Engineering & artistic excellence of Indus Valley Civilization

Art and architecture flourished in the Indus valley during the 3000 B.C.E. - 1300 B.C.E. Artists and craftsmen were skilled in creating a diverse range of works including terracotta, stone, pottery, seals, toys and jewelry. Flourishing near the banks of the Indus river, this civilization is also known as the Bronze age civilization due to the innovative process of metal casting and use of bronze. Today we look at the artistic excellence combined with the involvement of architectural engineering in the artifacts found in Indus valley civilization. 

A number of sculptures and seals are found from Harappa, an archaeological site of this civilization. Seals were used as a trademark during ancient times and often as a badge of status. They are mostly carved out of soft material like steatite and are found in both rectangular as well as triangular shapes. Animals, natural forms and other mythical creatures are seen as a popular subject carved on seals. The most famous seal that belongs from the Indus valley is the “Pashupati” seal which has a Yogi figure (often considered as Lord Shiva by some scholars) seated in the center with two horned bulls at the the left side, a tiger on the right and a deer under his seat (or throne like pedestal). Many scholars have assumed this a Pashupati- other name of Lord Shiva where all the animals are depicted around him and he sits in the middle of the seal, wearing the crown of animal horns-being indicated as the supreme of all. This is probably one of the earliest forms of Lord Shiva shown in the history of art where the God is represented in an anthropomorphic form. 

As discussed above, the inhabitants of the Indus valley were also known for their architectural designs. Built with fired bricks ( both burnt and sun-dried), sometimes mortared bricks, each city was surrounded by massive walls and gateways. Sites were often raised to a higher platform to combat flooding. There was a great drainage system in the city and each house had a bathroom with outlets that carried waste water to the main drains. Scholars are still studying the “Great Bath”, the popular structure of Mohenjodaro which is probably one of the earliest public water tanks of the ancient times. 

Many objects have been deciphered from the Indus valley that are made of copper based alloys. Bronze is an alloy of copper, tin and zinc  which was extensively used to make sculptures and utensils. The lost wax technique also known as “cire-perdue'' is a well known process used by the Indus valley people for casting wax models into bronze objects. The finest example of this metal casting is a sculpture called “The Dancing” girl excavated from Mohenjo Daro. This figurine is a unique masterpiece known for its elegance in form, rhythm in body gesture and stylized ornaments. It is also popular for the representation of contrapposto-an asymmetrical arrangement of the human body which is often used by artists, where the figure has body weight only on one leg and the other leg rests free. Hence from the evidence of these artifacts and structures we can have a vivid idea that the town planning was a unique feature of Indus people and they lived a highly developed and civilized life having a keen interest in art and craft. 

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