The Birth of River Valley Civilisations in India

I last left off talking about a neolithic revolution whereby life took root in the moist areas of the subcontinent. The first civilisation in the Indian subcontinent embraced a very wide region of the north west.

Archaeological evidence suggests the use of the plough. This then leads to a conjecture of agricultural surplus thus produced. The above in turn suggests the beginning of establishment of “towns”, which in their turn would have led to the birth of trade and artisinal activities. This exchange appears to have been both long- and short-distant as suggested by the presence of records maintained for long-distant trade.

The above is a thing marvelous in itself for it suggests that the so-called Indus Valley civilisation had the markings of literacy. Much has been said about this Indus valley civilisation so it wouldn’t do to get into details here. However, a greater amount of ink has been spent talking about the reasons for its demise.

This gradual weakening of the civilisation, is has been surmised by scholars who study the ecological history of India, could be as a result of climatic changes. The shifting of the river course of the River Indus, the geological changes associated with the lifting up of the Himalayas as well as the possible flooding of the Indus are factors cited.

What the studies on the civilisation however inform is that Iron came to be used in India by 1,000 BC. It was associated with the Painted Grey Ware Pottery culture of the north west as well as the Black and Red Pottery culture of central India.

The use of iron as well as fire then suggests that the Gangetic plains were not new to agriculture around this period. Pastoral colonisation with paddy cultivation as a prime element was known to be present during this period.

Interestingly, both Agni (fire) and Varuna (wind) were prime elements worshipped now in place of the earlier leaf, tree, etc as a mark of the changing value accorded to these elements. The change in functionality thus brought a change in ancient patterns of worship as well.