What r the religious beliefs associated with the early Indus valley civilization or Harrapan civilization?

  • This is the the area i was referring to. I am wondering about the peoples who inhabited the area prior to the aryans. ancient.eu/Indus_Valley_Civilization
    – Crisett
    Sep 28, 2018 at 18:16
  • According to link i posted, it seems some of the hindu gods originated with this culture. Can we assume then that their creation story would be similar to the hindu creation story?
    – Crisett
    Sep 29, 2018 at 5:50
  • @Gibet I homeschool and this is part of a project on these exact cultures and their beliefs. I knew there writing hasnt been deciphered yet and figured it would be hard to get a definitive answer. However i would at least like to be able to present theories as to what their beliefs were.
    – Crisett
    Oct 1, 2018 at 20:50
  • @Gibet i edited the question to ask about their religious beliefs instead of just a creation myth.
    – Crisett
    Oct 4, 2018 at 5:06

1 Answer 1


[Note] My time for any answer is somehow so scarce that it will take me a couple of days and edits to manage to finish it... Sorry for this major inconvenience [/Note]

It is very rare to have questions related to the Indus valley civilization. Note that: Stack is about having answers from experts on a subject. While I doubt there is factually any experts frequenting this mythology section, which is sad, I would like first to mention my knowledge of the Indus valley is one of a "general voracious reader" and certainly not one of an expert.


The first we can look at are tombs, and this will be enlighting. At the time of the Indus valley civilization there are :

  • Egyptians building their pyramids (2500BC for the one of Gyzeah, roughly the equivalent of the beginning of the Indus valley), later they will build the valley of the king during the New Kingdom. It is also very clear they used mummification during all their history. Mummies are quite common during the Ptolemaic time, while certainly of low-quality mummification was still quite present. The tomb of Tutankhamun is giving a very clear idea of the richness buried with the dead kings. Notice also you can have heard here and there about curses places in those tombs. This is due to the fact even during the Egyptian time, rampaging the tomb was quite common, numerous Egyptian stories are reporting them and Herodotus himself mentioned such a story.
  • Mesopotamians also used quite elaborate tombs. As I imagine people are less familiar with Mesopotamia than Egypt let's see what Leonard Woolley describe when he discovered the death pit of Ur: Six men-servants carrying knives and axes lay near the entrance, lined up against the wall; in front of them stood a great copper basin, and by it were the bodies of 4 women harpists, on with her hands still on the strings of her instruments. You can read the rest of the text from the full thrilling description. Notice the people who obviously send their king with his whole court to the afterlife are the same one who wrote Bilgames and the underworld and the Death of Bilgames. Which is even more thrilling.

Now let's compare with the kind of tomb we find in the Indus valley, the comparison is stunning. This is a description given by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer: Precious metals, gold and valuable stone beads were generally kept in circulation among the living, while only the most essential personal objects were buried with the dead: shell bangles, beads with eye designs, steatite disc beads and mirrors. As a whole, the burial customs further reinforce the importance of ornaments and public symbols to define social and ritual status among the living Basically let's translate that with this: In the Indus valley, they buried their dead with trinkets and trifles.

Comparing the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians and the Harappan burial rites is I hope enlighting enough. The population of the Indus valley is definitely not the one who will later build the Taj Mahal. We are not facing the stupendous tomb of Egypt or the thrilling slaughter of a whole court of Ur. Just dead buried with occasional trinkets (bangs and bead necklace, occasional potteries).

Palaces and Temples

The second point that is interesting to investigate are palaces and temples. They define religion for temples and power for palaces, and sometimes the relationship between both.

  • Egypt: The pinnacle of Egyptian palaces and temples are during the New Kingdom, especially during the Ramsesides, but it is a general trend of Egyptians throughout their history to be quite devoted architects and builders. Noticeable are colonnades, wall painting, and carving, giants statues. A little look at Google can help.
  • Mesopotamia: While some of the marvels of Mesopotamia vanished in time we still have the wonderful Ziggurats, the trach of some of the huge palaces, and even the idea that in Babylon there could have been some suspended garden that more than impressed the Greeks.

Now... the comparison with the Indus Valley is also quite impressive. First, the Harappans are definitely fine builders, they built cities and extremely functional one. We even know that their general water work is on par with the much later Roman one. The Indus civilization was discovered with the city of Harappa (hence their name, Harappan) in 1924, by John Marshall and here is his description of brick working: "The bricks alone remain — myriads on myriads of them — but not one of them is moulded or chiselled or shaped in such wise as to give a hint of any architectural design. Nor do we get any help in this matter from drawings or reliefs or models of buildings among the minor antiquities." Let's translate Marshall: they are taking the time to build backed bricks which is time and resource consuming but the bricks are... not impressive in their final shape. The second point to notice is at this stage no palace, no temple has been unearthed. We still have on huge construction, the Great Bath of Moheno-jaro. enter image description here That is their best construction and while it is surely an impressive structure in size and craftsmanship, notice: no statue, no wall carving, no trace of any painting. Worst for us is we have no real clue of what the function of this building was exactly. Even Wikipedia is dancing on his foot on that matter"Most scholars agree that this tank would have been used for special religious functions where water was used to purify and renew the well being of the bathers." Notice the quote used, and the quote using "would have been". So the second place where we can find clues of the religion and cult practices of the Indus Valley is once again letting us down. At most are we amazed about the absence of any notorious cultic place. let's quote Marshall : "That is the impression produced by the wide expanse of bare red brick structures, devoid of any semblance of ornament and bearing in every feature the mark of stark utilitarianism"

  • i thank you so much for your answer. Am looking forward to any edits you may make as i havent been able to find anything through an internet search. I especially appreciate u giving me Jonathan Mark Kenoyer name. Never found him while searching, but his reasearch is extraordinary. To connect Mesopotamia and Indus valley civilization is an eye opener. Once again. Thank you
    – Crisett
    Oct 10, 2018 at 5:05
  • I have only scraped the survace of his research ,but I will be definitely be reading more of it in the next few days. thanx again
    – Crisett
    Oct 10, 2018 at 5:09
  • i am trying to @ u, but for some reason its not letting me
    – Crisett
    Oct 10, 2018 at 5:15
  • i homeschool 2 teenagers And that means if my kids have questions we can spend time to reserch it. They read alot about Mesopotamia and Egypt, their religion and their culture. But all the books said about the indus valley civilization was it as old as the orher 2 cultures were. My children wanted to know more about this culture. Since i was a member here, i figured it was the best place to get answers.
    – Crisett
    Oct 10, 2018 at 7:54
  • Amd no not indian. We r american
    – Crisett
    Oct 10, 2018 at 7:54

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