Art of Harappa and Mohenjodaro
The oldest cultures after thousands of years of the Stone Age are found in the ancient ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa in the Indus Valley.
The ancient remains recovered from this civilization provide insight into the lifestyle, customs, food, clothing, jewelery and knowledge of contemporary India. Looking at the remains obtained from the excavation of these cities, it is definitely known that in very ancient times, India’s relationship with distant countries like Sumer, Egypt, Palestine, Iran etc. was established.
In fact, the discovery of sites named Mohenjodaro and Harappa, which took place in the first phase of the twentieth century, was an epoch-making event in the history of Indian civilization.
In 1856 AD, British General Cunningham received many ancient objects including steatite seals, but the importance of these objects could be revealed only after the excavation of Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
In 1921 AD, Dayaram Sahni started the excavation work in the Harappa mound. A year later, Rakhaldas Banerjee found many types of antiquities in Mohenjodaro (Mound of the Dead) in 1922 AD.
Indus valley civilization
Many other facts came to light due to excavations in these two centers of culture that developed on the banks of the Indus River. Also, many antiquities of this Harappan culture came to light in many other places – Chahundaro, Lahumjodaro, Shahji Kotiro, Jhukar, Jhangar, Kutli, Mehi, Periano, Dhundai, Ranaghundai, Kotdiji etc.
Initially, similarity of the cultural remains here with Sumerian civilization was seen. Therefore, this new civilization, which can be called the oldest civilization known so far, was named ‘Indo-Sumerian’.
Also, due to its main center being the banks of the Indus River, this civilization was named ‘Indus Valley Civilization’. The residents here lived in planned cities. Used to trade and agriculture. Besides, he also had knowledge of the art of writing.
For this reason, this culture is also called by many names like proto-historic culture, Chalcolithic culture, Indus Valley civilization and Bronze Age civilization etc.
This civilization was spread in various places of India. Apart from Harappa-Mohenjodaro, antiquities came to light in many other sites mentioned above.
Similarly, ‘Kalibanga’ on the banks of Ghaggar in Ganganagar district is also one such place from where remains of Indus culture have been found. Remains of Pre-Harappan and Harappan culture have been found from two mounds of Kalibanga.
Thus, the expansion area of this Indus culture includes the areas of Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in India, apart from Pakistani Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan. Remains of two dozen ancient cultures have also been found from the Bikaner princely state.
Sir John Marshall first dated this Indus Valley civilization to 3250 BC in 1931 AD to 2750 B.C. Placed between. Whereas, on the basis of various analyses, Mr. Ghosh has placed the rise of the Indus Valley Civilization in 2500 B.C. to 2450 B.C. and finally from 1900 B.C. to 1600 B.C. Which are considered to be more authentic dates.
There are many disputes over whether the founders of the Indus Valley Civilization were of Indian origin or of foreign origin. Initially, this civilization was named ‘Indo-Sumerian’ on the basis of similarity between Indus antiquities and Sumerian remains.
According to Haviler and Garden, the development of this civilization is inspired and influenced by the Mesopotamian civilization, but it has also been criticized because there are many differences in the scripts of the Indus Valley and Mesopotamian civilizations.
Even the city planning and public sanitation system of the Indus people is said to be superior not only to the Mesopotamians but also to the creators of all the ancient civilizations in the world.
According to Fair Service, Indianisation can be traced back to the Balochistan culture that developed in Balochistan in the 4th millennium BC.
In Sindh (Amri and Kotdiji) and Baluchistan (Nal and Kulli), like Kalibanga, the remains of earlier culture below the levels of Senpay civilization have come to light. Earthen pots are especially noteworthy among these remains.
According to Amlanand Ghosh, the natural Harappan Sothi culture excavated in Kalibanga can be considered the basis of Indus Valley civilization. In the light of the clay figurines of cow and horse excavated from Lothal and horse bones etc. available from Surkota (Kutch), it can be said that the creators of the Indus Valley Civilization were people of Indian origin. This civilization was a city and trade-oriented civilization.
Architecture of Indus Valley Civilization
We can see a highly developed and planned form of architecture in the two major centers of the Indus Valley Civilization – “Harappa and Mohenjodaro”. In these cities, buildings were constructed using baked and raw bricks in a planned manner.
In which bathing room, kitchen, arrangement of drains as well as arrangement of well for drinking water as well as public bath and city roads etc. indicate his excellent interest and developed knowledge of city construction planning.
These people were also familiar with fortifications, according to Vasudev Sharan Agarwal, the Indus people (people of the Indus Valley) lived in fortified cities with fortifications. The creators of the Harappan culture belonged to the wealthy merchant and ruling class and were also lovers of various arts.
In Harappa, a 25 feet wide wa (a wall of rammed earth on which a brick wall was erected) was found, on which there were towers in between the brick ramparts. The remains of a similar tower have also come to light from Mohenjodaro.
There were high gates in the main directions. Stairs were built to reach the fort at the southern end of the defense ramparts of the Harappan city. Like Harappa, a fort in Mohenjodaro was also built on a mound. This mound was built with raw bricks and soil.
Major cities of Indus Valley Civilization
The remains of cities like Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kali Banga and Lothal present a picture of the luxurious civil life of this civilization. The fort and the lower city area are generally found to be similar in all areas.
Baked bricks were used for building construction in Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Mud, lime and gypsum plaster or mortar were used to construct the walls. Drains were arranged to drain off dirty water from houses.
The drain water from the houses used to go into the big drains on the road. From this it becomes clear that the people of Indus Valley or Indus Valley civilization took great care of cleanliness.
Wells have not been found in the houses of Harappa like Mohenjodaro. Whereas larger wells were constructed for public use. In these wells also the joining of bricks was done very neatly.
Among the remains of structural buildings recovered from Harappa, some platforms and granaries can be mentioned. In Haviler’s opinion, they were used for threshing grains.
The most important center of Indus Valley civilization was Mohenjodaro. Among the remains here, the huge ‘Jalkund’ is notable, whose size is 39 feet long, 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep. To reach this water reservoir, there are stairs to the north and south which were made of baked bricks.
There was also a system for drainage of water. The floor was also made of burnt bricks. Its walls have been coated with gypsum. The outer walls have been plastered with lime. There are verandahs on three sides of this bathhouse. There are many chambers built at the back. Probably people would go here to change clothes after bathing.
32 stairs leading to this five thousand year old reservoir have been found in safe condition. The concepts related to city planning developed in the Rigveda and Puranas are all available in this civilization.
More than 22 thousand seals, clay figurines, steatite and stone pillars and extremely small sized gold beads have been found here.
Like Harappa, in Mohenjodaro too there was a ‘storehouse’ or granary for storing grains. This granary is made of baked bricks. There were 27 chambers built in it for storing food grains. The largest building here has an area of 230 x 78 feet.
There are many rooms and verandahs along with it. It looks like a royal palace. Among the other notable ruins here, the Sabha Bhavan can also be counted, which was a square shaped building about 90 feet long.
Remains of 20 pillars have also been found in it which were in 4 rows. There were 5 pillars in each row. It would have been used for public works. This also confirms the view that the tradition of pillar construction in India is of indigenous origin. They are also mentioned in Vedic literature.
Analysis of other remains of Mohenjodaro provides knowledge of the well-planned system of city construction here. Here also remains of buildings of different sizes have been found. The people here lived in rich and comfortable houses.
There was a general atmosphere of prosperity due to trade and agriculture.
‘Ghagghar’ (located on the banks of the ancient Saraswati river) in Ganganagar district in Rajasthan, has revealed the remains of a huge and similarly planned city similar to Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
Kalibanga was one of the nearly two dozen Harappan culture sites discovered by Amlanand Ghosh in 1953 AD under the old Bikaner state. In 1961 B.B. Lal and B.K. Thapar had completed the excavation work here for the training of archeology students. Two mounds have been found during excavation here.
Both the mounds were surrounded by security ramparts. Remains of Praga-Harappan culture have been found from the small mounds on the west side and Harappan culture remains have been found from the big mounds on the east side. Raw bricks have been used in the residential houses and defense ramparts here. Here too, like Mohenjodaro, houses with more than one storey were built.
Apart from the remains of buildings, platforms made of raw bricks have been found here in which evidence of wells and fire altars are also found. The notable achievement of Kalibanga during the Pre-Harappan period is related to agriculture.
According to archaeologists, the evidence of plowed fields found here presents the oldest example of evidence related to agriculture in the world.
Other noteworthy items obtained from the excavation here include various types of tools made of precious stones (Agate Steatite etc.), such as beads, toy cart wheels made of baked clay, pitchers, bull statues, cobwebs, copper plates, etc. Mention may be made of axes and tools for cutting fruits. Along with this, a large number of painted ‘earthen pots’ of various types in red, black and white colors have also been found here.
Located near Sargwala village in Ahmedabad district of Gujarat, this has been another important center of the Harappan civilization. Lothal has also been famous as a Bronze Age port. It was the main gateway for waterways to connect with West Asia.
This also confirms that the trade relations of the Indus people with Western Asia were established through the sea route. From the remains found of the dock yard used by sea ships, it is known that its shape was like a rhombus square whose length from east to west was 710 feet, north was 124 feet and south was 116 feet.
Lothal city was situated in a circle of about 2 miles. The excavation work here was done by Shri S.R. Rao got it done in 1958-59 AD. The city plan here was also similar to Harappa-Mohenjodaro.
The city was divided into several sections by various roads. To protect the settlement from floods, the houses were built on a huge platform made of mud bricks. Remains of the defense ramparts built around it have also been found here. Drains were made along the unpaved roads.
The houses available here are not very big. Raw bricks were often used in the construction of buildings. Remains of storehouse, bathroom, toilet, drain system and granary etc. have also been found in this city. Almost all types of tools obtained from the Indus Valley civilization, such as utensils, jewelery etc. have also been found here.
Commenting on this entire Indus art, Percy Brown says that the entire architectural structure is desolate from the point of view of beauty, but the sophistication, strength of the creative system materials etc. is surprising.
Indus seals and Hieroglyphs
These seals and seals obtained from excavation highlight an important aspect of the art prevalent in the Indus Valley civilization. These stamps, available in more than 2000 numbers in these cities, are very important from the artistic point of view, which generally range in height from one and a half inches to one and a quarter inches.
In shape they are round, long, square and rectangular. Mostly these seals are made of alabaster or Ghiya stone (statite). There is also a raised portion with a hole at the back, but this is not found in all seals.
The statues depicted in these are impressive despite being small in size. These coins have been found from Harappa, Mohenjodaro as well as from many places like Jhukar, Nal, Shahi-Tump etc.
Seals made of copper have also been found from these places and these are also of square, rectangular etc. shape.
These seals can be called masterpieces of Indus Valley art. The picture-scripts engraved on them are in themselves a commendable example of the craftsmanship of the people of Indus Valley civilization.
Various types of animal figures like tiger, elephant, rhinoceros, rabbit, deer, horned bull, Garuda, crocodile etc. have been beautifully carved in these coins. The most beautiful shape among these carved figures is that of ‘Kakudmaan Vrishabha’ (Humped Bull).
Similarly, another carved animal is a horn. Imaginary animal figures have also been engraved on some seals, such as an animal with three heads and the bodies of three tigers combined in one seal.
In another seal, Peepal tree has been depicted between the figures of two snakes. On some seals, only line drawings are inscribed which appear to be similar to Swastika.
What was the actual use of these seals? It is unknown. Marshall has called copper seals as amulets. Others saw their use as a form of deity worship. According to Stuart Pigart, these coins were used only to mark or seal property, just like in the modern era.
According to Mr. Aggarwal, copper seals were in circulation as coins. The absence of any other type of coins apart from copper coins in the Indus Valley confirms this.
The hieroglyphs engraved on these Indus seals also prove the originality of the 400 letter makers. Most of these writings are engraved on seals. Some articles have also been found in earthen pots and metal tools.
Although archaeologists have made every effort to read this script, this script has not yet been read universally. If this script is read, light can be thrown on various unknown aspects of the Bronze Age culture.
Through the figures carved on them, one can know about their acquaintance with the flora and fauna. Similarly, some light can also be shed on their religious beliefs through these postures.
One seal depicts a male figure sitting in a meditative posture. He is wearing a trident shaped covering on his head. Animals named Rhinoceros, Elephant, Tiger and Buffalo are depicted around this figure.
Marshall has considered it as ‘the original form of Shiva’. It can also be inferred from the animal figures engraved in these seals that these people probably worshiped animals also.
In one seal, a man is depicted holding a sickle-like weapon in his hands and a woman is depicted sitting on the ground with her hands raised in a supplicating posture. This marking probably indicates male sacrifice. Two other seals of Shiva have also been recovered from the excavation.
After the linear paintings done on natural caves and rock shelters by the Stone Age man, in the field of painting from a chronological point of view, the paintings done on pottery excavated in two major centers named Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley can be mentioned.
This can be called ‘painting of dead bodies’. The people of the Indus Valley civilization used painted pots made of baked clay and decorated them with various designs. This painted pottery has been found from various places like Nal, Mohenjodaro Harappa, Chanhudaro, Rupar, Lothal etc.
These utensils were of various shapes and sizes. Some of these utensils were used for daily use and some were used to bury dead bodies.
The symbol of peacock was especially used in the depiction of dead bodies. Apart from this, goat, fish, leaves, trees and plants, flying birds, stars, circles with garlands, waves etc. are noteworthy.
Various types of geometric shapes like straight lines, circles, angles, squares, triangles, diamonds, quadrilaterals, rhombuses etc. have been made in abundance in clay pots.
Apart from this, figures of flowers, leaves, animals, birds etc. have also been used. Among birds, peacock, swan, cock and pigeon etc. have been depicted adequately. Among the animals, markings like Barasingha, Deer etc. are seen. Human and fish intentions can be mentioned.
Indus people used to paint their utensils with red color and draw black lines on them. These earthen utensils were prepared on wheel. Various types of utensils – litter trays, sharp-edged kulhads, bottle-shaped ones, amritghant, long pots, bhagane, tottidar or jhari etc. and many other small sized vessels (5″-16″) have also been found. These were probably made for the entertainment of children.
Painted pottery has also been found from Lothal in Gujarat. The paintings of sparrows and deer found on earthen pots found here are proof that the painting done on earthen pots had developed considerably.
Beautiful pictures of snake, duck, peacock, palm tree etc. have been found on the utensils obtained from here. In the initial illustration, semi-ellipse, waves, sugar mercury, parallel stripes etc. can be mentioned.
Pottery of Indus culture over pre-Indus culture has been found from (near Khairpur in Sindh). Many types of lines, stripes, fish shapes, peacock, deer etc. can be mentioned among the motifs used on the death vessels here.
Painted characters similar to those of the Indus Valley civilization were also found from another center, Ropar. In which shapes like Peepal leaf, triangle, fish scale and circle etc. have been found. The color of these utensils is red or pink.
Which have been painted in red and white colors. These paintings consist of linear and geometric designs. Hence the color scheme is somewhat different from that of Indus characters. Paintings in Kalibanga have been done in black color and sometimes in white color.
On a plate recovered from Chandaro, figures of animals and birds are painted in red, black and white colors on a yellow background. Apart from deer, wild goat, vulture, fish, duck, butterfly etc., fish scales, trees, plants, triangles etc. can be mentioned in these figures.
The utensils include round and flat-bottomed pots, pots, saucers, bowls, fluted and narrow-mouthed vases, etc.
The innumerable pottery vessels excavated from the Indus Valley centres, the animals, birds, plants and motifs depicted in them and the engraved and unengraved seals, ornaments and entertainment equipment made from various types of materials throw light on the diverse social and cultural life of the Bronze Age human life.
From the art of these instruments, we also get knowledge of the originality, creative inclination and craftsmanship of the artist.
Indus Valley Civilization Sculpture Art
The creative talent of Saindhava artists has also been expressed in the creation of beautiful statues. These idols have been found made of different materials, such as stone, clay and metal. Although most of the idols have been found made of clay.
These statues have been made from the best type of red colored baked clay. All of them are almost of the same type. Statues can often be distinguished by the type of head dress or jewellery. Many statues of women and animals have been found among the clay figurines found at a place called Kulli.
The large number of female statues available can be considered as ‘Goddess’ statues. 80 miniature statues of a bull and a statue of a cow have been found from the Harappan level of the royal mound. Statues of bulls made of clay have also been found from Kot Diji.
Along with this, 5 idols of Mother Goddess (out of which 2 are broken) have become available. Kulli and Harappan cultures were flourishing simultaneously to more or less extent. Similarity is also visible in the design of the sculptures at both the sites.
Toys have also been obtained in sufficient quantity from here. S. Of. In Saraswati’s view, two types of traditions developed in the field of sculpture making under the Harappan culture – clay sculpture tradition and stone and copper sculpture tradition.
Among these, the clay idol making tradition belonged to the common class who followed the clay idol making or farming culture of Jhob and Kulli. The tradition of stone or copper sculpture making belonged to the upper class of the Harappan culture.
A very beautiful and impressive clay statue of a woman found in Mohenjodaro can be seen here. It has a kantha (choker) around its neck, armlets on its arms and various types of long necklaces which hang till the chest.
A large necklace is depicted hanging from the shoulders and touching the girdle. There is a fan-like cover on the head of the idol with a lace tied at the bottom. The breasts of the idol have been shown to be elevated.
Round pupils have been shown in place of eyes. The mouth part appears to be pasted separately on the body. This clay idol has been made from the thighs to the upper part only. Based on the structure of the idol and the ornaments worn on it, it appears to be the statue of a goddess.
Another statue with almost similar ornamentation in standing posture has been found. There is a wide fan-like ornament raised up on the head. Hands and legs are shown like straight sticks. In which fingerprinting has not been done.
In fact, many other statues of this type which have been available from different parts of India are called statues of Mother Goddess. Apart from the Indus Valley, the tradition of worshiping Mother Goddess was prevalent in many ancient countries including Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, Crete and the Mediterranean Sea.
In Indian literature, she has been called ‘Aditi’, the mother of gods, who later became established as Shri Lakshmi. Usually these clay idols of the Mother Goddess are made naked.
Male figures can also be mentioned in other clay sculptures. Among these, the sloping forehead, long slit eyes, long nose, stuck face etc. are notable.
Some horned figurines and horned masks have also been found cast in moulds. Apart from human figures, a large number of animal figures have also been found here. Among the animal sculptures, humped bulls, elephants, pigs, jackals, monkeys, sheep, tortoises, birds etc. have also been found in abundance.
The people of the Harappan civilization had become familiar with the process of making sculptures from metal. In fact, they formally belonged to the ‘Bronze Age Civilization’ and they used metals called copper and bronze to make tools and equipment.
Copper was probably obtained from Rajputana and bronze was made by adding dyes to copper. Mixed metal made of copper and sakhiya or arsenic was also used. According to Pigot, both casting and forging techniques were used in Harappan metal art.
In the process of casting, metal was melted and poured into a mold to produce the desired shape. The metal statue of a dancer found at Mohenjodaro was made by this process.
Copper statue of dancer
The statue of a dancer made of copper has been found in Mohenjodaro. Bangles, bangles etc. are worn on the left hand of this idol from wrist to elbow.
Women of rural areas of Rajasthan still use these types of bangles etc. which are a symbol of the continuity of this ancient tradition. The right hand of the idol is placed on his waist area.
In this hand also two bangles and Bhujbandh are worn. Part of the feet of the statue is fragmented. It has been made a little longer in proportion to the body. She has a Trifuliya necklace around her neck. The hair is tied in a bun. The total height of the statue is 4″.
According to Vasudev Sharan Aggarwal, the rings marked in the statue have been called Khadayah in Rigveda. This statue effortlessly attracts the attention of the viewer with its easy and natural posture.
Other notable sculptures made of copper include those of Mahisha (buffalo) and Medhe (sheep). The sculpture of these animal figures has been done in a simple and natural style.
Statues made of stone are available here in relatively small numbers. Although the art of stone sculptures had developed significantly and the people of the Harappan civilization knew the art of stone sculpture.
About 11 statues of different sizes and types have been available from this time. Although these idols are available only in a broken state.
Two stone statues recovered from Harappa attract attention in terms of style, design, body shape and naturalness. Although both of these are broken statues.
It is the torso of a young man in a standing position made of sandstone. This 4″ high torso is completely naked.
The abdominal part of the idol is somewhat gross. There are holes in the neck and shoulders of the idol so that the head and arms can be made separately and joined in place respectively. This statue appears to be a precursor to later Yaksha statues.
Archaeologists have considered this statue to be the statue of the first Jain Tirthankara Adinath.
The second statue made of blackened Ghiya stone (lime stone) is about 4 inches. This idol was obtained by Dayaram Sahni from the excavation of Harappa.
Keeping in mind the structure of the idol, the body configuration, the female body parts like thick buttocks and thin waist etc., Agarwal has considered it to be the idol of a young woman. This is a statue depicted in dancing posture.
Statue of a god or priest (Harappan culture)
Among the finest statues of the Indus Valley Civilization is a bearded male figure made of alabaster from Mohenjodaro. This is a bust. His beard and hair have been well groomed. The hair on the head is tied with a ribbon.
One shoulder and the body are covered with Uttariya (sheet) having a special type of Trifuliya ornamentation. The head of this male figure is small and sloping towards the back. The neck is thick and the eyes are half closed.
It is called the statue of a priest, because the Trifulia ornamentation on its face has been seen to be related to the idols of gods in Egypt and the countries of Western Asia.
In fact, it appears to be the image of a yogi whose gaze is focused on the tip of the nose. The existence of Yoga in the Indus Valley is also evidenced by the figures engraved in the seals of Pashupati Shiva.