Harappan architecture

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Harappan architecture is the architecture of the Harappans, an ancient people who lived in the Indus Valley from about 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE. The Harappans were advanced for their time, especially in architecture.

Diagram of how Indus Valley cities were laid out (click on picture for bigger image).

City walls[edit]

Each city in the Indus Valley was surrounded by massive walls and gateways. The walls were built to control trade and also to stop the city from being flooded. Each part of the city was made up of walled sections. Each section included different buildings such as: Public buildings, houses, markets, craft workshops, etc.


The Harappans were excellent city planners. They based their city streets on a grid system. Streets were oriented east to west. Each street had a well-organized drain system. If the drains were not cleaned, the water ran into the houses and silt built up. Then the Harappans would build another storey on top of it. This raised the level of the city over the years, and today archaeologists call these high structures "mounds".


An old well in Lothal, a town near Harappa. The building styles of the two cities were fairly similar.

Although not every Harappan house had a well, they are quite common and comprise one of the most recognizable features of Harappan urbanism. Over the years, the level of streets and houses were raised owing to the accumulation of debris (see above) which necessitated raising the height of the wells. This is the reason why very tall wells are often seen at Harappa and in the surrounding areas.


Houses and other buildings were made of sun-dried or kiln-fired mud brick. These bricks were so strong, they have stood up to thousands of years of wear. Each house had an indoor and outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen would be used when it was warmer (so that the oven wouldn't heat up the house), and the indoor kitchen for use when it was colder. In present day, village houses in this region (e.g. in Kachchh) still have two kitchens. Indoor kitchens are used mostly as store houses and are only used for cooking when it rains. Otherwise, residents prefer to use the outdoor kitchens because the dry shrub and cow dung used as cooking fuel are very smoky, making indoor cooking difficult.


The Harappans used chisels, pickaxes, and saws. The saws they used had undulated edges so that dust escaped from the cut that they were sawing.

These tools were most likely made of copper, as copper tools and weapons have been found at Harappan sites.

Lack of temples[edit]

So far, no unequivocal examples of temples have been found at sites belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. Archaeologists do not know yet what religion was practiced in the Indus Valley Civilization. Community water pools (swimming or bathing) do exist, which may be linked with religious practice. Water plays an important role in Hindu sacred places, and pilgrimage to such places often involves sacred bathing (apart from the Ganges). The architecture of water pools used by Hindu pilgrimage and in Harappan cities are similar, although scholars disagree whether such similarities are functional, or cultural, in nature.

See also[edit]