Arts of the Indus Valley for MP State Exams

By Trupti Thool|Updated : June 17th, 2022

In State Subordinate Exams, the Indus Valley Civilization is the most important topic and many questions got asked from this section. So, here is the art forms of Indus Valley Civilization. 

Arts of the Indus Valley for MP State exams

  • Indus Valley art emerged from 2500 BC onwards.
  • Forms of art: terracotta figures, seals, gold jewellery, pottery, sculpture, etc.
  • Two major sites of this civilization (both in Pakistan): Harappa (north of Indus river) and Mohenjodaro (south of Indus river) showcase excellent civic planning like houses, planned streets, public baths, drainage systems, storage facilities, markets, offices, etc.
  • Major sites in India: Ropar (Punjab), Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Lothal and Dholavira (Gujarat), Kalibangan and Balathal (Rajasthan).

Stone Statues

  • Stone, bronze or terracotta statues found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
  • The stone statuaries found at Mohenjodaro and Harappa are excellent examples of handling 3-D volumes.
  • Two male stone statues: the Bearded Man in steatite and a torso in red sandstone.


 Bronze Casting

  • Practised on a wide scale by Harappans. Metal casting appears to be a continuous tradition.
  • Bronze statues of humans (e.g., dancing girl) and animal figures (e.g., buffalo with uplifted heads, back and sweeping horns and the goat) were made by using the ‘lost wax’ technique.
  • In this technique, 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 is cooled, the clay cover is completely removed.
  • Other examples: copper dog and bird from Lothal and the bronze bull from Kalibangan, human figures of bronze and copper from Mohenjodaro and Harappa.
  • Late Harappan and Chalcolithic sites like Daimabad (Maharashtra) yielded excellent examples of metal-cast sculptures of human and animal figures.


  • Terracotta images were also created but they were less refined as compared to the stone and bronze statues. They are more realistic at Kalibangan and in Gujarat sites.
  • The most important terracotta images are those of the mother goddess.
  • Bearded Male figures with coiled hair are also found with their posture rigidly upright, legs slightly upright and arms parallel to the sides of the body and positioning in all the figures indicating perhaps the deity.
  • A terracotta mask of a horned deity has also been found.
  • Terracotta toys have also been found (carts with wheels, whistles, rattles, gamesmen, discs, birds and animals).



  • Thousands of seals have been discovered mostly made of steatite (a kind of soft river stone), chert, agate (A fine-grained variegated chalcedony, its colours arranged in stripes, blended in clouds, or showing moss-like forms), copper, terracotta, faience, gold and ivory.
  • Standard Harappan seals were square plaques with 2X2 dimensions.
  • Purpose of the seals: Mainly commercial, some seals were carried in the form of amulets, perhaps as identity cards.
  • Copper tablets with an animal or a human figure on one side and an inscription on both sides have also been found. The figures and signs are carefully cut with a burin (A pointed tool of flint or stone with a transverse edge made by the removal of one or more flakes. Used for working bone, antler, and ivory, and, perhaps, for engraving). These copper tablets appear to have been amulets. Unlike inscriptions on seals which vary in each case, the inscription on the copper tablets seems to be associated with the animals portrayed on them.
  • Every seal has a picture of an animal and some writings in a pictographic script (which is yet to be deciphered).
  • Trees, human figures, and animals like tigers, rhinoceros, buffalo, unicorn bulls, elephants, monsters, goats, bison, etc were depicted.
  • The most remarkable seal is the one depicted with a figure in the centre and animals around.
  • Pashupati Seal (date between 2500-1500 BC): A seal with a figure seated cross-legged in the centre with animals around; an elephant and a tiger to the right of the figure and a rhino and a buffalo to its left. Two antelopes are shown below the seat. Such seals were found in considerable members in sites such as the ancient city of Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley.
  • Figures and animals are carved in intaglio on their surfaces.
  • Copper tablets, square or rectangular in shape have been found which were used as amulets.



  • A lot of pottery has been excavated which shows the gradual evolution of various design motifs in different shapes and styles.
  • Indus Valley pottery consists either of very fine wheel-made wares or handmade.
  • Both plain and painted pottery is found but plain pottery is more common.
  • Plain pottery: Red clay, with or without a fine red or grey slip. It includes knobbed ware, ornamented with rows of knobs.
  • Black painted pottery: Fine coating of red slip with painted geometric and animal designs in glossy black paint.

Beads and ornaments

  • A variety of well-crafted ornaments from precious metals and gemstones to bone and baked clay have been found which were used by both men and women.
  • Ornaments were worn by men and women: fillets, necklaces, finger-rings, armlets.
  • Ornaments were worn by women: earrings, girdles, anklets.
  • Ornaments have been found at Mohenjodaro and Lothal including necklaces of gold and semi-precious stones, copper bracelets and beads, head ornaments and earrings made of gold, steatite and gemstone beads, faience pendants and buttons.
  • A cemetery, where dead bodies were buried with ornaments, was found in Farman (Haryana).
  • Bead factories at Lothal and Chanhudaro.
  • Beads of various shapes disc-shaped, cylindrical, spherical, barrel-shaped, and segmented were made from cornelian, amethyst, lapis lazuli, quartz, crystal, jasper, shells, terracotta, turquoise, steatite, etc.
  • Metals like copper, bronze and gold, shell, faience and terracotta or burnt clay were also used for manufacturing beads.
  • Some beads were decorated by incising or painting and some had designs etched onto them.
  • The Harappan people also made brilliantly naturalistic models of animals, especially monkeys and squirrels, used as pin-heads and beads.


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