The earliest Indian art emerged from the valley of the Indus River during the second half of the 3d millennium B.C. The best-known sites are Harappa, destroyed in the 19th cent., and Mohenjo-Daro; these are among the earliest examples of civic planning. Houses, markets, storage facilities, offices, and public baths were arranged in a gridlike scheme. There was also a highly developed drainage system.
The Indus civilization produced many statuettes made of steatite and limestone. Some statuettes resemble the hieratic style of contemporary Mesopotamia, while others are done in the smooth, sinuous style that is the prototype of later Indian sculpture, in which the plastic modeling reveals the animating breath of life (prana). Also found in this region are square steatite seals adorned with a range of animals, including naturalistically rendered bulls; ceramic storage jars with simple, stylized designs; toys with wheels; and figurines, which may be mother goddesses. Bronze weapons, tools, and sculptures indicate a sophistication in craftsmanship rather than a major aesthetic development.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.