These are the characteristics features of Harappan Civilization

Features of Town Planning

  • A great uniformity in town planning, the fundamental layout of prominent urban settlements exhibits apparent similarities.
  • Based on ‘Grid Pattern': streets and lanes cutting across one another at right angles dividing the city into a number of rectangular blocks. Main streets ran from north to south and were as wide as 30 feet.
  • Entire city complex was bifurcated into two distinct parts: the ‘CITADEL’ a fortified area which housed important civic and religious public buildings including granaries and residences of the ruling class and the ‘Lower Town’, somewhat bigger in area and invariably located east to the former, meant for commoners.
  • Evidence of fortification of the lower town as well from a few urban Centres like Surkotada and Kalibangan and evidence of division of the city into three parts instead of two from DHolavira.
  • Use of standardized burnt bricks on massive scale in almost all types of constructions (an extraordinary feature of the contemporary civilizations), circular stones were sued at Dholavira.
  • Elaborate and planned underground drainage system. Houses were connected to the main drain equipped with manholes. Mostly made up of bricks with mud mortar. Use of gypsum and lime to make it watertight.
  • Bricks culverts meant for carrying rain and storm water have also been found.
  • Bricks were made in ratio of 1:2:4.

Features of Houses

  • Houses were plain and did not exhibit any refinement and beauty. So faImportant characteristic features of Harappan Civilizationr as the decorative value of the houses was concerned, they lacked it. In general they gave plain and undecorated look.
  • An average house comprised a courtyard and four to six rooms, a bedrooms, a kitchen and a well presence of staircase gives indication of the second storey.
  • Houses had side-entrances and windows were conspicuously absent. Except Lothal, where entrance were on main road and windows were found.
  • Houses varied from a single-roomed tenements to houses with a number of rooms and having even a second storey.
  • Floors were generally of beaten earth coated with cowdung.
  • Fire-places were common in rooms. Walls were thick and square holes in them suggest of use of wooden beams. Every house was separated by another by narrow space of ‘no-man’s land.
  • Staircases were usually wooden but some made up of burnt bricks have been found too. Roofs were flat.
  • Doors were set in wooden frames.
  • Kitchen was small in size.

Apart from Town planning other important characteristics of Harappan civilization includes exclusive style of Arts and Crafts. Findings from Harappan sites shows uniformity in objects like seals, beads, toys, potteries, terracotta, masks, idols and figures. Some of these objects and their significance are given below:


Seals are most distinctive artifact of IVC. They were generally made of steatite (soft stone) and had signs, symbols and animal motifs on it.

Important characteristic features of Harappan CivilizationThey were used as a means of authentication and had commercial content. Seals were the greatest of artistic creation of Harappan people. They are considered as the outstanding contribution of the Indus civilization to ancient craftsmanship. They were generally square and rectangular in shape and made of steatite. They display variety of signs and symbols. This ranges from geometric patterns, replica of flora and fauna, human, semi-human forms, composite animals etc. Most frequently depicted animal on Harappan seal is Unicorn and most famous Harappan seal is ‘Pashupati seal’ discovered from Mohenjo-Daro. It depicts a horned deity sitting in a yogic posture surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros, a buffalo and two antelopes. John Marshall identified it as Proto-Siva.


Beads and its making: Abundant number and variety of beads have been excavated from different Harappan sites. Beads of gold, silver, copper, faience, steatite, shell, semi-precious stones like carnelian, jasper are known. However, beads made of steatite are numerous. Steatite being soft and easier to work was moulded and even micro beads were made from it.

Beads were generally manufactured from locally available raw materials. Therefore, we find abundance of shell objects excavated from coastal sites like Nageshwar, Balakot and Lothal etc.

Techniques used for bead making involved polishing, drilling , cutting, etching etc. raw material were chipped into rough shapes and then finally flaked into the final form/shape.

The material to be used for making beads was cut in different shapes and size with the help of specific stone tools. The shapes were numerous like disc shaped, spherical, cylindrical, barrel shaped, segmented. Grinding polishing and drilling was involved in the manufacture of beads.

Specialized drills have been found at Chanhundaro, Lothal and DHolavira Etching on the surface of beads shows the technical expertise of craftsmen and it reflects their knowledge of fine art.

Moulded beads and micro beads of steatite shows the extraordinary level of knowledge possessed by Indus Valley people as far as bead making is concerned.

The centre of production is identified on the basic of availability of finished product. The traces of large waste pieces used for making smaller object suggest that apart from specialized centers, craft production was also undertaken in large cities and big cities such as Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.


  • Mainly two types : Plain pottery and Red & Black Pottery with decoration, the majority being the former.
  • Widespread use of potter’s wheel made up of wood, use firing technique, use of kiln.
  • Variety of Pleasing Design - Horizontal strips, Check, Chess-Board Pattern, Intersecting Circles (Pattern exclusively found), Leaves & Petals, Natural Motif-Birds, Fish, Animals, Plants, Human Figure – Rare (A man & A Child found from Harappa), Triangles.
  • Pottery had plain bases. Few ring bases have been found.
  • Mainly famous colour of pot was ping. General design was on the red base horizontally black line on pots.

Indus Script

Important characteristic features of Harappan Civilization

It is certain from the discovery of Harappans artifacts like seals that Harappan had knowledge of writing. However Harappan script is still a mystery because it is yet to be deciphered. Thus, we do not know what language the Harappans spoke and wrote. The inscriptions discovered so far are short. There is a consensus among scholars that Harappans used ideograms (pictography), since too many signs (around 375-400 ) used by them is known. It was written from right to left. The decipherment of Indus script will probably reveal much more about the civilization and add to our knowledge.



  • Trading network, both internal (within the country) and external (foreign), was a significant feature of the urban economy of the Harappans. As the urban population had to depend on the surrounding countryside for the supply of food and many other necessary products. There emerged a village-town (rural-urban) interrelationship.
  • Urban craftsmen needed markets to sell their goods in other areas. It led to the contact between the towns. The traders also established contacts with foreign lands particularly Mesopotamia where these goods were in demand. It is important to note that various kinds of metals and precious stones were needed by craftsmen to make goods, but as these were not available locally they had to be brought from outside.
  • The presence of such raw material found at sites away from the place of its origin naturally indicates it must have reached there through an exchange activity. Thus Rajasthan region is rich in copper deposits and the Harappans acquired copper mainly from the Khetri mines located here.
  • Kolar gold fields of Karnataka and the river-beds of the Himalayan Rivers might have supplied the gold. The source of silver may have been Jwar mines of Rajasthan. It is believed that it must have also come from Mesopotamia in exchange for the Harappan goods.
  • Among the precious stones used for making beads, the source of lapis-lazuli was located in Badakshan mines in northeast Afghanistan. Turquoise and Jade might have been brought from Central Asia. Western India supplied agate, chalcedony and carnelian.
  • The seashells must have come from Gujarat and neighbouring coastal areas. Timber of good quality and other forest products were perhaps obtained from the northern regions such as Jammu.
  • The Harappans were engaged in external trade with Mesopotamia. It was largely through Oman and Beharain in the Persian Gulf. It is confirmed by the presence of Harappan artifacts such as beads, seals, dice etc. in these regions. Though the artifacts from those regions are rarely found at the Harappan sites, a seal of West Asian or Persian origin has been discovered at Lothal which confirms this contact.
  • Mesopotamian cities like Susa, Ur, etc. have yielded about two dozen of Harappan seals. Besides seals, other artifacts of Harappan origin which have been discovered include potteries, etched carnelian beads and dices with Harappan features.
  • The inscriptional evidence from Mesopotamia also provides us with valuable information on Harappan contact with Mesopotamia. These inscriptions refer to trade with Dilmun, Magan and meluhha. Scholars have identified Meluhha with Harappan region, Magan with the Makran coast,and Dilmun with Baharain. They indicate that Mesopotamia imported copper, carnelian, ivory, shell, lapis-lazuli, pearls and ebony from Meluhha.
  • The export from Mesopotamia to Harappans included items such as garments, wool, perfumes, leather products and silver. Except silver all these products are perishable. This may be one important reason why we do not find the remains of these goods at Harappan sites.

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