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History of Indian Subcontinent Submitted by Instructor name Dated


Introduction. 3

Indus Valley Civilization. 3

Importance of IVC. 3

Excavation and findings. 4

Twin cities of IVC. 4

Mohenjo-Daro. 4

Harappa. 5

Harappan Culture. 5

Social Culture of Harappa. 6

Drainage system: 6

Streets. 6

Dress. 6

Ornaments. 6

Amusements and Seals. 7

Economic activities. 7

Religious Culture. 7

Aryan influence. 7

Religion. 8

Caste System.. 9

Ashoka’s Empire. 9

War of Kalinga. 10

Impact of Kalinga War on Ashoka. 10

Rise of Buddhism in India. 10

Bibliography. 12

History of Indian Subcontinent


India has importance in the history of the world as it is origin of some oldest and earliest civilizations of world. Indian subcontinent is a major part of the South Asia and exists in present days as India, Pakistan, Nepal and some part of Afghanistan. The following writing is proposed to discuss the various aspects of Indian history including the ancient culture of the region, immigrants, invaders and their impact on the religion and culture (Jarrige & Meadow, 1980).

Indus Valley Civilization

Indian subcontinent is the origin of the earliest civilization which was settled around the bank of river that is now called Indus River and flow in Pakistan. This civilization is known as the Bronz civilization and it was extended from northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and Northwest India. Alongside the three early civilizations of the world including Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Indus Valley Civilization has great historical importance. IVC remained exist from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE in bronze period and its mature period remained from 2600 to 1900 BCE (Fairservis, 1983).

Importance of IVC

This civilization was flourished in the basins of Indus River which is still flow as one of the major river in South Asia. According to the historical record it is said that Indus Valley had population of around over five million. The people of the Civilizations had great skills in handicraft and metallurgy. The civilization is famous for  advance urban planning do the cities in which the houses were build with baked bricks, elaborated drainage systems, separate commercial and residential areas and proper water supply systems along with the clusters of large commercial buildings (Kenoyer, 1998).   

Excavation and findings

In the starting of 1920s during the excavation Indus Civilization’s twin cities Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were founded. This excavation received great attention of the historical researchers and archaeologists. It is believed that the people of the Indus valley civilization were possibly the Dravidians who were pushed by the Aryans as they had strong military and had advance weapons, started their migration to subcontinent in around 2000BCE. During the exaction of the IVC numerous seals, pottery, stature, jewelry were discovered that revealed considerable information to the historians and archaeologists (Chakrabarti, 1988).

Twin cities of IVC

The IVC had dozens of cities among which two were the most famous cities which were discovered during the excavations. These two cities are known as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (Kenoyer, 1998).


Mohenjo-Daro or the Mount of dead is an important historical and archaeological site of India and one of the major cities of IVC. According to the excavation it is said that the city was build around 2500 BCE and it is consider as one of the largest settlement on IVC a and major earliest settlements of the world (Kenoyer, 1998).

This important city was abandoned in around 19th century BCE the time when IVC was declined and it remained hide from the eyes of the people until it was rediscovered in 1920s. If we evaluate the name of the site, it is called Mohenjo-Daro which means the “Mound of the Dead” in local Sindhi language. However, its original name is unknown because of lack of informative resources, however it is said that its original name could have been “Kukkutarma” which means Cock-fighting but there are no strong evidences about it (Kenoyer, 1998).

In many ways, this city was one of the most advance city of IVC and it excavation stunned the historian and archaeologists to believe that in such old time how these people managed to had such advanced urban life. The city reflects the sophisticated urban planning and civil engineering (Kenoyer, 1998).


Harappa was one of the major city of the IVC and Indian subcontinent. It was situated in the present days Afghanistan and in some parts of Pakistan including Baluchistan and Punjab and it was the second most important city which was excavated after the Mohenjo-Daro as both cities belong to the IVC and had great historical importance therefore, they are also called the twins cities of IVC (Kenoyer, 1998).

Harappa is also known as the Harappan culture and Harappan civilization. It was famous for its astonishing civic planning, its economic, social and religious activities. If we look at the excavation of the Harappa, it is revealed that the material which was used in the construction of the house were of excellent standard and the city was developed through thoughtful civil engineering that can be reflects in the town planning and drainage system. It is also found that the major profession of the people was agriculture and it was one of the major reasons as they settled around the Indus as the land was fertile and water was available for their corps to grow. Moreover, they were also religious people and had great skills in arts that reflected form the excavation of ornaments, seals and other metallurgy items (Kenoyer, 1998).

Harappan Culture

Some of the major aspects of the Harappan culture were their social culture, their economic and religious activities.

Social Culture of Harappa

The social culture of IVC was matchless in many ways.  The houses were well planned, large in size and built with excellent material. The residential area was separated from the commercial areas. Size of the small houses was averagely around nine square meters and it was expected that those houses were owned by the middle class people (Shaffer, 1982).

Drainage system:

On the major aspect of their social life was the drainage system which was managed through excellent planning. There was proper arrangement of waste water and refuse through draining system that connected the individual house to the large street drainage. One of the major aspects among them was the large bathing tanks which were around 39ft long and 23 ft wide with 6ft depth (Shaffer, 1982).


There were straight and broad streets and according to the excavation it was found that averagely streets were 33ft wide. The burnt bricks were used to build hoses on the both sides of the street. There were open courtyards, and private wells (Shaffer, 1982).


The people of the IVC used wool and cotton normally. Man usually wears a stone bust on their left shoulder a shawl which was decorated with three leaved pattern. People properly cover their upper body as well as their lower body parts (Shaffer, 1982).


Ornaments were quire famous among the men and women and most of the ornaments were made of bronze, silver, copper and gold as well. Women used to wear bangles, bracelets, nose studs, necklace and other hair ornaments. Most of the men used to have thick beard but they shave their mustaches (Shaffer, 1982).

Amusements and Seals

People used to spend their time in playing gambling as a common amusement of the older people. Some of the art pieces show that people like to dance and music as some of the arts pieces are excavated in which girls are dancing around (Shaffer, 1982).

Seals are remarkable aspects of the IVC skills of arts which represent the cultural aspects. Most of the seals were soft and made of white limestone and the major feature of the Harappan seals was the carved animal forms and the pictorial writing (Shaffer, 1982).

Economic activities

The major profession of the Harappans was agriculture; however they were also engaged in commerce and trade. They took their goods for trading purposes to the several Indian parts and they also had trade connections with the Mesopotamian people. Major goods were the grains, wheat barley, melons and dates. Moreover Jars and some other pottery was also famous feature of Hardpan. Moreover, they used to eat Mutton, Pork, Fish, and birds meat as well such as hen and duck but their most favorite meet was turtle (Shaffer, 1982).

Religious Culture

Harappans are known as religious people however, it is hard to make any strong idea about their religion. However it was founded that they worshiped more than one God, which reflected as they follow Hinduism.  One of the major worshipping figures was the Divine Mother as some of her images were found in Mohenjo-Daro. Some God figures also found on the seals which was three headed horned deity and seated cross legged. They were also considered frolic worshippers (Shaffer, 1982).

Aryan influence

Around 1500 BCE a group of people called as Aryans invaded India. In the result of this attack primary Indian inhabitant known as Dayus were came under the control of Aryans. There was a huge physical as well as cultural difference between Aryans and Dayus. Where Aryans were white raced the Dayus were dark colored. Similarly both of the groups had different religious believes. Primary north Indians use to worship spirits and supreme where as Aryans use to worship different Gods like God of fire, God of war and God of sun. There was a prominent influence of Aryans language on the primary Indians which can be seen now as in today’s world most of Indian speaks Aryan’s language and follow the cultural values of Aryans as well (Trautmann, 1997.).


The religion of Aryans was different from the primary Indians. Aryans worship different Gods and follow different religious book. Veda was the religious book of the Aryans which means knowledge in the Sanskrit language. Vedas is used to seek religious guidance and information. Vedas is consists of poetic verses (Trautmann, 1997.).

 The religion of Aryans was male dominating. There three main gods were Indra, Agni and Soma. According to the hymns of Vedas Indra is thought to be the prime god of Aryans who is believed as the god of war as well as the god of demolisher of demons and animals. On the other hand Agni is believed as the god of rain and fire where as Soma was associated with a drink. In the later history none of these gods were found as prominent feature in Hinduism instead of them Vishnu and Shiva are there to be worshiped (Trautmann, 1997.).

Sacrifice is another aspect of the religious activities of Aryans and the rites of religious sacrifices was believed as the obligation of the Barhamans who were the most pious people of the society. Aryans used to sacrifices horses and other cattle so they can remain align with cosmos.

Caste System

Aryans also brought new societal structure along with them which was based upon the knowledge and information present in their religious book Veda. Aryans societal structure was consists of four ranks. People were divided into these for ranks according casts they belong (Trautmann, 1997.).

In the Vedic civilization Brahmans along with priests and warriors were placed at the top their societal structure. At the second rank of societal structure Kshatriyas was present. They were consists of rulers and warriors. The third place was associated with the Uaishyas who were used to be merchants, farmers and artisans. Shudras and Dalits were come at the lowest rank of the Vedic civilization after Uaishyas. This rank was consists of the people who works as labors or servants. They were treated as they were untouchable for other three ranks.

This societal structure of Vedic civilization decides what types of rights were given to the people of different ranks. Moreover social opportunities were become limited for the people of lower rank and hence they were treated in very inhuman manners.

Ashoka’s Empire

Ashoka Maurya is one of the most prominent figures in the history of subcontinent. In the admiration of Ashoka’s importance he is also known as Ashoka the great. He was the most influencing emperor of Maurya Dynasty and ruled Indian Subcontinent from 268 to 232 BCE. He is known as one of the greatest and most successful Indian rules. Ashoka’s empire was spread from Hindu Kush Mountains which is present in modern Afghanistan to the east in modern days Bangladesh. It reflects that entire subcontinent was under his reign except some parts of Kerala and modern Tamil Nadu. The major places in the Ashoka reign were Taxila and Ujjain as provincial capitals and Pataliputra as a capital of Ashoka’s empire (Lahiri, 2015).

War of Kalinga

In the early period of his reign, Ashoka fought many deadliest and bloody wars and as a skillful warrior and commander of army he achieved great success. One of the most renowned and deadliest wars was fought by Ashoka and his companion against the state of Kalinga in around 260BCE. Kalinga was one of the strongest states which were never conquered by the Ashoka’s ancestors but his extraordinary skills made it for Ashoka and he conquered the important state of Kalinga (Swearer, 2010).

Impact of Kalinga War on Ashoka

The war of Kalinga left deep impact on Ashoka’s personality as he witnessed mass death in the bloody war, he realized that it cannot be justifiable to commit mass killing for the sake of conquest and this realization made him to feel sorry on what he did in the war against the state of Kalinga. According to the historic record it is said that in the war of Kalinga, more than 100,000 people were killed and around 150,000 people were banished (Swearer, 2010).

Rise of Buddhism in India

The massive deaths in the war of Kalinga completely changed the Ashoka’s personality and he embraced Budhism. Ashoka started to convert into Budhism from 263BCE and since then he dedicated his life to spread the message of Gautama Buddha who was the founder of the Buddhism. Ashoka found Buddhism as a religion that could be followed to serve as a cultural foundation for political unity (Swearer, 2010).

Ashoka devoted his life for Buddhism and made great contribution to spread the message of Buddhism in India and neighboring countries. Ashoka Strengthen Buddhism in the region through his support and he also sent Buddhist Monks and missionaries to other far furlong countries such as Syria. He sent monks to share the knowledge and convey the teachings of Buddha. He succeed to spread Buddhism in Ceylon present days Srilanka, Nepal, Burma, Tibet, China, Central Asia, Japan and many other countries alongside all over the India (Swearer, 2010).

Ashoka established monuments and built Stupas throughout his Empire and unscripted Buddhism message on the monuments. He made Taxila as one of world largest literary center where he established Jaulian University and alongside other subjects, people were educated about the philosophy of Buddhism. He also built many religious places known as Stupas including the Sirkap, Dharmarajika, Dharmasangha etc (Swearer, 2010).


Chakrabarti, D. K. (1988). A History of Indian Archaeology from the Beginning to 1947. South Asia Books.

Fairservis, W. A. (1983). The script of the Indus Valley civilization. Scientific American, 58-66.

Jarrige, J.-F., & Meadow, R. (1980). The antecedents of civilization in the Indus Valley. Scientific American, 122-133.

Kenoyer, J. (1998). Ancient cities of the Indus valley civilization. Oxford University Press; American Institute of Pakistan Studies.

Lahiri, N. (2015). Ashoka in Ancient India. Harvard University Press.

Shaffer, J. G. (1982). Harappan culture: A reconsideration." Harappan civilization: A contemporary perspective. Scientific American, 41-50.

Swearer, D. K. (2010). The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia. Suny Press.

Trautmann, T. R. (1997.). Aryans and British India. Univ of California Press

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