NCERT Textbook: Arts of The Indus Valley (Introduction to Indian Art) Notes | Study Must Read (Old & New) NCERTs for IAS Preparation - UPSC

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 Page 1


T
HE arts of the Indus Valley Civilisation emerged during
the second half of the third millennium BCE. The forms
of art found from various sites of the civilisation include
sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures,
etc. The artists of that time surely had fine artistic
sensibilities and a vivid imagination. Their delineation of
human and animal figures was highly realistic in nature,
since the anatomical details included in them was unique,
and, in the case of terracotta art, the modelling of animal
figures was done in an extremely careful manner.
The two major sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation,
along the Indus river—the cities of Harappa in the north
and Mohenjodaro in the south—showcase one of earliest
examples of civic planning. Other markers were houses,
markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths, etc.,
arranged in a grid-like pattern. There was also a highly
developed drainage system. While  Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are situated in Pakistan, the important sites
excavated in India are Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat,
Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Ropar in the Punjab,
Kalibangan and Balathal in Rajasthan, etc.
Statues whether in stone, bronze or terracotta
found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
Stone Statues
The stone statuaries found at Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are excellent examples of handling three-
dimensional volumes. In stone are two male figures—
one is a torso in red sandstone and the other is a
bust of a bearded man in steatite—which are
extensively discussed.
The figure of the bearded man interpreted as a
priest, is draped in a shawl coming under the right
arm and covering the left shoulder. This shawl is
decorated with trefoil patterns. The eyes are a little
elongated, and half-closed as in meditative
concentration. The nose is well formed and of medium
ARTS OF
THE INDUS VALLEY
Bust of a bearded priest
2
Page 2


T
HE arts of the Indus Valley Civilisation emerged during
the second half of the third millennium BCE. The forms
of art found from various sites of the civilisation include
sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures,
etc. The artists of that time surely had fine artistic
sensibilities and a vivid imagination. Their delineation of
human and animal figures was highly realistic in nature,
since the anatomical details included in them was unique,
and, in the case of terracotta art, the modelling of animal
figures was done in an extremely careful manner.
The two major sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation,
along the Indus river—the cities of Harappa in the north
and Mohenjodaro in the south—showcase one of earliest
examples of civic planning. Other markers were houses,
markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths, etc.,
arranged in a grid-like pattern. There was also a highly
developed drainage system. While  Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are situated in Pakistan, the important sites
excavated in India are Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat,
Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Ropar in the Punjab,
Kalibangan and Balathal in Rajasthan, etc.
Statues whether in stone, bronze or terracotta
found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
Stone Statues
The stone statuaries found at Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are excellent examples of handling three-
dimensional volumes. In stone are two male figures—
one is a torso in red sandstone and the other is a
bust of a bearded man in steatite—which are
extensively discussed.
The figure of the bearded man interpreted as a
priest, is draped in a shawl coming under the right
arm and covering the left shoulder. This shawl is
decorated with trefoil patterns. The eyes are a little
elongated, and half-closed as in meditative
concentration. The nose is well formed and of medium
ARTS OF
THE INDUS VALLEY
Bust of a bearded priest
2
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 10
size; the mouth is of average size with close-cut moustache
and a short beard and whiskers; the ears resemble double
shells with a hole in the middle. The hair is parted in the
middle, and a plain woven fillet is passed round the head.
An armlet is worn on the right hand and holes around the
neck suggest a necklace.
Bronze Casting
The art of bronze-casting was practised on a wide scale by
the Harappans. Their bronze statues were made using the
‘lost wax’ technique in which the wax figures were first
covered with a coating of clay and allowed to dry. Then the
wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out
through a tiny hole made in the clay cover. The hollow
mould thus created was filled with molten metal which
took the original shape of the object. Once the metal cooled,
the clay cover was completely removed. In bronze we find
human as well as animal figures, the best example of the
former being the statue of a girl popularly titled ‘Dancing
Girl’. Amongst animal figures in bronze the buffalo with
its uplifted head, back and sweeping horns and the goat
are of artistic merit. Bronze casting was popular at all the
major centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The copper
dog and bird of Lothal and the bronze figure of a bull from
Kalibangan are in no way inferior to the human figures of
copper and bronze from Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Metal-
casting appears to be a continuous tradition. The late
Harappan and Chalcolithic sites like Daimabad in
Maharashtra yielded excellent examples of metal-cast
Mother goddess, terracotta A terracotta figurine
Bronze casting
techniques of the
same nature are
practised even now
in many parts of the
country, having a
continuous
tradition.
Page 3


T
HE arts of the Indus Valley Civilisation emerged during
the second half of the third millennium BCE. The forms
of art found from various sites of the civilisation include
sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures,
etc. The artists of that time surely had fine artistic
sensibilities and a vivid imagination. Their delineation of
human and animal figures was highly realistic in nature,
since the anatomical details included in them was unique,
and, in the case of terracotta art, the modelling of animal
figures was done in an extremely careful manner.
The two major sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation,
along the Indus river—the cities of Harappa in the north
and Mohenjodaro in the south—showcase one of earliest
examples of civic planning. Other markers were houses,
markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths, etc.,
arranged in a grid-like pattern. There was also a highly
developed drainage system. While  Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are situated in Pakistan, the important sites
excavated in India are Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat,
Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Ropar in the Punjab,
Kalibangan and Balathal in Rajasthan, etc.
Statues whether in stone, bronze or terracotta
found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
Stone Statues
The stone statuaries found at Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are excellent examples of handling three-
dimensional volumes. In stone are two male figures—
one is a torso in red sandstone and the other is a
bust of a bearded man in steatite—which are
extensively discussed.
The figure of the bearded man interpreted as a
priest, is draped in a shawl coming under the right
arm and covering the left shoulder. This shawl is
decorated with trefoil patterns. The eyes are a little
elongated, and half-closed as in meditative
concentration. The nose is well formed and of medium
ARTS OF
THE INDUS VALLEY
Bust of a bearded priest
2
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 10
size; the mouth is of average size with close-cut moustache
and a short beard and whiskers; the ears resemble double
shells with a hole in the middle. The hair is parted in the
middle, and a plain woven fillet is passed round the head.
An armlet is worn on the right hand and holes around the
neck suggest a necklace.
Bronze Casting
The art of bronze-casting was practised on a wide scale by
the Harappans. Their bronze statues were made using the
‘lost wax’ technique in which the wax figures were first
covered with a coating of clay and allowed to dry. Then the
wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out
through a tiny hole made in the clay cover. The hollow
mould thus created was filled with molten metal which
took the original shape of the object. Once the metal cooled,
the clay cover was completely removed. In bronze we find
human as well as animal figures, the best example of the
former being the statue of a girl popularly titled ‘Dancing
Girl’. Amongst animal figures in bronze the buffalo with
its uplifted head, back and sweeping horns and the goat
are of artistic merit. Bronze casting was popular at all the
major centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The copper
dog and bird of Lothal and the bronze figure of a bull from
Kalibangan are in no way inferior to the human figures of
copper and bronze from Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Metal-
casting appears to be a continuous tradition. The late
Harappan and Chalcolithic sites like Daimabad in
Maharashtra yielded excellent examples of metal-cast
Mother goddess, terracotta A terracotta figurine
Bronze casting
techniques of the
same nature are
practised even now
in many parts of the
country, having a
continuous
tradition.
ARTS OF THE INDUS VALLEY 11
sculptures. They mainly consist of human and animal
figures. It shows how the tradition of figure sculpture
continued down the ages.
Terracotta
The Indus Valley people made terracotta images also  but
compared to the stone and bronze statues the terracotta
representations of human form are crude in the Indus
Valley. They are more realistic in Gujarat sites and
Kalibangan. The most important among the Indus figures
are those representing the mother goddess. In terracotta,
we also find a few figurines of bearded males with coiled
hair, their posture rigidly upright, legs slightly apart, and
the arms parallel to the sides of the body. The repetition of
this figure in exactly the same position would suggest that
he was a deity. A terracotta mask of a horned deity has
also been found. Toy carts with wheels, whistles, rattles,
birds and animals, gamesmen and discs were also rendered
in terracotta.
Seals
Archaeologists have discovered thousands of seals, usually
made of steatite, and occasionally of agate, chert, copper,
faience and terracotta, with beautiful figures of animals,
such as unicorn bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, bison,
goat, buffalo, etc. The realistic rendering of these animals
in various moods is remarkable. The purpose of producing
seals was mainly commercial. It appears that the seals
were also used as amulets, carried on the persons of their
owners, perhaps as modern-day identity cards. The
standard Harappan seal was a square plaque 2×2 square
inches, usually made from the soft river stone, steatite.
Every seal is engraved in a pictographic script which is
yet to be deciphered. Some seals have also been found in
gold and ivory. They all bear a great variety of motifs, most
often of animals including those of the bull, with or without
Terracotta
Page 4


T
HE arts of the Indus Valley Civilisation emerged during
the second half of the third millennium BCE. The forms
of art found from various sites of the civilisation include
sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures,
etc. The artists of that time surely had fine artistic
sensibilities and a vivid imagination. Their delineation of
human and animal figures was highly realistic in nature,
since the anatomical details included in them was unique,
and, in the case of terracotta art, the modelling of animal
figures was done in an extremely careful manner.
The two major sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation,
along the Indus river—the cities of Harappa in the north
and Mohenjodaro in the south—showcase one of earliest
examples of civic planning. Other markers were houses,
markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths, etc.,
arranged in a grid-like pattern. There was also a highly
developed drainage system. While  Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are situated in Pakistan, the important sites
excavated in India are Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat,
Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Ropar in the Punjab,
Kalibangan and Balathal in Rajasthan, etc.
Statues whether in stone, bronze or terracotta
found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
Stone Statues
The stone statuaries found at Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are excellent examples of handling three-
dimensional volumes. In stone are two male figures—
one is a torso in red sandstone and the other is a
bust of a bearded man in steatite—which are
extensively discussed.
The figure of the bearded man interpreted as a
priest, is draped in a shawl coming under the right
arm and covering the left shoulder. This shawl is
decorated with trefoil patterns. The eyes are a little
elongated, and half-closed as in meditative
concentration. The nose is well formed and of medium
ARTS OF
THE INDUS VALLEY
Bust of a bearded priest
2
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 10
size; the mouth is of average size with close-cut moustache
and a short beard and whiskers; the ears resemble double
shells with a hole in the middle. The hair is parted in the
middle, and a plain woven fillet is passed round the head.
An armlet is worn on the right hand and holes around the
neck suggest a necklace.
Bronze Casting
The art of bronze-casting was practised on a wide scale by
the Harappans. Their bronze statues were made using the
‘lost wax’ technique in which the wax figures were first
covered with a coating of clay and allowed to dry. Then the
wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out
through a tiny hole made in the clay cover. The hollow
mould thus created was filled with molten metal which
took the original shape of the object. Once the metal cooled,
the clay cover was completely removed. In bronze we find
human as well as animal figures, the best example of the
former being the statue of a girl popularly titled ‘Dancing
Girl’. Amongst animal figures in bronze the buffalo with
its uplifted head, back and sweeping horns and the goat
are of artistic merit. Bronze casting was popular at all the
major centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The copper
dog and bird of Lothal and the bronze figure of a bull from
Kalibangan are in no way inferior to the human figures of
copper and bronze from Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Metal-
casting appears to be a continuous tradition. The late
Harappan and Chalcolithic sites like Daimabad in
Maharashtra yielded excellent examples of metal-cast
Mother goddess, terracotta A terracotta figurine
Bronze casting
techniques of the
same nature are
practised even now
in many parts of the
country, having a
continuous
tradition.
ARTS OF THE INDUS VALLEY 11
sculptures. They mainly consist of human and animal
figures. It shows how the tradition of figure sculpture
continued down the ages.
Terracotta
The Indus Valley people made terracotta images also  but
compared to the stone and bronze statues the terracotta
representations of human form are crude in the Indus
Valley. They are more realistic in Gujarat sites and
Kalibangan. The most important among the Indus figures
are those representing the mother goddess. In terracotta,
we also find a few figurines of bearded males with coiled
hair, their posture rigidly upright, legs slightly apart, and
the arms parallel to the sides of the body. The repetition of
this figure in exactly the same position would suggest that
he was a deity. A terracotta mask of a horned deity has
also been found. Toy carts with wheels, whistles, rattles,
birds and animals, gamesmen and discs were also rendered
in terracotta.
Seals
Archaeologists have discovered thousands of seals, usually
made of steatite, and occasionally of agate, chert, copper,
faience and terracotta, with beautiful figures of animals,
such as unicorn bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, bison,
goat, buffalo, etc. The realistic rendering of these animals
in various moods is remarkable. The purpose of producing
seals was mainly commercial. It appears that the seals
were also used as amulets, carried on the persons of their
owners, perhaps as modern-day identity cards. The
standard Harappan seal was a square plaque 2×2 square
inches, usually made from the soft river stone, steatite.
Every seal is engraved in a pictographic script which is
yet to be deciphered. Some seals have also been found in
gold and ivory. They all bear a great variety of motifs, most
often of animals including those of the bull, with or without
Terracotta
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 12
the hump, the elephant, tiger, goat and also
monsters. Sometimes trees or human figures
were also depicted. The most remarkable seal
is the one depicted with a figure in the centre
and animals around. This seal is generally
identified as the Pashupati Seal by some
scholars whereas some identify it as the female
deity. This seal depicts a human figure seated
cross-legged. An elephant and a tiger are
depicted to the right side of the seated figure,
while on the left a rhinoceros and a buffalo
are seen. In addition to these animals two
antelopes are shown below the seat. Seals
such as these date from between 2500 and
1500 BCE and were found in considerable
numbers in sites such as the ancient city of
Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley. Figures and
animals are carved in intaglio on their
surfaces.
Square or rectangular copper tablets, with
an animal or a human figure on one side and
an inscription on the other, or an inscription
on both sides have also been found. The figures
and signs are carefully cut with a burin. These
copper tablets appear to have been amulets.
Unlike inscriptions on seals which vary in each
case, inscriptions on the copper tablets seem
to be associated with the animals portrayed
on them.
Pashupati seal/female deity
Unicorn seals
Page 5


T
HE arts of the Indus Valley Civilisation emerged during
the second half of the third millennium BCE. The forms
of art found from various sites of the civilisation include
sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures,
etc. The artists of that time surely had fine artistic
sensibilities and a vivid imagination. Their delineation of
human and animal figures was highly realistic in nature,
since the anatomical details included in them was unique,
and, in the case of terracotta art, the modelling of animal
figures was done in an extremely careful manner.
The two major sites of the Indus Valley Civilisation,
along the Indus river—the cities of Harappa in the north
and Mohenjodaro in the south—showcase one of earliest
examples of civic planning. Other markers were houses,
markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths, etc.,
arranged in a grid-like pattern. There was also a highly
developed drainage system. While  Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are situated in Pakistan, the important sites
excavated in India are Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat,
Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Ropar in the Punjab,
Kalibangan and Balathal in Rajasthan, etc.
Statues whether in stone, bronze or terracotta
found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
Stone Statues
The stone statuaries found at Harappa and
Mohenjodaro are excellent examples of handling three-
dimensional volumes. In stone are two male figures—
one is a torso in red sandstone and the other is a
bust of a bearded man in steatite—which are
extensively discussed.
The figure of the bearded man interpreted as a
priest, is draped in a shawl coming under the right
arm and covering the left shoulder. This shawl is
decorated with trefoil patterns. The eyes are a little
elongated, and half-closed as in meditative
concentration. The nose is well formed and of medium
ARTS OF
THE INDUS VALLEY
Bust of a bearded priest
2
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 10
size; the mouth is of average size with close-cut moustache
and a short beard and whiskers; the ears resemble double
shells with a hole in the middle. The hair is parted in the
middle, and a plain woven fillet is passed round the head.
An armlet is worn on the right hand and holes around the
neck suggest a necklace.
Bronze Casting
The art of bronze-casting was practised on a wide scale by
the Harappans. Their bronze statues were made using the
‘lost wax’ technique in which the wax figures were first
covered with a coating of clay and allowed to dry. Then the
wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out
through a tiny hole made in the clay cover. The hollow
mould thus created was filled with molten metal which
took the original shape of the object. Once the metal cooled,
the clay cover was completely removed. In bronze we find
human as well as animal figures, the best example of the
former being the statue of a girl popularly titled ‘Dancing
Girl’. Amongst animal figures in bronze the buffalo with
its uplifted head, back and sweeping horns and the goat
are of artistic merit. Bronze casting was popular at all the
major centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The copper
dog and bird of Lothal and the bronze figure of a bull from
Kalibangan are in no way inferior to the human figures of
copper and bronze from Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Metal-
casting appears to be a continuous tradition. The late
Harappan and Chalcolithic sites like Daimabad in
Maharashtra yielded excellent examples of metal-cast
Mother goddess, terracotta A terracotta figurine
Bronze casting
techniques of the
same nature are
practised even now
in many parts of the
country, having a
continuous
tradition.
ARTS OF THE INDUS VALLEY 11
sculptures. They mainly consist of human and animal
figures. It shows how the tradition of figure sculpture
continued down the ages.
Terracotta
The Indus Valley people made terracotta images also  but
compared to the stone and bronze statues the terracotta
representations of human form are crude in the Indus
Valley. They are more realistic in Gujarat sites and
Kalibangan. The most important among the Indus figures
are those representing the mother goddess. In terracotta,
we also find a few figurines of bearded males with coiled
hair, their posture rigidly upright, legs slightly apart, and
the arms parallel to the sides of the body. The repetition of
this figure in exactly the same position would suggest that
he was a deity. A terracotta mask of a horned deity has
also been found. Toy carts with wheels, whistles, rattles,
birds and animals, gamesmen and discs were also rendered
in terracotta.
Seals
Archaeologists have discovered thousands of seals, usually
made of steatite, and occasionally of agate, chert, copper,
faience and terracotta, with beautiful figures of animals,
such as unicorn bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, bison,
goat, buffalo, etc. The realistic rendering of these animals
in various moods is remarkable. The purpose of producing
seals was mainly commercial. It appears that the seals
were also used as amulets, carried on the persons of their
owners, perhaps as modern-day identity cards. The
standard Harappan seal was a square plaque 2×2 square
inches, usually made from the soft river stone, steatite.
Every seal is engraved in a pictographic script which is
yet to be deciphered. Some seals have also been found in
gold and ivory. They all bear a great variety of motifs, most
often of animals including those of the bull, with or without
Terracotta
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART 12
the hump, the elephant, tiger, goat and also
monsters. Sometimes trees or human figures
were also depicted. The most remarkable seal
is the one depicted with a figure in the centre
and animals around. This seal is generally
identified as the Pashupati Seal by some
scholars whereas some identify it as the female
deity. This seal depicts a human figure seated
cross-legged. An elephant and a tiger are
depicted to the right side of the seated figure,
while on the left a rhinoceros and a buffalo
are seen. In addition to these animals two
antelopes are shown below the seat. Seals
such as these date from between 2500 and
1500 BCE and were found in considerable
numbers in sites such as the ancient city of
Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley. Figures and
animals are carved in intaglio on their
surfaces.
Square or rectangular copper tablets, with
an animal or a human figure on one side and
an inscription on the other, or an inscription
on both sides have also been found. The figures
and signs are carefully cut with a burin. These
copper tablets appear to have been amulets.
Unlike inscriptions on seals which vary in each
case, inscriptions on the copper tablets seem
to be associated with the animals portrayed
on them.
Pashupati seal/female deity
Unicorn seals
ARTS OF THE INDUS VALLEY 13
Pottery
A large quantity of pottery excavated from the sites, enable
us to understand the gradual evolution of various design
motifs as employed in different shapes, and styles. The
Indus Valley pottery consists chiefly of very fine wheel-
made wares, very few being hand-made. Plain pottery is
more common than painted ware. Plain pottery is generally
of red clay, with or without a fine red or grey slip. It includes
knobbed ware,  ornamented with rows of knobs. The black
painted ware has a fine coating of red slip on which
geometric and animal designs are executed in glossy black
paint.
Polychrome pottery is rare and mainly comprises small
vases decorated with geometric patterns in red, black, and
green, rarely white and yellow. Incised ware is also rare
and the incised decoration was confined to the bases of
the pans, always inside and to the dishes of offering stands.
Perforated pottery includes a large hole at the bottom and
small holes all over the wall, and was probably used for
straining liquor. Pottery for household purposes is found
in as many shapes and sizes as could be conceived of for
daily practical use. Straight and angular shapes are an
exception, while graceful curves are the rule. Miniature
vessels, mostly less than half an inch in height are,
particularly, so marvellously crafted as to evoke admiration.
Beads and Ornaments
The Harappan men and women decorated themselves with
a large variety of ornaments produced from every
conceivable material ranging from precious metals and
gemstones to bone and baked clay. While necklaces, fillets,
armlets and finger-rings were commonly worn by both
Pottery
Perforated pot
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