4. Sculptures, Seals, Town planning: Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization-

Indus civilization, also called Indus valley civilization or Harappan
civilization, the earliest known urban culture of the Indian subcontinent.
The nuclear dates of the civilization appear to be about 2500–1700 BCE,
though the southern sites may have lasted later into the 2nd
millennium BCE.

What is Indus Valley Civilization?

The Indus civilization was the earliest known urban culture of
the Indian subcontinent—one of the world’s three earliest civilizations,
along with Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

Where did the Indus Valley Civilization begin?

The Indus civilization began in the Indus River valley, evolving from
villages that used the Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture.

How Indus Valley Civilization end?

It remains unclear how the Indus civilization came to an end, and its
decline was probably not uniform. By the middle of the 2nd millennium
BCE, the city of Mohenjo-daro was already dying and was dealt a final
blow by invaders from the north. The civilization’s southernmost parts,
by contrast, may have continued until Iron Age civilization developed
in India about 1000 BCE.

Indus Valley Sites and Specialties


  • Seals out of stones

  • Citadel outside on banks of river Ravi


  • Great Bath, Great Granary, Dancing Girl, Man with Beard, Cotton, Assembly hall.

  • The term means ” Mount of the dead” On the bank of river Indus.

  • Believed to have been destructed by flood or invasion(Destruction was not gradual).


  • Bank of Indus river. – discovered by Gopal Majumdar and Mackey (1931).

  • Pre-Harappan culture – Jhangar Culture and Jhukar Culture Only cite without citadel.


  • At Rajasthan on the banks of river Ghaggar, discovered by A.
    Ghosh (1953).

  • Fire Altars Bones of camel Evidence of furrows.

  • Horse remains ( even though Indus valley people didn’t use

  • Known as third capital of the Indus Empire.


  • At Gujarat near Bhogava river, discovered by S.R. Rao (1957) Fire Altars.
  • Beside the tributary of Sabarmati Storehouse.
  • Dockyard and earliest port double burial.
  • Rice husk House had front entrance (exception).


  • Punjab, on the banks of river Sutlej. Discovered by Y.D Sharma (1955) Dog buried with humans.


  • Haryana On banks of lost river Saraswathi Barley Cultivation.


  • Sculpture of Indus Valley Civilisation is considered to be a golden chapter as the beginning of Indian art and sculpture in 3000 B.C. According to the forms of art excavated from this valley, it can be easily deciphered that the people of this civilization were great lovers of the fine arts especially of dancing, painting, and creating sculptures.

  • The forms of art include various sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures, and other interesting works of art. The level of achievement that Indian art had attained in those days can be marked with mainly two objects that were excavated from the ruins of the Indus valley.

  • These are the bust of a priest in limestone and a bronze ‘Dancing Girl’ is known for the tremendous sophistication and artistry even today.

Metal Sculptures of Indus Valley Civilization

The Harappan artisans were dexterous in the sphere of bronze casting and employed the lost wax process while sculpting figurines, which implies coating the wax idols with clay. The bronze statue of the ‘Dancing Girl’ belonging to Mohen-jo-Daro is notable. It depicts a female dancer whose one arm is covered with ivory or bone bangles and is adorned with necklaces. Braided hair, head slightly tilted back, flat nose and large eyes are the salient features of this work. Bronze figures of a humped bull and a buffalo are the other metal sculptures made during this period.

Stone Sculptures of Indus Valley Civilization

There exists several specimens of stone sculptures which were crafted during this civilization, of which two male statues deserves a special mention and consist of the statue of the ‘Bearded Man’ and ‘Human Torso’. 

One will derive the idea of a high priest or a king clad in a shawl draped over the left shoulder, with a well-maintained beard, if he observes the figure of the Bearded Man. Another impressive stone sculpted statue is that of a naked human male, made in red stone. The arms and head of this idol have been created separately.

Terracotta Sculpture of Indus Valley Civilization

  • Terracotta art was also practised by the people of Indus Valley. The figure of the Mother Goddess crafted in terracotta, discovered in Mohen-jo-Daro is one of the significant terracotta sculptures of this age.

  • It consists of beautiful embellishments of the body and a punched nose, and reveals the concept of the Mother Goddess as a sign of prosperity and fertility.

  • Terracotta seals were also manufactured. These seals included the carvings of peepal leaves, female figurine with forms of deities and animals.

  • All these definite & distinct shapes of stones or seals were enshrined and worshipped during that time by people of the civilization.

  • Some of these seals also depicted a harp -like musical instrument, which confirm the presence of stringed musical instruments which were in use in this ancient civilization.

Animal Sculpture of Indus Valley Civilization

  • Indus valley sculptures also emphasized more on civic life. So, animal sculptures were found their presence in every form of them.

  • Animals like elephants occupied a special place in the life and artistic tradition of India, right from the Indus Valley Civilization to date. 

  • Elephants were depicted in the architectural sculpture. At the places like centuries-old temples, monasteries, forts and palaces, elephants were carved for making the ceremonial entrances.

  • In most of the cases, sculptures of animals from Harappan civilization denote every minute detail; for example the bottom of the statue depicts the animal is in sitting position, but even though the hidden leg was originally indicated in the final appearance without its direct & visible denotation. 

  • And is numerous cases, the entire body of the animal is carved within a single unbroken outline & in single rock. In fact, the combination of closed outline balanced with broadly modelled masses and a minimum of incised detail can be said as the characteristic of animal sculpture from the Harappan-period.

  • Like elephant, another animal found in Harappan civilization that is noted for the sculptural appearance is ‘Nandi’, the ‘vahana’ of Lord Shiva. The close association between Shiva and Nandi can be marked with the presence of a statue of Nandi at the gate of the ‘Garbha Griha’ of every temple that is dedicated to Shiva.

  • Another animal found in the sculptures is the lion – the vahana of Goddess Durga. So, carving sculptures of her, along with her other attributes the lion is also carefully carved. The bronze images or other metallic images denote the lion in realistic way. But apart from artistic tradition the function of these animal sculptures is still unknown.

Other forms of Indus Valley Sculpture

The most striking feature of the Indus Valley Civilization was found that emphasis on the organization of everyday civic life. The jewellery made during that time by Indus craftsmen gives detail of their perception towards the artistry. Other objects offer tantalizing, but partial glimpses about the daily life and beliefs of the Indus people. Shell objects were obtained from Lothal, one of the cities of Indus Valley.


Important Seals:

  • The Pashupati Seal: This seal depicts a yogi, probably Lord Shiva. A pair of horns crown his head. He is surrounded by a rhino, a buffalo, an elephant and a tiger. Under his throne are two deer. This seal shows that Shiva was worshipped and he was considered as the Lord of animals (Pashupati).

  • The Unicorn Seal: The unicorn is a mythological animal. This seal shows that at a very early stage of civilization, humans had produced many creations of imagination in the shape of bird and animal motifs that survived in later art.

  • The Bull Seal: This seal depicts a humped bull of great vigour. The figure shows the artistic skill and a good knowledge of animal anatomy.

  • The numerous seals and figurines discovered in the excavations carried out at various sites connected with the Harappan culture point out to the religious beliefs of the Indus Valley people.

  • Discovery of seals is an outstanding contribution of the Indus Civilization to ancient craftsmanship. The large number of their presence at Mohenjodaro and Harappa indicate their popularity. Generally. the seal was of steatite material, square or rectangular in shape.

  • Some seals were made of copper or bronze Seals of clay and Terra Cotta have also been found in round or cylindrical shape Wide range of animals associated in all most every case with groups of symbols in semi-pictographic script have been represented.

  • The animal frequently represented is an ox-like beast with a single horn-popularly nicknamed as “Unicorn* The significance of this animal is unknown. Whatever be the explanation, the ritual character of the scene is emphasized by a remarkable seal-impression from Mohenjodaro showing a figure or a -Unicom- being carried in procession.

  • Other animals represented are sort of horned bull, buffaloes, the Brahamanical bull with hump, tiger, elephant, antelope, fish-eating crocodile and rhinoceros. Of special interest is another seal from Harappa which bears on one side a cross and on the other a splayed eagle with a snake above each wing.
  • The motif is reminiscent of spread eagles found in Mesopotamia Susa and Tell Brak in Syria Apart from these composite animals (admixture of different features of different animals in one animal) also appear.

  • The fine finishing of these seals eloquently speaks for the workmanship of their makers. There is strong likelihood that these seals were of religious significance and of ritual importance.

Town Planning in Indus Valley —

Town planning is the unique feature of Indus valley civilization. Their town planning proves that they lived a highly civilized and developed life.
Indus people were the first to build planned cities with scientific drainage system. The Indus cities were built on an uniform plan.
Town planning was amazing in nature. A few cities have citadels to the West built on higher platform and to the east of which is the hub of residential area. Both of them are surrounded by a massive brick wall.
The cities without citadel are found on high mounds.


The streets were straight and cut each other at right angles. They were
13 to 34 feet wide and were well lined. The streets and roads divided the
city into rectangular blocks. Archaeologists have discovered the lamp
posts at intervals. This suggests the existence of street lights. Dustbins
were also provided on the streets. These prove the presence of good
municipal administration.

Drainage System

 One of the most remarkable features of the Indus valley civilization is
that the city was provided with an excellent closed drainage system.
Each house had its own drainage and soak pit which was connected to
the public drainage. Brick laid channels flowed through every street

The Great Bath

The most striking feature in Mohenjodaro is the Great Bath. It consists of
a large quadrangle. In the centre, there is a huge swimming pool
(approximately 39 ft long, 23 ft wide and 8ft deep) with the remains of
galleries and rooms on all four sides. It has a flight of steps at either end
and is fed by a well, situated in one of the adjoining rooms.


The largest building in Mohenjodaro is granary which is 45.71 mtrs long
and 15.23 mtrs wide. In Harappa there are a series of brick platforms
which formed the base for two rows of 6 granaries each. In the Southern
part of Kalibangan brick platforms have also been found.


People of Indus valley civilization built houses and other buildings by the
side of roads. They built terraced houses of burnt bricks. Every hous
had two or more rooms. There were also more than one storied houses.
The houses were designed around an inner courtyard and contained
pillared halls, bath rooms, paved floors, kitchen, well etc. Read more:-Sufi And Bhakti Movement

Practice the following Questions-

Q-1 To what extent has the urban planning and culture of the Indus
valley civilization provided inputs to the present-day urbanization?
Discuss. (2014).

Q-2 Examine how recent excavations of remnants of the Harappan
Civilization in India have helped historians to understand Harappan
culture. (Mock ques)