Describe the theories of suddun decline of the Harappan civilization

Describe the theories of suddun decline of the Harappan civilization


Cause of the Decline of the Harappan Culture


M.R. Sahni is a palaeontologist who suggested a hypothesis regarding the decline of the Harappan culture. In this hypothesis, he presented evidence of the presence of alluvium (a deposit of clay and sand left by flowing water in a river valley) containing freshwater shells at a height far above the present flood level. There was no clear explanation of what created the flood. After his hypothesis, many other palaeontologists made different assumptions, such as the possibility of a tectonic plate which produced an earthquake. But there was no evidence to support this theory, or other theories of different researchers.

The floods in the Indus river might be one of the main causes for the extinction of Harappan culture. These repeated floods may have caused a mass migration of the people of the Harappan civilization to other regions.


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Change of Course of the Indus River

Palaeontologists have found a lot of evidence that the Indus river changed its course many times throughout history. In Mohenjo-Daro (the capital of the Harappan civilization), water was the main source of income. When the Indus river changed its course from Mohenjo-Daro, water became scarce, to the point that people of the city needed to migrate from their capital to different places to survive. Water is essential for agriculture, which was also a reason for people of the Harappan civilization to migrate to places suitable for agriculture.

This change caused a drought in the region. However, a change in the course of the Indus river could not have been the cause of the decline of the Harappan culture, since other major cities were not affected by these changes.


Research by Dr. Gwen Robbins Schug, an anthropologist, shows that leprosy emerged during the developmental period of the Harappan civilization, and its impact increased over time. Palaeontologists have found skeletal remains of many people on the main road in Mohenjo-Daro with evidence of leprosy on the bones. Through this, we can state that there was evidence of an outbreak of plague in the region.

Research also shows the emergence of infectious diseases in the late Harappan civilization which, many researchers believe, led to the mass migration of people from densely populated areas to rural areas.

Foreign Invasion

Sir Mortimer Wheeler, a researcher, has put forward a theory that the Aryan invasion was the reason for the decline of the Harappan culture, since there is archaeological evidence of genocide and unburied skeletons scattered throughout Mohenjo-Daro. After autopsies were conducted on these skeletons, it revealed that their death was caused by sharp objects or perhaps weapons. During that time, the use of weapons was known to Aryans but there was no evidence of the Harappan people’s knowledge of weapons. During the invasion, it might have been a one-sided genocide of the Harappan people, caused by the Aryans when they arrived at a rich and fertile piece of land. The Harappan civilization was the gateway to the Indian peninsula, but its people may have migrated from the area out of fear of the Aryans. The Harappan culture gradually fell into oblivion as the Aryans replaced the Harappan civilization with a new culture brought by them. Areas of Harappan culture that were invaded by Aryans might have occurred due to conflicts between rural and forest-dwelling people.

Natural Catastrophes

Researcher Jim G. Shaffer presented a list of natural catastrophes that could have occurred during the Harappan civilization to cause its destruction. One of the biggest natural catastrophes that could have occurred was an earthquake, since the Harappan civilization was situated in an area that is prone to earthquakes. Other researchers have speculated that the movement of tectonic plates near the area caused potentially damaging earthquakes that could have led to major flooding in the area. As a result, many people in the region migrated from one region to another to avoid these natural disasters. Earthquakes became known as one of the main reasons for the decline of the Harappan culture.


There are many theories put forward by palaeontologists and researchers which offer different explanations for the decline of Harappan culture and the Harappan civilization. But one common factor in all the theories is that there was not a single major reason for the decline of the Harappan civilization. Rather, many factors played their role in the decline of the Harappan culture.

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