Architecture in Indus Valley Civilization

There was a sophisticated concept of town planning in the Indus Valley Civilization. From the excavated remains, it is clear that it possessed a flourishing urban architecture.  There were well-planned grids with broad main roads and smaller lanes intersecting at right angles. There were large networks of hundreds of wells, which supplied water to the residents. A sophisticated drainage system was in existence and even the smallest houses were connected to it. Houses were made of bricks. The standardised dimensions of these bricks, found in the many cities across this civilization, are remarkable. The houses had several storeys.

Salient Features of Indus Valley Town Planning

Grid Pattern

Harappa and Mohen-Jo Dero were laid out on a grid pattern and had provisions for an advanced drainage system. Streets were oriented east to west. Each street was having a well organized drainage system.

City Walls

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 acropolis and the lower cities

A typical city would be divided into two sections, each fortified separately.

  • One section was located on an artificially raised mound (sometimes called acropolis) while the other level was on level ground.
  • The acropoliscontained the important buildings of the city, like the assembly halls, religious structures, granaries and in the great bath in case of Mohenjo-Daro.
  • The lower section of the city was where the housing for the inhabitants was located. It was here where some truly amazing features have been discovered. The city was well connected with broad roads about 30 meters long which met at right angles. The houses were located in the rectangular squares thus formed.
The Residential Buildings

The residential buildings, which were serviceable enough, were mainly made up of brick and consisted of on open terrace flanked by rooms. These houses were made of standardized baked bricks (which had a ratio of length to width to thickness at 4:2:1) as well as sun dried bricks. Some houses even had multiple stories and paved floors.

In-house wells

Almost every house had its own wells, drains and bathrooms. The in-house well is a common and recognizable feature of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Drainage System

Each house was connected directly to an excellent drainage system, which indicates a highly developed municipal life.


The largest building found at Mohenjo-Daro is a granary, running 150 feet long, 75 feet wide and 15 feet high.

The granary was divided into 27 compartments in three rows.

It was well ventilated and it was possible to fill grain in from outside. The large size of the granary probably indicates a highly developed agricultural civilization.

Great Bath

The Great bath at Mohenjo-Daro is about 179 feet long and 107 feet wide.

The complex has a large quadrangle in the center with galleries and rooms on all sides. In the center of this quadrangle there is a large swimming enclosure that is 39 feet long, 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

The entire complex is connected to an elaborate water supply and sewer system. The Great Bath was probably used for religious or ritualistic purposes.

No Temples

There are no traces of temple architecture or other religious places, yet the people practiced religion. The great bath has been linked to some religious practice.

No weaponry / warfare monuments

Excavations across this culture have not revealed evidence of military forces or weaponry for warfare. While the art of other civilisations has many images of prisoners, monuments to war victories and of other activities related to warfare, the art of the Indus Valley has not a single such depiction. The archaeological evidence points to the fact that the early river valley civilisation in India was remarkable in being a cooperative culture without the rule of kings. The emphasis appears to have been on peaceful trade and not on the development of military might.

Town Planning at Lothal

A different kind of town planning we found at Lothal, in present-day Gujarat, on the western coast of India.  This city was divided into six sections and each section had a wide platform of earthen bricks. Lothal is different from other sites of Indus Valley Civilization in terms of town planning that it has entry to the houses on the main street while in other sites have shown lateral entry.

Lothal Dockyard

Lothal has a large structure that has been identified as a tidal dock for sea-faring ships. There is a great deal of evidence that Indus Valley cities traded extensively with other civilisations of that period. Mesopotamian records mention trade with cities here, and objects from the Indus region have been found in West Asian cities. Lothal’s dock—the world’s earliest known, connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert of today was a part of the Arabian Sea. It was a vital and thriving trade centre in ancient times, with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching the far corners of West Asia and Africa.

Lessons of Urban planning from Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization displayed remarkable planning in its urban towns, especially in the area of sanitation and drainage. To a great extent, it can provide inputs to the present day urbanization. One of the major challenges of urban planning, in India, has been dealing with the haphazard construction of buildings. In the IVC, the streets were built on grid-like patterns, which allowed for methodical and planned growth. In modern times, Le Corbusier’s plans for Chandigarh provided for a rectangular shape with grid iron pattern, which enabled fast movement of traffic and reduced the area. In the IVC, the town was also demarcated clearly between residential areas and common/public areas. The granaries of IVC are also an example of intelligent design, with their strategically placed air ducts and the platforms being divided into units. The houses in the IVC were constructed in such a manner that it didn’t disturb the layout of the roads in any way. The houses had doors that opened out into the lanes instead of the roads. The warehouse in Lothal is an exemplary instance of designing with precision. The drains in the IVC connected each and every house, and enabled them to dump their waste directly. These drains were covered, and they directly connected to the larger sewerage outlets. There were inspection holes on the drains for maintenance purposes and there were manholes on the streets. Thus, urban planning of the IVC has extensively helped us learn from it.