Ancient Indian History
Pre-historic Rock Painting
They may have drawn and painted to make their homes more colorful and beautiful or to keep visual record of their day-to-day life, like some of us who maintain a diary.
In some pictures, animals are chasing men. In others they are being chased and hunted by men. Some of the animal paintings, especially in the hunting, though animals were painted in a naturalistic style, humans were depicted only in a stylistic manner. Women are painted both in the nude and clothed.
Some of the pictures of men, women and children seem to depict a sort of family life.
The artists of Bhimbetka used many colours, including various shades of white, yellow, orange, red ochre, purple, brown, green and black. But white and red were their favourite colours.
The paints were made by grinding various rocks and minerals. They got red from haematite (known as geru in India). The green came from a green variety of a stone called chalcedony. White might have been made out of limestone.
The rock of mineral was first ground into a powder. This may then have been mixed with water and also with some thick or sticky substance such as animal fat or gum or resin from trees. Brushes were made of plant fiber.
What is amazing is that these colours have survived thousands of years of adverse weather conditions. It is believed that the colours have remained intact because of the chemical reaction of the oxide present on the surface of the rocks.
Bhimbetka: Pre historic rock shelter is found in Bhimbetka, near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. These shelters have pre historic rock paintings depicting the hunting seen among others.
The painting ranges from the period of Mesolithic to medieval. It is UNESCO heritage site.
Narsinghgarh: The cave paintings of Narsinghgarh (Maharashtra) show skins of spotted deer left drying.
Kurnool: It is also a prehistoric rock art site located in Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh.
Indus Valley civilization
Indus people were the first to build planned cities with scientific drainage system.
Town planning was amazing in nature. A few cities have citadels to the West built on higher platform and to the east of which is the hub of residential area. Both of them are surrounded by a massive brick wall.
Many of these cities were divided into two or more parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller but higher. Archaeologists describe this as the citadel. Generally, the part to the east was larger but lower. This is called the lower town. Very often walls of baked brick were built around each part.
The bricks were so well made that they have lasted for thousands of years. The bricks were laid in an interlocking pattern and that made the walls strong.
The Harappa civilization had trade relation with foreign countries. The seals of Harappa civilization found in Mesopotamia confirm it.
Use of metal money was not prevalent in Harappan society. Most probably they carried on all exchanges through barter.
Both men and women wore the ornaments.
Harappa: This was a rural establishment and Granaries were found. The stone symbol of Lingum and yoni, Mother Goddess were found along with mother goddess figure. It was located on the river Ravi. Graveyard was found here.
Mohan Jodaro: It was an urban area. The great bath was found here. Beard priest and burial sites were found at this place. Pashupati seal, Statue of a dancing girl.
Dholavira: Situated in Gujarat, it is famous for unique water reservoir system. It is located on the tropic of Cancer and was important horse trade centre.
Lothal: Located in Gujarat, Famous for dock yard, Evidence of Rice, Bead making was an important industry at Lothal. In Lothal, three double burials have been found.
Kalibagan: Bangle factory, multiple crops on the same land, ploughed field were found here.
Surkotada: It is located in Gujrat, Horse bones have been found here.
Chanhudaro: Only city without citadel, Carts with seated driver. IVC may have been started from here.
Banawali: Oval shaped settlement, only city with radial streets, Toy plough has been fund here.
Mehrgarh: This site is located in a fertile plain, near the Bolan Pass, which is one of the most important routes into Iran. Mehrgarh was probably one of the places where women and men learnt to grow barley and wheat, and rear sheep and goats for the first time in this area. It is one of the earliest villages that we know about.
Several burial sites have been found at Mehrgarh. In one instance, the dead person was buried with goats, which were probably meant to serve as food in the next world.
The art of bronze-casting was practiced on a wide scale by the Harappans. Their bronze statues were made using the ‘lost wax’ technique in which the wax figures were first covered with a coating of clay and allowed to dry. Then the wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out through a tiny hole made in the clay cover. The hollow mould thus created was filled with molten metal which took the original shape of the object.
Once the metal cooled, the clay cover was completely removed. In bronze we find human as well as animal figures, the best example of the former being the statue of a girl popularly titled ‘Dancing Girl’.
The Indus Valley people made terracotta images also but compared to the stone and bronze statues the terracotta representations of human form are crude.
They are more realistic in Gujarat sites and Kalibangan. The most important among the Indus figures are those representing the mother goddess. In terracotta, we also find a few figurines of bearded males with coiled hair, their posture rigidly upright.
Archaeologists have discovered thousands of seals, usually made of steatite, and occasionally of agate, chert, copper, faience and terracotta, with beautiful figures of animals, such as unicorn bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, bison, goat, buffalo, etc. The realistic rendering of these animals in various moods is remarkable. The purpose of producing seals was mainly commercial. It appears that the seals were also used as amulets, carried on the persons of their owners, perhaps as modern-day identity cards.
A large quantity of pottery excavated from the sites, enable us to understand the gradual evolution of various design motifs as employed in different shapes, and styles. The Indus Valley pottery consists chiefly of very fine wheelmade wares, very few being hand-made. Plain pottery is more common than painted ware. Plain pottery is generally of red clay, with or without a fine red or grey slip. It includes knobbed ware, ornamented with rows of knobs.
The black painted ware has a fine coating of red slip on which geometric and animal designs are executed in glossy black paint.
The Harappan men and women decorated themselves with a large variety of ornaments. While necklaces, fillets, armlets and finger-rings were commonly worn by both sexes, women wore girdles, earrings and anklets.
Spinning of cotton and wool was very common. The fact that both the rich and the poor practised spinning is indicated by finds of whorls made of the expensive faience as also of the cheap pottery and shell. Men and women wore two separate pieces of attire similar to the dhoti and shawl. The shawl covered the left shoulder passing below the right shoulder.
There is no unanimous view pertaining to the cause for the decline of the Harappan culture. Various theories have been postulated. Natural calamities like recurring floods, drying up of rivers, decreasing fertility of the soil due to excessive exploitation and occasional earthquakes might have caused the decline of the Harappan cities.
According to some scholars the final blow was delivered by the invasion of Aryans. The destruction of forts is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Also, the discovery of human skeletons huddled together at Mohenjodaro indicates that the city was invaded by foreigners.
The Aryans had superior weapons as well as swift horses which might have enabled them to become masters of this region.