Historical Information on Indus Valley Civilization!

Art is a valuable heritage in the culture of a people. When one speaks of art one generally means the visual arts—architecture, sculpture and painting.

In the past all three aspects intermingled. Architecture involved sculpture as well as painting.

Indian art, at least in the olden days, scholars point out, was inspired by religion. However, there is nothing ascetic or self-denying about it.

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The artists and craftsmen may have worked according to priestly instructions, but in expressing themselves they showed their delight in the world as they found it.

Indeed there is a holistic vision expressed through Indian art, a vision that is always aware of the divine principle behind the material world, the eternal diversity of life and nature, and above all, the human element. The history of Indian art covers about five thousand years of almost continuous evolution.

Architecture and Sculpture:


Ancient and medieval Indian architecture cannot be viewed in isolation from sculpture which was almost integral to it. Perhaps only the Indus Valley culture is an exception in this context, for its buildings are utilitarian, without artistic flourishes. May be, their decorative embellishments have been lost over time. However, the art of sculpture was well developed.

Statues and Seals of Indus Valley:

Though called ‘Indus Valley’ or ‘Harappa’ culture, this civilisation had a much larger spread and apparently was well advanced.

Based on archaeological evidence the main period of florescence of this culture—its mature or urban phase—is believed to have taken place sometime between 2100 and 1750 BC, though Indus-type artifacts have been found in Mesopotamia dating around 2300 BC.


Judging from the scientific layout of magnificent cities, the excellence of the materials used in the construction of the houses which included baths, upper-storeys and wells, the existence of citadels, assembly halls, granaries, workshops, hostels, market-places, and an almost modern drainage system, it was a culture of high order. It was natural that arts and crafts should flourish greatly in a society that was so advanced.

Among the surviving works of art of this civilisation, the most beautiful perhaps is a miniature bronze girl with thin, stick­like limbs who holds a bowl against her thigh. There are two mutilated torsos in limestone and red stone from Harappa. There is a vital dynamic quality and plastic subtlety expressed in these statuettes.

Of all the sculptural pieces the best preserved is a seven- inch high head and shoulder of a man, the face wearing a short beard and a closely cut moustache, and the body draped in a shawl passing round the left shoulder and under the right arm, suggesting the image of a priest.

This statue and other statues of bearded heads found at Mohenjo-Daro have some similarity with the statuary at Sumeria, but the technical details might be superficial without any real affinity.

There are a variety of objects made in terracotta which include all kinds of small figurines and ceramic vessels of various shapes and designs. Particularly charming are the clay animal figures which may well have been intended for toys, for they are playful in mood and small in scale. The numerous jars and bowls are painted with designs usually derived from nature and connected with fertility.

Among the objects found at the Indus sites are numerous small square steatite seals with carved designs along with pictographic scripts. The seals may have belonged to individuals who used them to mark property and authenticate contracts. The prism-shaped sealing’s were probably records of contracts.

The scenes the seals illustrate include a large number of bulls and occasionally other animals. According to expert opinion “the animal seals are among the world’s greatest examples of an artist’s ability to embody the essentials of a given form in artistic shape.

These are not portraits of any individual bulls, but universal representation of a species.” Over 2,000 seals and seal impressions with 400 different signs have been found at the Indus Valley and to this date there has been no confirmed decipherment. Hence our knowledge of the civilisation is inadequate in many respects.