Essay on Town Planning of Pre-Harappan and Harappan


In the Mature Harappan phase, there appeared city life, writing, a uniform weighing system, regional specialisation in crafts (e.g. long chert blade produc­tion, weight manufacture, shell-bangle cutting), and maritime ventures to the Gulf and to Mesopotamia. In this period, local or regional cultural traditions Harappa the site was discovered by D.R. Sahni in 1921 Excavations at the site have led to following specific findings:

(i) Two rows of six granaries with brick platforms: 12 granaries together had the same area as the Great Granary at Mohenjo-daro;

(ii) Evidences of coffin burial and cemetry ‘H’ culture (two antelopes and the hunter on a potsherd from a cemetry have been discovered;


(iii) Single-room barrack;

(iv) Evidence of direct frade interaction with’ Mesopotamia;

(v) A red sandstone male torso;

(vi) Stone symbols of female genitals.


Mohenjo-daro It was the most important Harappan city. Some of the specific findings during the excavations of Mohenjo-daro include:

(i) A college, a multi-pillared assembly hall;

(ii) The Great Bath (the most important public place of the city);

(iii) A large granary (the largest building of Mohenjo- daro);


(iv) A piece of woven cotton along with spindle whorls and needles;

(v) Superficial evidence of horse;

(vi) A pot-stone fragment of Mesopotamian origin;

(vii) Evidence of direct trade contact with Mesopotamia;


(viii) A bronze dancing girl;

(ix) Evidence of violent death of some of the inhab­itants (discovery of human skeletons put together);

(x) A seal representing Mother Goddess with a plant growing from her womb, and a woman to be sacrificed by a man with a knife in his hand;

(xi) A bearded man; and


(xii) A seal with a picture suggesting Pashupati Mahadev.

Kalibangan Kalibangan was an important Harappan city. The word ‘Kalibangan’ means ‘black bangles’. A ploughed field was the most important discovery of the early excavations. Later excavations at Kalibangan made the following specific discoveries:

(i) A wooden furrow;

(ii) Seven ‘fire-alters’ in a row on a platform, suggesting the practice of the cult of sacrifice;

(iii) Remains of massive brick walls around both the citadel and the lower town (the second Harappan site after Lothal to have the lower town also walled);

(iv) Bones of camel;

(v) A tiled floor which bears intersecting design of circles;

(vi) A human head with long oval eyes, thick lower lips, receding forehead and straight pointed nose; and

(vii) Evidences of two types of burials: (a) burials in a circular grave and (b) burials in a rectangular grave.

Lothal Lothal was an important trade centre of the Harappan culture. The town planning in Lothal was different from that of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. The city was divided into six sections. Each section was built on a wide platform of unripe bricks. Each platform was separated by a road with width ranging from 12 feet to 20 feet. Excavations at Lothal led to some specific discoveries which include:

(i) Remains of rice husk (the only other Harappan city where the rice husk has been found is Rangpur, near Ahmedabad);

(ii) An artificial dockyard;

(iii) Evidence of horse from a doubtful terracotta figurine;

(iv) Impressions of cloth on some of the seals;

(v) Evidences of direct trade contact with Mesopotamia;

(vi) Houses with entrances on the main street (the houses of all other Harappan cities had side entries);

(vii) A ship designed on a seal;

(viii) A terracotta ship;

(ix) A painting on a jar resembling the story of the cunning fox narrated in the Panchatantra;

(x) Evidence of double burial (burying a male and a female in a single grave);

(xi) Evidence of a game similar to modern day chess; and

(xii) An instrument for measuring 180s, 90s and 45″ angles (the instrument points to modern day compass).

Chanhu-daro Excavations at Chanhu-daro have re­vealed three different cultural layers from lowest to the top being Indus culture, the Jhukar culture and the Jhangar culture.

The site is especially important for providing evi­dences about different Harappan factories. These factories produced seals, toys and bone implements.

It was the only Harappan city without a citadel. Some remarkable findings at Chanhu-daro include bronze figures of bullock cart and ekkas a small pot suggesting an inkwell, footprints of an elephant and a dog chasing a cat.

Alamgirpur Alamgirpur is considered the eastern boundary of the Indus culture. Although the wares found here resemble those at other Harappan sites, other findings suggest that Alamgirpur developed during late-Harappan culture. The site is remarkable for providing the impression of cloth on a trough.

Kot-Diji Kot Diji is known more as a pre-Harappan site. It gives the impression of a pre-Harappan fortified settlement. Houses were made of stone.

The remains of Kot-Diji suggest that the city existed in the first half of the third millennium BC Excavations at the site suggest that the city was destructed by force.

Amri Amri also gives evidences of a pre-Harappan settlement. However, it lacks the fortification plan of the pre-Harappan phase. A spectacular feature of Amri is that it gives the impression of existence of a transitional culture between pre- and post-Harappan culture.

Important findings at Amri include the actual remains of rhinoceros; traces of Jhangar culture in late or declining Harappan phase and fire altars.

Ropar ropar (modem Roop Nagar) is a Harappan site from where remains of pre-Harappan and Harappan cul­tures have been found. Buildings at Ropar were made mainly of stone and soil.

Important findings at the site include pottery, ornaments, copper axes, chert blades, terracotta blades, one inscribed steatite seal with typical Indus pictographs, several burials, interred in oval pits, and a rectangular mud-brick chamber.

There is also an evi­dence of burying a dog below the human burial (Though the practice was prevalent in Burzhom in Kashmir, it was rare in the Harappan context).

Banwali Situated in Hissar district of Haryana, Banwali has provided two phases of culture during its excavations: the pre-Harappan (Phase I) and the Harappan (Phase II).

Though phase II belonged to the Harappan period, chess­board or grid pattern of town planning was not always followed as in other Harappan sites. The roads were neither always straight, nor did they cut at right angles.

It also lacked another remarkable feature of the Harappan civilization a systematic drainage system. A high quality lost their distinctiveness as the metropolitan material culture took over.

The town-planning of the Indus civilisation followed the grid system, i.e., the roads oriented north-south and east-west cut across one another almost at right angles, and the city was divided into a number of rectangular or square blocks.

The grid was not one of symmetric rectangles; excavations at Mohenjo-daro have revealed at least three major streets that ran more or less parallel to one another from north to south, each more or less nine metres wide and able to accommodate cart traffic. There were other streets, running west to east, perpendicular to these.

Lamp posts at intervals indicate the existence of street lighting. Flanking the streets, lanes and bylanes were well-planned houses. However, sur­faced roads are mostly absent in Harappan towns. One of the few exceptions is a 2.8 metre wide street at a city gate at Harappa paved with flat terracota cakes and potsherds.

In none of the major cities has any stone building been found; standardised burnt brick of good quality was the usual building material for dwelling houses and public buildings alike. Else­where in the contemporary world, mud-bricks and wattle-and-daub were the usual building materials, and burnt-bricks were altogether unknown. The houses, often of two or more storeys, varied in size, barley has been found in excavations. Other important material remains include ceramics, steatite seals and a few terracotta sealings with typical Indus script.

Surkotada Situated in Kutch (Bhuj) district of Gujarat and excavated by J.P. Joshi in 1972, Surkotada was an important fortified Harappan settlement. The site is impor­tant particularly because it has provided the first actual remains of horse bones.

A cemetery with four pot burials with some human bones has also been found. A grave has been found in association with a big rock, a rare finding of the Harappan culture.

Suktagendor Suktagendor, situated in Sindh (Paki­stan), was an important coastal town of the Indus Civilisation. Excavations of Suktagendor have revealed a two-fold division of the township: the Citadel and the Lower City. It is said that Suktagendor was originally a port which later cut off from the sea due to coastal uplift.

Balakot A coastal Harappan city, Balakot has proved to be an important Harappan settlement yielding the remains of pre-Harappan and Harappan civilisation. The wounds of Balakot rise to the height of about 9.7 metre from the ground and are spread over nearly 2.8 square hectare of area.

But were all based on much the same plan-a square courtyard, around which were a number of rooms. The entrances were usually in wide alleys, and no windows faced the streets. The houses had tiled bathrooms, the design of which shows that the people preferred to take their bath by pouring pitchers of water over the head and shoulders.

The bathrooms were provided with drains, which flowed into sewers under the main streets, leading to soak-pits. The sewers were covered through­out their length by large brick slabs. No other civilisation until that of the Romans had so efficient a system of drains. In Kalibangan many houses show the presence of wells.

The towns were generally divided into the citadel (acropolis) and the lower town. The citadel was an oblong artificial platform some 30-50 feet high and about 400×200 yards in area.

It was enclosed by a thick (13 meters at Harappa) crenelated mud-brick wall, externally rivetted with burnt bricks, corner towers and occasional bastions built along the length.

Although no separate fortified mound has been found at Lothal, the conception of an acropolis seems to have existed. On the citadel were erected the public buildings, while the lower town was the town proper, in any case at least a square-mile in area.

At Mohenjo-daro (mound of the dead), there lay in the citadel a ‘college’, a multi-pillared ‘assembly hall’, a public balli (the Great Bath) and a large granary consisting of a podium of square blocks of burnt bricks with a wnnricn superstructure.

The multi-pillared hall at Mohenjo-daro is roughly 25 metres in length and width, and its roof was supported on four rows of five rectangular pillars each. The hall was very carefully and skilfully paved with baked bricks.

According to Shereen Ratnagar (Understanding Harappa), the function of the hall can only be guessed at. Perhaps, many people were required to be present in it at one time and for important functions. It may have been used as an assembly hall where rulers heard their subjects.

Blocks in mud-brick have also been found on the citadel-mound at Kalibangan and on the acropo­lis at Lothal. But in the citadel of Harappa, we come across a series of brick platforms which formed the basis for two rows of six granaries.

Similar structures, identified as storage facilities, have been excavated at Lothal and Mohenjo-daro. What was stored in these structures could not have been local produce alone.

The sealing’s of Lothal bear marks of cloth and string, not burnt grain was found. This fact points to storage of small-valume consignments rather than wood or grain.

At Harappa, to the south of the granary lay working floors, probably for pounding grain, and two rows of workmen’s quarters.

The Great Bath, measuring 12 metres by 7 metres and 2.4 metres deep, had a floor of burnt bricks. Steps led from either end to the surface, while there were rooms alongside for changing cloths.

A large well in an adjacent room was the source of water, and an outlet in a corner of the Bath drained it.

The Bath was probably used for ritual bathing. According to Ratnagar, the Bath was, instead of being a facility for community immersions, a facility for water immersion rituals of royalty, e.g., the annual rejuvenation.

Ratnagar holds the view that it is not easy to decide what the Harappan city town planning reveals. It cannot be said that streets on a rectangular grid are functionally related to a street drainage system, for Kalibangan was laid on a grid but Lacks Street drains.

It is also unlikely that the grid plan was an outcome of the necessity for wheeled bullock carts to move freely over the city. Further, the grid of wide and narrow streets does not give a symbolic form to the Harappan city, as the largest and best- huilt structures do not stand on the main streets or at their junctions.

The significance of the Harappan town planning lies elsewhere. The street drainage system was not the result of the endeavour of individual families but it was a civic infrastructure facility. Planned streets made street drains possible, but at Kalibangan there were no street drains.

The town planning reveals preconceived township, planned at the outset, and hence a new settlement or a community relocated from elsewhere.

Also functionally related to a planned settlement are the uniform sizes and proportions of bricks: these would have been made in large num­bers by several people under state or official super­vision, rather than by individual householders.

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