Indus valley civilization is the earliest known culture of the Indian subcontinent. It developed primarily during the Chalcolithic period (3300-1300 BCE). Most of the sites belonging to this period have been excavated from modern day- India and Pakistan. Syllabus of Art and culture in UPSC mains GS paper 1 has Architecture of the IVC era


  • Town planning: Salient features
  • Drainage system


Harappa and Mohenjodaro were the two great cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, emerging around 2600 BCE along the Indus River Valley in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan. Their discovery and excavation in the 19th and 20th centuries provided important archaeological data regarding the civilization’s architecture, technology, art, trade, transportation, writing, and religion.

Some of other important archaeological sites belonging to this period are-  Kot Diji in Sind, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Rupar in the Punjab, Banawali in Haryana, Lothal, Surkotada and Dholavira, all the three in Gujarat. Amongst the excavated sites, Rakhigarhi (It is a village located in Haryana) is the largest IVC site.

Some of the important features associated with IV architecture

  • The style was indigenous without any apparent foreign influence
  • The buildings were constructed purely from an utilitarian perspective rather than aesthetic
  • The development of architecture and sculpture often does not happen in isolation. However, Indus valley architecture is an exception to this
  • The architectural practices evolved from local cultures that had roots extending back thousands of years to the earliest farming and pastoral communities. Ex: They constructed their houses on immense platforms of mud bricks.
  • The crowning jewel of the IV architecture happens to be the sophistication achieving with its town planning. No other contemporary civilization could be boast of such sophistication


Utilitarian perspective:

  • The Harappans were the first who gave the idea of the welfare of workers for the first time by establishing separate worker’s quarters which has now become a necessity in a welfare state
  • Fortification was one of the common features across the IV sites. This fortification was primarily constructed for providing security to the citizens from any attacks

Layout of Harappan cities

  • The town planning of Harappan cities were not quite similar. But same pattern was followed at most of the cities. The fortification wall, the citadel and lower town, streets and lanes, drainage system and their water management system were the important features of Harappan city plans.
  • The city plan was designed by the architects with the help of geometrical tools.
  • In most of the Harappan cities, a particular plan was followed in most of the cities the citadel was to the west of the lower town but at some cities it was in the southern part.
  • Some of the rural settlements were also divided in to blocks and sub-blocks by the cardinal directions of streets and lanes. The houses were flanked to the both sides of lanes.
  • Fortification wall: Some of the Early Harappan settlements like many Harappan cities were protected by the fortification wall. Kot Diji, Rehman Dehri, Tarakai Qila, Kohtras, Buthi, Mehargarh, Dhalewan, Bhirrana, Balu, Kalibangan, etc. were protected by the fortification wall
  • Gateways: Some Harappan cities had one gateway like at Lothal and Balu, Kalibangan, Surkotada, etc. had two or more than two gateways. The gateways were of two types, one simple entrance for vehicular activities while the other had some special importance.
  • Bastions: In Harappan period the bastions were constructed with the fortification walls. They served as watching towers.
  • Materials used: Materials used where mud – bricks, baked-bricks, mud, stones, etc.
  • Intercommunication passage: Some Harappan sites had intercommunication passages which were used for the movement of the rulers, priest and for the common people.

Citadel and lower-town:

  • Harappan cities were composed of walled sectors, in different parts of the settlement.
  • The citadel was built on a raised plate form while the lower town was located on the lower part of the town. The lower town was larger than the citadel. While public buildings like the Great Bath was built in the citadel, the lower town usually had only residential buildings.
  • Some of the metropolitan cities like Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan, Banawali, Rakhigarhi, Lothal, Dholavira, etc. had citadel and lower town but in most of the cities the settlements were not divided into citadel and lower town.
  • Grid-pattern: By 2600 BC, Mohenjodaro and Harappa, major cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, were built with blocks divided by a grid of straight streets, running north–south and east–west

Disaster-proof: Harappan people made their houses on the platforms to prevent from the flood


  • The Harappans were master in hydraulic engineering. They developed the efficient system
  • The drops at the regular intervals were constructed in the drains for self cleaning
  • The private drains drained in to small drains and the small drams into large drains. The large drains took the entire waste water of the city to the outside in open area or in some kinds of ponds.
  • Some drains were covered with stones or large sized bricks. Soakage jars, man-hole cesspools, etc. were the important components of drainage system.


  • The construction of the reservoirs is also one of the important aspects of Harappan town planning at Dholavira.
  • The evidence of Great Bath and Wells at Mohenjodaro, number of bath platforms and drains at Kalibangan, rock cut tanks and dams in Manhar and Mansar nala at Dholavira for the conservation of water and a moat for defense at Banawali etc. were two important features of the Harappan town planning

 Water management:

  • Harappan people were very skilled in water management. The Harappan agriculture depended on monsoon but they constructed the canals for better production and to prevent their crops from adverse climatic conditions.
  • They also constructed some hydraulic structure to collect the rain water, so that they could use that water in irrigation. Some evidences like dams, canals and reservoirs were found at different sites
  • The greatest construction made by the Lothal engineers to the advancement of science and technology consisted in building an artificial dock for berthing ships.

  • Great Bath is located to the east of the granary in the Mohenjodaro. It is the earliest water tank in the ancient world. The floor of the bath had five layers. It was so watertight that even today it holds water. There were changing rooms. People probably used it during festivals and religious ceremonies.
  • Granaries: The granary was the largest structure in Mohenjodaro, and in Harappa there were about six granaries or storehouses. These were used for storing grain.
  • Houses: The houses varied in size. Some might have had two storeys. The houses were made of burnt bricks. Most of the houses had a central courtyard, a well, a bathing area, and a kitchen.
  • How design of IVC of urban cities can provide Inputs to overcome the challenges that Indian cities face in the present times?
  • One of the major challenges of urban planning, in India, has been dealing with the haphazard construction of buildings. In the IVC, the streets were built on grid-like patterns, which allowed for methodical and planned growth.
  • In modern times, Le Corbusier’s plans for Chandigarh provided for a rectangular shape with grid iron pattern, which enabled fast movement of traffic and reduced the area.
  • The present cities are characterized by poor sanitation network and open drainage systems that give rise to multitude of infectious diseases. IVC city placed emphasis on segregation of wastes at the source and closed drainage system if incorporated can help in combating the present problem.
  • In the IVC, the town was also demarcated clearly between residential areas and common/public areas. Incorporation of this in the present city planning could minimize the traffic congestion in Indian cities.
  • The houses in the IVC were constructed in such a manner to ensure the effective and efficient use of light and wind. Ex: IVC houses were constructed in such a manner to make the best use of light and wind. Incorporation of these features could help reduce the carbon footprint in the present society.
  • The houses had doors that opened out into the lanes instead of the roads. Thereby, preventing any dust or other particles entering the house due to traffic on the roads.
  • Use of tanks and ponds for storage of water has been observed in rain starved cities of IVC especially Dholavira. Incorporating such water conservation strategies in our present urban planning could prevent drinking water crisis that Chennai witnessed couple of years ago.

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