The Indus Valley Civilisation, a.k.a the Harappan Civilisation, belonged to the bronze-age society that flourished on Indian soil from the 26 century BC. Considered one of the oldest civilizations in the world, these urban settlements seemed to stand out by virtue of their architectural and modern features like excellent civil engineering and well channelled drainage patterns. The town-planning of Harappans was one of their most notable features, and many such towns had great importance due to their craftsmanship and trade.
Located in the Sindh Province of Pakistan, Mohenjo-Daro was the second-largest site of the Harappan Civilization after Rakhigarhi in Haryana. Situated on the banks of river Indus, it was one of the most advanced towns that ever existed. Read some fascinating facts about the lost city of Mohenjo-Daro that will surely blow your mind!
1. The town was divided into two parts.
Indus Valley Civilsation by Norman Bukhari (Unsplash)
Mohenjo-Daro, like its contemporaries (Kalibangan and Harappa), was also divided into two parts. The western mound or the Citadel was built on a raised platform of mud-brick and consisted of all the important administrative structures like The Great Bath, granaries, and the college of priests. It was fortified by a thick mud-brick retaining wall. The Eastern or the low-lying part of the town was also fortified and was meant for the settlement of commoners. Numerous streets and small alleys ran across this part of the city. Within this section, many sub-parts were built according to the guild systems. As people settled here, a large number of artifacts and information regarding the burial practices were found in this area.
2. Mohenjo-Daro was not a perfect grid-patterned town.
Image by Nazdir81 via Wikimedia Commons
Although it is believed that the Harappan roads were laid on a grid-pattern orientation, Mohenjo-Daro, despite its size and significance, doesn’t show a perfect grid system. Even though cities were perfectly planned, the roads weren’t always straight and meant to meet at right angles. It was these roads in the lower city that separated it into four blocks. They were made of mud-brick and were connected by the subordinate roads and alleys. The main road was enough to fit two bullock-carts parallel to each other!
3. It had the world’s best-channeled drainage system.
Mohenjo-daro drainage system by bennylin0724 via Wikimedia Commons
The drainage system was one of the most remarkable features of the Harappan cities. Every house was connected to the main drain that ran across the city. These interconnected drains were then integrated, and thus, the whole sewage was thrown out of the city premises. As these closed drains had to be cleaned regularly, the lids were deliberately carved out of limestones, which are relatively lighter than the other rocks. The Harappans also used bitumen in these drains, which is one of the earliest examples of waterproofing in the world.
4. There were multi-storey buildings in Mohenjo-Daro.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
People of Mohenjo-Daro lived in houses that had similar features throughout the town. They consisted of a central courtyard surrounded by rooms. Almost every household had individual toilets and bathrooms. The doors and windows always opened in the alleys. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few can be seen through the dimensions of their houses. For instance, the commoners lived in a single-storey house while the rich lived in a double or sometimes treble-storey house.
5. The Great Bath.
The Great Bath by bennylin0724 via Wikimedia Commons
The Great Bath is a rectangular public pool situated in the citadel complex. Nobody knows why such public baths were present in the acropolis, but it is often opined that these baths held spiritual importance. Nonetheless, the Great Bath is a structural masterpiece having modern-day features. It had stairs and changing rooms on both sides of the pool. The bath is sloped towards one side so that the water can be drawn away regularly. The Great Bath was made water-tight by using gypsum and bitumen. Also, it is connected to a nearby well for its water supply. There are big entrances in the North and South of this complex, but who had access to it and what was the purpose of it is still unknown.
6. Mohenjo-Daro had a total of 700 wells.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Though Mohenjo-Daro was located near River Indus, the people relied on private and public wells for their needs. There are a total of 700 wells found in this area. The drains used to collect rainwater were different from the sewage ones. It can be also estimated that, in Mohenjo-Daro, every household had its private well. The Great Bath was also supplied water through one such well. Overall, Mohenjo-Daro had the largest number of wells then, while the other towns like Harappa and Dholavira had very few of them.
7. The Harappans were excellent craftsmen.
Dancing Girl Image by Joe Ravi via Wikimedia Commons
A large number of artifacts have been found from the lower town where the people of Mohenjo-Daro resided. Bronze sculptures were made through a technique called the Lost-Wax technique, which is still used in craftsmanship. Another iconic sculpture of a girl standing with her arms stretched towards her knees and a pouty-face was excavated here. The Dancing Girl, as it has been named, is said to be way ahead of its time. A British archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler, described it as, “A girl perfectly, for the moment, perfectly confident of herself and the world. There's nothing like her, I think, in the world".
8. People here were fond of wearing ornaments and jewellery.
Seven stranded necklace via Wikimedia Commons
Various excavations in Mohenjo-Daro suggest that people here were fond of making and wearing ornaments made of precious stones and metals. Although precious stones like Lapis Lazuli and others were imported from the adjoining Afghanistan area, precious metals like gold and silver were extracted from the Khetri mines in Rajasthan. People wore bangles and necklaces. Beads made of semi-precious stones like steatite and agate were also popular. The Seven-stranded necklace, made of gold and semi-precious stones, is one of the most exclusive pieces of jewellery excavated from this place.
9. People worshipped a figure which was similar to Shiva.
Pashupati Seal Image by Wikimedia Commons
Initially, it was believed that the Harappans were nature worshippers. But later on, it was found that the Harappan society was matriarchal. The goddess of birth and fertility, known as the Mother Goddess, had great significance in their lives. A large number of terracotta figurines have been obtained of Shakambari or the mother goddess. Through their seals, we also get to know about Pashupati or Proto-Shiva. The male figure on the seals has features similar to those of the modern-day Shiva. His visible phallus and his yogic posture show that he held great significance in society. Some people also opined that he was a tribal head and protector of tribes, as many animals are seen around him.
10. The Massacre in Mohenjo-Daro.
Image by Hemanshu Kumar via Wikimedia Commons
Although the reasons for the decline of this urban civilization are still unknown, it was earlier believed that Aryan invaders plundered the towns of Harappa, and thus, the city started to lose its significance. However, recent studies depict that climate change was the main cause of the decline of this civilization. It was the so-called massacre that happened in Mohenjo-Daro that led historians to believe in such theories. In the lower city, a group of skeletons was found in the same complex. This made historians come up with the theory of external invasion. However, various observations clearly contradict the happening of such a massacre.
Mohenjo-Daro, like the other Harappan towns, gradually lost its importance as, initially, the trade declined, and soon the people abandoned the city due to climate change. The discoveries and innovations in crafts, town planning, personal and public hygiene served as guidelines for the next generations in the subcontinent. The artifacts also helped modern-day historians understand their socio-political and religious practices.
The historians warned that these mounds will get completely weathered by 2030 if necessary precautions are not taken. The Pakistan Archaeological Department has thus banned further excavation of Mohenjo-Daro and has sought help from UNESCO for its restoration and conservation.
Pratha Content Writing Intern