Harappa Architecture


The first discoveries of Harappan cities were in the 1800’s, 150 years ago, when railway lines were being laid down in Punjab. Engineers stumbled upon the remains of Harappa in present day Pakistan.

To them, this site was a gold mine. They found and used ready-made bricks. So they took hundreds of these precious bricks to use them as railway lines. But with the bricks, they were unknowingly taking away important facts from the history. They had found and slightly destroyed one of the oldest cities in the subcontinent, Harappa, which existed 4700 years ago.


Harappa lay hidden until the 1920’s when archaeologists discovered ancient seals. This discovery sparked off a number of excavations in Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Lothal. In these various excavations, archaeologists uncovered many artifacts. These objects were later classified as red pottery, stone weights, seals, beads, and copper tools. Since all the cities had similar objects, archaeologist confirmed that all these cities belonged to a similar civilization, the Indus valley civilization.

The Harappan civilization is famous for its well-organized cities. These cities fascinated the archaeologists when they discovered that the cities were divided into two parts; the Cidital and the lower town. The Cidital was located towards the west. It was smaller but higher. On the contrary, the lower town was located to the east but bigger and lower. The Citadel consisted of the important structures, such as the granary and the public bath. Whereas, the lower town consisted of the workshops as well as the houses.


The lower town had wide roads for the houses which were dived into a rectangular blocks. Most houses located in the lower town were either one or two storied. All the rooms inside were usually built around the courtyard of the house. All the houses were made from uniform, clay-baked bricks. Their drains were all covered and went in a straight line beside all the houses. All the drains were laid on a gentle slope so that the water flows freely. All the drains were then connected to the main drain from every street.

Archaeologists believe that the houses, drains and streets were all built at the same time, the reason being that the planning of the cities were very detailed and well thought out. Although all of the cities were close together and had a similar layout, they each had their own unique architectural structure. For example, the great bath in Mohenjo-Daro was unique to its city, located in the lower town, the bath was coated with plaster and tar so water doesn’t seep through. It had rooms surrounding the bath and two steps coming towards it. On the other hand, Lothal consisted of a huge tank for boats, a bead factory and a storehouse. The remains found of the factory point out that this city had a flourishing bead industry, which made beads of stone, shell and metal. The huge tank is assumed to be the doc where boats came in from the sea. And the good from the boats were stored in the storehouse. The Kalibangan, similar to the Lothal had fire altars where sacrifices were made to the local deities and gods. Unlike the others, the city of Cholavira was divided into three parts: the Cidital, the middle town and the lower town. Each part was surrounded by stonewalls with only gates as the entrance.

It is unfortunate that none of the Harappa architecture has completely survived through time. At present, all we see are the remains of a sophisticate and an advanced civilization that’s architecture is the main source of debates, as there remains so much unexcavated and unexplored.


Yodsel Rinzin


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