Industrial Development and Achievements of Ancient India - Indus Sarasvati / Indus Valley Civilization

Early Indian economy was naturally a village economy which persists predominantly to this day. The reason is that India still continues as an agricultural country comprising about 5 lakhs of villages as against only a few towns, numbering only about forty of 1 lakh population or over each. It is thus a rural and not an urban civilization. About 80% of its population still live on land with an average holding of about 13 acres of land per head and 3 acres for a family of five. These agricultural millions have to find their support by cultivation of land only for about half the year. The other half is the off-season of agriculture, during which they must find other means of livelihood, mostly by handicrafts, and partially by transport and small trade.

Thus the old Indian rural economy had to base itself upon a balanced development of agriculture and industry. It was, however, able to render a good account of industrial progress within the limits of a restricted economy.

Earliest Mining / Quarrying Activities in Indus Valley

Perhaps the earliest Mining industry of the world was founded in India. In the Indus Valley city of Mohenjo-Daro of c. 3000 B.C. women used a variety of ornaments of gold of which the only source in those early days was the Kolar Gold fields of Mysore State. This conclusion has been reached by a committee of metallurgical experts headed by Sir Edwin Pascoe under the direction of Sir John Marshall. This Committee subjected this ancient gold of Mohenjo-Daro to a chemical analysis and found that it contained in its composition a proportion of Silver Alloy, 11% electron, which is also found in the gold ores of the Kolar fields, and in no other known source. This discovery thus throws light upon both cultural and economic history. Not only was gold-mining an early Indian industry.

The precious products of the remote South found their market in the North. The North and South were not isolated by the natural barriers of the Vindhya hills or the impenetrable wilderness of Dandakaranya but were bound together in ties of close commercial and cultural intercourse which ultimately spread Aryan thought throughout India up to its limits, overcoming all its physical barriers.

There is also evidence of other mining projects in that early age. The entire Indus civilization was the product of material which was not locally available but had to be gathered from places far and near in and out of India. This Chalcolithic civilization depended most on copper.
  • The copper used in it contained in its composition proportions of Arsenic and Nickel which marked the variety then obtained only from the Rajasthan mines.
  • The tin used is traceable to cassiterite then found in what is now the State of Bombay, parts of Bihar and Orissa, and chiefly in the mines of Hazaribagh.
  • Tin was not used by itself but as an alloy with copper so as to form Bronze containing 6 to 13% of tin.
  • Besides Metals and Minerals, this old civilization was also built on Stone of different kinds. It was quarried at different sites.
  • Lime-stone used for covering drains was quarried at Sukkur.
  • Gypsum used as mortar came from quarries of Kirthar hills far away.
  • The beautiful yellow stone was quarried in Jaisalmer.
  • Other mines in Rajasthan yielded steatite and slate.
  • Amethyst was derived from the Deccan trap.
Then there was the singular and beautiful Green Amazon Stone of which the nearest quarry was in the far South, a place known as Doddabetta in the Nilgiris. The green stone for its beauty was in demand even in remote Mesopotamia. Sir Leonard Woolley in charge of archaeological excavations at the old city of Ur found in one of its early layers "two beads of Amazonite, a green stone, for which the nearest source is in the Nilgiri Hills, calling up the astonishing picture of antediluvian man engaged in a commerce which sent its caravans across a thousand miles of mountain and desert from the Mesopotamian Valley into the heart of India."
The remains of the civilization also testify to the industry of spinning carried out by spindle whorls of faience, pottery and shell, while cotton was also cultivated probably for the first time in the world. It also produced glazed pottery, "the earliest example of its kind in the ancient world." There was also some progress in artistic craftsmanship. On its seals were carved life-like figures of animals like the humped bull, buffalo, bison, tiger, lion, elephant, horse and ram. Figures were executed in stone of a Yogi with his eyes fixed in meditation upon the tip of the nose, or of a dancing girl in bronze.
Pr Rai

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