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  • Writer's pictureMeenakshi Raje

The Art And Architecture Of Harappan Civilization

"There are three forms of visual art:

painting is art to look at,

sculpture is art you can walk around,

and architecture is art you can walk through"

~Dan rice.

Art and culture tells the story of evolution.Indian architecture is deep rooted in its history,culture and religion.It is a blend of ancient and varied native traditions.

They tell the story from ancient Indus valley civilisation to the British raj.They narrate the story of evolution.

In the second half of the third millenium BCE,one of the earliest civilisation of the world blossomed on the banks of the river Indus.It was thus named as Indus valley civilisation or Harappan civilisation.Harappan because,Harappa was the first excavated site.

The civilisation flourished around Indus river basin that is across large parts of western India is an example of earliest and finest urban civic planning.

The special feature is the artistic sensibility and vivid imagination of the artists.Various sculptures,seals, jewelleries,potteries are excavated.The human and animal figures are highly realistic in nature .There was a planned network of roads,houses and drainage system as well that made the architecture of this ancient civilization unique in its own way.It indicates the planning and engineering skill that was developed during that time.

Town planning

The excavated sites reveal a remarkable feature that is the sense of town planning.

The towns were in a rectangular grid patterns.Roads cut each other at right angles.

Three types of buildings, that are dwelling houses,public buildings and public baths have been found.

For the purpose of construction they used burnt bricks of standardised dimension and the bricks were joined by using gypsum mortar.

The beautiful city was divided mainly into two parts.

The first was 'Citadel'- used for granaries, administrative buildings,pillared halls and courtyard.

The second was 'lower city',small one roomed constructions have been found which might have been used by working class people.some of the houses were double storied as stairs are found in excavation.

The remarkable feature of the ancient civilisation is the 'Great Bath'which is excavated having no cracks speaks the marvellous and skilled engineering work.They were might be used for ritualistic purposes.

The advanced drainage system is the most striking feature of the civilisation.Small drains from each houses were connected to the larger drains running alongside the main road and were covered loosely for regular cleaning and maintenance.

The importance of health and hygiene at that point of time is highly impressive.


Numerous seals if different shapes and sizes have been excavated.Some of them were square,rectangular and circular as well.A soft stone called steatite was used for making seals.Along with steatite seals,copper,chert ,faience ,ivory and gold seals have also been found.

The seals consists of pictographic inscription that is yet to be deciphered and written in Boustrophedon style.

The common animal motifs of unicorn,humped bull, rhinoceros,tiger,bison,elephant,goat etc.have been found.There is no evidence of cow have been found.

Seals were primarily used for commercial purposes.Some seals with a hole in them indicates the use of amulets.Mathematical images have also been found that might be used for educational purposes.

Bronze Figures

"Lost wax technique" or "Cire perdue"was used in casting bronze statues.

Bronze dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro,bronze bull of Kalibangan e the examples of the statue made from this technique.


The use of fire baked clay for making sculptures.Terracotta sculpture have been mostly found in the sites of Gujarat and Kalibangan .To make toys ,miniature carts,animal figures etc.Terracotta was used.

Mother Goddess,mask of horned deity were made up of the fire baked clay.


Plain and painted pottery have been excavated from the sites of Indus Valley Civilization.The painted pottery is also known as 'Red and Black pottery'.The red colour was used to paint background and glossy black colour to draw designes and figures.Along with trees,birds and animal figures,geometrical patterns were also drawn.

For household purposes plain pottery was used to store grains and water .Miniature vesseles were designed for decorative purposes and some of the potteries were designed in such a way that might have been used for straining liquor.


The evidence of necklaces,fillets,armlets and finger rings have been found.

Precious metals,gemstones,bones,baked clays were used in making ornaments that is used both men and women of Indus valley civilization.

Girdles,earrings and anklets were worn by women only .Beads were quite popular and were produced on a large scale.

The bead making factories have been discovered in 'Chanhudaro'and 'Lothal',another important sites of this civilisation.

Other remarkable evidences:-

Use of cotton and wool have been found.The evidence of Spindles and whorls.People were also fashion concious as they keep different styles of hair and beard.

The bust of the bearded priest is the excellent example of stone figures.Another specimen of rock sculpture is the red sandstone figure of male torso.

The artisans of indus valley civilization were just amazing having an unique sense of skill.The amazing sense of town planning, terracotta figurines,ornaments to simplified motifs of animals,plants and birds show the talent and skill of the artisans of one of the earliest civilization with striking feature of civic planning.

It is truely quoted that-"Architecture is a visual art".

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