History: The Harappan Civilization: Drainage System and Economic Activities

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Drainage System

One of the most remarkable features of the Indus valley civilization is that the city was provided with an excellent closed drainage system. Each house had its own drainage and soak pit, which was connected to the public drainage. Brick laid channels flowed through every street. They were covered and had manholes at intervals for cleaning and clearing purposes.

The Great Bath

The most striking feature in Mohenjo-Daro is the Great Bath. It consists of a large quadrangle. In the centre, there is a huge swimming pool (approximately 39 ft long, 23 ft wide and 8ft deep) with the remains of galleries and rooms on all four sides. It has a flight of steps at either end or is fed by a well, situated in one of the adjoining rooms. The water was discharged by a huge drain with corbelled roof more than 6 ft in depth. The Great bath had 8 ft thick outer walls. This solid construction has successfully withstood the natural ravages for 5000 years. There were arrangements for hot water bath in some rooms.

Ancient water storage

Ancient Water Storage

Ancient water storage


The largest building in Mohenjo-Daro is granary which is 45.71 mtrs long and 15.23 mtrs wide. In Harappa there are a series of brick platforms which formed the base for two rows of 6 granaries each. In the Southern part of Kalibangan brick platforms have also been found. These granaries safely stored the grains, which were probably collected as revenue or storehouses to be used in emergencies.


People of Indus valley civilization-built houses and other buildings by the side of roads. They built terraced houses of burnt bricks. Every house had two or more rooms. There was also more than one storied house. The houses were designed around an inner courtyard and contained pillared halls, bathrooms, paved floors, kitchen, well etc. Besides residential quarters, elaborate structures have also been found. One of these buildings has got the biggest hall measuring 80 ft long and 80 ft wide. It might have been a palace, or temple or hall for holding meetings. The workmen quarters are also found. There was an excellent system of water supply. There were public wells by the side of streets. Every big house had its own well. They also built a dockyard at Lothal.

Some Major Structural Remains of the Harappan Towns

At Mohenjo-Daro, the ‘Great Bath’ is the most important structure. It is surrounded by corridors on all sides and is approached at either end a by a flights of steps in north and south. A thin layer of bitumen was applied to the bed of the Bath to ensure that water did not seep in. Water was supplied by a large well in an adjacent room. There was a drain for the outlet of the water. The bath was surrounded by sets of rooms on sides for changing cloth. Scholars believe that the ‘Great Bath’ was used for ritual bathing. Another structure here located to the west of the ‘Great Bath’ is the granary. It consists of several rectangular blocks of brick for storing grains. A granary has also been found at Harappa. It has the rows of circular brick platforms, which were used for threshing grains. This is known from the finding of chaffs of wheat and barley from here. At Lothal, a brick structure has been identified as a dockyard meant for berthing ships and handling cargo. This suggests that Lothal was an important port and trading centre of the Harappan people.

Economic Activities


The prosperity of the Harappan civilization was based on its flourishing economic activities such as agriculture, arts and crafts, and trade. The availability of fertile Indus alluvium contributed to the surplus in agricultural production. It helped the Harappan people to indulge in exchange, both internal and external, with others and develop crafts and industries. Agriculture along with pastoralism (cattle rearing) was the base of Harappan economy. The granaries discovered at sites like Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Lothal served as the storehouses for grains. We do not have any clear evidence of the tools used for agriculture.

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