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Harappan Spread: Indian Food- A historical companion

The Harappan Civilisation has its earliest roots in cultures such as that of Mehrgarh (neolithic age), approximately 6000  BCE.Stone Age cultures exist in Ladakh that suggest that there were link with Central Asia. There were even grinding stones that were found from around 6000 BCE that were used to grind four variety of wheats, like wheat barely and even cotton and jars to store them in. Bones of animals like sheep and buffalo also appear to be found in the area.

The two greatest cities, Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, emerged 2600 BCE along the Indus River valley in Punjab and Sindh. Pulses were important even back, peas, chickepea, masur, horse gram and mung were all found from that time. Food consisted of pomegranate, coconut, bananas, beef, buffalo, mutton, turtles, and fish.  Animals that were domesticated were the elephant, camel and the ass but no horses.

One of the earliest ploughed field dates back to 2800 BCE and is the one of the first in the world- found in Kalibangan, Rajasthan. Ploughs were made of clay. Water was taken out by pots that were fixed on water wheels for raising water from the river. There must have been a climatic change in the area because now the area is almost bare of forests. There must have been a forrest there because a lot of bricks were baked through firing and therefore must have required a lot wood. There are even swamp animals that are shown on Harappan seals. Rice as a staple diet and there must be a annual rainfall of at least 100 cm.

Storage of food: 

The largest granary was found at Harappa in the shape of mud platform. It was 52×42 metres in size and 1.2 meters hight. There were 17 blocks of these platforms and each block had six chambers with corridors between them. Each chamber was divided into four storage spaces and there were vents on top facing the river.

A row of circular platforms each 3 meters across and constructed bricks placed on edge and fanning outwards were found near Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Husk, barley and burnt wheat were lodged and there was a central hole where they were pounded using wooden pestles. This is still a practice in Kashmir today.

Ways of preparing food:

There were two types of grinding stone that were domestic and used at home.

  1. Small saddle like stone that had ends pointing upwards with a small roller.

  2. Small circular depression at the centre with a round grinder (good for crushing grains)

Cereals were made in metal and clay plates, similar to modern thavas. Clay Vessels were also made that were suited to boiling barley and rice. Circular ovens were also found in the Indus Valley sites that were placed below the ground and were used for glazing large clays, making bread or even metallurgy. Something similar to tandoors was also found. Chulha’s were of a U- Shape with a front opening with three raised knobs to support the cooking pot. There were even copper frying pans and serving dishes with a fitted cover. Shell was crafted to give cups with ladles. Kitchen knives were made of chert.


The Harappa civilisation was a well-established trade route that flowed through Euphrates and Mesopotamia. Akkadin (oldest empire of mesopotamia) cylinder seals  were found in Harappa. Cotton, sesame, barley, linseed oils were exported. The primary imports were silver and gold.

#FoodStudies #IndianFood #Indianhistory #ktachaya

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