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Why do historians generally regard the Harappan Civilization and the Rig Vedic Culture as representing two different Societies ?

Q. Why do historians generally regard the Harappan Civilization and the Rig Vedic Culture as representing two different Societies ?


The Harappan Civilization emerged in northwestern regions of Indian subcontinent and lasted from about 2500 BCE to 1700 BCE. The Vedic Civilization is said to have started after a gap of few centuries from around 1500 BCE and lasted till 600 BCE.


  • The Indus Valley civilization was essentially an urban civilization. The main occupation of the people was trade and commerce.
    • The Vedic civilization on the other hand was essentially rural character, with pastoralism as the main occupation of the people.
    • Vedic literature discusses an entirely nomadic life and there are no fixed places of stay or worship while Harappan people led a sedentary life.
  • No Harappan like town planning, water management etc are visible during Vedic civilization.
  • Large-scale uniformity of construction plan at different places during Harappan period indicate the existence of some form of Civic authority in towns.
    • While no such civil authority seems to have existed during Vedic period. The Vedic polity was largely tribal in nature.
  • The Indus Valley people were icon-worshippers. The common gods of the Indus Valley people were Mothor-Goddess, Siva, tree,animals etc.
    • Whereas the people of Vedic civilization were opposed to icon-worship. The people of the Vedic age on the other hand were nature worshippers the various objects of nature like Varuna, Indra, Prithvi, Sun. They even treated them as deities.
    • The people of Vedic age attached great importance to fire. However, this was not the case with the people of the Indus Valley civilization.
  • The people of the Indus Valley civilization were completely ignorant of the use of the iron.
    • The people of the Vedic age knew the use of various metals. They used gold and copper in the beginning but later on also used silver, iron and bronze.
  • The Vedic people attached great importance to cow and horse amongst various animals.
    • The Indus Valley people were not aware of the use of horse and did not show the same regard for the cow or bull.
  • The Indus Valley people were much more advanced than the people of Vedic age in the art of writing. Various seals discovered from the Indus Valley suggest that the people had an independent script of their own.
    • Though this script has not been deciphered so far it certainly suggests that they were more advanced than the Aryans.
  • The Aryan people took delight in games like horse racing and chariot racing which could be categorized as out-door games.
    • The people of the Indus Valley on the other hand loved danc­ing and music and hence loved in-door hobbies.
  • Spatially the Vedic culture started in sapt sindhu region and gradually covered all over northern India.
    • While Harappan civilization remained concentrated in north-western part of the sub-continent.
  • Harappans were short stature, black in complexion; Aryans were tall, well=built and handsome.
  • Harappan ate all type of animals, as well as wheat, barley and bread.
    • The Vedic people preferred Barley, milk, ghee etc. There seems to be some restriction for eating cow.
  • Cotton was basic fabric of the Harappans while the Aryans put on woollen garments.
  • Harappan people were peace loving while the Vedic people were warlike tribes.
  • Harappans practiced earth burial, whereas the Vedic people practiced cremation after death.
  • Harappans used black and red type pottery.
    • The vedic people were acquainted with four types of pottery:
      • Black and red ware,
      • Black-slipped ware,
      • painted grey ware: It was the most distinctive pottery of the period.
      • red ware: This type of pottery was most popular with them and has been found almost all over western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Harappans used burnt bricks for making houses whereas Vedic people used mud-brick houses and wattle-and-doub houses.
  • Spatially, the initial period of Vedic civilization coincide with that of Harappan civilization.
  • In later Vedic text, term Nagara is used. It shows the faint beginning of towns (like Harappan civilization had) towards the end of vedic period.
    • Hastinapur and Kaushambi are the primitive towns of Vedic civilization.
  • Harappan’s knowledge of measurement and geometry (used in brick construction and building houses) must have helped Vedic mathematics.
    • e.g. construction of fire altar during Vedic period.
  • Fire altars, which is common feature of Vedic perio, has been found in Kalibangan (a Harappan site).
  • The Pasupati Seal or Proto-Siva seal of Harappan period reflects that earliest form of shiva worship.
    • Shiva was also worshipped during Vedic period.
  • Bangles were manufactured both in Harappa and Vedic civilization.
  • Use of horses during Harappan time is indicated horse bone found at Surkotada, a Harappan site.
  • Some crafts were practices in both Harappan and Vedic civilization. e.g.
    • Pottery, Jawel making, wheeled carts and bangles.
  • Like Harappans, Vedic people also gradually started living a settled life.
  • Later Vedic text refers to sea and sea voyages.
    • Sea voyages were also common during Harappan period.
  • Nature worship was in practice in both period.
    • e.g. Worship of earth goddess and pipal tree during Harappa period. Ans worship of fire, India(rain god) during Vedic period.
  • Rig Vedic text used the term ‘Hariyuppa’ Some scholar believe this refers to ‘Harappa’. It indicate some form of connection between both civilization.

Thus, even though there were some similarities,  it is widely accepted that both civilizations were quite different from each other. ©

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