Culture of Indus valley civilization by pharmphresh33

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                                       By Muzaffar Ahmad

                                                Page No 1

                                 Table of contents

Defining "CULTURE"

The Indus Valley Civilization


Town planning


Arts, Games & toys

Sculptures of the Indus Valley

       Indus Valley Seals

       Buddhist Sculptures

       Hindu Art

       Ajanta and Ellora


       Elephanta Caves


Writing Or Symbol System

The Decline of Culture of Indus Valley Civilization

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Over a period of time ax man started to understand the ways of living as a medium of
information, different definitions of "culture" reflect different theoretical bases for
understanding, or criteria for evaluating, human activity.

Anthropologisats most commonly use the term "culture" to refer to the universal
human capacity to classify, codify and communicate their experiences symbolically. This
capacity has long been taken as a defining feature of the humans. However,
Primatologists such as Jane Goodall have identified aspects of culture among
human's closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

Before we start our discussion of the culture of the Indus Valley civilization
we must forst set our square for what we mean by culture. Culture as from
the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning "to cultivate", generally refers to
patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity

Defining "CULTURE"
Culture has been called

                          "the way of life for an entire society."

As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of
behaviour and systems of belief.

Edward Burnett Tylor while writing from the perspective of social anthropology in the
UK in 1871 described culture in the following way:

 "Culture or civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole
which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities
and habits acquired by man as a member of society."

In my discussion I will follow the definition of Culture given by the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO (2002), which described
culture as follows:

 "... culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual
and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition
to Art and Literature, Lifestyles, Ways of living together, Value systems, Traditions and

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While these two definitions cover a range of meaning, they do not exhaust the many
uses of the term "culture." In 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list
of more than 100 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and

Key components of culture

A common way of understanding culture sees it as consisting of four elements that are
"passed on from generation to generation by learning alone":

   1.   Values
   2.   Norms
   3.   Institutions
   4.   Artifacts

Values comprise ideas about what in life seems important. They guide the rest of the
culture. Norms consist of expectations of how people will behave in various situations.
Each culture has methods, called sanctions, of enforcing its norms. Sanctions vary with
the importance of the norm; norms that a society enforces formally have the status of
laws. Institutions are the structures of a society within which values and norms are
transmitted. Artifacts—things, or aspects of material culture—derive from a culture's
values and norms.

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                    The Indus Valley Civilization
An Introduction
The Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1300 BC, flowered 2600–1900 BC) was an
ancient civilization thriving along the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River in what
is now Pakistan and north-western India. Among other names for this civilization is the
Harappan Civilization, in reference to its first excavated city of Harappa.

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was discovered in the 1920s and is known only from
archaeological excavations, except, possibly, for Sumerian references to Meluhha, which
has been proposed to correspond to the IVC.

An alternative term for the culture is Saraswati-Sindhu Civilization, based on the
popular identification of the Ghaggar-Hakra River with the Sarasvati River.

Discovery and Excavation
The ruins of Harappa were first described by Charles Masson in his Narrative of Various
Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and Punjab, 1826-1838, but its significance was
not realized until much later. In 1857, the British authorities used Harappan bricks in
the construction of the East Indian Railway line connecting Karachi and Lahore.

In 1912, Harappan seals with then unknown symbols were discovered by J. Fleet, which
triggered an excavation campaign under Sir John Marshall in 1921/22, resulting in the
discovery of a hitherto unknown civilization by Dayaram Sahni. By 1931, much of
Mohenjo-Daro was excavated, but minor campaigns continued, such as that led by
Mortimer Wheeler in 1950.

Following the partition of British India in 1947, the area of the IVC was divided between
Pakistan and the Republic of India. Influential in the field were British archaeologist
Aurel Stein, Indian archaeologist Nani Gopal Majumdar and German archaeologist
Michael Jansen.

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The Indus Civilization was predated by the first farming cultures in South Asia, which
emerged in the hills of what is now called Balochistan, to the west of the Indus Valley.
North Eastern Balochistan is connected to Afghanistan by passes over the Toba Kakar
Range. Valleys on the Makran coast are open towards the Arabian Sea. Through these
routes Balochistan was in contact with West Asia and took part in the so-called
Neolithic Revolution, which took place in the Fertile Crescent around 9000 to 6000
BCE. The earliest evidence of sedentary lifestyle in South Asia was discovered at
Mehrgarh in the foothills of the Brahui Hills. This settlement is dated 7000 BCE and was
located on the west bank of the Bolan River, about 30 kilometres from the town of Sibi.
These early farmers domesticated Wheat and a variety of animals, including cattle. In
the "Era" terminology, the aceramic Neolithic is known as the "Early Food Producing

Brick-lined basins in the remains of a room used for making pottery at the ancient Indus Valley civilization
                                of Mohenjo-daro, ca. 3rd-2nd century B.C.

Pottery was in use by around 5500 BCE, taken to initiate the "Regionalisation Era". It
has been surmised that the inhabitants of Mehrgarh migrated to the fertile Indus river
valley as Balochistan became arid due to climatic changes.

Early Harappan

The Early Harappan Ravi Phase, named after the nearby Ravi River, lasted from circa
3300 BCE until 2800 BCE. It is related to the Hakra Phase, identified in the Ghaggar-

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Hakra River Valley to the west, and predates the Kot Diji Phase (2800-2600 BCE,
Harappan 2), named after a site in northern Sindh near Mohenjo Daro. Some of the
most important discoveries in the Ravi Phase relate to writing.

The mature phase of earlier village cultures is represented by Rehman Dheri and Amri.
Kot Diji (Harappan 2) represents the phase leading up to Mature Harappan, with the
citadel representing centralised authority and an increasingly urban quality of life.
Another town of this stage was found at Kalibangan in India on the Hakra River.

Villagers had, by this time, domesticated numerous crops, including peas, sesame
seeds, dates and cotton, as well as a wide range of domestic animals, including the
water buffalo.

Mature Harappan

By 2500 BCE, the Early Harappan communities had been turned into urban centers.
Thus far, six such urban centers have been discovered, including: Harappa, Mohenjo
Daro and Dicki in Pakistan, along with Gonorreala, Dokalingam and Mangalore in India.
In total, over 1052 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region
of the Ghaggar-Florence River and its tributaries.

By 2500 BCE, irrigation had transformed the region.

Late Harappan

Around 1800 BCE, signs of a gradual decline began to emerge, and by around 1700
BCE, most of the cities were abandoned. However, the Indus Valley Civilisation did not
disappear suddenly, and many elements of the Indus Civilization can be found in later
cultures. Current archaeological data suggests that material culture classified as Late
Harappan may have persisted until at least c. 1000-900 BCE, and was partially
contemporaneous with the Painted Grey Ware and perhaps early NBP cultures.
Archaeologists have emphasised that there was a continuous series of cultural
developments that link "the so-called two major phases of urbanisation in South Asia".

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Town Planning

A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture is evident in the Indus
Valley Civilization. The quality of municipal town planning suggests knowledge of urban
planning and efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene.
The streets of major cities such as Mohenjo-daro or Harappa were laid out in perfect
grid patterns. The houses were protected from noise, odors, and thieves.

As seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and the recently discovered Rakhigarhi, this urban
plan included the world's first urban sanitation systems. Within the city, individual
homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. From a room that appears to
have been set aside for bathing, waste water was directed to covered drains, which
lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes.

The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and drainage that were developed and used in
cities throughout the Indus Empire, were far more advanced than any found in
contemporary urban sites in the Middle East and even more efficient than those in some
areas of Pakistan and India today. The advanced architecture of the Harappans is
shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms and
protective walls. The massive citadels of Indus cities that protected the Harappans from
floods and attackers were larger than most Mesopotamian ziggurats.

The purpose of the citadel remains debated. In sharp contrast to this civilization's
contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, no large monumental structures were
built. There is no conclusive evidence of palaces or temples - or of kings, armies, or
priests. Some structures are thought to have been granaries. Found at one city is an
enormous well-built bath, which may have been a public bath. Although the citadels

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were walled, it is far from clear that these structures were defensive. They may have
been built to divert flood waters.

Most city dwellers appear to have been traders or artisans, who lived with others
pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. Materials from distant
regions were used in the cities for constructing seals, beads and other objects. Among
the artifacts discovered were beautiful beads of glazed stone called faïence. The seals
have images of animals, gods and other types of inscriptions. Some of the seals were
used to stamp clay on trade goods and most probably had other uses.

Although some houses were larger than others, Indus Civilization cities were
remarkable for their apparent egalitarianism. All the houses had access to water and
drainage facilities. This gives the impression of a society with low wealth concentration.

                             Staircase at Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan

   A stone staircase in the Siddikui area of the ancient Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjo-Daro
                                  Dated ca. 3rd-2nd century B.C..

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The people of the Indus Civilization achieved great accuracy in measuring length, mass
and time. They were among the first to develop a system of uniform weights and
measures. Their measurements were extremely precise. Their smallest division, which is
marked on an ivory scale found in Lothal, was approximately 1.704mm, the smallest
division ever recorded on a scale of the Bronze Age.

Harappan engineers followed the decimal division of measurement for all practical
purposes, including the measurement of mass as revealed by their hexahedron weights.

Brick sizes were in a perfect ratio of 4:2:1 and the decimal system was used. Weights
were based on units of 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500, with
each unit weighing approximately 28 grams, similar to the English Imperial ounce or
Greek uncia, and smaller objects were weighed in similar ratios with the units of 0.871.

                          Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan

   Ruined brick steps lead down into the Great Bath at the ancient Indus Valley civilization of
                            Mohenjo-Daro, ca. 3rd-2nd century B.C..

The weights and measures of Kautilya's Arthashastra are the same as those used in

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Unique Harappan inventions include an instrument which was used to measure whole
sections of the horizon and the tidal dock. In addition, Harappans evolved new
techniques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin.

The engineering skill of the Harappans was remarkable, especially in building docks
after a careful study of tides, waves and currents.

In 2001, archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh, Pakistan
made the startling discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation, even from
the early Harappan periods, had knowledge of dentistry. The physical anthropologist
who carried out the examinations, Professor Andrea Cucina from the University of
Missouri-Columbia, made the discovery while he was cleaning the teeth from one set of

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Arts, Games and Toys

                       Mother goddess from the Indus Valley civilization.

Various sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewelry and anatomically detailed figurines in
terracotta, bronze and steatite have been found at the excavation sites.

A number of bronze, terracotta and stone figurines of girls in dancing poses reveal the
presence of some dance form. Sir John Marshall is known to have reacted with surprise
when he saw the famous Indus bronze statuette of a slender-limbed "dancing girl" in

      "… When I first saw them I found it difficult to believe that they were prehistoric;
      they seemed to completely upset all established ideas about early art. Modeling
      such as this was unknown in the ancient world up to the Hellenistic age of
      Greece, and I thought, therefore, that some mistake must surely have been
      made; that these figures had found their way into levels some 3000 years older
      than those to which they properly belonged. … Now, in these statuettes, it is just

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       this anatomical truth which is so startling; that makes us wonder whether, in this
       all-important matter, Greek artistry could possibly have been anticipated by the
       sculptors of a far-off age on the banks of the Indus."

                                   Indus Maze Games and Dice

   These maze games and dice are from the Indus Valley Civilization and are currently housed in the
                                 National Museum of New Delhi.

A harp-like instrument depicted on an Indus seal and two shell objects found at Lothal
indicate the use of stringed musical instruments.

Seals have been found at Mohenjo-daro depicting a figure standing on its head, and
one sitting cross-legged; perhaps the earliest indication, at least illustration, of the
practice of yoga. A horned figure in an advanced yogic pose has been interpreted as
one of the earliest depictions of the Lord Shiva.

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Sculptures of the Indus Valley
The story of Indian art and sculpture dates back to the Indus valley civilization of the
2nd and 3rd millennium BC. Tiny terra-cotta seals discovered from the valley reveal
carvings of peepal leaves, deities and animals. These elemental shapes of stones or
seals were enshrined and worshipped by the people of the civilization.

Indus Valley Seals - The first one shows a Swastika, a prominent symbol in

Two other objects that were excavated from the ruins of the Indus valley indicate the
level of achievement that Indian art had attained in those days. The bust of a priest in
limestone and a bronze dancing girl show tremendous sophistication and artistry.

Buddhist Sculptures - Sarnath and Sanchi, Gandhara and Mathura

The next golden chapter of Indian sculpture opens in the 3rd century BC, when the
Mauryan Emperor Ashoka adopted Buddhism and set out on a mission to spread the
teachings of the faith as far and wide as possible. He had 85,000 stupas or dome-
shaped monuments constructed with the teachings of Buddhism engraved on rocks and
pillars. These inscriptions which served as edicts can be seen in Buddhist monuments in
Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The famous Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath
in Madhya Pradesh gleams in polished sandstone representing the hieratic art under the
Mauryan Empire. The lion capital of the pillar is now the official emblem of the Indian

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Republic and the sacred wheel of law or the dharmachakra is symbolic of the first
sermon that Buddha delivered at Sarnath.

The Great Stupa at Sanchi is perhaps the finest surviving relic of the Mauryan Empire
and is a renowned Buddhist monument. Its finely carved gateways depict Buddhist
legends and lifestyles of two thousand years ago. The foundation of the Stupa was laid
by Ashoka and he set up monasteries here as a retreat for the Buddhist monks. The
Great Stupa is fifty-four feet high and is surrounded by a stone railing and four
elaborately carved gateways on each side. The gateway reliefs depict tales of Buddha's
incarnations, his life as a prince, his moment of enlightenment, his sermons and his
worshippers. This site at Sanchi also includes remains of smaller stupas, pillars and

Hindu Art

The 4th, 5th and 6th centuries AD witnessed a tremendous resurgence of Hinduism
when it became the official religion of the Gupta Empire. Consequently, this era was
also marked by the emergence of innumerable images of popular Hindu Gods and
Goddesses. Images of Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, the Sun-God and goddess Durga evolved
in this period. The Udaigiri caves in Madhya Pradesh house a colossal image of Vishnu.
Here he is presented as the great savior who rescued 'mother earth' from the depths of
the ocean, in his incarnation as a varha (boar). Other statues of this period found in
various temples and museums are indicative of the various dimensions of early Hindu
art and sculpture.

                     Sculpture Head From Indus Valley Settlement

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The link between dance, drama, literature and art became crucial to aesthetic
expressionism in centuries to come. This new era in art and sculpture witnessed a
unique fusion, a synthesis embodied in the caves at Ajanta and Ellora and the temples
of central and South India.

Ajanta and Ellora

North-east of Bombay, near Aurangabad are two astonishing series of temples carved
out of living rock over the course of fourteen centuries. During the 4th century AD. in a
remote valley, work began on the Ajanta caves to create a complex of Buddhist
monasteries and prayer halls. As centuries passed, numerous Buddhist monks and
artisans excavated a set of twenty-nine caves, some cells, monasteries and Buddhist
temples. All of these were carved from the rock cliff at Ajanta. These caves are adorned
with elaborate sculptures and paintings which have withstood the ravages of time.

The sculptures are finely wrought images of animals, guards and deities while the
paintings tell ancient tales of courtly life and depict hundreds of Buddhist legends. Amid
the beautiful images and paintings are sculptures of Buddha, calm and serene in
contemplation. Pillars, podiums, spires and towers combine to produce an awe-inspiring
representation of Shiva's Himalayan abode.


The tranquil town of Khajuraho, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh boasts of the
best medieval temples in India, known all over the world for their erotic sculptures.
These glorious temples are the state's most famous attraction.

Amid green lawns and brilliant pink flowers is a complex of temples, glowing with the
warmth of sandstone and ornamented with the sinuous curves of sculpture unparalleled
in their beauty. Out of the 85 temples built originally, only 22 survive today. These
temples were created by the Chandela rulers in the Indo-Aryan style. The site was
forgotten for centuries before it was rediscovered in 1838. The temples were restored
and attract visitors from all over the world.

The sculptures include statues of gods and goddesses, warriors, celestial dancers and
animals, besides those of couples in erotic poses. The Hindu philosophy of Yoga and
Bhoga (physical pleasure), the two paths leading to final liberation, seem to be the
underlying theme of these sculptures. The temples of Khajuraho display a wealth of
sculptural beauty, evoking the grandeur of the snow-capped Himalayas as well as the
earthly pleasures of life.

Elephanta Caves

The most profound aspect of the mighty Shiva is in evidence at the Shiva temple in the
Elephanta caves. Situated near Bombay, these caves present an introduction to some

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most exquisitely carved temples. One can witness a symphony in stone in praise of Lord
Shiva, created by India's expert stone carvers of the sixth century.

The central attraction here is a twenty-foot high bust of the deity in three-headed form.
The Maheshamurti is built deep into a recess and looms up from the darkness to fill the
full height of the cave. This image symbolizes the fierce, feminine and meditative
aspects of the great ascetic and the three heads represent Shiva as Aghori,
Ardhanarishvara and Mahayogi. Aghori is the terrible form of Shiva where he is intent
on destruction. Ardhanarishvara depicts Shiva as half-man/half-woman signifying the
essential unity of the sexes.


The word, yogi is from the root yuj-to unite or to join. Here the afford to enter
into the heart begins in uniting the divergent thought process and the vital
energy particles into a single movement - a thoughtless state, the quietened
mind in the beginning and then further compressing it and constricting into its
Cause. It is the choice less path of involution into the Source through an
effortless effort where the form ful abides in the form less and the word- sound
in                                   the                                  silence.

Every one, in fact, is a Yogi in the day-to-day experience, since he joins all the
vital energy within and the mental force in concentrating on the targeted desire
for achievement. The targets vary as per ones own desire but the effort and
concentration remains in nature, the same. The Yogi's desire is to discover his
true nature and the target is the Self-realisation. The process of struggle is deep
penetration through the intervening adjuncts and the involution into the primal
substance and, verily the Yogi does record the Supreme triumph of Nirvana. He
is, therefore, the Supreme, the great yogi, the Maha Yogi- the word in Sanskrit is
rich in content and coined to mean human experience.

Writing Or Symbol System
Well over 400 distinct Indus symbols have been found on seals or ceramic pots and
over a dozen other materials, including a "signboard" that apparently once hung over
the gate of the inner citadel of the Indus city of Dholavira. Typical Indus inscriptions are
no more than four or five characters in length, most of which (aside from the Dholavira
"signboard") are exquisitely tiny; the longest on a single surface, which is less than 1
inch (2.54 cm) square, is 17 signs long; the longest on any object (found on three
different faces of a mass-produced object) has a length of 26 symbols.

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         An Indus Valley seal with the seated figure termed pashupati.

While the Indus Valley Civilization is often characterized as a "literate society" on the
evidence of these inscriptions, this description has been challenged on linguistic and
archaeological grounds: it has been pointed out that the brevity of the inscriptions is
unparalleled in any known premodern literate society. Based partly on this evidence, a
controversial paper by Farmer, Sproat, and Witzel (2004), argues that the Indus system
did not encode language, but was related instead to a variety of non-linguistic sign
systems used extensively in the Near East

Photos of many of the thousands of extant inscriptions are published in the Corpus of
Indus Seals and Inscriptions (1987, 1991), edited by A. Parpola and his colleagues.
Publication of a final third volume, which will reportedly republish photos taken in the
20s and 30s of hundreds of lost or stolen inscriptions, along with many discovered in
the last few decades, has been announced for several years, but has not yet found its
way into print.

In the course of the 2nd millennium BCE, remnants of the IVC's culture would (the so-
called Cemetery H culture) amalgamated with that of other peoples, likely contributing
to what eventually resulted in the rise of Vedic culture and eventually historical
Hinduism. Judging from the abundant figurines, which may depict female fertility, that
they left behind, IVC people worshipped a Mother goddess (compare Shakti and Kali).
However, there is no firm agreement among experts as to whether or not these
figurines actually depict female fertility, or if they depict something else. Also these
people ate beef and buried their dead.

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IVC seals depict animals, perhaps as the objects of veneration, comparable to the
zoomorphic aspects of some Hindu gods. Seals resembling Pashupati in a yogic posture
have also been discovered.

In the aftermath of the Indus Civilization's collapse, regional cultures emerged, to
varying degrees showing the influence of the Indus Civilisation. In the formerly great
city of Harappa, burials have been found that correspond to a regional culture called
the Cemetery H culture. At the same time, the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture
expanded from Rajasthan into the Gangetic Plain. The Cemetery H culture has the
earliest evidence for cremation, a practice dominant in Hinduism until today.

The late IVC is a likely candidate for a Proto-Dravidian culture, and the Brahui people of
Pakistan and Balochistan are possibly a linguistic remnant that remained in the area.

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The Decline of Culture of Indus Valley Civilization
A possible natural reason for the IVC's decline is connected with climate change: The
Indus valley climate grew significantly cooler and drier from about 1800 BCE. A crucial
factor may have been the disappearance of substantial portions of the Ghaggar Hakra
river system. A tectonic event may have diverted the system's sources toward the
Ganges Plain, though there is some uncertainty about the date of this event. Although
this particular factor is speculative, and not generally accepted, the decline of the IVC,
as with any other civilisation, will have been due to a combination of various reasons.

The region lies on the ancient route used by successive waves of migrations from
Aryans to Huns, and later by Turks and Mughals to South Asia over the passes in the
Hindu Kush. The Swat culture of northern Pakistan is a likely candidate for the first
settlements of Indo-Aryans in the subcontinent. It is in this context of the aftermath of
a civilisation's collapse that the hypothesis of an Indo-Aryan migration into northern
India is discussed.

 In the early twentieth century, this migration was forwarded in the guise of an "Aryan
invasion", and when the civilization was discovered in the 1920s, its collapse at
precisely the time of the conjectured invasion was seen as an independent
confirmation. In the words of the archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, the Indo-Aryan war
god Indra "stands accused" of the destruction. It is however far from certain whether
the collapse of the IVC is the result of an Indo-Aryan migration, if there was one. It
seems rather likely that, on the contrary, the hypothesised Indo-Aryan migration was as
a result of the collapse, comparable with the decline of the Roman Empire and the
incursions of relatively primitive peoples during the Migrations Period. This makes it
seem more likely that the adoption of Indo-Aryan languages was the result of cultural
mixing and integration of the Cemetery H people (likely Dravidians) and Indo-Aryans
rather than invasion.

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