commerce, relatively much greater economic strength. As a consequence, it
may have overpowered the other smaller states and established an ‘empire’.
But one must pause for a while and give thought to yet another aspect of the
issue, viz., that an empire does need, for maintaining its firm hold, a well-
organised army with adequate weapons of offence and defense. Indeed, we
have very meager archaeological evidence in this regard.
Arguments for and against an Empire It has often been argued that the
uniformity of the mature Harappan civilisation over such a vast area could
not have been achieved without there having been an ‘empire’ at its back.
Such an argument seems to be nullified by a glaring example of the early
historical times. Around the middle of the first millennium BC, there did exist
a uniform material culture, represented by the northern black polished ware,
cylindrical weights of chert/jasper, punch-marked and cast copper coins, etc.,
from as far west as Taxila in Pakistani Panjab to as far east as Tamluk in
West Bengal and from the sub-Himalayan region in the north to at least the
Narmada in the south. Yet, there was no ‘empire’ to back it. The first ever
empire came into being two hundred years later.
Identity of Ruling Class and Nature of Government Whether we
envision several small states or a single empire, a question which still
remains to be answered is: Were there kings in each state or an emperor in
the case of an empire? The existence of kings or of an emperor presupposes
that the individual concerned would be far above the rest, in his style of
living or even in death. If kings and emperors cannot be established because
of lack of ‘palaces’ and ‘royal tombs’, do we have to give up altogether their
presence? And if we do discard that hypothesis, what could have been other
alternatives? Was the administration organised on oligarchical lines? Further,
was it wholly secular? Or did the priestly class also play a role in it and, if so,
to what extent? These are questions that must await further archaeological
evidence for satisfactory answers.
Available Evidence In view of our inability to offer a satisfactory
decipherment of the Indus script, the artefacts that the Indus seal-makers and
potters have left behind become   our major source of information about the