How Did Physical Geography Shape Indian Civilization?
How did physical geography shape Indian Civilization?
- What geographic features separate India from the rest of the continent of Asia?
- What other geographic features affected life in India?
- How did ancient India’s climate affect its civilizations?
- How did civilizations arise on the Indian Subcontinent?
- How important were the early Indian cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro for Indian development?
- What innovations did the Indus Valley civilizations develop?
Mountains and Seas
The Indian subcontinent is surrounded by mountain ranges to the north and large bodies of water to the south. The mountains and bodies of water have divided South Asia from the rest of Asia and allowed it to become a unique subcontinent.
- The mountains of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush separate South Asia from Central Asia to the north.
- To the south, the Indian Ocean separates the subcontinent from Southeast and Southwest Asia.
- South Asia’s separation from the rest of Asia created the subcontinent.
Why Does It Matter?
The mountains and ocean surrounding South Asia have influenced its climate. The monsoon winds that are affected by the mountains and bodies of water surrounding India create wet and dry seasons that make agriculture throughout the region possible. The mountains and ocean have also separated South Asia from the rest of the Asian continent. This offered some protection from outside invaders.
Rivers, Farming, and Civilization
South Asia receives the water it needs for agriculture from the rivers that flow through the region and from the monsoon winds, which bring rain each summer. This water allowed early farmers to produce a stable supply of food for the people of South Asia.
The Indus and the Ganges Rivers flow from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, bringing water and rich sediment (silt) to the river valleys below.
- The monsoon winds bring seasons of cool, dry air and warm, moist air to South Asia. The monsoon rains provide most of the subcontinent’s rainfall.
- The Indus Valley civilization was well developed. It had agriculture, advanced cities, and a written language. The Indus Valley people also made technological advances, such as improved drainage systems, sewers, and toilets during this time. Also found were toys, games, and evidence of oral surgery.
- Artifacts and archeological ruins found at two of the civilization’s major cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, provide much of the information we have about this time. They are believed to have begun about 3000 BCE and abandoned around 1900 BCE.
Why Does It Matter?
Without an abundant source of water, farmers could not have produced enough food for civilizations to form in South Asia. The Indus Valley civilization was as sophisticated as other early civilizations, such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. It had a system of writing, detailed city planning made possible by an understanding of mathematics, and natural resources that enabled its survival and growth. It was also located close enough to other civilization to allow its people to trade for essential resources to which they would not have otherwise had access.
- What are some pros and cons of India’s physical features?
- Compare and Contrast early Indian civilizations with Mesopotamia and Egypt.
- Provide evidence that proves Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were highly advanced civilizations.
Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro
British engineers made a startling discovery in 1856. The engineers were looking for ballast for a railroad line they were constructing through the Indus River Valley in present day Pakistan. Ballast is crushed rock placed around railroads to drain water away from the tracks. The local people told the engineers of the ruins of an ancient city. The engineers did not understand that the bricks they crushed to make ballast were part of one of the earliest advanced civilization in history. Archaeologists later discovered more than 1000 settlements along the banks of the Indus River. We don’t know what the people ancient people called their cities, but we now refer to the two largest cities as Harappa, after a nearby village, and Mohenjo-Daro, a local term that means “hill of the dead.”
Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were expertly planned cities that flourished more than 4500 years ago. The cities were built with a grid pattern of wide, straight streets. Thick walls surrounded the cities. Many people lived in sturdy brick houses that had as many as three floors. Some houses had bathrooms and toilets that were connected to the world’s first sewer system. A canal system provided a reliable source of water for growing wheat and barley. There is also evidence the people herded sheep, cattle and goats.
The ancient people of the Indus River Valley had highly a developed knowledge of mathematics and a sophisticated system of weights and measures. The bricks in different cities are the exact same size. This suggests that the cities may have has the same government. Clay tablets suggest that the people of the Indus River Valley developed a writing system that may be even older than Sumerian writing.
Archaeologists have also found evidence of musical instruments, toys and games, and pottery. The people of the Indus River valley were also very interesting in being clean. Archeologists have found evidence of combs, soaps, and medicine. The cities were also practicing some form of dentistry because archaeologists found a gravesite with the remains of people whose teeth had been drilled.
The Indus River Valley cities traded with places as far away as Mesopotamia. The people made jewelry from stones. Traders also sold cotton cloth and hard wood from the teak trees that grew in the valley.
The Indus River Valley may have been home to more than five million people, but the civilization seems to have been abandoned about 1700bc. It is possible that a great flood weakened the civilization. The moving tectonic plates that created the Himalayas may have caused a devastating earthquake. It is also possible that the people may have been defeated by another culture.
What we know about the Indus civilization is evolving. Archaeologists have excavated only a fraction of the many cities and settlements of the Indus River Valley civilization. We have not yet deciphered their script, but if we do, we may learn a great deal more about the people and culture of the Indus River Valley. In time, we may learn how this amazing civilization developed, how they learned to create an advanced ancient civilization, and why they suddenly disappeared.