Notes for Arts of the Indus Valley Civilzation | Art and Culture | UPSC


We studied about Indus Valley Civilisation earlier from ancient India perspective, here we will look towards Indus Valley from Art and Culture perspective. 

Characteristics of the arts of the Indus Valley Civilisation 

  1. The arts of the Indus valley include sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures, etc.
  2. Artist of that tome had a vivid imagination and fine artistic sense.
  3. Anatomical details in human and animal figures were highly realistic and unique in nature.
  4. The cities of the Harappa in the north and the Mohenjo-Daro in the south showcase civic planning.
  5. The architecture consists of houses, markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths and so on.
  6. Harappa and Mohenjodaro are located in present-day Pakistan whereas Lothal, Dholavira, Rakihigarhi, Ropar, Kalibangan and Balathal are present in India.

Now let us discuss the arts of the Harappa one by one-

Stone Statues

  1. Excellent examples of handling Three-dimensional volumes

Male Torso

  • Red sandstone figure.
  • Socket holes in the neck and shoulders for the attachment of head and arms.
  • The abdomen is slightly prominent. 

Bearded Priest

  1. He is draped in a shawl. The shawl is covering his left shoulder.
  2. The shawl is decorated with three-lobed trefoil pattern.
  3. The eyes are elongated and the nose is prominent.
  4. Hair is parted in the middle. On the right hand, there is armlet.
  5. Close-cut moustache and a short beard.  
  6. Holes around the neck suggest a necklace.

Bronze Casting

Lost Wax Technique: Also called Cire Perdue. Wax model is covered with clay. After the wax is melted and drained away. Hollow mould is filled with metal.

Examples of the Harappan Metal Casting –

  1. Dancing Girl from Mohenjodaro
  2. Buffalo with uplifted head
  3. Bull from Kalibangan
  4. The copper dog and bird of the Lothal

So we can conclude that metal cast sculptures mainly consist of human and animal figures.


  1. Terracotta is a hollow figurine of clay which is baked on fire
  2. Terracotta is crude and raw. Not detailed and refined like bronze sculptures 
  3. More realistic in Gujarat sites and Kalibangan.
  4. Examples- Mother goddess, bearded male with coiled hairs, terracotta of horned deity, toy carts with wheels, whistle, rattles, birds and animals

Bearded Male With Coiled hairs

  1. Posture rigidly upright
  2. Legs slightly apart
  3. Arms parallel to the side of the body
  4. Repetition of the same figure suggests he was a deity


  • Seals were made of steatite- mineral talc in consolidated form. It is an ore of magnesium. 
  • Animals such as unicorn bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, bison, goat, buffalo were shown.
  • Some seals in gold and ivory.
  • Used as an identity card. Also to mark the authority of the trade.
  • Standard Harappan seal: 2 x 2 square inches.
  • Seals contain symbols and animals. Mostly seals were pictographic. The pictographic script is yet to be deciphered.
  • Also used as an amulet to ward off evil

Pashupati Seal

  • The seated deity in meditation pose
  • Found in Mohenjo-Daro.
  • A human figure seated cross-legged.
  • Elephant + Tiger + Rhino + Buffalo + Antelope
  • Three-horned headgear on top of deity


  • IVC sites have artistic fine wheel-made wares
  • Plain pottery is more common than painted ware. It is generally red clay, with or without a fine red or grey slip.
  • Black Painted Ware: fine coating of red slip. With geometric and animal designs.
  • Painted Earthen Jar: Found in Mohenjo-Daro. High polishing +  Motifs are vegetal + geometric forms with simple designs. 

Beads, Ornaments and Cosmetics:

  • The Harappans loved jewellery and ornaments. Also, they were conscious of fashion.
  • Used precious metals + gemstones + bone + baked clay.
  • White necklaces, fillets, armlets and finger rings were common.
  • Gold + semiprecious metal stones + copper bracelets + beads + gold earrings + head ornaments.
  • @Farmona in Harappa: dead bodies were buried with ornaments.
  • Chauhudaro and Lothal: Well developed bead industries were present 
  • The spinning of cotton + wool was common (both rich and poor practised spinning).
  • Men and women wore two separate pieces of clothes similar to dhoti and shawl.
  • Shawl covered the left shoulder passing below right arm.
  • Different hairstyles were in vogue + beard was popular.
  • Cinnabar was used as a cosmetic and face-paint, 
  • lipstick and collyrium (eyeliner) were known to them.

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