by Jayaram V
We have very little information about the religious life of the Indus
During it's hey days the Indus valley civilization covered an area in the Indian subcontinent that was larger than the
present day Europe. The civilization flourished
roughly between 3500 BC and 2000 BC, with its antecedents dating as far
back as 7000 -6000 BC during the Neolithic period. The Indus valley
civilization was essentially an urban civilization, characterized by
well planned cities, built according to the needs of the people who
inhabited them and the geographical and climatic challenges they faced. They built
high rise structures, knew agriculture, pottery and metallurgy, familiar
with drainage and water supply systems and and traded
with other peoples by navigating in boats along the river routes and
also probably across the seas.
The discovery of Indus valley civilization brought the Indian
subcontinent into limelight as home to one of the most ancient human
civilizations and gave scope to many to forward the argument that the
Indian subcontinent, as a land of racial, ethnic and linguistic
diversity from time immemorial and as a land that stood in the way of
waves of migrating prehistoric nomads and adventurers of stone age,
might be the cradle of human civilization. While it is true that the
Harappn and Mohenjodaro cities might have flourished around 3000 BC, the
fact that they were well planned cities lends credence to the argument
that the urban planning and the level of sophistication that went into
its execution, could not have been possible without corresponding
development in various fields spread over a period of several centuries.
It is debatable whether the technology and the knowledge that went into
the construction of these great cities was wholly indigenous or foreign.
Some aspects of our knowledge of base numbers, metallurgy, astrology and
some elements of Hinduism, yoga and others schools of philosophy might
have been part of the legacy left by this great and mysterious
civilization, about which we presently know so little.
The Indus valley civilization is now increasingly referred as Sindhu
Civilization. This is based on the consensus opinion among
many indologists that the Indus valley civilization was probably part of
Vedic civilization or not much different from it, an idea that also
confronts and repudiates the classical Aryan invasion theory in support
of the hypothesis that both the Indus and Vedic cultures were
established by indigenous people, some of whom might have even migrated
to areas outside the Indian subcontinent and played their role in the
development of independent civilizations as far away as Greece and
Whatever may be the truth, the Indus people built a vast civilization
that disappeared mysteriously by 1800 BC and replaced by Vedic culture
in parts of India. They had knowledge of a written script which is yet
to be deciphered and which they used in their seals. About 500 such seals
were found at various Indus sites. We do not know for what exact purpose
they were actually used. It is possible that the Indus people might have
used them to mark their merchandise or as emblems of authority or tokens
of commercial contracts. The seals, along with other
artifacts such as stone statues and terracotta figures, provide some
information about the religious beliefs of the Indus people based on
which we can draw the following conclusions.
Major Religious Beliefs of the Indus People
1. The Indus people probably worshipped Mother Goddess in addition to
some male and female deities.
2. They worshipped a father God who might be a progenitor of the race
and was probably a prototype of
Siva as the Lord of the Animals.
3. They were familiar with some form of yoga and meditation.
4. They believed in some kind of tree of life, depicted usually in the
seals as a Pipal or Acasia tree, defended by a guardian spirit against
evil forces symbolized often as a tiger. The guardian spirit is depicted
variously as a bull, a snake, a goat, a mythical creature or animal.
5. They worshipped fertility symbols in the form of round stones and
pierced stones, a practice that probably preceded the worship of Siva
and Parvathi in the form Sivalinga.
6. They probably believed in magical rituals, charms and amulets and also in spirits and
7. They mostly cremated the dead and made them offerings for their use
in their after life.
8. The great bath of Mohenzodaro was probably a proto type Kovil or
sacred tank found mostly in the ancient temples of southern India, where
people might have performed some form of ritual baths on important
Who were the Indus People?
According to some historians the Indus people were probably
Dravidians, who lived in ancient times in parts of north western India,
Afghanistan, parts of the Mediterranean, Central Asia and Europe. According to some,
the Indus people were probably Aryans, whose civilization was probably a
precursor to the Vedic civilization that was established in India by a
subsequent wave of Vedic Aryans.
According to some they were Sumerians. Some believe that they probably
shared some affinity with the ancient Egyptians and other African
cultures. According to Professor Spyridon
Marinatos, the Indus civilization was probably similar to that of
ancient Greece. Both worshipped Mother Goddess and the Bull played an
important role in their religious lives. Based on the skeletal studies,
some have reached the conclusion that the Indus people represented a
mixture of different racial groups ranging from the Mediterranean type to
the Australoid and the Mongoloid, while a majority of them were
similar in features to the Dravidians of southern India. The finding of
some Indus type seals at other sites outside the Indian subcontinent,
such as Ur, Kish, Tell Asmar, Umma, Lagash, Susa etc., suggest that the
Indus people maintained contact with many cultures in Western Asia,
including the people of Israel and
probably there was an exchange of merchandise, ideas, beliefs and also
The Dravidian Connection With Ur or "Uru"
Currently, people who speak Dravidian languages, namely Telugu, Tamil, Kannada
and Malayalam are located in south India. It is believed that
these languages originated independent of
Sanskrit, which is believed to be the offshoot of the same stock of
languages that gave birth to Greek, Latin, German, French, Russian, English
and other Indo-European languages. It is believed that at some time the
Dravidians lived on the northern fringes of the Indian subcontinent,
before they moved deeper into the southern and the eastern territories
for reasons unknown. It is interesting to note that the generic name for a town or a city
or a near by village in some Dravidian languages such as Telugu and
Tamil is "ur" or "uru", which sounds similar to the
name "Ur" , the first known urban settlement in human history,
found in Mesopotamia. When some one is traveling, people may say he is
going to a "ur" or "uru" and if they do not know,
may ask "which 'ur' are you going?" Hundreds and perhaps
thousands of place names in southern states of India, also end with the
suffix "ur" or "uru" such as Bangalore (pronounced
as Bangalur) or Tanjore (pronounced as Tanjaur) or Chittoor (pronounced
as Chittur). It is difficult to accept that this could be a mere
coincidence. This is a subject that is worth investigation or a detailed
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