Town Planning System of Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan Civilization)

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Town Planning System of Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan Civilization)

Town Planning System  

The Town Planning System of Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan Civilization) was city based. The excellent drainage and sanitation systems are remarkable.

Urban Cities: The Indus civilization flourished around cities. The ruins of the cities, so far unearthed, show remarkable town planning, and excellent system of drainage and sanitation of the Indus Valley Civilization. The city was the heart of the civilization. The life in the Indus cities gives the impression of ‘a democratic bourgeois economy” like that of ancient Crete.

Large cities divided into two parts: Both at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro and also at Kalibangan, the city was divided into two main parts. The higher and upper portion of the city was protected by a construction which looks like a fort. The ruling class of the towns perhaps lived in the protected area. The other part of the towns was lower in height than the former and common men lived in this area. The lower area of the towns generally spread over one square mile.


The main streets of Indus Valley ran from north to south and east to west intersecting one another at right angles. The streets were broad varying from 9 feet to 34 feet. They ran straight to a mile. They were suitable for wheeled traffic. Lanes were joined with the streets. Each lane had a public welt. Street lamps were provided for welfare of public.

Systematically built Buildings and Houses

The nature of the buildings at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro shows that the town dwellers were divided into various social classes. The rich and the ruling class lived in the multi-roomed spacious houses and the poorer section lived in small tenements. The public building and big houses were situated on the streets. The modest houses were situated on the lanes. Encroachment on public roads or lanes by building houses was not permitted. The houses can be divided into three main groups viz.

  • dwelling houses,
  • larger buildings,
  • Public baths.

Smaller houses had two rooms, while larger houses had many rooms. There were courtyards attached to big buildings. There was little artistic touch in the architectural design of the buildings belonging either to the rich or the poor. They were plain, utilitarian and comfortable to live. Some of the buildings were probably multi-storied.

Most of the houses had baths, wells and covered drains connected with street drains. Ordinary buildings had little ventilation arrangements, as doors and windows were rarely fixed in the outer walls. Doors of entrance were fixed not on the front wall but on the side walls. One could enter a house by the door facing the side lanes of the house. The doors were made of wood. Large buildings had spacious doors.

Building Materials

There was no stone built house in the Indus cities. Most of the houses were built of burnt bricks. But unburnt sun-dried bricks were also used. That portion of the buildings where contamination with water was possible, burnt bricks were used. For other parts sun-dried bricks were used. Most of the bricks were of equal size. The staircases of big buildings were solid; the roofs were flat and were made of wood.

Drainage System

The elaborate drainage system was a remarkable feature of the civilization. According to D. D. Kosambi, the drainage plans of the Indus cities definitely establish the separate identity or independent character of the Indus civilization. No ancient civilization before the Roman civilization had such an advanced drainage and sanitation system. Each house had horizontal and vertical drains. There were underground drains for the streets. These drains were covered by stone slabs. The soak pits were made of bricks. The house drains were connected with road drains.

Great Public Bath and Granary of Indus Valley Civilization

There is an impressive building which was used as a public bath. The overall dimension of the Bath is 180 feet by 108 feet. The bathing pool is 39 feet by 23 feet with 8 feet depth. There is a device to fill and empty the water of the bathing pool. There are galleries and rooms on all sides of the bathing pool. Dr. Kosambi has provided an interpretation of the bathing pool and the adjoining rooms which is ingenuous. According to him, men used to bathe in the tanks as a ritual for the mother goddess to whom the citadel belonged. This public bath was attached to the Mohenjo-Daro fort where upper class people lived. Among the other large buildings there was a big hall which was perhaps used for public meeting.

There is the ruin of a great granary at Harappa measuring 169 fit x 135 fit. Attached to the granary were two roomed tenements with a common courtyard. These tenements housed the workers or the slaves who thrashed the corn to be preserved in the granary.

Declining Stage of the City

The advanced style of the Indus city life found in the earlier layers is absent in the later layers. In later layers there was a marked decline in civic discipline. Buildings encroached on the roads. Lanes were chocked with klins. Slums grew around. At Harappa and more clearly, at Mohenjo-Daro excavation has revealed the general shape of town planning system of the Indus Valley Civilization.


Modern archaeologists have been impressed by the perfectness of the town planning system of the Indus Valley civilization. The systematic construction of residential houses and public buildings, laying down of principal streets, etc. are comparable with the modern day city planning.

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