Architecture represents the lives of the people in the times of civilization.

The indus valley people built three types of buildings – dwelling house

public buildings and public baths.


  1. Used permanent material on a large scale: In villages mud bricks were used with stone being used in foundations and drains. In cities, burnt bricks were used. In Kutch, stones were used on a large scale. Many layers of well-baked brick were laid out and then joined together using gypsum mortar.
  2. Planned:
    1. The bricks were laid in English bond style The bricks had standard ratio. There is no correlation between planning and size of the settlement.
    2. The towns were laid out in a carefully planned rectangular grid pattern, The roads ran in north-south and east-west direction and cut each other at right angles
    3. The big roads divided the city into a number of blocks, while the smaller lanes were used to connect the individual houses and apartments to the main roads.
    4. The city was divided into two parts : The Citadel and lower part

The citadel

The lower part

  • Citadel in the western part was used for buildings of large dimensions, such as granaries, administrative buildings, pillared halls and courtyard.
  • Some of the buildings in the citadel might have been the residence of the rulers and aristocrats.
  • The granaries were intelligently designed with strategic air ducts and raised platforms which helped in storage of grains and protecting them from pests.
  • Citadel owes its height to the fact thatbuildings were constructed on mud brick plateform.
  • In the lower part of the city, small one-roomed constructions have been found which might have been used as quarters by the working class people.
  • Some of the houses have stairs which indicate they might have been double storied. Most buildings have private wells and bathrooms and are properly ventilated.
  • Advanced drainage system. Small drains ran from each house and were connected to larger drains running alongside the main roads.


  1. Technical knowhow: They knew the technique of water-proofing. Houses had separate bathrooms near the well and the bathing area was sloping towards the drain and water-proof. That there are no cracks or leaks in the Great Bath speaks volumes about the engineering acumen of the Harappan civilisation.
  2. Secular
  3. House structure: Houses sizes differ from large to small ones. People generally lived in houses with a central courtyard and rooms surrounding it. Doors and windows opened in side streets not the main street. There were double storied houses and staircases as well. Doors were sometimes painted or carved. Some of the houses have stairs which indicate they might have been double storied. Most buildings have private wells and bathrooms and are properly ventilated.
  4. Drainage system and hygine:
    • Advanced drainage system. Small drains ran from each house and were connected to larger drains running alongside the main roads. The drains were covered loosely to allow regular cleaning and maintenance. Pits were placed at regular intervals .
    • An important feature of the Harappan cities is the prevalence of public baths, which indicate the importance of ritualistic cleansing in their culture. These baths also had an array of galleries and rooms surrounding it. The most famous example of a public bath is the ‘Great Bath in the excavated remains of Mohenjo-daro.



  1. Cities were fortified .They had well laid out roads and drains
  2. Great bath:
    • The most impressive structure excavated at Mohenjodaro so far, is the Great Bath Constructed with kiln-burnt bricks, this Monumental Bath is a pool, 12 metres long, 7 metres wide and 2.5 metres deep.
    • Gypsum has been used alongwith mortar to make the floor and sides of the pool water-tight.
    • The pool is in the centre of a large open quadrangle with rooms and galleries on all sides.
    • A flight of steps at either end connects it the rooms. Probably meant for religious rites, it may have been used by the people for changing their clothes.
    • The pool was fed by a well nearby and the dirty water was drained into the city’s sewage system through a large corbelled drain 1.83 metres high.
    • No cracks or leakages.
  1. Granary:
    • The Granary at Harappa is made of burnt brick. Built close to the river Ravi to make transportation easy, it is comprised of two blocks.
    • Each block has six storage rooms 15 metres long and 6 metres wide. The two blocks are separated by a passage.
    • Air-ducts are provided under the wooden floor. The row of triangular openings may have been for ventilation. The granary complex measures 55 metres by 43 metres.
    • Presence of huge granaries suggests an distribution system.
  1. The Dockyard at Lothal:
    • The most distinctive feature of Lothal is the dockyard, which lies on the eastem edge of the site. This is a roughly trapezoidal basin, enclosed by walls of burnt bricks
    • The eastern and western walls measured 212 m and 215 m respectively in length, while those on the north and south measured 37 m and 35 m.
    • The dockyard had provisions for maintaining a regular level of water by means of sluice gate and spill channel.
    • A mud-brick platform along the western embankment may have been the wharf where good were loaded and unloaded. An alternative interpretation of this structure as a water reservoir is not convincing


most commonly found Harappan sculptures were seals, bronze figures , terracottas , ornaments and potteries.

  • Seals:
    • Archaeologists have found numerous seals of different shapes and size all across the excavation sites. While most seals are square, it was found that triangular, rectangular and circular seals were also used.
    • Steatite, a soft stone found in the river beds, was although the most common material used to make seals, yet chert, copper, faience and terracotta seals have also been found. Some instances of copper, gold and ivory seals have also been found.
    • Most seals have inscriptions in a pictographic script that is yet to be deciphered.
      • The script was written from right to left.
      • Animal impressions were also there, generally five, which were carved intaglio on the surfaces. The common animal motifs were unicorn, humped bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, buffalo, bison, goat, etc.
      • However, no evidence of cow has been found in any seal
      • Some seals were primarily used for commercial purposes. Mathematical images have also been found on some seals, which might have been used for educational purposes as well.
      • Some seals with a hole on them have been found on dead bodies. This indicates they might have used as amulets, carried on the persons of their owners probably used as some form of identification.
  • Metal and stone sculpture: Apart from utilitarian items made of stone and metal, a few pieces of stone and metal sculpture have been found at Harappan sites.
    • Stone sculpture
      • They include the stone bust (17.78 cm high) of a male figure found at Mohenjodaro, which has been labelled the ‘priest-king’.
      • Two fine stone torsos of a male figure (about 10 cm high were found at Harappa, a seated stone ibex or ram (49 x 27 x 21 cm) at Mohenjodaro, and
      • A stone lizard at Dholavira.
      • The only large piece of sculpture is that of a broken, seated male figure from Dholavira.
    • Metal sculpture
      • Two bronze female figurines were found at Mohenjodaro. One of them has become famous as the ‘dancing girl. This figurine was found in a small house in the south- western quarter of the city (in the HR area) during the 1926-27 excavations. The figure is 10.8 cm high and was made by the lost-wax method.
      • The lost-wax method involves first making a wax model and then covering it with a clay coating, leaving some holes as passageways. When the clay-covered moulds are heated in ovens, the wax melts out. Molten bronze is then poured in, and takes the place of the wax. When the mould has cooled, the outer clay envelope is chipped off and the craftsperson can then put the finishing touches to the solid bronze statue. This technique is still used in certain parts of India.
  • Terracotta:
    • Terracotta refers to the use of fire baked clay for making sculptures. Compared to the bronze figures, the terracotta sculptures are crude in shape and form.
    • They were made using pinching method and have been found mostly in the sites of Gujarat and Kalibangan.
    • Terracotta was generally used to make toys , animals, miniature carts, wheels, etc.
    • The mother goddess figures have been found in many Indus sites. It is a crude figure of a standing female adorned with necklaces hanging prominent breasts. She wears a loincloth and a girdle. She also wears a shaped headgear.
  • Pottery
    • The Harappan pottery reflects efficient mass-production. Pottery kilns were found at Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Nausharo, and Chanhudaro.
    • The pots were fired in funnel-shaped up-draft closed kilns, although open-firing kilns may also have been used. There is a great variety of pottery, including black-on-red, grey, buff, and black and-red wares. ( Majority was Red and Black Pottery )
    • The red colour for the slip was made from red ochre (iron oxide, known as geru), while black was made by combining dark reddish-brown iron oxide with black manganese.
    • Most of the potteries that have been found are fine wheel-made wares, with a very few being handmade.
    • The decorative patterns range from simple horizontal lines to geometric patterns and pictorial motifs. Some of the designs such as fish scales, pipal leaves, and intersecting circles have their roots in the early Harappan phase. Human figures are rare.
    • Polychrome pottery have also been found, though very rare.
    • The potteries were used for following purposes:
      • Plain pottery was used for household purposes, mainly storage of grains and water.
      • Miniature vessels, generally less than half an inch in size, were used for decorative purposes
      • Some of the potteries were perforated- with a large hole in the bottom and small holes across the sides. They might have been used for straining liquor.
      • The large jars may have been used to store grain or water.
      • The more elaborately painted pots may have had a ceremonial use or belonged to elites.
      • Harappans used pottery which is famously known as Black painted ware with Red slip pottery.
  • Ornaments: Includes beads , necklaces , armlets , rings etc
    • A new type of cylindrical stone drill was devised and used to perforate beads of semi-precious stones. Such drills have been found at sites such as Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Chanhudaro(located on indus river and only indus city without a citadel… please locate it on maps ) and Dholavira.
    • Beads, shell cutting, metal working ,seal making and weight making – were the crafts adopted mainly at chunadharo, lothal, dholavira. Crafts were made out of steatite(soft stone), agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli, shell , gold , silver , terracotta ,jasper, faience. LAPIS LAZULI- a high valued blue stone, was found in shortghai in Afghanistan.
    • Production sites : Bead making factories with tools, furnaces, and beads in various stages of preparation have been found at Chanhudaro and Lothal. Beads, bracelets, and decorative inlay work of shell show the existence of craftspersons skilled in shell working. Bangles were made from conch shell also and Balakot was important centre of shell work.
Question: Was harappan civilization a pastoral civilization or was it based on settled agricultural practices. Please elaborate.

Answer: Harappan civilization is the foundation of Indian civilization.

  1. Representation on seals and terracotta sculpture of bull is extrapolated as thery were used for ploughing.
  2. In some sites like cholistan and at banawali(Haryana) terracotta models of plough have been found.
  3. Evidences of ploughed fields have been found at kalibangan in rajasthan. The fields had two sets of furrows perpendicular to each other.
  4. Traces of canals have been found at shortugai in Afghanistan, water reservoirs have been found in dholavira(Gujarat)
  5. The subsistence agricultural practices are substantiated by charred grains (lintels,chickpea,wheat, barley) found at various harappan sites.
  6. Domestication of animals – animals played varying roles as they do now. Harappan civilization was a modern civilization in their times as many aspects of the past are still present to this day.
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