Tuesday, November 26, 2013

History mystery: Amazing Facts on Mohenjo-Daro’s Town Planning

Great Bath

An archeological site in the province of Sindh, in Pakistan, known as Mound of Dead – Mohenjo-Daro was built around 2600 BCE and was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. It is also one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements which was abandoned in the 19th century and only rediscovered towards 1922. Several excavations have been conducted at the site and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980. Where town planning was concerned, the people of the Indus Valley civilization had achieved some amazing standards and each city when planned at the peak of the civilization housed around 40,000 people. A technologically as well as sophisticated advanced urban culture is portrayed in the Indus Valley civilization and the quality of municipal planning indicates knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments with high focus on hygiene. The streets of major cities were constructed in a perfect grid pattern which could be compared to the present times of New York and the houses were secluded from noise, thieves and odor.

A typical city was divided into two sections with each separately fortified where one section was located on an artificially raised mound known as the acropolis and the other was on ground level. It was the acropolis which contained the important buildings of the city such as the assembly halls, granaries, religious structures and the famous Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro. The amazing construction of the Great Bath had the entire structure of about 179 feet long and 107 feet wide with the complex having a large quadrangle in the middle with galleries and rooms all around it. At the centre of the quadrangle was a large swimming enclosure of around 39 feet long with 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep with steps to a brick lined pool where the entire complex was connected to a water supply and sewer system. This Great Bath area was well built with layer of natural tar to keep away leakage and was presumed to be used for ritualistic or religious purposes It also featured a large well and central market place with a building having an underground furnace possibly for heated bathing. It was a well fortified city lacking actual city walls though it had towers to the west of the main settlement and defensive fortification towards the south. Another special feature of this city was the large granary which had an impressive structure running 150 feet long, with 75 feet wide and 15 feet high which gave an astounding space of 168,750 cubic feet. This was divided into 27 compartments in three rows and was well ventilated making it possible to fill in grain from outside and its large sized space probably indicated a highly developed agricultural civilization. The town plan was regular and the lower section of the city housed the inhabitants and here amazing features have been discovered.

Great Bath-1
The city having broad roads around 30 meters long were well connected which met at right angle. The fire baked bricks were uniform in shape and size while the regularity of construction and plan indicated a government that was well organized and with bureaucratic capacity. The houses were built with standardized baked bricks with many spacious courtyards while some of the bigger houses had multiple stories with paved floors. Another amazing fact is that almost every house had its own wells, bathrooms and drains with each house directly connected to an underground sewer system which ran throughout the city. This urban plan had the world’s first urban sanitation systems and within the city, the individual homes or groups had provision of water from wells which appeared to be set aside for bathing and the waste water was directed to covered drains which were lined along the major streets while houses only opened to inner courtyards and smaller lanes. Moreover the houses were constructed on plinth which rose above the ground level accompanied with stairs which were at the wall towards the front door having flat roofs and looked identical. The planning was done in a way so as to avoid any type of hindrance on the road with each detail well planned. The Indus Valley Civilization inhabitants thus enjoyed to some extent an excellent sanitary convenience as well as highly developed municipal life and the fact is that this civilization existed almost five hundred years ago. Mohenjo-Daro had amazing construction considering its antiquity with its planned layout based on grid of streets laid out in a perfect pattern.

Mohenjo daro drainage  system
At its height the city accommodated around 35,000 inhabitants and the buildings of this city was particularly far advanced with structures of same sized sun dried bricks of baked mud and burnt wood. Towards 1900 BCE, gradual decline began and people started to leave the city. The people who remained were probably poorly nourished and by 1800 BC most of the cities were abandoned. According to Sir Mortimer Wheeler, he proposed that the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by the invasion of an Indo European tribe from Central Asia and as evidence, he provided a group of 37 skeletons found in various parts of Mohenjo-Daro as well as passages found in the Vedas with reference to battles and forts though some rejected his theory. However this civilization did not disappear all of a sudden and many elements of the Indus Civilization are found in later cultures.

Mohenjo-Daro was destroyed and rebuilt at least seven times and each time a new city was built, it was rebuilt on top of the old ones. The flooding of the Indus probably led to believe the cause of destruction. The town planning of this city has amazed the archaeologist all over the world and excavations are being carried out till date leaving an everlasting effect on the people of today. This city has become a specimen of a wonderful town planning in the present world and has also inspired many. It is amazing to believe that in the ancient past civilization, people could think scientifically and were conscious in building a dream city which was well planned and well executed.


  1. You should surely write about DHOLAVIRA then....
    It was an ancient city in the RANN OF KUTCH....
    They had an amazing water management system in place.... People to this date are stunned at their forethought !!

  2. History always fascinated me..In-fact I loved reading about Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro....Thanks for bringing back all those memories..

  3. interesting-even modern cities are not so planned.



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