The social and economic life of the Indus Valley Civilization reflects the people of the Indus. In this article, we have explained in detail the social and economic life of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Social Life of the Indus Valley Civilization

Mode of dress

Both men and women wore woolens and cotton clothes. The women wore short skirts bound by a girdle. They dressed and decorated their hair with combs. The men wrapped their bodies with long pieces of clothes. Men liked to keep beards and whiskers.


Both men and women wore ornaments made of copper, bronze, gold, silver, shell. Various ornaments include necklaces, ear-rings, ankles, and girdles, etc. The rich people wear ornaments made of gold, copper, silver, bronze; however, the poor society wear ornaments made of clay, shells, and bones.


Most of the people were cultivators. So agriculture was the main profession of the people. They tamed animals like cows, oxen, goats, buffaloes, and elephants. Besides, they also grew fruit and vegetables. The other occupation was spinning and weaving of cotton and wool and animal rearing. Pottery was the main industry.

Crops Produced: the people of Indus valley produces crops such as wheat, barley, dates, peas, sesamum, mustard, millets, ragi, bajra, and jowar. The people of the Indus were the first to produce cotton in the world, which Greek called Sindon derived from Sindh. A fragment of woven cotton clothes was found at Mohenjodara. Indigo was evident from Rojdi.

Domestication of Animals

The people of Indus practice animal rearing. Oxen, asses, goats, pigs, elephants, dogs, cats, etc. were their domestic animals. Camel’s bones are reported at Kalibangan and remain of horse from Surkotada.

Sports and Amusements

The people of Indus Valley have more interest in indoor sports. They love engaging in dance, music. Besides, hunting animals and birds fighting were their favorite sports.

Urban Life

The Indus Valley people had an urban life. They build their houses with well-burnt bricks. Some of these houses had two or more stories, stairways, bathrooms, dustbins, and drains. The streets were wide and straight with a good drainage system.

Food Habits: The people of the Indus Valley Civilization were both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Vegetarians eat wheat rice, barley, fruit, vegetables, etc. On the other hand, the Non-vegetarian eats meat such as fish, beef, mutton, etc, apart from various vegetables. The Indus people cultivate grains such as barley and wheat. Also, they produce cotton extensively.

Economic Conditions of the Indus Valley Civilization

Dr. Ernest Mackay assumes that the inhabitants of Mohenjodaro and Harappa live in tranquillity instead of having to fight for their existence. Although abundant evidence is not available, it is probable that these magnificent cites must have been provided with an abundant supply of food articles and agriculture must be proficient in nearby areas.

On the other hand, According to Dr. Majumdar, he believes that the representation of the ship symbol on the seal reflects the maritime activity of the Indus Valley Civilization. He also affirms that the only evidence (the picture of a masted boat scratched on a potsherd) which has come to light suggests that the products of the Indus cities might have been carried westwards by sea. Since only a highly advanced and prosperous community could have forged trade links with distant nations through land or sea routes, it is certain that the Indus people were rich, industrially advanced and highly cultured.

As no canals have been found, the mode of irrigation might have been abundant rainfall and availability of enough water in the great rivers throughout the year. Among industrial arts and crafts, the spinning of cotton and wool seems to be much prevalent.

It is certain that there were no factories and industrial skill and perfection passed from one generation to the next in the family. Thus, the Indus people were quite advanced in technical know-how is amply proved by the kiln-burnt bricks, beautiful designs of ornaments, and a fine specimen of pottery.

They lived in magnificent houses and wore fine dresses. They decorate their houses with fine furniture and utensils of copper and bronze.

The engraving of various animals especially the bull depicts both a high degree of realism and excellence.

The pottery that has been unearthed in the ruins of the Indus cities was superb. The people also cultivated fine tastes and were fond of games like dice. Also, the children enjoyed themselves with toys made of clay depicting birds, animals, carts, and images of men and women.

From more than five hundred seals found in the ruins of the Indus cities, we obtain a glimpse of the love of the Harappan people for the arts and their attempts to achieve excellence in them. They had a passion for the painted pottery. To quote Dr. Tripathi again, sculptures of stone and bronze all-around display great merit and anatomical faithfulness.

Religions of the Indus Valley Civilization

The excavations at Mohenjodaro and Harappa do not provide us with ample evidence to determine their religious beliefs and rituals of the Indus people as no structure unearthed so far could be definitely identified as a shrine or a place of worship. Among the various pottery figurines, the commonest is that of a female nude except for a short skirt secured by a girdle round the loins wearing a quantity of jewelry and a curious fan-shaped headdress. These female figures are not in good shape, having been damaged too much, but it seems certain that they denote the Mother or nature Goddess who was highly worshipped both in the near Middle East in ancient days. She represented the Shakti-the female energy as the source and strength of the entire creation.

Apart from the worship of Mother-goddess and Pasupati, worship of trees, animals, and stones are also discernible from the representations on various seals found among the debris of the Indus valley civilization.

The pipal tree which is considered very sacred by the Hindus even today was thought to be an abode of spirits or gods by the Harappan people.  Among other trees of worship, the prominent were neem and acacia.

The animals depicted as being worshipped on various seals were the bull, the elephant, the tiger, and the buffalo. It could be that each deity linked with its own particular animal as a Vahan (means of transport), for instance ‘ Shiva on a bull, various animals might have been associated with gods and worshipped per se. Among stones, Lingas and Yonis were also associated with gods and goddesses and thus deemed sacrosanct.

It is also worth mentioning that they compulsorily took a bath before any religious worship or ceremonies for purification of body and mind.

Arts and crafts of the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley people also have high skills in the field of arts and crafts.

They make fine pottery and terracotta toys. The beautiful specimens of the pottery give an indication that the potter was an important profession. The evidence of the discovery of numerous specimens of pottery, seals, beads, and bracelets was greatly flourished during the Indus Valley civilization.

They were clever at making jewelry. Fine ornaments made of gold, silver, copper, bone; ivory and shell have been found. Fine statues made of bronze show the skill of these people in art. They could make fine weapons of metal but did not know the use of iron.

Also, the arts of the carpenter, the mason, the blacksmith, the jeweler, the stone-cutter and ivory-workers also found enough means of livelihood and employment. The potter’s wheels, kiln-burnt bricks, the boring of hard substances like carnelian and the casting and alloy of metals indicated (proved) the great advance in technical knowledge.

The Indus Valley people practiced the art of spinning and weaving was common among the womenfolk. Thus, the Indus Valley people used cotton and woolen cloths. In fact, the cotton Industry flourished in India since the days of the Indian civilization.

Houses, Streets, Drains of Indus Valley Civilization

The houses, streets, and drains reflect in many ways the social and economic life of Indus Valley Civilization. We can say that the Indus Valley Civilization was carefully built because of the follows reasons.

Their houses were built of baked bricks, stone, and mortar. Their walls were thick and strong. The plastered and colored houses were built on both sides of the straight streets. Also, every house has a kitchen, bathroom, well and courtyards. The houses were airy and well-ventilated. A strong wall surrounded the city of Harappa to safeguard the dwellers against the enemies.

The streets in both cities ran straight. They intersected one another at right angles. The houses were built on both sides of the streets. The entire street was cut at the right angles divided into squares or rectangular blocks. The main street was about ten meters wide.

The people of the Indus Valley had a perfect system of drainage. Brick-laid channels flowed through every street. They varied from 9″ wide and 12″ deep to double that size. The drainage channels were covered with loose bricks which can be removed when necessary. Large drainage channels were made of stone and were covered with stone. Cesspits were provided for the flow of the rain-water and sewage from the houses to flow into them. Long drains were provided at intervals with sumps so that the channels may be cleaned without much difficulty.


The trading system had a great contribution towards the social and economic life of Indus Valley Civilization. Trade was based on the barter system. They had trade relations with the people of Sumer and of other towns situated along the Persian Gulf. They send the merchandise from Lothal. Also, most of their trade takes place through water routes. They also use Bullock carts and animals for transportation. They carried on trade with other countries like Egypt and Mesopotamia and also within nearby areas.

Additional Knowledge:

Why did the Harappan people have a highly civilized life?

The followings are the four major reasons which show that the Harappan people led a highly civilized life.

We can say the Harapan people had a high civilized life because of the following points:

Remarkably planned houses: The Harappan culture had superb town-planning. Every house had its own bathroom, kitchen, and courtyard. Many houses had their own wells. The ruins of huge buildings like palaces, temples, and halls indicate that the people had a civilized municipal life. The buildings were made of welt burnt bricks. The streets were wide and straight.

Standard of Living: The people wear beautiful clothes and valuable ornaments. They eat fruit, meat, fish, wheat, and barley. This shows that they had a high standard of living.

Sources of Amusement: The people loved sports and games, hunting, dancing and gambling were their favorite pastimes. People enjoy birds and cook fighting. The girls play with dolls and the boys with clay toys.

Trade and Commerce: Mohenjodaro was a great trading center. The Harappans had developed direct commercial links with the people of Sumer. They export clothes to foreign countries mainly through water routes.

Why was the Harappa Culture the first civilization in India?

The Harappa culture was the first civilization in India due to the following reasons:

The Indus Valley Civilization or the Harappa Culture was the earliest civilization because there is no other civilization prior to that.

Also, it came into existence around 4500 years ago and flourished around 2500 BC. Other civilizations if any in India came into existence later on.

However, the Harappa culture grew and developed in India at the same time as other civilizations (Egyptian and Sumerian) in other parts of Asia and Africa.

The Main Difference Between the Indus Valley Civilization and Vedic Civilization

The difference in respect to animals

With respect to animals, the Vedic Civilization knows what the Indus People knew. Most of the domestic animals during both Civilizations are dogs, cows, sheep, and bulls. The animals hunted down by the Vedic people were antelopes, boars, buffalos, lions and elephants and they were also familiar to the Indus people. The main difference with regards to animals is that Vedic Civilization keeps horses as domestic animals, but that was not in the case of Indus Valley Civilization.

The difference in respect to Armour

The people of Vedic Civilization were introduced with armor. The Vedic people make armor with metal plates. They also had helmets. These helmets are made of Ayas or gold, however, the Indus people had no armors because they were not offensive. But, the case was different from the Vedic people because the Vedic people were both offensive and defensive to wars. They led expeditions to the neighboring territories for booty and conquests.

The difference in respect to industry

Both of the civilization was familiar with the Cotton industry. There is a reference in the Vedas to the weaver, his loom, the shuttle, and the warp. Likewise, a large number of spindle wheels have been found at Mohenjodaro.

The difference in respect to Town

The Vedic people were essentially rural and the Indus people were primarily urban, were primarily urban. The people of Indus Valley live in towns. On the other hand, the people of Vedic Civilization mostly live in a village. Mohenjodaro was a well-planned city. Its drainage system was excellent. However, such was not the case with the Vedic people who live in the countryside.

The difference in respect to religion

The religion of the Indus people was different from that of the Vedic people. The people of Indus Valley Civilization worship God in various forms. They consider animals, trees, fire, and sun as God. However, it was not the same case for the Vedic people.

The Indus people worshipped animals and had faith in amulets and charms. However, The people of Vedic Civilization worship numerous deities, such as Vishnu, Indra, Savitri, Rudras, etc. to name a few.

The difference in respect to Outdoor amusements

The Indus people desire to engage more in indoor hobbies as compare to outdoor amusements. But the people of Vedic Civilization do not like hunting and the sports Chariot-Racing.

The difference in respect to Diet

The diet of the Indus people consists of wheat, bread, milk products. But for the people of Vedic, milk plays an important role in their diet. As a result, we can see food made from milk, such as butter and curd.

The difference in respect to cloth

In the Indus Valley, women put on a skirt and they use cloak for extra protection. Men generally wrapped covering their left shoulder and falling on the right shoulder.

The difference in respect to pottery

The Vedic pottery was a simple one. On the other hand, the Indus people pottery was of high accuracy and consistency but it was in the case of the Vedic people.


Source: Mohammed Rafi Komol & O. Jnanendra Singh

An Extreme Useful Guide to History of Ancient India, Book

Note: There are some changes in the Length and Text of the Article.

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