The Indus Valley Civilisation was largely dependent on the Indus River system and thrived with it, similar to how ancient Egyptians were with the Nile. It provided water for their cleaning uses, was used as a way of passage to neighbouring civilisations for trade and interactions, but probably most importantly, it nourished the crop fields that made agriculture such a greatly relied upon aspect of the civilisation’s lifestyle.
The Indus River inundated in patterns, creating a ‘flood season’ that farmers were able to take advantage of with their preparation and generation of produce. This season was in conjunction with India’s monsoon season; the Valley people made the most of the downpour of rain by collecting the rainwater for use in the dry season when fresh water would be scarcer. This abundance of water was used for cleaning among other things, and clearly contributed to the civilisation’s health and hygiene; this is another factor which aided their survival. When the Indus River flooded the fields, it made the soil rich with nutrients. The river contributed to crop health with fertilisation and irrigation. Farmers took advantage of this by sowing seeds immediately after flooding to quickly begin growing a new crop of produce in the perfect soil. They also had to plant different crops in the wet winters and the hot dry summers.
Archaeologists believe the Indus valley farmers may have used river water to irrigate their fields. The heavy rainfall of the monsoon season also greatly supported agricultural activities. As a result of the river’s highly nutritious water, the Indus Valley was able to produce great surpluses of food for their civilisation. The diet for the Indus Valley Civilisation included grain and milk products, fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Historians were able to know this by knowing what they planted as crops. Indus Valley farmers planted a different set of crops according to the time of year. Winter crops typically held wheat, barley, peas, lentils, linseed and mustard. In summer they grew millet, sesame, cotton and possibly rice (historians are not completely sure if rice was grown as it was in other Asian civilisations). The river’s water would have also sustained many animals that the Valley people relied on.
Evidence has shown that about half of the animal bones found in the city came from cattle. Cattle require a lot of water for nourishment of their grass and for drinking. The cows were used for milk, meat, leather-making and transport (i.e. pulling carts). Farmers domesticated sheep, goats, pigs, buffaloes, and donkeys (or possibly horses) and camels (especially for transport). They apparently had chickens too. In addition to these farm animals, the river attracted a great amount of animals for the Indus people to hunt. They hunted wild birds such as ducks and used nets to catch carp and other fish, and they collected shellfish. The farmers were believed to have not been forced labourers, but workers who had skill and knowledge passed on to them from elder people. Using the techniques passed on through the generations, farmers themselves were often successful in reward from their harvests and the civilisation had the resources and abilities to survive for as long as they did.
Food was hardly an issue due to this sustainable system, and one of their greatest trade goods was agriculture. With agriculture contributing heavily towards their economy, people of the Indus Valley were able to trade their surpluses of food between their own cities for items like jewellery, pottery, materials and metals. They also traded with other countries for goods like lead and copper primarily from India, minerals (in particular the prized, blue lapis lazuli and turquoise gems) from Iran and Afghanistan, and cedar tree wood from China. Since the civilisation inhabited the area around the Indus River, they gained benefits due to their close proximity to the water. Boats became the more practical option for transport to other cities in the Indus Valley and for travelling north towards other countries for trade.
The strong trade links with distant cities for goods such as mining resources were all made possible by their ability to travel by wooden boat. To conclude, the Indus River became essential to the civilisation’s lifestyle, through reliance on plant and animal sustenance, household use, economy and transport. Without such a convenient source, the Indus Valley civilisation would have suffered more and could have well collapsed centuries earlier.
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