Art and Craft
The Harappan culture belongs to the Bronze Age. The people of Harappa used many tools and implements of stone, but they were well-acquainted with the manufacture and use of bronze. However, bronze tools are not prolific in Harappa.
For making bronze, copper was obtained from the Khetri copper mines at Rajasthan and from Baluchistan, and tin from Afghanistan. The bronze-smiths produced not only images and utensils but also various tools and weapons such as axes, saws, knives and spears.
A piece of woven cotton has been recovered from Mohenjo-daro, and textile impressions have been found on several objects. Spindle whorls and needles have also been discovered. Weavers wove cloth of wool and cotton. Boat making was practised.
Seal-making and terracotta manufacture were also important crafts. The goldsmiths made jewellery of silver, gold, copper, bronze and precious stones. Silver and gold may have been obtained from Afghanistan and precious stones from South India.
The Harappans were expert bead-makers. Also, the potter’s wheel was in full use.
The Harappans were not on the whole extravagant in their art. The inner walls of their houses were coated with mud plaster without paintings. The outer walls facing the streets were apparently of plain brick. Architecture was austerely utilitarian. Their most notable artistic achievement was perhaps in their seal engravings, especially those of animals, e.g., the great urns bull with its many dewlaps, the rhinoceros with knobbly armoured hide, the tiger roaring fiercely, etc.
The red sandstone torso of a man is particularly impressive for its realism. The bust of another male figure, in steatite, seems to show an attempt at portraiture.
However, the most striking of the figurines is perhaps the bronze ‘dancing girl, found in Mohenjo-daro. Naked but for a necklace and a series of bangles almost covering one arm, her hair dressed in a complicated coiffure, she stands in a provocative posture, with one arm on her hip and one lanky leg half-bent.
The Harappans made brilliantly naturalistic models of animals, specially charming being the tiny monkeys and squirrels used as pinheads and beads. For their children, they made cattle-toys with movable heads, model monkeys which would slide down a string, little toy-carts, and whistles shaped like birds, all of terracotta. They also made rough terra cotta statuettes of women, usually naked or nearly naked, but with elaborate headdresses; these are probably icons of the Mother Goddess.
The most interesting part of the discovery of the Harrapan Civilisation relates to the seals. More than 2000 in number, these were made of soapstone, terracotta and copper.
The seals give us useful information about the civilization of Indus valley. Some seals have human or animal figures on them. Most of the seals have a knob at the back through which runs a hole. They also have the figures of real animals while a few bear the figure of mythical animals. The seals are rectangular, circular or even cylindrical in shape.
The seals even have an inscription of a sort of pictorial writing. It is said that these seals were used by different associations or merchants for stamping purposes. They were also worn round the neck or the arm.
The seals show the culture and civilization of the Indus Valley people. In particular, they indicate:
- Dresses, ornaments, hair-styles of people.
- Skill of artists and sculptors.
- Trade contacts and commercial relations.
- Religious beliefs.
- The Pashupati Seal
This seal depicts a yogi, probably Lord Shiva. A pair of horns crown his head. He is surrounded by a rhino, a buffalo, an elephant and a tiger. Under his throne are two deer.
The seal shows that Shiva was worshipped and he was considered as the Lord of animals (Pashupati).
- The Unicorn Seal
The unicorn is a mythological animal. This seal shows that at a very early stage of civilization, humans had produced many creations of imagination in the shape of bird and animal motifs that survived in later art.
- The Bull Seal
This seal depicts a humped bull of great vigour. The figure shows the artistic skill and a good knowledge of animal anatomy.