Architecture is an important aspect that defines the mind of people, the art, and science of designing building structures. ‘Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness’ – Frank Gehry. This quote perfectly defines the architecture of the Indus Valley Civilization, which is well known for its unique style and lack of foreign influences. It is the engineering of the Bronze Age. The Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient society that existed from around 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE in the Indus Valley, with most of its sites being excavated in modern-day India and Pakistan. It is the first Indian architectural site to be known to the world and is also known as the ‘heaven on earth’ because the people lived with more than sufficient food thanks to their irrigation methods.
The architecture of the Indus Valley Civilization is best known for its town planning, which includes fortification walls, gateways, grid patterns, drainage (known for its sanitation), intercommunication passages, citadels and lower towns, water reservoirs, great baths, granaries, and houses. Harappan structures were built for functional purposes only, not for aesthetic reasons. Most towns in the Indus Valley Civilization followed the same pattern, with a citadel and lower town, followed by intercommunication roads and drainage on both sides of the road, which were created using geometrical tools by the architects. The dwellings were constructed of burnt bricks, with most having a central courtyard, a well, a bathing place, and a kitchen. Each home was connected to an effective drainage system, indicating a well-developed municipal infrastructure. The use of baked bricks and sun-dried bricks can be seen. The staircases of large buildings were solid, and the roofs were flat and made of wood. Smaller houses had two rooms, while larger houses had many rooms. There was clearly a social class divide in Harappan society, with the upper class having large houses with bathrooms, courtyards, wells, and storage inside, and stairs leading to flat roofs with extra space for work and relaxation. Most houses had baths, wells, and covered drains connected to street drains.
Fortification walls were built with mud bricks and limestone. Some examples include Kot biji, where fortified walls were made of limestone and mud bricks, and Kalibangan, which was surrounded by massive mud brick fortifications. Dholavira was constructed with stone rubble set in mud mortar. The need for fortification may have been for natural disasters or for military purposes, to protect from other civilizations, but the military purpose cannot be justified, much as there were no such threats that would have required such measures. Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, and Surkotada had large gateways at various entry points of the city. These gateways can be seen at the front entry of the fortifications. Some forts had two or more gateways. The gateways were of two types, with one being a simple entrance for vehicles and people to use for their daily activities, while the other had some other special importance.
The drainage of Harappa has garnered attention for its excellent techniques, with small drains connecting to larger drains, which then connected to even larger drains that took the entire city’s wastewater outside to open areas or ponds. Each drain was covered with stones or large bricks. Soakage jars, manhole cesspools, and other components were important parts of the drainage system. Small settling pools and traps were built into the drainage system to allow sediment and other material to collect while the water and smaller particles flowed away. These would be cleaned out from time to time. There were also underground pathways for travel that were connected to one another for cleaning and draining water outside the cities.
The streets of the Indus Valley Civilization were built with burnt bricks and ran from north to south and east to west, intersecting with one another. Each street had encasement, and there were street lamps in each street that were used at night for the public. The streets were broad, providing enough space for vehicles and the public to use.
Human nature is not something achieved against nature; it is rather the outcome of the working of the innate qualities of man – Ludwig von Mises. The outcome of the Indus people is in front of us, setting an example for us to follow as a modern world. Their model for town planning, drainage, method for harvesting, and water management is incomparable to any civilization.