One of the earliest urban civilizations in India and in fact, in the world, was the Indus Valley Civilization, also called the Harappan Culture.
Urban Planning and Architecture
About 5000 years ago, a group of nomads traveling from Sumeria (present-day Iran) entered North Western India, near present day Karachi. These nomads found a land so richly fertile by the banks of the river Indus that they settled there without hesitation. This area was abundant with water, fodder and fuel.
Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa
Over the next thousand years, the immigrants spread over an area of half a million square miles. Excavations prove that the level of urban planning and architecture prevalent here was incomparable. The anchor for this civilization lay in the beautiful twin cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.
The name Mohenjo-Daro means ‘Mound of the Dead’ in Sindhi. The city was built around 2600 BC and abandoned around 1700 BC. Evidence suggests that the city was highly prone to floods.
These cities were made of bricks – either baked mud of wood bricks. The baked bricks were a superior version of the sun-dried bricks used in other civilizations. The amazing part was that the workers made every brick of the same size. The type of brick used, ensured the durability of the buildings.
Sanitation and Sewerage System
Despite a population of about 30,000, the city had one of the best sanitation systems. Each house had a well from which it drew water. From a bathing room the waste water was directed into covered drains along the main streets. Since all the streets were well-drained, the city remained dry and clean. This is evidence of a very modern method of sanitation and sewerage.
Mohenjo-daro was primarily an agricultural city. It was situated below the great mountain ranges, with rivers flowing abundantly through the land, depositing rich fertile soil. This made evident, the fact that agriculture was the main occupation. Further proof of this is the presence of a large well, a central marketplace and several granaries in the city.
Near the granary was the great public bath house, known as the Great Bath. Steps led down to a pool lined with bricks in a huge courtyard. The beautiful bath area had a layer of natural tar – this was to prevent it from leaking. In the center of the bath area was the swimming pool. The purpose of the Great Bath was assumed to be for ritualistic bathing. This is a practice followed by Hindus even today.
Houses were well protected from noise, odour and thieves. Each house opened out onto inner courtyards and smaller lanes, so it was safe. Although some houses were larger than the others, the city seemed to promote an equal society, for all houses had the same kind of access to water and drainage.
The city had an impressive defense structure in place as well. Though it lacked outer walls, there were defensive towers in the West and South. Since other Indus cities had stronger defense systems in place, it is speculated that perhaps Mohenjo-daro was only an administrative center.