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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Farming in Ancient India

Farming in Ancient India
All rivers in India carry more water in the monsoon season because of local rainfall. The rivers of northern India also get extra water from rainfall over the Himalayas.

This often causes the northern rivers to overflow their banks and flood the surrounding land. Flooding can sometimes be destructive and lead to the loss not only of crops but of human lives as well. At the same time, floods in India are also much needed, because they leave fresh silt on the land they cover. This silt makes the land fertile for growing crops.

The early farmers of the Indus Valley made good use of the yearly floods. They planted cotton and sesame seeds just before the monsoon began. By the time the rain stopped and the Indus River shrank to its normal size, the crops would be ready to harvest. The farmers grew barley and wheat during the winter and harvested it in the spring.

The ground was moist enough from the summer flooding that no more water was needed.

Early farmers in India also raised livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and goats. However, for making clothing they used the cotton plant instead of animals. Cotton is a plant native to India.

Although it was a good region for agriculture, the area near the Indus River also had drawbacks. The river often flooded and also shifted its course because of the buildup of silt. Some villages had to be abandoned when the Indus River moved too far away.
Still, life was good for the early settlers in the Indus Valley. The importance of the Indus River can be seen in the fact that the entire subcontinent is named after it.
Today flooding still causes problems in northern India. Deforestation, or the widespread cutting down of trees, has led to larger floods than in ancient times. The worst flooding happens in the Ganges Plain. This region once had thick forests, but now there are few trees left. In the last 50 years, many of the forests in the Himalayas have also been cleared. These forests used to help soak up some of the heavy rains. Without the forests, water rushes quickly downhill and causes flooding.

How did river flooding help the early farmers of the Indus River Valley?


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