Salient Features of the Harappan Civilization Notes

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Explore the Salient Features of the Harappan Civilization in easy and comprehensive bullet points. This post reveals the Town planning, Society, Culture, Agriculture, Trade, and other crucial aspects of the Harappan Civilization.

In various competitive exams, most of the MCQs based on the Harappan Civilization are asked from these parts, which are important features of the Harappan Civilization.

Harappan Civilization: Brief Overview

The Harappan Civilization, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization, flourished in South Asia’s Indus River valley region from around 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, reaching its peak between 2600 BCE and 1900 BCE.

  • Evidence: Archaeological findings. (Planed Cities, Pottery, Seals and Indus Script )


  • Cultural Homogeneity: Shared traits across the civilization.
  • Diversity: Local variations within the overall culture.


  • Debated, two main theories:
  • Indigenous Development: Evolved from pre-Harappan village cultures (potentially more accepted view).
  • Diffusionism: Originated from the Mesopotamian Civilization.

Geographical Spread

  • Largest among three major ancient civilizations (Indus Valley, Egypt, Mesopotamia).
  • Triangular-shaped area encompassing Modern-day Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat (India). Parts of Pakistan.

Also Read: Introduction of The Harappan Civilization: 3 Phases with Key Details

Salient Features of the Harappan Civilization

Town Planning

General Layout

  • Divided into two parts.
  • Citadel: Elevated area for rulers, public buildings, granaries, and workshops.
  • Lower Part: Where common people lived and worked.

Planning Features

  • Grid pattern with north-south streets intersecting at right angles.
  • Wide streets, the main street being 10 meters wide.
  • Streets form rectangular and square blocks.
  • Burnt bricks are used with a consistent 1:2:4 ratio (thickness:width: length).
  • Standardized brick size:
    • Houses: 7 x 14 x 28 cm3
    • City walls: 10 x 20 x 40 cm3
  • Excellent drainage system with covered mortar, lime, and gypsum drains.


  • Typically, two or more stories.
  • Varied in size but generally uniform in style.
  • No windows facing streets.
  • Tiled bathrooms in some houses.
  • Some houses had private wells.

Harappan Society and Culture

Social Structure

  • A primarily urban society with a middle-class majority.
  • Archaeological evidence suggests:
    • Ruling elite living in the citadel.
    • Merchants and labourers residing in the lower city.
  • Inheritance practices remain unclear.

Art and Crafts

  • Skilled potters using red and black pottery with geometric and tree motifs.
  • Prolific use of terracotta for figurines (animals, humans, carts) and bangles.
  • More female figurines than male figurines were discovered.
  • Expertise in bead-making and jewellery: gold, silver, gemstones.
  • Metallurgy: copper, bronze, silver, gold (no iron).
  • Preference for pure copper artefacts over bronze.
  • Clothing: cotton and wool.


  • Non-vegetarian diet: fish, meat, dairy products.
  • Staple food: varied by region (wheat/barley vs. rice/millet).

Writing System

  • Undeciphered pictographic and logosyllabic script.
  • Boustrophedon writing style (alternating direction).
  • Suggests cultural integration but limited literacy.

Harappan trade and economy

Internal and external trade

  • Harappans had internal trade within their civilization and external trade with other civilizations, including Mesopotamia and Persia.

Barter system

  • There was no metallic currency in circulation, and trade was conducted through barter.


  • Inland: Bullock carts were used for inland transportation.
  • Maritime: Evidence suggests seafaring with dockyards and ports found at Lothal, Rangpur, Somnath, and Balakot.


  • They were used to mark ownership of property and possibly as amulets.
  • Made of steatite stone and bore religious emblems and potentially owner information.
  • It was found in Mesopotamian cities like Susa and Ur, indicating trade connections.


  • Bead-making factories existed at Chanhudaro and Lothal, suggesting the export of beads.


  • Remarkable precision and uniformity in weights and measures.
  • Binary system for weights in lower denominations (1, 2, 8, 16…) and decimal multiples 160 for higher denominations.
  • Weights are made of specific materials (chert, limestone, steatite) and are typically cubical.
  • Standardized units of length based on the foot and cubit.
  • Evidence of tools for measuring angles and scales.

Harappan Imports

MetalsSource Region
GoldAfghanistan, Iran, Kolar (South India)
CopperKhetri (Rajasthan), Baluchistan
TinAfghanistan, Iran
Lapis lazuliAfghanistan
SteatiteTapi Chahya (Iran)
BituminBaluchistan, Mesopotamia
LeadSouth India

Harappan religious practices

No confirmed temples

  • While no structures definitively identified as temples have been found, the Great Bath at Mohenjo-Daro might have been used for ritual bathing.


  • Evidence suggests the worship of various deities and objects.
  • Mother goddess
  • Pashupati Mahadeva or proto-Shiva (associated with the upper class, depicted in yogic posture on seals)
  • Lingam (phallus) and yoni (fertility symbols)
  • Pipal tree
  • Humped bull
  • Birds (dove and pigeon)
  • One-horned unicorn (possibly a rhinoceros)
  • Animals depicted on the seal of Pashupati Mahadeva (elephant, tiger, rhino, buffalo, deer) – are also potentially worshipped.

Ritual practices

  • Fire altars are found in Kalibangan and Lothal.
  • Dead buried north-south, often accompanied by simple offerings (food, pottery, ornaments, tools).

Burial methods

  • Complete burial
  • Fractional burial (bones collected and buried after exposure)
  • Cremation followed by ash burial

Burial variations

  • Coffins containing bodies found in Harappa.
  • Small circular pits with urns and pottery are found in Kalibangan, alongside a triangular terracotta cake depicting a horned deity and a possible animal sacrifice.
  • A pair of male and female skeletons was discovered together in Lothal.

Agricultural Practices

Sowing in Flood Plains

  • Seeds were sown in flood plains in November after receding floodwaters.

Harvesting Schedule

  • Wheat and barley were harvested in April, before the next flood.

Crops Grown

  • Wheat and Barley: Predominantly grown, especially in Mehrgarh.
  • Other Crops: Horse gram, peas, melon, watermelon, sesame, dates, millets, grapes, henna (mehndi), garlic, and rice (specifically in Lothal).

Resource Exploitation

  • Riverine and Marine Resources: Exploitation of riverine and marine resources, with molluscs being a significant protein source in coastal Gujarat sites.

Domesticated Animals

  • Wide Range: Domestication of cattle (oxen, buffaloes, goats, humped bulls, sheep, pigs, asses, camels), as well as cats and dogs.
  • Limited Use of Horses: Horses were not regularly used, but the Harappans were familiar with elephants and rhinoceros. Harappan culture was not horse-centered.

Wildlife Representations

  • Tigers are represented in figurines.
  • Leopards are rarely represented.
  • Pottery paintings depicting rabbits, peacocks, ducks, pigeons, wildfowl, and monkeys.

Agricultural Tools

  • Discover ploughed fields, possibly cultivated with wooden ploughs at Kalibangan.
  • Terracotta models of ploughs found at Banawali and Bahawalpur.

Animal Remains

  • Remains of horses found at Surkotda.
  • Discovery of dogs buried with men in graves at Ropar.
✅ Also Read:  Causes of Decline of the Harappan Civilization

Source: Poonam Dalal Dahiya Ancient History

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