Architecture and Town Planning of Harappa

Town Planning

The town-planning of Harappan culture is one of its most impressive features. Harappa is located near the River Ravi.  The patterns of settlements were built base on the behavior of rivers which is based around the flood plain, regional trade over the rivers, favorable climate for daily life, access to trade routes and natural resources etc.  Easy access to groundwater level near river and fertile land due to soil bring by river encourages human habitation.

One can find streets and lanes established according to the set plan. The main streets were running from north to south and the cross-street and lanes running at right angles to them. There was careful forethought and planning in the creation of Harappa as it is indicated by the fascinating regularity of the divisions, the orientation of all principal streets to the points of the compass, the successfully aligned streets, the correspondence of the public building and houses with the orientation of the access route etc.  The width of street varied from 9 feet (2.75 meters) to 34 feet (10 meters) and ran straight sometimes as far as half a mile.  They intersected at right angles dividing the city into regular block or square.  Inside this square or oblong, the area is intersected by many narrow lanes crowded with the houses.

Harappa was divided into two parts one a fortified (protected, guarded) settlement on the high mounds (hump, hills) designated as citadels (fort, castle) and the main residential area to the west of it called lower town. The citadel is smaller in area than the lower town and located at the west of lower town.

Harappa was regarded as capital of the Indus Empire. On the north of the citadel there are workmen’s quarters, their working platforms and a granary (storehouse for threshed grain). The entire complex suggests a high degree of orderly working population.

Citadel located on west side and lower town on the east. The citadel complex consisted of two equal and well defined parts, one on the south containing several large mud-brick platforms meant for specific purpose and the other to the north containing residential houses. The platforms were separated from each other, and also from the fortification wall (defense wall). There was regular passage around them. The entire complex on this platform –the well, the bathing-pavements, fire worship place had a ceremonial purpose.

Another significant aspect of the harappan town planning in Harappa was the provision of segregated houses which is a modern aspect. The houses of artisans, merchants and craftsmen was located on the lower township while the houses of ruling class and priestly was situated near the citadel (tower).

Drainage System

The unique feature of Harappan civilization was its fascinating drainage system which has not been found yet in any other city of same era. It shows that cleanliness is very important to them and this is achieved through the series of drains running along the streets and then connected to main drain, which was 1 to 2 feet deep, covered with bricks and provided with inspection traps and sumps (gutters) at regular interval.

Individual house drains, each has its own sump pit, opened into the street drains which in their turn opened into the big drain and emptying into the river. The drain moving out of the city had wooden doors that were probably were closed at the night to prevent negative elements from entering the city. Sum pits (gutters) were built at regular intervals along the drains which allowed heavier solid waste to collect at the bottom. In order to avoid any blockage these gutters are regularly cleaned.

In general the extent of drainage system and the quality of domestic bathing structures and remarkable drainage system,  and they together give the city  an identity of its own, especially revealing some sort of very efficient municipal authority. The aspect of town planning and urbanization are further reflected in the general layout and architecture of Harappa.

Wells and Sanitation

Fresh water or water in general was made available in high quantity to the people of Harappa as they were near to the river as there are few water wells to serve the people as majority of the people fetch water from the river itself. A central water reservoir was also found in Harappa that might be public pool for washing and drinking which allowed wider access to the resources. As a result there are small numbers of wells at Harappa totaling probably of on 30 wells.  Only 8 wells have been founded and the total number of wells has been projected by their layout. Public wells are fewer in number than private wells, which make sense that the public wells probably got polluted or ran out due extensive uses and rich citizens then dug their own. Bathing rooms in these houses were located next to the well and are raised above the ground level. The floor of the bathing rooms was made up of tightly fitted bricks which were almost waterproof. Drains from these rooms led separately. Drains from these rooms led separately to the main drain on the outside from the latrine drains and protection was taking to separate the water and sewage drains. The drains tapered out into street. Almost all houses in Harappa has been found to contain a latrine which was large terracotta jar sunk into the ground and sometime it is connected to the external drains. There is a small hole in the bottom of the jar which allowed water to seep out to the ground. There may be periodical cleaning of these rooms by special class of laborers.


Varying type of houses and buildings are found in both large and small settlements. Urban areas have buildings assembled of partially or wholly of baked bricks and rural areas tend to made up of completely made up of sun dried mud bricks.

The house range from 1-2 storyes in height, with the central courtyard and rooms are arranged around the courtyard. From the street interior is not visible, block by using corridors or walls in the inside. In order to keep the privacy inside the house opening are also restricted to side streets. Stairs which lead to upper stories through the courtyard or side rooms and size of foundations has shown that a 3rd flloor might also have existed at one point. The average thickness of walls was about 70cm (2.2 feet) and average height of ceiling is about 3 metres (9.8 feet). Doors were made up of wood with the wooden frames.  Doors frames were simply ornamented and possibly painted and also had holes at their base two holes at the top to secure and hang curtains respectively. The windows had both grills and shutters, which were embedded into the building itself. Grills have matting on them but marble latticework (interweaving) has been found which suggest that although it was a common feature of houses, the more elegant were obviously kept for the more rich homes. This element continued to be used through historical era into present time as well.

Larger houses have smaller accommodation connected to them and evidence of repeated rebuilding interior show that the internal area were constantly reorganized. The adjoining of small accommodation probably for servant or extended family cannot be correctly verified at this time.

Larger building such as squares, markets, courtyards and administrative building including granaries (storehouse for threshed grain) were the third major category. The great bath structure and great hall are also part of this serving a social as well as religious function.

Clusters or groups of houses are also in evidence, which probably housed many families together and had their own facilities like bathing areas, latrines as opposed to facilities. Although the city is well planned due to brick robbery and floods they are not impactful as the houses of the other cities which left the building in a sorry state.

Public Buildings

What is suggested to be granary is situated on Mound F, lying on huge mud brick foundation with a rectangular plan of 50m x 40m (167 feet x 230 feet) with the length corresponding to the North-South axis. The foundation point to 12 rooms in two rows (6 room in each row) which is divided by central passageway which is approximately 7 metre (23 feet) wide and partly paved with the baked bricks. The measurement of each room is approximately 15m x 6m (50 feet x 20 feet)


The major material used was burnt bricks and sun-dried bricks, which was made using mould of 1:2:4 ratios. The access to wood for burning meant baked brick were used in large quantity. Gypsum cement and mud mortar is also in evidence, gypsum plaster and mud plaster are also found to have been used. In Harappa the use of mud mortar is prominent. Doors and windows were made up of wood which have since rotted away.