Indus Valley Civilisation – Date and Extent- Town Planning

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Date and Extent

The Harappan culture existed between 2500 BC and 1800 BC. Its mature phase lay between 2200 BC and 2000 BC. The advent of radiocarbon dating has provided a new sources of information in fixing the Harappan chronology.

The Indus civilization was the largest cultural zone of the period – the area covered by it (about 1.3 million being much greater than that of other contemporary civilisation. Over 1000 sites have discovered so far.

The discovery of new sites of this civilization has superseded the older theory. The relevant excavations have proved that the extent of the Harappan civilization covered an area of 1550 kilometers from north to south and about 1100 K. M. from west to east. It spread from Sut Kanjo Daro in Baluchistan in the west to Alarngirpore in Mirat district in U. P. and from Rupar in Hariyana to the Gulf of Cambay and the Bhagabar Valley in Gujarat.

The traces of the Harappan civilization have been found also in the Narmada Valley in Deccan. It is expected that further excavations will increase the extent of the Harappan civilization. There are reasons to believe that the Harappans spread their civilizations eastward. The older view that the Harappan culture was exotic and had no capacity to expand within the Indian sub-continent has lost its force due to the discovery of Harappan relics in wide areas of India.

The main centers of the Harappan civilization as revealed by the recent excavations are:

  1. Mohenjo-Daro in Sind. The town was situated on the bank of the Indus.
  2. Harappa in Punjab and the town was situated on the bank of the Ravi.
  3. Kalibangan in Rajasthan situated on the bank of the Gharghara.
  4. Rupar in Hariyana situated on the bank of the Sutlej.
  5. Lothal in Gujrat situated on the bank of the Bhagawar River.
  6. Rangpore in Gujrat.
  7. The Narmada and the Tapti belt.


Town Planning

Urban-Town Planning

The excavation undertaken in various places gives clear indication that the people of the Indus Valley were primarily urban people. The Indus cities, whether Harappa or Mahenjo-daro in Pakistan or Kalibangan, Lothal or Sarkotada in India; shows town planning of a truly amazing nature. In both the places the cities were built on a uniform plan.

To the west of each town was a ‘citadel’ mound built on a high podium of mud-brick and to the east was the town proper the main hub of the residential area. The citadel and the town were further surrounded by a massive brick wall. In fact careful planning of the town, fine drainage system, well arranged water supply system prove that all possible steps were carefully adopted to make the town ideal and comfortable for the citizenry.

The street lights system, watch and ward arrangement at night to outwit the law breakers, specific places to throw rubbish and waste materials, public wells in every street, well in every house etc. revealed the high sense of engineering and town planning of the people. The main streets, some as wide as 30 to 34 feet were laid out with great skill dividing the cities into blocks within which were networks of narrow lanes. The streets intersected in right angles and so arranged that the prevailing winds could work as a sort of suction pump and thereby clean the atmosphere automatically.

No building was allowed to be constructed arbitrarily and encroaching upon a public highway. The owners of the pottery kilns were not allowed to build the furnaces within the town, obviously to save the town from air pollution.

The drainage system managed by the Indus Valley civilization is indeed unique. The idea and the system were highly scientific and by all means best of the time. The drainage system of Mahenjo-daro is so elaborate and scientific that a similar advanced system has not been found in any town of the same antiquity.

House drains connected in the main drains running under the main streets and below many lanes. Drains were made of gypsum, lime and cement, covered with portable stabs. In regular intervals, there were inspection traps and main-holes for inspection. Main drains were feet 2½ to 5 ft. broad. The small drains were connected with main drains which helped to pull water speedily out of the town. Every house had an independent soak- pit which collected all sediments and allowed water to flow to the main drains passing underneath the main streets of the town.

Proper care was taken to ensure that the house-wives did not throw refuse and dirt in the drains. The extensive drainage system adopted by the people of the Indus Valley unhesitatingly proves that the people of the time had developed a high sense of health and sanitation. The people of Indus Valley had generally constructed three types of buildings, such as dwelling houses, public halls and public baths. Burnt bricks were used and fixed skillfully with the help of mud and mortar for the construction of houses and other different structures of the towns. Buildings were of different sizes but generally were single or double storied.

From the existence of a staircase, it is evident that double storied dwelling houses were widely prevalent. The houses were furnished with paved floors and were provided with doors and windows. The roofs were made of mud, reed and wood. Every house possessed a well both room courtyard kitchen and first class drainage network.

The houses were more or less typified the same plan, a square courtyard round of which a number of rooms. Almost every house had a bathroom at the ground floor and some even on the first floor. The bathrooms were connected by a drainage channel to sewers in the main streets leading to soak-pits. The domestic drainage system and the bathing structures and the outlets are found to be very remarkable.

The average size of the ground floor of a house was about 11 square metres but there existed many bigger houses. Some barrack-like groups of single roomed tenements have been discovered at Mahenjo-daro and Harappa, similar to the coolie lines of Indian tea and other estates. Many public buildings have come to notice during excavation; for example, a high pillared hall having an area of 80 sq. feet came to light, which is accepted to have been used as an assembly hall for transacting matters of common interest.

The great public bath excavated in Mahenjo-daro is really significant. It was thought provoking how a massive bath could be constructed 5000 years ago. It is 180 feet by 180 feet square. The bricks used were of different sizes. Some were 20 inches by 8 inches and the smaller were 9 inches by 4 inches. The great bath is surrounded by a large number of rooms. It has a flight of steps at either end and is fed by a well situated adjoining room. There were separate drainage systems to flush out waste and dirty water. The actual bathing pool is about 139 feet in length and 23 feet in breadth and the depth is 8 feet. It is presumed that this great bath was used by the members of the public on auspicious festive days. The strength and the durability of the structure prove amply that it could last 5000 years with standing all kinds of ravages of nature.

To the west of the Great Bath existed a remarkable group of 27 blocks of brick-work crisscrossed by narrow ventilation channels. This structure is the podium of the great granary. It is 200 feet long and 150 feet wide and further sub-divided into smaller storage blocks for storing different types of grains generally used during the period of food crisis.

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