A Peep into the Remarkable Town-Planning and Material Characteristics of the Ancient Harappan Civilization
The Harappan civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, which flourished in the Indus Valley around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. It is renowned for its advanced town-planning and material characteristics.
The town-planning of the Harappan civilization was remarkable, and archaeologists like Mortimer Wheeler and Stuart Piggot believed that the Harappan towns had a remarkable unity of conception. However, new scholars reject this idea, as the Harappan towns were located on flood-plains of rivers, on fringes of deserts, or on sea coasts. Thus, people living in different regions faced different kinds of challenges from nature, and their adaptation to the environment would introduce diversity in their town-planning and lifestyle.
Despite the diversity, the settlements of Harappa, Mohenjodaro, and Kalibangan show certain uniformities in their planning. These cities were divided into a citadel on the west side and a lower town on the eastern side of the settlement. The citadel was built on a high podium of mud brick, which contained large structures that might have functioned as administrative or ritual centers. The lower city contained residential areas. In Mohenjodaro and Harappa, the citadel was surrounded by a brick wall, while at Kalibangan, both the citadel and the lower city were surrounded by a wall. Streets ran from north to south in the lower city and cut at right angles, indicating conscious town planning.
However, the resources of the town planners in those days would be very limited. This assumption is based on evidence from Mohanjodaro and Kalibangan where the streets stagger from block to block and the alignments of streets and buildings in one part of Mohenjodaro (Moneer area) are quite different from the rest of the areas. Mohenjodaro was not constructed in homogeneous horizontal units. In fact, it was built in different times.
The Harappan civilization is also renowned for its material characteristics. In Harappa and Mohenjodaro, baked bricks were used for buildings, while in Kalibangan, mud bricks were used. In settlements like Kot Diji and Amri in Sind, there were no fortifications of the city. The site of Lothal in Gujarat also shows a very different layout. It was a rectangular settlement surrounded by a brick wall and did not have any internal division into citadel and lower city.
Harappans were using baked and unbaked bricks of standard size. This shows that it was not the individual house owners who made their own bricks, but that brick making was organized on a large scale. Similarly, cities like Mohenjodaro showed excellent arrangements for sanitation. The waste water from houses would pass through chutes connected with public drains aligned to the margin of the streets. This again indicates the presence of a civic administration.
The town-planning and material characteristics of the Harappan civilization were advanced for their time. While there were certain uniformities in their town-planning, the diversity was also present due to their adaptation to the environment. The Harappan civilization also used standardized materials like baked and unbaked bricks, and they had excellent arrangements for sanitation. All these factors indicate the presence of an organized civic administration.