Industries and Crafts in Harappan Civilization

The Harappan people were aware of almost all the metals except iron. They manufactured gold and silver objects. The gold objects include beads, armlets, needles and other ornaments. But the use of silver was more common than gold.

A large number of silver ornaments, dishes, etc. have been discovered. A number of copper tools and weapons have also been discovered. The common tools included axe, saws, chisels, knives, spearheads and arrowheads. The weapons produced by the Harappans were mostly defensive in nature as there is no evidence of weapons like swords, etc.

Stone tools were also commonly used. Copper was brought mainly from Khetri in Rajasthan. Gold might have been obtained from the Himalayan river-beds and South India, and silver from Mesopotamia.

We also have the evidence of the use of the bronze though in limited manner. The most famous specimen in this regard is the bronze ‘dancing girl’ figurine discovered at Mohenjodaro. It is a nude female figure, with right arm on the hip and left arm hanging in a dancing pose. She is wearing a large number of bangles.

Bead-making also was an important craft. Beads were made of precious and semi-precious stones such as agate and carnelian. Steatite was used for making beads. The evidence of beadmakers’ shops have been found at Chanhudaro and Lothal. Gold and silver beads have also been found. Ivory carving and inlaying used in beads, bracelets and other decorations were also in practice. Thus, the Harappans showed their masterly skill in a variety of arts and crafts.

A well-known piece of art of the Harappan period is a stone sculpture of a bearded man discovered at Mohenjodaro. His eyes are half closed indicating a posture of meditation. Across the left shoulder is an embroidered cloak. In the opinion of some scholars it could be a bust of a priest.

A large number of terracotta figurines of males and females have been discovered from various Harappan sites. The female figurines outnumber those of males and are believed to represent the worship of mother goddess. Besides these, a variety of models of birds, monkeys, dogs, sheep, cattle, humped and humpless bulls are found. However, the noteworthy specimen in this regard are various models of terracotta carts.

Pottery-making was also an important industry in the Harappan period. These were chiefly wheel-made and were treated with a red coating and had decorations in black. These are found in various sizes and shapes. The painted designs consist of horizontal lines of varied thickness, leaf patterns, palm and pipal trees. Birds, fishes and animals are also depicted on potteries.

The Harappans manufactured seals of various kinds. More than two thousand seals have been discovered from different sites. These were generally square in shape and were made of steatite. While the seals depict a number of animals there is no representation of horse on these. It has led many scholars to argue that horse was not known to the Harappan people though there are others who do not accept this argument.

Besides various kinds of animals, the Harappan seals contain some signs in the Harappan script which however has not been deciphered so far. The most famous of the seals is the one with a horned male deity represented on it. He has three heads and is sitting in a yogic posture surrounded by four animals viz elephant, tiger, rhinoceros and a buffalo. He has been identified by many scholars with the ancient form of the god Pashupati (Lord of beasts) though there are others who dispute this identification.