Indus Valley Civilization Notes for UPSC

Dive into the Indus Valley Civilization notes for UPSC with our comprehensive notes designed for competitive exam aspirants. Uncover the mysteries of this ancient civilization, exploring its history, cultural intricacies, and significance for your UPSC exam preparation.

Background of the Indus Valley Civilization

  • The Indus Valley, or Harappan civilization, was the first major urban civilization in South Asia.
  • It existed at the same time as the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
  • The Harappan civilization covered a vast area of around 800,000 square kilometers in South Asia and made important contributions to ancient Indian art and architecture.

Nature of Art and Architecture


Indus Valley Civilization Notes for UPSC
  • Harappan artists were skilled and imaginative.
  • They created realistic human and animal figures with great attention to detail.
  • Terracotta art featured carefully crafted animal figures.


  • Harappan architecture was primarily functional rather than decorative.
  • It was influenced by earlier local cultures.
  • The architecture evolved independently.
  • Architecture and Town Planning

Town Planning:

  • The Harappan cities were planned with a grid system, meaning streets and lanes intersected at right angles, creating rectangular blocks.

Pattern of Houses:

  • Harappan cities typically had two parts: the citadel and the lower town.
  • The citadel was a fortified area with important structures like the great bath and warehouse.
  • The lower town contained houses and workshops.
  • Only a few citadels have been found, suggesting they were for priests or the upper class.

Streets and Roads:

  • The streets and roads in the Indus Valley were straight and met at right angles.
  • Burnt bricks were used to construct these roads.

Drainage System:

  • The Indus Valley had an advanced drainage system that connected houses to street drains.
  • These drains were covered with stone slabs or bricks.
  • Houses had good drainage systems with various room configurations.

Burial Sites:

  • In Harappan burial sites, the dead were placed in pits.
  • Some graves contained pottery and ornaments, believed to be for the afterlife.
  • Jewelry was found in both men’s and women’s graves.
  • An ornament with shell rings, a jasper bead, and microbeads was discovered in a male’s burial at the Harappa cemetery.
The Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient urban society in South Asia. They were skilled artists and had a unique way of building cities. Their cities had two parts: a fortified area for important people and a regular part with houses and workshops. The streets were straight, and they had a good drainage system. When people passed away, they were buried with special items for the afterlife, like jewelry.

Architectural Wonders of Indus Valley Civilization. 

Archaeologists have uncovered the below-mentioned architectural wonders of IVC.

Great Bath at Mohenjo Daro

  • The Great Bath was a big rectangular pool in a special courtyard.
  • It had a covered walkway all around it.
  • People could go down into the pool using steps on the north and south sides.
  • They made sure the pool didn’t leak by putting bricks around it and using special mortar made from gypsum.

Great Granary

  • The Great Granary was one of the largest places to store food found in the Indus Valley, in Mohenjo Daro.
  • Almost every excavation site found this kind of food storage building.
  • They kept important foods like rice, wheat, and barley here.

Dockyard at Lothal

  • Lothal was a harbor town for the Harappans.
  • It was located near the sea, and the sea used to be even closer in the past.
  • People think this place was like an outpost for trading with people from West Asia.
  • Researchers found a special place for boats called a dockyard in Lothal. It’s where they could load and unload things from ships.

Arts and Artifacts of the Indus Valley Civilization

Stone Statues

  • Archaeologists found three-dimensional stone statues in places like Harappa and Mohenjo Daro.
  • Among them, two are significant: one is a part of a man’s body made from red sandstone, and the other is a bust (top part) of a bearded man made from steatite.

Bronze Casting

  • They made bronze statues using a technique called ‘lost wax.’
  • They created both human and animal figures from bronze.
  • Some famous bronze items include the ‘Dancing Girl,’ a buffalo, a goat, a copper dog, a bird, and a bronze bull from Kalibangan.
  • They also found copper tablets with pictures or writing on them.

Terracotta Figures

  • Terracotta means things made from baked clay.
  • The terracotta human figures they found in the Indus Valley were not very detailed.
  • They found more realistic ones in places like Gujarat and Kalibangan.
  • Important terracotta items included a mother goddess, bearded men with coiled hair, and a terracotta mask of a horned deity.
  • They even found toy items made from terracotta, like toy carts, whistles, rattles, and small figures of birds and animals.


  • Thousands of small seals were discovered in different Harappan sites.
  • They used various materials to make these seals, like soft stone (steatite), agate, copper, and more.
  • Each seal had a special picture writing that no one has fully understood yet.
  • The seals had carvings of animals like unicorn bulls, rhinoceros, tigers, elephants, bison, goats, and buffaloes.
  • These seals were used for business and might have been like ancient ID cards.
  • The most famous seal is the Pashupati Seal, which shows a female deity with lots of animals like elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses.
The people of the Indus Valley made various kinds of art and artifacts. They carved stone statues, made bronze figures, and created clay figures. They also had small seals with special writing and pictures, which were used for business and maybe like ID cards. One special seal, the Pashupati Seal, showed a goddess with lots of animals.


Pottery Styles

  • The pottery in the Indus Valley Civilization had various designs and shapes.
  • Most of the pottery was made using a spinning wheel, but some was made by hand.
  • Plain pottery with red clay was common and used for vases, pan bases, and offering stands.
  • Fancy pottery with many colors and carvings was not very common.
  • Perforated pottery had big holes at the bottom and small holes in the walls, maybe for straining liquids.


  • People in the Harappan civilization loved decorating themselves with all sorts of ornaments.
  • They made jewelry like necklaces, headbands, armlets, rings, belts, earrings, and anklets from materials like gold and copper.
  • They used colorful beads made from materials like cornelian, amethyst, jasper, crystal, quartz, steatite, turquoise, and lapis lazuli.
  • Some places, like Chanhu Daro and Lothal, were known for making beads.
  • They also had spindle whorls made of clay and glass, used for spinning thread.


  • The writing of the Harappan people is a mystery because we haven’t figured it out completely.
  • They used around 400 to 600 different signs, with about 40 or 60 being the most important.
  • Most of the writing went from right to left.
  • Their style of writing was called “Boustrophedon,” which means it went from right to left on one line and then left to right on the next line.
The people of the Indus Valley made different types of pottery, from plain red clay to fancy, colorful ones. They also loved wearing jewelry, and they made beads from many materials. We don’t fully understand their writing yet, but it had many signs and went from right to left, like reading a book back and forth.

Significance of Harappan Art and Architecture

Foundation for Civilizations

  • The Harappan civilization was one of the earliest urban civilizations.
  • It laid the groundwork for the routines, ideas, responses, and standards that influenced later periods in Indian history.

Brotherhood and Peace

  • Despite challenges like immigration, climate changes, and social and economic changes, artifacts from the Harappan civilization show that there was very little violence between different groups.
  • This suggests that the culture valued unity, and wealth didn’t lead to economic divisions.

Urban Architecture and Modern City Planning

  • The Harappans were experts in creating drainage systems, managing water, and planning cities.
  • Their skills in these areas serve as a model for modern urban planning.

Sanitation and Hygiene

  • The Harappans had an advanced drainage system and private bathrooms in their homes, showing their emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene.
  • They set the foundation for both personal and societal hygiene in urban planning.

Secular Society

  • Evidence from Harappan sites suggests there was little religious discrimination, and social bonds and a sense of unity were strong.

External Relations and Globalization

  • The Harappan civilization was the first in India to trade with other countries.
  • This laid the groundwork for future civilizations to establish connections with the outside world, a bit like the early stages of modern globalization.
The Harappan civilization was one of the earliest urban societies, and it influenced many aspects of later Indian history. They valued unity and peace, were experts in city planning, prioritized cleanliness, and had a society that was inclusive. They also started trading with other countries, which was like the beginning of today’s globalization.

Overview: Indus Valley Civilization Notes for UPSC

These Indus Valley Civilization Notes for UPSC provide a roadmap for UPSC aspirants seeking a comprehensive understanding of the architectural marvels, artistic expressions, and enduring legacy of the Indus Valley Civilization.

MCQ Test on Indus Valley Civilization

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