The Supposed Religious Beliefs of the Indus Valley Civilization - Revised in View of Recent Research

Sarah Umer


The religious ideologies of the Indus people is one of the most complex and least understood aspect of this civilization in the absence of any decipherable written text. Therefore the main tools in building these ideologies had always been the excavated archaeological material. But recent studies in this aspect and the use of creative imagination has helped us in bridging the gaps or re-establishing a connection to a certain extent; for it would be unjust only to accept the archaeological evidences as concrete for deducing the religious beliefs of people that no longer exist.

            Over the years since the discovery of Indus civilization, many scholars have written about the religion of the Indus People but unfortunately very briefly and whatever conclusions they drew have also been revised on a large scale in the light of recent research. Let us first look at the various objects that were previously associated with the religion of this region, but today no longer hold a significant position. And then we would try to understand what these people believed in keeping the wider geographical picture in mind, which includes Persia and the Middle East.

            Though we cannot be sure whether this presumed system of thought (belief in a supernatural phenomenon) represented in this paper is a true reality. However, the results of this investigation using cross-cultural analogies with the help of comparative analysis present probable scenarios that take us away from the direct historical approaches (what earlier scholars assumed) and help us to gain a better understanding of Indus narrative themes and mind set. Because the association that is found between the gods and goddesses with relation to the natural and supernatural phenomena and references to animistic beings fall closely in line with Indus imagery found on its narrative seals. 


Religion, Indus, Civilization, South Asia, Supernatural.


Allchin Bridget and Raymond, The Rise of Civilization in India & Pakistan (London: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 216.

Archiati Pietro, trans., Pauline Wehrle, The Great Religions – Pathways to Our Innermost Being (London: Temple Lodge, 1998), 3.

Chakrabarti K. Dilip, The Oxford Companion To Indian Archaeology-The Archaeological Foundations of Ancient India-Stone Age to AD 13th Century (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), 188-9.

Clark R. Sharri, “Representing the Indus Body: Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and the Anthropomorphic Terracotta Figurines from Harappa” Asian Perspectives 42, no. 2 (2003): 304-28.

Clark R. Sharri, The Social Lives of Figurines: Recontextualizing the Third Millennium B.C. Terracotta Figures from Harappa (Pakistan) Ph.D. Thesis, Harvard University, 2007, 508.

Collon D., First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 178.

Dales F. G., Mesopotamia and Related Female Figurines: Their Chronology, Diffusion and Cultural Functions Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Oriental Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1960.

Durant Will, The Story of Civilization - Part I - Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 503.

Farmer Steve, Richard Sproat & Michael Witzel, “The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization”, Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 11-2 (2004): 19-57.

Frenez D. and M. Tosi, “The Lothal Sealings: Records from an Indus Civilization Port Town at the Eastern End of the Maritime Trade Network across the Arabian Sea”, Studi in onore di Enrica Fiandra, Contributi di Archeologia Egea e Vicinorientale, ed., Massimo Pernaa (Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 2005), 65-103.

Habib Irfan, A People’s History of India 2 – The Indus Civilization – Including Other Copper Age Cultures and history of Language Change till c. 1500 BC, 56.

Jacobsen Thorkild, The Treasures of Darkness (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 3.

Jarrige Catherine, “Human Figurines from the Neolithic Levels at Mehrgrah (Baluchistan, Pakistan)”, In South Asian Archaeology 2003, ed., U. Franke-Vogt and H-J Weisshaar (Aachen: Forschungen zur Archarologie, 2005), 34.

Jarrige Catherine, “The Terracotta Figurines from Mehrgrah”, In Forgotten Cities of the Indus (Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1991), 87-93.

Kenoyer Mark J., Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 83.

Kenoyer Mark J., ed., “From Sumer to Meluhha: Contributions to the Archaeology of South and West Asia in Memory of George F. Dales, Jr.”, Wisconsin Archaeological Reports, Vol. 3, no. 14 (U.S.A: Individual Authors, 1994), 179.

Parpola Asko, Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 234.

Singh Upinder, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India-From the Stone Age to the 12th Century (New Delhi: Pearson Longman, 2008), 172.

Trigger G. Bruce, Understanding Early Civilizations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 412.

Wheeler Mortimer, The Indus Civilization - Supplementary Volume To The Cambridge History of India (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1997), 87.

Wright Rita, “Images of Women in the Art of the Indus Valley: Female and Male from Amarna to Middle Asia”, The Charles K. Wilkinson Lecturer for Ancient Near Eastern Art Department, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1997.

Wright Rita, The Ancient Indus, 282-4.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.