Mature Harappan Civilisation - Part 1- Sites, size, features and discoveries.

February 18, 2018

Mature phase of Harappan civilisation has been of interest as this is the period when the real urbanisation happened and thus holds the genesis of today's modern cities. With our urban model facing multiple issues of hygiene, sustainability, inclusiveness and empowerment; Harappan times have many lessons which can help us today in solving these issues. Thus, we need to understand mature harappan civilisation. 



Size wise classification of Major Sites:

  1. Major Sites( 50 hectare +):

    • Mohenjo-Daro (200ha),

    • Harappa (150ha+),

    • Rakhigarhi (350ha), - biggest

    • Dholavira (100ha) and

    • Lurewala (approx. 200ha with estimated 35,000 population).

  2. Moderate sized (10 to 50ha):

    • Kalibangan

  3. Small sites (5-10ha):

    • Amri,

    • Lothal,

    • Chanhudaro.

  4. Tiny sites (1-5ha):

    • Kot Diji,

    • Rupar,

    • Balakot,

    • Surkotada.

This showed that all sites were not urban but some were villages too. Due to cultural convergence that is observed in all the sites, we can conclude that the sites were interdependent and connected to each other.


General features of Mature Harappan sites:

  1. Planned settlements.

    • We see no correlation between the level of planning and size of settlements. Even small sites like Lothal show remarkable planning.

    • Not exactly grid like structure although widely believed to be.

  2.  Structure of Towns:

    • Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Kalibangan have a similar layout, consisting of a citadel complex and a lower city.

    • Lothal and Surkotada, the citadel complex is not separate.

    • Dholavira consisted of not two but three parts- Citadel, Middle town and lower town.

    • Massive fortification walls with a veneer of dressed stones at Dholavira and the remains of stone pillars in the citadel are very distinctive and are not found at any other Harappan site.

    • Uniformity in the average size of the bricks- 7*14*28cm for houses and 10*20*40 cm for walls with the same ratio of 1:2:4 for both type of bricks.

    • English bond style arrangement seen in brick laying.

  3. Structure of Homes:

    • Rooms arranged around a central courtyard.

    • Doorways and windows generally faced the side lanes and rarely opened into the main street.

    • View from the lane into the courtyard was blocked by a wall.

    • Some of the houses at Mohenjodaro were two stories high or more.

    • Doors and windows of houses were made of wood and mats.

    • Small houses attached to large houses may have been quarters for service groups working for wealthy city dwellers.

    • Many houses had separate bathing area and toilets. Bathing platform with drains were often located in rooms next to a well.

    • Floor of the bathing area was usually made of tightly fitted bricks to make a carefully sloped watertight surface.

    • Toilets are identified at many places. Drainage system:

      • Small drains of the houses were connected to a large sewage drain.

      • Gradual slope in drains.

      • Rectangular soak pits were provided for collecting solid waste at regular intervals.

      • Some people must have been employed to clean drains every day.

    • Rain water was collected.

  4. Sources of water were rivers, wells, and reservoirs or cisterns.

  5. People were particular about personal hygiene.



Profiles of some Harappan cities, towns, and Villages:

  1. Dholavira:

    • Unique water harvesting and management system. Dams constructed on Manhar and Mandsar streams. Deep water cisterns and reservoirs located in the citadel and lower town preserved precious stores of rain water.

    • Large open area called the stadium present. Might have been used for ceremonial purposes.

    • City divided into small castle area, bailey area and a large middle town. Lower town also existed.

    • Surrounded by an outer fortification wall made of mud-brick with a veneer of stone blocks on the outer face.

    • Distinct architecture showing a large scale use of sandstone, combined in places with mud brick.

  2. Lothal:

    • Citadel is known as Acropolis as named by its excavator S.R. Rao.

    • Warehouse were present to store and pack goods.

    • Dockyard is the most important feature.

    • Sluice gate and a spill channel were used to maintain a regular level of water.

  3. Rakhigarhi, Haryana:

    • Bone and ivory working evidence found.

  4. Banawali, Haryana:

    • City divided into two mounds- Higher citadel and lower town.

    • Baked bricks were used only for wells, bathing pavements and drains.

  5. Kalibangan:



    • Black bangles found lying all over the surface of its mounds.

    • Three mounds found instead of two.

    • The third mound have no houses but pits. They are considered to be  fire altars to be used for sacrifices.

    • Lower Mound:

      • Bangle making was an important craft.

      • Ivory comb and Copper Buffalo or Bull was found.




  6. Harappa:

    • City divided into two mounds- western Citadel and in south-east we have lower town.

      • Citadel: It contains

        • Fortified by a mud brick wall.

        • Cemetery

        • Workmen's quarters

        • Granary.

  7. Chanhudaro: Features

    • Single mound with no fortifications.

    • Bead factory found.

  8. Mohenjo-Daro:

    • City divided into two mounds- Citadel in the west and lower town in the east.



        Citadel: It contains

        • Mud brick wall surrounded Citadel.

        • A tower is present.

        • Great Bath.

        • Granary

        • College of Priests

        • Assembly hall.

      • Lower town:



          Divided into two major blocks by streets.

        • Main street is 9m wide and rest in the range of 1.5-3m wide.

        • Houses varied in size suggesting differences in wealth and status.

        • Two areas are identified as HR area and DK area on the basis of their founders- H. Hargreaves and K.N. Dikshit.

        • Many seals and fragments of a stone sculpture of a seated man with a shawl over his left shoulder found. In DK area there is a similar sculpture called Priest king.


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