The arts of the Indus Valley Civilization emerged during the second half of the third millennium BCE. The forms of art sound from various sites of the civilization include sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures, etc. The artists of that time surely had fine artistic sensibilities and a vivid imagination.
Their delineation of human and animal figures was highly realistic in nature, since the anatomical details included in them was unique and in the case of terracotta art the modeling of animal figures was done in an extremely careful manner.
The two major sites of the Indus Valley Civilization, along the Indus river- the cities of Harappa in the north and Mohenjodaro in the south-showcase one of earliest examples of civic planning. Other markers were houses, markets, storage facilities, offices, public baths, etc. arranged in a grid-like pattern. There was also a highly developed drainage system. While Harappa and Mohenjodaro are situated in Pakistan, the important sites excavated in India are Lothal and Dholavira in Gujarat, Rakhigarhi in Haryana, Ropar in the Punjab, Kalibangan and Balathal in Rajasthan, etc. Statues whether in stone, bronze or terracotta found in Harappan sites are not abundant, but refined.
The stone statuaries found at Harappa and Mohenjodaro are excellent examples of handing three dimensional volumes. In stone are two male figures- one is at torso in red sandstone and the other is a bust of a bearded man in steatite – which are extensively discussed.
The figure of the bearded man interpreted as a priest, is draped in a shawl coming under the right arm and covering the left shoulder. This shawl is decorated with trefoil patterns.
eyes are a little elongated and half-closed as in meditative concentration. The nose is well formed and of medium size the mouth is of average size with close cut moustache and a short beard and whiskers; the ears resemble double shells with a hole in the middle. The hair is parted in the middle and a plain woven fillet is passed round the head. An armlet is worn on the right hand and holes around the neck suggest a necklace.
The art of bronze-casting was practised on a wide scale by the Harappans. Their bronze statues were made using the ‘lost wax’ technique in which the wax figures were first covered with a coating of day and allowed to dry. Then the wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out through a tiny hole made in the clay cover. The hollow mould thus created was filled with molten metal which took the original shape of the object. Once the metal cooled, the clay cover was completely removed. In bronze we find human as well as animal figures, the best example of the former being the statue of a girl popularly titled ‘Dancing Girl’. Amongst animal figures in bronze the buffalo with its uplifted head, back and sweeping horns and the goat are of artistic merit. Bronze casting was popular at all the major centers of the Indus Valley Civilization. The copper dog and bird of Lothal and the bronze figure of but from Kalibangan are in no way inferior to the human figures of copper and bronze from Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Metal casting appears to be a continuous tradition. The late Harappan and Chalcolithic sites like Dalmabad in Maharashtra yielded excellent examples of metal cast sculptures. They mainly consist of human and animal figures. It shows how the tradition of figure sculpture continued down the ages.
The Indus Valley people hade terracotta images also but compared to the stone and bronze statues the terracotta representations of human form are crude in the Indus Valley. They are more realistic in Gujarat sites and Kalibangan.
The most important among the Indus figures are those representing the mother goddess. In terracotta, we also find a few figurines of bearded males with coiled hair, their posture rigidly upright, legs slightly apart and the arms parallel to the sides of the body. The repetition of this figure in exactly the same position would suggest that he was a deity. A terracotta mask of a horned deity has also been found. Toy carts with wheels, whistles, rattles, birds and animals, gamesmen and discs were also rendered in teracotta.
Archaeologists have discovered thousands of seals, usually made of steatite and occasionally of agate, chert, copper, faience and terracotta, with beautiful figures of animals, such as unicorn bull, rhinoceros, tiger, elephant, bison, goat, buffalo, etc. The realistic rendering of these animals in various moods is remarkable. The purpose of producing seals was mainly commercial. It appears that the seals were also used as amulets carried on the persons of their owners, perhaps as modern day identity cards.
The standard Harappan seal was a square plaque 2 × 2 square inches usually made from the soft river stone steatite. Every seal is engraved in a pictographic script which is yet to be deciphered. Some seals have also been found in gold and ivory. They all bear a great variety of motifs, most often of animals including those of the bull, with or without the hump the elephant,