Town Planning and Structures

The Harappan culture was distinguished by its system of town planning.


Harappa and Mohenjodaro each had its own citadel or acropolis, which was possibly occupied by members of the ruling class.
Below the citadel in each city lay a lower town containing brick houses, which were inhabited by the common people.The remarkable thing about the arrangement of the houses in the cities is that they followed the grid system.
Granaries constituted an important part of the Harappan cities.
The use of burnt bricks in the Harappan cities is remarkable, because in the contemporary buildings of Egypt mainly dried bricks were used.
The drainage system of Mohenjodaro was very impressive. In almost all cities every big or small house had its own courtyard and bathroom.
In Kalibangan many houses had their wells. At sites such as Dholavira and Lothal (Gujarat), the entire settlement was fortified, and sections within the town were also separated by walls.

Agriculture in Indus Valley Civilization

The Harappan villages, mostly situated near the flood plains, produced sufficient foodgrains.

Wheat, barley, rai, peas, sesame, lentil, chickpea and mustard were produced. Millets are also found from sites in Gujarat. While rice uses were relatively rare. The Indus people were the earliest people to produce cotton.
While the prevalence of agriculture is indicated by finds of grain, it is more difficult to reconstruct actual agricultural practices.
Representations on seals and terracotta sculpture indicate that the bull was known, and archaeologists extrapolate shows oxen were also used for ploughing.
Most Harappan sites are located in semi-arid lands, where irrigation was probably required for agriculture.
Traces of canals have been found at the Harappan site of Shortughai in Afghanistan, but not in Punjab or Sindh.
Although the Harappans practised agriculture, animals were also reared on a large scale.

Evidence of the horse comes from a superficial level of Mohenjodaro and from a doubtful terracotta figurine from Lothal. In any case the Harappan culture was not horse centred.

Economy in Indus Valley Civilization

The importance of trade in the life of the Indus people is witnessed by the presence of numerous seals, uniform script and regulated weights and measures in a wide area.
The Harappans carried on considerable trade in stone, metal, shell, etc.
Metal money was not used and trade was carried by barter system.
They practised navigation on the coast of the Arabian Sea.
They had set up a trading colony in northern Afghanistan which evidently facilitated trade with Central Asia.
They also carried commerce with those in the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates.
The Harappans carried on long distance trade in lapis lazuli; which may have contributed to the social prestige of the ruling class.


Crafts in Indus Valley Civilization


The Harappans were very well acquainted with the manufacturing and use of Bronze.
Copper was obtained from the Khetri copper mines of Rajasthan and Tin was possibly brought from Afghanistan. Textile impressions have also been found on several objects.
Huge brick structure suggest that brick-laying was an important craft. This also attests the existence of a class of masons.
The Harappans practised boat-making, bead making and seal-making. Terracotta manufacture was also an important craft .The goldsmiths made jewellery of silver, gold and precious stones.

Pottery in Indus Valley Civilization


A large variety of pottery, both plain and decorated, has been found. Harappanwares were shaped on a potter’s wheel. The potters wheels, being made of wood, have not survived.

The kilns in which the pots were baked have been unearthed. The heating was skilfully controlled as most of the pottery was carefully fired. Once the vessel was shaped on the wheels, the ochre was painted over it. Then the designs were painted on this red surface with a brush in black.

The black colour was derived from magniferous haematite.

The designs include a series of intersecting circles (a pattern exclusively found in Indus culture), tree placed in metopes, motif resembling a large comb, chessboard pattern, triangles, solar device, etc. figures of animals, birds, snake or fish occur rarely. Animals are shown with grass and birds on trees. No human figure is depicted on the pottery from Mohenjodaro but a few pottery pieces discovered from Harappa portray a man and a child.

At lothal a vase a painting probably depicting the folk tale the thirsty crow and on another jar from the same site he has identified the depiction of the folk tale the cunning fox.

Seals in Indus Valley Civilization

The seals were used throughout the length and breadth of this civilization. Made of steatite, these seals range in size from 1cm to 5cm. two main types are seen

First, square with a carved animal and inscription
Second, rectangular with an inscription only.
The square seals have a small perforated boss at the back while the rectangular ones have a hole on the back of the seal itself.

The seals were very popular; more than 1200 seals have been found at Mohenjodaro alone. The most remarkable one is t

he P

ashupati seal depicting shiva seated on a stool flanked by an elephant, tiger, Rhinoceros and buffalo. Below the stool are two antelopes or goats.

On one seal a goddess stands nude between the branches of a pipal tree, before which kneels a worshipper. Behind the worshipper stands a human faced goat and below are seven devotees engaged in a dance.

A scene very often repeated on seals shows a man holding back two roaring tigers with his out-stretched arms. This is similar to the Sumerian Gilgamesh and his lions.

The animal most frequently encountered on Indus seals is a humpless bull, shown in profile with its horns superimposed on each other and pointing forward. For this feature it has generally been called a unicorn.



Religion in Indus Valley Civilization

In Harappa numerous terracotta figurines of women have been found. In one figurine a plant is shown growing out of the embryo of a woman.
The Harappans, therefore, looked upon the earth as a fertility goddess and worshipped her in the same manner as the Egyptians worshipped the Nile goddess Isis.
The male deity is represented on a seal with three horned heads, represented in the sitting posture of a yogi.
This god is surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros, and has a buffalo below his throne. At his feet appear two deer.The depicted god is identified as Pushupati Mahadeva.
Numerous symbols of the phallus and female sex organs made of stone have been found.
The people of the Indus region also worshipped trees and Animals.
The most important of them is the one horned unicorn which may be identified with the rhinoceros and the next important was the humped bull.
Amulets have also been found in large numbers.


Animal Husbandry in Indus Valley Civilization

The humped bull was domesticated animal, other were buffalo, pigs, elephants, donkeys, goats and sheep’s. Only Surkotada has given an evidence of domestication of Horse. Generally Horse is absent in the civilization.

The goats, cows and Sheep were commonly domesticated in the mature harappan phase but the evidences of Buffalo have not been found in that much quantity.


Finance, Business and Industry in Indus Valley Civilization

There was use of many kinds of metals including Gold, Silver, Copper, Lapis Lazuli , Turquoise, Amethyst, Alabaster, jade etc. It has been guessed that among the precious stones in the Harappan civilization; Jade came from Central Asia, Turquoise came from Iran , Amethyst came from Maharashtra and Lapis lazuli came from Afghanistan.

A Jewellery hoard has been found at Allahdino, an Indus valley Site near congregation of Indus river and Arabian sea. It has a necklace of 36 carnelian beads, Bronze spacer beads and a coper bead covered with Gold foil and 20 Gold lumps.

The trade was multifaceted. It was operated on intraregional as well as interregional basis and had a guild system coupled with nomadic trade. There are no evidences of monetary exchange.

Well developed stoneware industry. The manufacturing of the stone bangles was most prevalent in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Harappan civilization had an Economic Zone. This economic zone was along the bank of the Sirhind river.

Metallurgy in Indus Valley Civilization

These people were aware of Gold, Silver, Copper, Brass, Bronze and Tin but did not know much about Iron. Copper was the most widely used metal. Ganeshwar in Sikar District of Rajasthan is supposed to be the supplier of Copper to the cities of Indus Valley; however, the largest hoard of Copper came from Gungeria.



Cause of the Decline of Indus Valley Civilisation


M.R. Sahni is a palaeontologist who suggested a hypothesis regarding the decline of the Harappan culture. In this hypothesis, he presented evidence of the presence of alluvium (a deposit of clay and sand left by flowing water in a river valley) containing freshwater shells at a height far above the present flood level. There was no clear explanation of what created the flood. After his hypothesis, many other palaeontologists made different assumptions, such as the possibility of a tectonic plate which produced an earthquake. But there was no evidence to support this theory, or other theories of different researchers.

The floods in the Indus river might be one of the main causes for the extinction of Harappan culture. These repeated floods may have caused a mass migration of the people of the Harappan civilization to other regions.

Change of Course of the Indus River

Palaeontologists have found a lot of evidence that the Indus river changed its course many times throughout history. In Mohenjo-Daro (the capital of the Harappan civilization), water was the main source of income. When the Indus river changed its course from Mohenjo-Daro, water became scarce, to the point that people of the city needed to migrate from their capital to different places to survive. Water is essential for agriculture, which was also a reason for people of the Harappan civilization to migrate to places suitable for agriculture. This change caused a drought in the region. However, a change in the course of the Indus river could not have been the cause of the decline of the Harappan culture, since other major cities were not affected by these changes.


Research by Dr. Gwen Robbins Schug, an anthropologist, shows that leprosy emerged during the developmental period of the Harappan civilization, and its impact increased over time. Palaeontologists have found skeletal remains of many people on the main road in Mohenjo-Daro with evidence of leprosy on the bones. Through this, we can state that there was evidence of an outbreak of plague in the region.

Research also shows the emergence of infectious diseases in the late Harappan civilization which, many researchers believe, led to the mass migration of people from densely populated areas to rural areas.

Foreign Invasion

Sir Mortimer Wheeler, a researcher, has put forward a theory that the Aryan invasion was the reason for the decline of the Harappan culture, since there is archaeological evidence of genocide and unburied skeletons scattered throughout Mohenjo-Daro. After autopsies were conducted on these skeletons, it revealed that their death was caused by sharp objects or perhaps weapons. During that time, the use of weapons was known to Aryans but there was no evidence of the Harappan people’s knowledge of weapons. During the invasion, it might have been a one-sided genocide of the Harappan people, caused by the Aryans when they arrived at a rich and fertile piece of land. The Harappan civilization was the gateway to the Indian peninsula, but its people may have migrated from the area out of fear of the Aryans. The Harappan culture gradually fell into oblivion as the Aryans replaced the Harappan civilization with a new culture brought by them. Areas of Harappan culture that were invaded by Aryans might have occurred due to conflicts between rural and forest-dwelling people.

Natural Catastrophes

Researcher Jim G. Shaffer presented a list of natural catastrophes that could have occurred during the Harappan civilization to cause its destruction. One of the biggest natural catastrophes that could have occurred was an earthquake, since the Harappan civilization was situated in an area that is prone to earthquakes. Other researchers have speculated that the movement of tectonic plates near the area caused potentially damaging earthquakes that could have led to major flooding in the area. As a result, many people in the region migrated from one region to another to avoid these natural disasters. Earthquakes became known as one of the main reasons for the decline of the Harappan culture.


There are many theories put forward by palaeontologists and researchers which offer different explanations for the decline of Harappan culture and the Harappan civilization. But one common factor in all the theories is that there was not a single major reason for the decline of the Harappan civilization. Rather, many factors played their role in the decline of the Harappan culture.

Another common factor in all the theories is that the decline of the Harappan culture was not sudden, but took place over a nearly 600-year period. In addition to the theories discussed above, there may also be causes that played their role in the decline of the Harappan culture. Because of archaeological efforts, we can explore what these causes are and also know more about the Harappan civilization and its art, architecture, artefacts, town-planning and many other aspects of this civilization.

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