Helping children to understand Harappan cultures

Attention to drainage and sanitation on the one hand and emphasis on town planning on the other were two of the outstanding features of the Harappan cultures. Now the challenge is bring out these unique aspects to a students cognition and understanding. I was trying to figure out hard and help my dear colleague Sarada and then I hit upon these two activities, which in my view brings to relief these two singularities.

In the first worksheet I have given pictures from Harappa and Mohenjodaro of their drains and along with it a clip art picture of a person who is sick. The idea is to drive home the point that most of the illnesses in the past (and present as well) are caused by poor sanitary conditions.
In the days of yore the average life span of people was around 40-45 years and mortality rates were generally high. These were largely so because of poor sanitary conditions obtained in the society of the times from ancient period to even modern times. The Harappan people, as evidenced by the extensive network of drains, were among the first to perhaps understand it and thus emphasized on sanitation and cleanliness. This way the children get a context for understanding the prevalence of extensive drainage and also the archaelogical discovery of baths even in small households (and not just the great bath) . The other questions in the worksheet are meant to give further insights into the Harappan culture i.e. how burnt bricks for example is a more durable material than clay which can withstand the test of time better than clay. Perhaps one reason why we have so little of archaeological evidence of the Vedic or even post vedic period whose material culture was perhaps different.

The other singularity of the Harappan culture was town planning. I have asked the kids to look at two maps of two cities. One is in a grid type similar to what we read about Harappan towns viz. wide roads, shops and houses in blocks, etc. The other is all haphazard with no planning whatsoever. I have given few questions like in which town would it be easier for a stranger to find their way and why is it in the planned town all shop and workshops are closer to the river and also if a town becomes a well known trading centre what is required for smooth and easy transportation etc. The idea behind this ws is basically to draw their attention to the fact that Harappan culture was largely commercial which was frequented by traders and merchanst from distant lands. Lots of goods were to be transported and hence the towns were planned to prioritize trade i.e. movement of goods. Therefore the roads had to be wide and well paved for carts and caravans to move quickly, the shops and production centres had to be so located that it was convienient for traders i.e. hence closer to rivers. Children can be told how in India over the last few years with increasing trade with other countries and India's own increasing production the roads, bridges have been brought to shape to facilitate easier and quicker movement of goods. This increasing economic activity has also resulted in the emergence of new townships with proper planning. ( Actually gated communities...now dont know whether the kids of class VI will fully comprehend that such changes actually benefit only the few...this question though valid is another matter and my knowledge of Indus does not go that far to give parallel examples with the location of the Harappan working classes) Once again, I hope this activity/exercise will help children to further contextualize Harappan cultur and its town planning.

Click here and here for the worksheets. (some formating errors have crept in while converting it into pdf)

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