Characteristics of Harappan Civilisation



  1. Systematic Town Planning
  2. Central Administration
  3. Social organisation
  4. Economy
  5. Use of Developed Writing System


Characteristics of Harappan Civilisation:

Important Harappan Towns and Cities :

  • Harappa – Punjab ( 1921)
  • Mohenjodaro – Sind (1922)
  • Lothal – Gulf of Cambay, Gujarat ( 1954-62)
  • Surkotada- Kutch (1972)
  • Dholavira – Kutch (1990-91)

(1) Town Planning:

  • The Harappan cities were generally divided into two main parts - the raised area; known as the ‘Citadel’, and the lower town. The Citadel was more in height because the buildings in it were built on mud-brick platforms. This area was separated from the lower town by a wall. The Citadel had within its fold important buildings like the Great Bath, the assembly hall, the granary and the workshops. The lower town, on the other hand, had residential dwellings
  • The Harappan culture was distinguished by its system of town planning. Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro each had its own citadel or acropolis, which was possibly occupied by members of the ruling class.
  • The remarkable thing about the arrangement of the houses in the cities is that they followed the grid system.
  • According to it, roads cut across one another almost at right angles, and the city was divided into so many blocks.
  • The house drains relayed all the wastewater to the drains built-in streets.
  •  A tapered embankment to protect against floods was made along the outer defensive wall as well. This was formed by filling up the previous alluvial deposits that had been washed away by rains with more mud bricks and mud. 6 variants of the internal plan are seen made using baked bricks and spreading over a considerable period of time.

(2) Central Administration :

Administrative control over the distribution of water and other resources, Standardisation: For example, the size of bricks in the ratio of 1:2:4, weights increasing in the proportion of 8, set the style of shapes and painted designs of pottery, majestic and non-residential buildings for public administrative offices. Their monuments symbolised the ability of the ruling class to mobilise labour and collect taxes; the huge brick constructions also impressed the common people with the prestige and influence of their rulers.

(3) Social organisation :

Social hierarchy based on the position of power, classes of skilled artisans and individuals based on craft specialisation, belief systems and artefacts/ architecture indicative of them, evidence of burials indicative of rituals after death. It was an Urban Society consisting mainly of the middle class, highly developed civic life, a stratified social structure, division of labour based on the specialisation of work like craftsmen, sculptors, jewellers, merchant, traders, potters, carpenters etc. The presence of the warrior class is uncertain. Wheat and barley were a staple food. Garments of cotton and wool were used. The discovery of a large number of spindles proves the use of cotton for weaving social cloths. Wool was also used. The garments might have been sewn. Both men and women used two pieces of cloth. The menfolk wore some lower garment like dhoti and upper garment like a shawl.

(4) Economy : 

Mass production of goods for a trading purpose: For example, well-shaped, beautiful earthen pots, statues, metal objects of gold, silver, copper and bronze, the concentration of factories and residences of artisans in a particular area of the city for the sake of convenience of production, flourishing internal and distant trade, administrative control over trade transactions. Through trade, civilization expanded its culture by coming into contact with faraway lands. The long coastline and rivers provided consistent traffic by water!. The Indus people used copper and tin. Indus people had a trade link with Western Asia. It is evident from the discovery of the Indus seals in these areas.

(5) Use of Developed Writing System :

The script on Harappan seals. Examples of Indus writing has been found on seals and seal impressions, pottery, bronze tools, stoneware bangles, bones, shells, ladles, ivory and on small tablets made of steatite, bronze and copper. Square stamp seals are the dominant form of Indus writing media. Most inscriptions were recorded on seals, and contain only a few words. Propertied people to mark and identify their private property may have used these seals. The Harappan script is not alphabetical but mainly pictographic. It is called 'Boustrophedon', written from right to left and then in continuation from left to right. It is the indigenous product of the Indus region and does not show any connection with scripts of western Asia or with the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Other significant features about Harappan Civilisation:


  • The greatest artistic creations of the Harappan culture are the seals.
  • About 2000 seals have been found and of these, a great majority carry short inscriptions with pictures of the one-horned bull, the buffalo, the tiger, the medium of exchange.
  • Many Harappan seals have been discovered from the sites of ancient Mesopotamian Civilisation suggesting the existence of trade between the Indus people and ancient Mesopotamians.


  • The Harappan artisans made beautiful images of metal. A woman dancer made of bronze is the best specimen.
  • Except for a necklace she is naked.
  • We get a few pieces of Harappan stone sculptures.
  • One steatite statue wears an ornamented robe over the left shoulder under the right arm, and its short locks at the back of the head are kept tidy by a woven fillet.

Terracotta Figurines:

  • These were either used as toys or objects of worship. They represent birds, dogs, sheep, cattle and monkeys.
  • Men and women also find the place and the second outnumber the first. The seals and images were manufactured with great skill, but the terracotta pieces represent unsophisticated artistic works.
  • The contrast between the two sets indicates the gap between the classes, which used them. Members of the upper classes and the second by the common people used the first.
  • The Harappan culture is poor in artistic works made of stone. We do not come across any massive work of art in stone.
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