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Indus Valley Civilization: Burial Site and Town Planning

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Ancient and Medieval


Source: BBC

 Context: Scientists have uncovered a sprawling burial site in India, belonging to one of the world’s earliest urban civilizations, the Indus Society.


What do we know about the site?

  • The excavation of the site started in 2019 near Khatiya village in Kutch Region of Gujarat
  • The 40-acre cemetery, discovered, maybe the largest “pre-urban” cemetery of its kind, dating back 5,200 years.
  • The Cemetery was in use for about 500 years, spanning from 3200BC to 2600BC, making it one of the oldest graves in the world.
  • Excavations have revealed over 500 graves, including unique features like sandstone-lined burial shafts pointing in different directions.
  • Artefacts found in the graves include bangles, beads, and pottery (mostly simple inexpensive items).
  • Some people were buried with personal ornaments – bangles, beads, amulets – which could not be passed on to others.
  • Some women were buried with a mirror made of copper.
  • Adults were buried with different types of vessels associated with serving and storing food.
  • Shell bangles were typically found on the left arms of adult females
  • Infants and children were not usually buried with any pottery or ornaments.


What was the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC)?

It was a Bronze Age civilization (3300-1300 BCE; mature period 2600-1900 BCE) extending from what today is northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India. Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilizations of the Old World, and of the three the most widespread It flourished in the basins of the Indus River.

Harappan / Indus Valley Civilization


Burial Practices of the IVC:

Dead bodies were placed in the North-South direction (extended inhumation) and were accompanied by food, pottery, jewellery, etc. The graveyard was within the settlement. They practised three types of burial:-

  • Complete burial
  • Fractional burial (burial of bones after exposure of the body to birds and beasts)
  • Cremationfollowed by burial of the ashes



Significance: It shows their strong belief in life after death, which was similar to the belief system of other contemporary civilizations, however; the items kept were not as expensive as other civilizations (unlike those of the elites in Egypt and Mesopotamia).


Influence and lessons that can be derived from the urban planning and cultural aspects of IVC for present-day cities:

AspectInfluence and Lessons for Present-Day Cities
City PlanningPresent-day cities can focus on sustainable development, efficient land use, and robust infrastructure networks inspired by the systematic urban planning of the Indus Valley Civilization.
Sanitation SystemsLearning from the advanced sanitation systems of the Indus Valley, modern cities can prioritize well-designed sanitation systems, waste management, and access to clean water for public health.
Planned NeighbourhoodsPresent-day cities can promote walkable neighbourhoods, mixed land-use planning, and public spaces to enhance community and social connectivity, taking inspiration from the planned neighbourhoods of the Indus Valley cities.
Cultural DiversityEmbracing cultural diversity, modern cities can create inclusive spaces, cultural events, and opportunities for dialogue among diverse communities, similar to the cultural diversity exhibited in the Indus Valley Civilization.
Environmental AwarenessInspired by the environmental awareness of the Indus Valley, present-day cities can prioritize green spaces, sustainable transportation, and eco-friendly urban design to address environmental challenges and ensure a sustainable future.


Difference between the Indus Valley Civilization and other ancient civilizations:


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

With reference to the difference between the culture of Rigvedic Aryans and Indus Valley people, which of the following statements is/are correct? (UPSC 2017)


  1. Rigvedic Aryans used the coat of mail and helmet in warfare whereas the people of Indus Valley Civilization did not leave any evidence of using them.
  2. Rigvedic Aryans knew gold, silver and copper whereas Indus Valley people knew only copper and iron.
  3. Rigvedic Aryans had domesticated the horse whereas there is no evidence of Indus Valley people having been aware of this animal.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Answer: C