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Fall of Indus Valley Civilisation

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Indian Culture – Salient Aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from Ancient to modern times


Source: DTE

 Context: A recent study found that severe droughts during the Bronze Age may have wiped off the population of the Indus Valley people, endorsing the theory that climate change led to the collapse of ancient civilisation.


Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC):

  • It was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE.
  • It is also known as the Harappan Civilisation, after Harappa (now in Pakistan) – the first of its sites to be excavated early in the 20th century.
  • It stretches over an area spanning northeast Afghanistan, much of Pakistan and western and northwestern India.
  • It thrived in the Indus River basins and along a network of rivers that originally flowed near the ephemeral Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.
  • The civilisation is noted for its urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage and water supply systems, handicraft techniques (carnelian products, seal carving) and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead and tin).


Important sites:

Decline: Climate change → weaker monsoons → reduced water supply →  gradual drying of the soil →  scattering of population eastward and southward.


Findings of the new study (by the University of Cambridge):

  • Droughts that began 4,200 years ago gripped the civilisation and went on for over two centuries.
  • The protracted droughts severely affected food systems and habitation patterns → forcing the people of the IVC to make systemic changes to adapt → a more self-reliant lifestyle.
  • They reorganised their large cities and moved towards the east of the region in smaller rural settlements.
  • They also had to make changes to their agricultural practices → relying more on drought-resilient crops such as millet.


How did the study arrive at its conclusions?

  • The scientists studied the layers of a stalagmite – the vertical mass of mineral deposits rising from the floor of caves and caused by water dripping – to assess relative seasonal rainfall.
  • They also used high-precision Uranium-series dating to assess the duration of the droughts.


Other theories of the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization:

Aryan Invasion TheoryMax Mueller, Mortimer WheelerDue to an invasion by the Aryan people, who came from the north and brought with them new technologies and ideas that led to the collapse of the existing civilization.
Environmental FactorsRobert Raikes, R.D. OldhamThis theory suggests that environmental factors, such as climate change, drought, and floods, played a major role in the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization.
Internal DeclineS.R. RaoAccording to this theory, the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by internal factors such as political instability, corruption, and economic decline.
Natural Disaster TheoryD.P. AgrawalThis theory suggests that a major natural disaster, such as an earthquake, was responsible for the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization.
Integration with Vedic CultureDavid FrawleyThis theory suggests that the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization was not a collapse but rather a transformation into the Vedic culture of ancient India.


Insta Links:



Mains Links:

To what extent has the urban planning and culture of the Indus Valley Civilisation provided inputs to present-day urbanisation? Discuss. (UPSC 2014)


Prelims Links: UPSC 2013

Which of the following characterises/characterises the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation?

  1. They possessed great palaces and temples
  2. They worshipped both male and female deities.
  3. They employed horse-drawn chariots in warfare.

Select the correct statement/statements using the codes given below.

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1, 2, and 3
  4. None of the above


Ans: 2