been contradicted by the discovery of the bones of two male individuals together there as well.
- Graves neatly arranged in groups of eight or more have also been discovered at Kalibangan. They were buried in a large rectangular pit that was left uncovered, with many potteries and dead individuals. This suggests that there was also a separate burial site which was also an offerings place that probably belonged to an individual family.
- The order of the graves at the site of Harappa and Lothal was more disorganised. It was messy because the later burials were often placed at the same place as earlier burials and interrupted their presence. This was quite rarely found in Kalibangan. Jewellery was sometimes removed from the old burials, and old bones and half decomposed bodies were thrown into pits nearby.
- There were several stray finds, too, which were marked by the presence of the bones of two infants buried under the floor of a house in Rojdi. At Mohenjo-Daro, also referred to as the mound of the dead, baskets of bones and a single skull were also found in different houses.
- At Sukotda, many animal remains were found, majorly consisting of cattle like sheep and goats along with horses and dogs. Dholavira also had animal bones along with different weapons and ornaments in large numbers and was among the largest cities of the found cities.
More than 100 pot burials were unearthed in the excavations carried around Harappa. The research suggests that only a single pot was meant for entombing the bones. Indeed, there were exceptions with the presence of three skulls in a single pot and the mixing of the bones of two or more individuals in only one pot. The skull was placed in the centre of the pot, followed by the long bones, which were placed in a slanting fashion. The remaining spaces were filled with smaller bones wherever possible. These pot burials were found to be in extreme proximity to the existing land surface.
The discovery of the burial practices has provided fascinating suggestions to the beliefs of the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The proceedings were not performed where a particular disease or calamity disturbed human life. But the extended traditional burials continued in the lower level of the cemetery, proving that the decline in civilisation mostly did not affect the different burial practices.