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Indus Valley Civilization – Art & Culture

Emergence of Art

  • Indus Valley art originated in the second half of the third millennium BCE (around 2500 BC).
  • Forms of Art: Various art forms include seals, pottery, sculpture, gold jewelry, terracotta figures, and more.
  • Major Sites:
    • The two major sites of the civilization, Harappa and Mohenjodaro, not only showcase remarkable art but also exhibit excellent town planning, featuring houses, planned streets, public baths, drainage systems, storage facilities, etc.
  • Geographical Locations:
    • Harappa and Mohenjodaro are located in Pakistan.
    • Significant sites in India include Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Ropar (Punjab), Kalibangan, and Balathal (Rajasthan), Lothal and Dholavira (Gujarat).

Stone Statues in Indus Valley Civilization:

  • Description:
    • Two Male Statues:
      • One known as the “Bearded Man” (Priest-King).
      • Another is a torso in red sandstone.
  • Bearded Man (Priest-King):
    • Appearance: Appears to depict a priest.
    • Clothing: Draped in a shawl over the left shoulder.
    • Facial Features:
      • Slightly elongated eyes, as if in half-meditation.
      • Well-formed nose, with a moustache, short beard, and whiskers.
    • Adornments:
      • Wearing an armlet and probable other jewelry.

These stone statues provide a glimpse into the artistic representation and possibly the social or religious roles in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

Bronze Casting in Indus Valley Civilization:

  • Technique:
    • The bronze statues found in Harappa were crafted using the Lost Wax Technique.
    • This technique was widespread across various sites in the civilization.
  • Process:
    1. Wax Figure Creation:
      • First, wax figures were crafted.
    2. Clay Coating:
      • The wax figures were covered with clay.
    3. Drying and Heating:
      • The clay was allowed to dry, and then the entire structure was heated to melt the wax.
    4. Wax Drainage:
      • The melted wax was drained out through a hole in the clay.
    5. Metal Casting:
      • The hollow clay mold was filled with the desired metal (bronze in this case).
    6. Cooling and Removal:
      • After cooling, the clay mold was removed, revealing the final metal figurine.
  • Subjects:
    • This technique was employed for crafting both animal and human figures.
  • Examples:
    • Dancing Girl:
      • A 4-inch bronze figure.
      • Characteristics include long hair tied in a bun, left arm covered with bangles, cowrie shell necklace, right hand on the hip, and the left hand in a traditional Indian dancing gesture.
      • Discovered in Mohenjodaro.

The use of advanced techniques like the Lost Wax method highlights the artistic and metallurgical sophistication of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Terracotta Art in Indus Valley Civilization:

  • Nature:
    • Medium:
      • Terracotta images were created, although they were less refined compared to stone statues.
    • Variety:
      • Terracotta art included various forms such as images and toys.
  • Significant Creations:
    • Mother Goddess:
      • The most crucial terracotta images were those of the Mother Goddess.
      • These images held importance in the religious or cultural context.
    • Male Figures:
      • Male figures with similar features and positioning were also discovered, suggesting their representation as deities or gods.
  • Terracotta Toys:
    • Types:
      • Terracotta toys were diverse and included items like wheels, whistles, rattles, gamesmen, discs, birds, and animals.
    • Significance:
      • The discovery of terracotta toys suggests a level of artistic expression and playfulness in the civilization.

While stone statues showcased a higher level of craftsmanship, terracotta art, especially the images of the Mother Goddess and toys, provides insights into the cultural and creative aspects of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Indus Valley Seals: Artistic and Commercial Significance

  • Abundance of Seals:
    • Thousands of seals have been discovered, showcasing the prolific use of this artistic form.
  • Materials Used:
    • Primary Material:
      • Most seals were crafted from steatite, a soft stone.
      • Additionally, seals were made using chert, agate, copper, terracotta, faience, gold, and ivory, highlighting diversity in craftsmanship.
  • Standard Characteristics:
    • Form:
      • Standard Harappan seals were characterized by their square plaques with dimensions of 2X2.
  • Purpose and Usage:
    • Commercial Significance:
      • The primary purpose of seals was commercial, emphasizing their role in trade and economic activities.
    • Amulets:
      • Some seals served as amulets, potentially functioning as early forms of identity cards.
  • Artistic Features:
    • Animal Motifs:
      • Every seal featured a depiction of an animal alongside pictographic writings.
      • Animals represented included tigers, bulls, elephants, goats, bison, and more.
    • Pashupati Seal:
      • A significant seal, the Pashupati Seal, displayed a figure seated cross-legged with surrounding animals like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and buffaloes.
  • Copper Tablets:
    • Form:
      • Copper tablets, square or rectangular, were discovered, indicating amuletic use.
    • Symbolism:
      • These tablets might have held symbolic or ritualistic significance in the culture.

The seals of the Indus Valley Civilization not only served practical purposes in trade but also reflected the civilization’s artistic prowess and symbolic representations through intricate animal motifs and scripts.

Indus Valley Pottery: A Canvas of Diversity

  • Abundance of Pottery:
    • A substantial amount of pottery has been unearthed, reflecting its significance in daily life.
  • Varieties of Pottery:
    • Plain Pottery:
      • Composition:
        • Generally crafted from red clay, sometimes with a fine red or grey slip.
      • Prevalence:
        • Plain pottery is more common.
    • Black Painted Pottery:
      • Characteristics:
        • Features a fine coating of red slip adorned with painted geometric and animal designs.
    • Perforated Pottery:
      • Some pottery was perforated, suggesting potential use as a sieve.
  • Functional Diversity:
    • Utility Items:
      • Pottery items served various functions in daily life.
    • Perforated Pottery:
      • Likely used for practical tasks like sifting.
  • Aesthetic Elements:
    • Painted Designs:
      • Black painted pottery showcased geometric and animal designs, revealing an aesthetic dimension to utilitarian items.
  • Size Variations:
    • Diverse Sizes:
      • Pottery items varied in sizes, reflecting adaptability to different purposes.

Indus Valley pottery stands as a testament to the civilization’s functional and artistic considerations. From plain and practical vessels to intricately painted pottery, these artifacts provide insights into the daily life and cultural expressions of the people.

Adornments of Elegance: Indus Valley Ornaments

  • Diverse Ornaments:
    • A rich array of ornaments has been uncovered, showcasing the people’s penchant for personal adornment.
  • Materials Used:
    • Ornaments were fashioned from a variety of materials, including:
      • Precious Metals: Gold, bronze, and copper.
      • Gemstones: Cornelian, amethyst, lapis lazuli, quartz, crystal, jasper, turquoise, and more.
      • Bone and Baked Clay: Reflecting a creative use of local resources.
  • Ornaments for Both Genders:
    • Fillets, Necklaces, Finger-Rings, Armlets:
      • Both men and women adorned themselves with a variety of ornaments, emphasizing the significance of personal decoration.
  • Women’s Ornaments:
    • Earrings, Girdles, Anklets:
      • Women wore distinctive ornaments, including earrings, girdles, and anklets, contributing to their overall attire.
  • Craftsmanship:
    • Well-Crafted Pieces:
      • Ornaments exhibited intricate craftsmanship, featuring:
        • Necklaces made of gold and semi-precious stones.
        • Copper bracelets and beads.
        • Head ornaments and earrings crafted from gold, steatite, and gemstone beads.
        • Faience pendants and buttons.
  • Cemetery Discoveries:
    • Farmana Cemetery (Haryana):
      • Bodies were buried with their ornaments, attesting to the cultural significance attached to personal items even in death.
  • Bead Production Centers:
    • Lothal and Chanhudaro:
      • These sites functioned as bead factories, emphasizing the importance of bead production in the civilization.
  • Material Diversity:
    • Metals, Gemstones, Shells, Terracotta:
      • Beads were crafted from various materials, including metals like gold, bronze, and copper, as well as gemstones, shells, and terracotta.
  • Shapes and Variety:
    • Disc-Shaped, Cylindrical, Spherical, Barrel-Shaped, Segmented:
      • Beads came in a plethora of shapes, showcasing a keen sense of artistic variety and innovation.

The discovery of these meticulously crafted ornaments and beads provides a glimpse into the aesthetic sensibilities and cultural practices of the people of the Indus Valley Civilization.




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