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90 Days History Answer Writing Practice Question 2 for 06-Dec-2017

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06-Dec-2017 - Question 2

The decline of Harappan Civilization was caused by ecological degradation rather than external invasion. Discuss (2015)

Model Answer

The decline of Harappan Civilization has been a matter of debate and discussion among historians and in the light of this, a number of hypotheses were proposed by different historians regarding its decline. External invasion theory and Ecological degradation theory are two strands of this hotly contested debate.

External Invasion Theory or Aryan Invasion Theory

  • The idea that the civilization was destroyed by the Aryan invaders was put forward by Ramprasad Chanda in 1926.It was later elaborated by Mortimer Wheeler in 1947.
  • This idea was supported by the references in the Rig Veda to various kind of forts, attacks on walled cities, and the epithet Purandara (destroyer of forts) given to the god Indra.
  • He also identified a place called Hariyupiya in the Rig Veda with Harappa, where Aryan fought the battle.
  • It was pointed out that in the late phases of occupation at Mohenjodaro, there are evidence of a massacre. Human skeletons have been found lying on the streets.

Problems with Aryan invasion theory

  1. The evidence from the Rig Veda is far from conclusive. There are no archaeological records to support this theory. There is, in fact, no evidence of any kind of military assault or conflict at any Harappan site. The human bodies lying exposed in the street could have been caused by raids of bandits from surrounding hilly tracks.
  2. The provisional date for the decline of the Harappan civilization is believed to be 1800 B.C. The Aryans, on the other hand, are believed to have arrived here not earlier than a period around 1500 B.C. So, the Harappans and the Aryans are unlikely to have met each other.
  3. The later research has shown that the dates, as well as the pace of decline, varied from site to site. The decline in Mohenjodaro had set in by 2200 BCE but the civilization continued at many places till 1800 BCE. While Mohenjodaro and Dholavira give a picture of gradual decline, at Kalibangan and Banawali, the city life ended all of sudden.
Thus it is well established by now that the external invasion theory fails to explain the decline of Harappan Civilization satisfactorily.

Ecological degradation theory

Two theories have been propounded which try to explain the decline of the civilization in terms of ecological degradation - Ecological Balance Theory and Monsoon Link Theory.


Ecological Balance Theory

Scholars like Fairservis tried to explain the decay of the Harappan civilization in terms of the problems of ecology.

According to him, the delicate ecological balance of the semi-arid areas was being disturbed because the human and cattle population was fast depleting the scanty forests, food and fuel resources.

The combined needs of the Harappan townsmen, peasants, and pastoralists exceeded the limited production capacities of these areas. Thus, a growing population of men and animals confronted by scanty resources wore out the landscape.

With forests and grass cover gradually disappearing, there were more floods and droughts. This depletion of the subsistence base caused strain on the entire economy of the civilization.

There seems to have been a gradual movement away to areas which offered better subsistence possibilities. That is why the Harappan communities moved towards Gujarat and the eastern areas, away from the Indus.

Though there are some concerns in this theory (for example the enduring fertility of soils of the Indian sub-continent over the subsequent millennia disapproves the hypothesis of soil exhaustion), still it explains the decline in the better way.


Monsoon Link Theory

The Rise and fall of the Harappan civilization are also explained by the Monsoon Link Theory of 2012. It is presented by Ronojoy Adhikari, Liviu Giosan, and others.

According to this theory, it is the climate change which is responsible for the decline of the Harappan civilization.

According to this theory, around 4000 BCE there existed extreme monsoon climate which was not favourable for the rise of civilization but with the weakening of the monsoon, the climate became favourable for the rise of the mighty Harappan civilization and with the further weakening of the monsoon, the climate became again unfavourable which led to the decline of the civilization.

The example of this further weakening is the disappearance of the Saraswati river which was rainfed not Glacier fed.

This theory is based on the latest archaeological evidence and research and best explains the decline of the Harappan civilization on the basis of the ecological degradation rather than the Aryan Invasion.


Thus, it can be concluded with certainty that the decline of Harappan civilization was not because of external invasion rather ecological degradation in the light of the ecological balance theory and Monsoon link theory.

Note: The model answer is only for your reference and not an ideal answer for the question.
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