Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

The history of human civilization is a tapestry woven with the threads of countless cultures, innovations, and milestones. One such mesmerizing thread can be found in the ancient ruins of Dholavira, a site that offers us a glimpse into the cradle of civilization. Situated in the Kutch district of Gujarat, India, Dholavira stands as a testament to the advancements and ingenuity of our forebearers. In this blog post, we will embark on a virtual journey to explore the wonders of Dholavira, delving into its history, architecture, and significance.Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

The Indus River, originating in the Himalayas, has been the lifeblood of various human settlements in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. According to historical records, the first civilization established on the banks of the Indus was Harappan. It is estimated to have flourished about five and a half thousand years ago. As its remains were found at Harappa in present-day Pakistan, the settlement came to be known as the Harappan Civilization. Over time, the remains of contemporary human settlements found along the banks of other rivers also came to be known as the Harappan culture. Human settlements that are contemporaneous in historical time, have similar architecture and social systems, and exist in a particular geographical area are called ‘culture’ by archaeologists.

Discovering the Lost Civilization:

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

According to legend, one day a local found an enigmatic mudra (coin) near Khadir island in Kutch. The terracotta coin was man-made, but the design did not appear to be of recent date. The locals drew the attention of the authorities to the same. It is said that the coin was finally instrumental in discovering the thousand-year-old city of Dholavira, buried underground.

According to the official history written about Dholavira, the first evidence of the existence of the ancient town was in 1956. Jagatpati Joshi, who served in the Archaeological Survey of India, visited Dholavira for the first time. Excavation of the underground city, however, was not carried out for 12 consecutive years. Finally, in 1968, some parts of the town were excavated for the first time in the excavations. Jagatpati Joshi concluded (correctly) that the ancient city belonged to the Indus Valley Civilization.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

The history of who knows how many centuries ago was about to be revealed, but the attitude of the authorities toward knowing more about that history remained indifferent. Dholavira was forgotten for 21 years—not one or two. A second and more detailed excavation began in 1989, and by 2005, a total of 13 excavations had been carried out. As the layers of frozen soil were removed during the period of about 3500 to 5000 years ago, valuable relics, signs, symbols, various postures, and secrets of the historical heritage of the Indus civilization came out one after another. What has been achieved today as the fruit of sixteen years of continuous hard work is amazing, exciting, and priceless.

Magnificent Geographical History of Dholavira

The vast desert of Kutch in Gujarat was a part of the Arabian Sea thousands of years ago. Geological upheavals changed its surface, raising the sea floor and retreating seas. As a result, the flat, salty marsh land that was exposed is the Great Rann of Kutch. In this unbroken barren land, on an island called Khadir Bet, the ancient city of Dholavira was located between three and a half and five thousand years ago, when, according to one hypothesis, the Arabian Sea was lapping over the desert of Kutch. Dholavira on Khadir Island, overlooking it, would then have developed as an advanced port. Dholaveera trade would be booming by sea with Arabia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia (Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria). Pearls of the same type found in Dholavira during excavations were found in Mesopotamia while excavating an ancient city.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
Aerial View of Dholavira site in Gujarat

Dholavira was a well-planned town, divided into different parts. Arrangements such as thick-walled forts, middle and lower town settlements, stone-paved roads, ground for occasional events and gatherings, cisterns for water storage, check dams, city boundaries with high walls on all sides, etc. were made in Dholavira. The city’s layout, with its three major divisions—the citadel, the middle town, and the lower town—showcases meticulous urban planning. The citadel is fortified with massive stone walls and houses some of the most iconic structures, including the Assembly Hall and the remarkable Signboard, which still baffles archaeologists with its undeciphered script. These remnants underline the advanced administrative and social systems that were in place during that era.

Unveiling the Past: Dholavira’s Historical Significance

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
Location of Dholavira

A legacy of the Harappan civilization buried in the ground for thousands of years. In 1873 AD, a British officer named Alexander Cunningham (also called the father of Indian Archaeological Survey). A total of 872 colonies were found at different places over time. Harappa, Mohenjodaro, and Ganeriwala are in Pakistan today, while Rakhigarhi and Dholavira are in India. Geographically, most of the settlements of the Harappan civilization were established in the vast basin of the Indus River. If you know today about the excellent planning, engineering, water storage systems, pottery, jewelry, etc. of all these cities, you will be impressed by the wisdom and skill of the people of five and a half thousand years ago. Apart from this, the people of Harappa must have been skilled in agriculture, animal husbandry, and hunting, which can be seen from the various remains found during the excavation.

Dholavira is one of the most remarkable archaeologicalDholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilizationsites dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization. Believed to have flourished around 3300 to 1300 BC, this ancient city offers a unique perspective on urban planning and societal organization. With its intricate water management systems, impressive citadel, and sophisticated reservoirs, Dholavira stands as an embodiment of human intellect and adaptability in the face of environmental challenges.

The main road of the town was exactly 9 meters wide, the distance between the two houses was one and a half meters and the inner streets were made five meters wide. This scale is an example of meticulous planning of a city. Sun-dried bricks, polished stones, and wood were used for the construction of the houses. Brick’s measurements are 918-36 centimeters, a ratio of 1:2:4. Most of the cities of the Harappan civilization were built with bricks of that proportion. Archaeologists have divided the period into seven phases, starting from 2650 BC up to 1450 BC. Construction of different parts of Dholavira is believed to have taken place at different points in time.

Architectural Marvels of Dholavira

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
Planning of Houses in Dholavira

Dholavira, which is about 711 meters by 617 meters, was the most protected, with a high wall on all sides. The springs named ‘Mansar’ and ‘Manhar’ were flowing from the north of the town. These springs are still seen today. However, it remains dry except during monsoons. Now let’s get acquainted with Dholavira, which is located in the middle of a natural source of fresh water.

The Grand Reservoirs: Engineering Marvels of the Past

At the heart of Dholavira lies an engineering marvel—the reservoirs. These intricate structures are a testament to the ancient inhabitants’ mastery over hydraulic engineering. The ingenious system of interconnected reservoirs served as a lifeline for the city, storing water for both domestic and irrigation purposes. The sheer scale of these reservoirs speaks to the city’s dependence on sustainable water management and its residents’ ability to harness natural resources effectively.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
Aerial View of Dholavira site in Gujarat

The population of Dholavira must have been considerable at the time of the construction of the central city; hence, a good supply of drinking water was essential. As the perennial supply of fresh water was limited on Khadir Island, surrounded by the sea, reservoirs were also constructed parallel to the construction of the central city for water storage. The engineers of the time cut stones and formed troughs to create large reservoirs to the south, west, and north. See how calculated the planning was-

Small dams were constructed to divert the water of the ‘Mansar’ and ‘Manhar’ springs in the north and south, respectively, towards the city, flowing with abundant water in the monsoon. As the diverted water enters the town, it is collected at the check dam. This quantity then flows into a series of cisterns around Center City, where the arrangement is such that when one cistern fills up, the water rising from one cistern is poured into another cistern adjacent to it, and if another cistern overflows, more water is stored in the next cistern. Such storage places were also not small. For example, a tank was 73.4 meters long, 293 meters wide, and 106 meters deep. Here, millions of cubic meters of water can be contained in it; yet another storage source of water has been kept as a backup by the thoughtful people of Dholavira.

The Surrounding Wall

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
The Surrounding Wall of Dholavira town

The fort is believed to have been built during the first phase (between 2650 BC to 2550 BC) of the seven periods that archaeologists divide into the Harappan civilization period. It is difficult to determine the exact period, but it is certain that the initial walls of the fort were very thin and in the second phase (between 2550 BC and 2500 BC), after the inner walls were built with adobe new bricks, the thickness was 2.8 m. As a finishing touch, the interior walls were decorated with a wash-pink sticky martini lap. Looking at the plaster cover, it seems that a total of 13 times such a “plaster” would have been applied over a period of time.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
The sun sets the ancient Dholavira archaeological site in Kachchh district, Gujarat

After several more years, the inner walls were provided with more reinforcement. This time the rise was about four and a half meters, which made the fort, which had about 15 to 18 meters high walls, become 11.5 meters thick from the base. (1 meter = 3.28 feet). At ground, the impenetrable walls were becoming progressively thinner towards the upper side. The new area west of this fort was also constructed in the third period (between 2500 BC and 2200 BC). After the new area was ready, residential houses were built in it.

A tall fort covering the entire town was also built in the 3rd century. It means that at the same time as Madhya Nagar and the reservoir were built, a wall was built, and the city was fortified along with the water bodies. The wall was extended to the east to cover the lower town as well.

The Signboard: Mysteries Etched in Stone

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization
Sign Board of Dholavira

One of the most enigmatic discoveries at Dholavira is the famous signboard, often referred to as the world’s first signboard. A 10-character slab of white gypsum stone measuring 30:30 cm remains a mystery.This massive stone slab, inscribed with symbols that are yet to be fully deciphered, remains a puzzle that continues to intrigue historians and linguists alike. The presence of such a sophisticated communication system raises questions about the level of literacy, trade networks, and cultural interactions that existed during that era. Today, the plank no longer exists, but the letters, made by cutting appropriately shaped pieces of gypsum stone, remain intact. This planetary writing has not been deciphered by linguists, archaeologists, or historians.

The Intricacies of Urban Planning

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

Dholavira’s urban planning is a testament to the civilization’s foresight and organization. The city’s streets are laid out in a grid pattern, with well-defined residential and commercial areas. The meticulous zoning of spaces, combined with advanced drainage systems, showcases the civilization’s emphasis on hygiene and orderliness. This level of urban planning and infrastructure development was unparalleled in its time and continues to inspire contemporary urban planners.

City Center:

A rectangular open ground 47 meters wide and 283 meters long was created by demolishing some earlier buildings to the north of the main fort in the third period. Experts believe that it would have been used for various events and sports; there is also a possibility that the market is filling up here. Protected by thick walls, a planned town built on a large area further north of the rectangular plain has been named City Center by archaeologists.

Lower Town:

As per the time scale, the Harappan civilization of Dholavira reached its third stage, and the middle town had completed two-thirds of its life when some natural calamities caused considerable damage to many structures in the town. The townpeople not only repaired it well but also extended the boundaries of the town. Before the city center, they built a residential area in a larger area. Today, it is called Lower Town.

Cremation:

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

A secluded place in the western direction outside the fortified town was reserved as a cremation ground. The residents of Dholavira used to bury the dead body of the deceased in the ground. During the excavation, some skeletons were found here. Some skeletons were buried in regular rectangular pits cut in the stone, while others were found in a coffin made of stone bands. Just as the people of ancient Egypt used to place priceless treasures in the tomb of the pharaoh, the people of Dholavira used to offer earthenware, terracotta items, gold and shell jewelry, and beads as a symbol of tribute, along with the mortal body of the deceased.

Continuing the Journey: Exploring the Indus Valley Civilization

As our virtual journey through Dholavira comes to an end, the fascinating world of the Indus Valley Civilization unfolds before us. For those intrigued by the mysteries of the past, there are countless avenues to explore:

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

Harappan Script Decipherment: Delve into the ongoing efforts to decode the Harappan script, which holds the key to unlocking the civilization’s language and cultural nuances.

Trade Networks and Cultural Exchange: Investigate the extensive trade networks that connected Dholavira with other settlements, providing insights into the civilization’s economic and cultural interactions.

In conclusion, Dholavira stands as a mesmerizing portal to the past, offering us a glimpse into the ingenuity, creativity, and resilience of our ancestors. Through its architectural marvels and urban planning, Dholavira continues to inspire us to unravel the mysteries of our shared human history.

What else did the excavation find?

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & CivilizationThe potters here knew how to make earthenware and artifacts. For the strength of articles, they break sand in sticky soil. Vessels include pot, vases, and large containers like trunk for storing things, etc. Apart from this, various types of idols and toys made from clay have also been found. Most interesting are the attractive beads made of dried clay (terracotta), shell, amethyst, topaz, ruby, onyx, agate, conch seed, etc., totaling about 12,000. It is clear from this discovery that the business of making artistic beads was going on here on a large scale. The highest number of beads (3,500) have been found indicating its popularity at that time.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

Beads were widely used for adornment in Dholavira, and (as the town was on the seashore), unique conch and shells were also used in ornamentation. As natural minerals and gems were available in the surrounding areas, they were well utilized by the people of Dholavira. Gems like topaz and agate found in the ruins of the city and handicrafts made from minerals like copper, silver, and lead, as well as weapons and tools, give proof of this. These objects are also proof that the metallurgy of the people of that time was of a high level. They were well versed in the complex process of refining metal from raw ores.

Dholavira was leading in hieroglyphs. The stone-carved idols, beautifully carved mudras, and bangles are fantastic. Archaeologists believe that the inhabitants of this ancient city were skilled in making barotia (beams) and pillars (pillars) out of limestone on a professional scale. A loose part of the pillars is preserved here as a remnant.

Mysterious currency coins

Many things like architecture, engineering, handicrafts and craftsmanship, town planning, water storage systems, agriculture, etc. in Dholavira have been identified very well by the experts.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & CivilizationOn the various coins here, there are also inscriptions in the language of the time, including carvings of images of animals like elephants, bulls, and one-horned horses known as unicorns in English. The text also seems to be in hieroglyphics, like Chinese, so it is appropriate to call them symbols. More than 400 such signs have been discovered to date. At first sight, they appear to be different from each other, but actually their variety is only 39.

Despite years of studying various coins, experts do not have a solid answer to this, with some suggesting that such coins (Mudras) may be a symbol of the clan’s cult of the adoring deity of Dholavira. Another argument is that Mudras would be a means of economic transactions with other countries. A class of experts considers Mudras to be an inherent art, while another associates them with the language spoken in Dholavira. Experts are having trouble solving such mysterious pictures. A cash prize of $10,000 awaits anyone who solves the thousand-year-old puzzle.

The Enigmatic End of Civilization

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

The most profound mystery associated with Dholavira is the extinction of the town. It is not yet known when and how the once-vibrant city with trade ties to Central Asia perished. The conclusions drawn in response are only logical inferences. E.g., there is a theory that the houses of Dholavira were destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake and the sea was pushed away by lifting the surface. If foreign trade is the basis of people’s livelihoods, it cannot be viable except by sea. Hence, the inhabitants of Dholavira must have left the town and migrated elsewhere after the retreat of the sea.

According to another logic, people had to leave the town in search of food and water due to a severe drought. Of course, if they migrated, why were there no towns founded by them in the later period? A third theory also says that a terrible tsunami in the sea may have wiped out the existence of Dholavira.

A few years ago, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, gave a different theory about the extinction of Dholavira. In short, the Saraswati River used to flow near Dholavira years ago, but due to geological reasons, it changed course and then completely disappeared when the fresh water source was eliminated and the townspeople migrated.

Dholavira: A Journey to the Cradle of Culture & Civilization

Many other such predictions have been made about the end of the Dholavira civilization. Researchers arrive at answers to questions one after the other through logic, and each answer raises some questions. True, when the mystery that remains today is solved, it is the enigmatic questions associated with Dholavira that generate curiosity—and that is what draws visitors to the quaintly ancient and haunted city.

Location: Dholavira, Khadir Bet, Kutch District, Gujarat, India 

Points you need to consider while planning the Trip:

Dholavira is an archaeological site in India known for its ancient ruins and historical significance. Here are some points to consider before and while visiting Dholavira:

Before Visiting:

Research: Familiarize yourself with the history and significance of Dholavira, so you can appreciate its importance during your visit.

Weather: Check the weather forecast for the time of your visit. Dholavira can experience extreme temperatures, so dress appropriately and carry sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Travel can be done in any month of the year except summer. December to February is the ideal time.

Permits and Tickets: Check if you need any permits or tickets to enter the archaeological site. Ensure you have the necessary documents beforehand.

Accommodation: Dholavira might not have a range of accommodation options nearby. Plan your stay in advance if you’re planning to spend the night.

Local Customs: Research the local customs and traditions of the area to ensure you respect the local culture during your visit.

Location: The nearest airports is Kandla (188 km) and Bhuj (256 km). Kandla Airport is located between Gandhidham and Anjar. By rail, one can go to Ladkaya (128 km), Samkhiyali Junction (137 km), and Bhachau (149 km). Dholavira is 93 km from Rapar and 216 km from Bhuj by road. If you want to go directly to Dholavira, Kutch is better than Gujarat and other states.

Other places: On the way to Khadir Bet, Vrajwani temple is located 16 km to the right of Balasar village, ahead of Rapar. The story of the famous Gujarati film ‘Hallaro’ is the story of Vrajwani village, where a temple is built for the Ahiranis who were satiated, in which 150 effigies of the Ahiranis are placed.

Apart from Dholavira on Khadir Bet, attractions include Flamingo Hanj Lake at 2.4 km and the Fossil Park at 9.3 km.

When visiting Dholavira, it’s important to consider your accommodation options to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay. While Dholavira is primarily known for its historical significance and archaeological sites, there are a few accommodation options available for travelers. Keep in mind that the availability of accommodations might vary, so it’s recommended to plan ahead and make reservations if possible.

Plus Know: The Archaeology Department has built a museum near the entrance. For information about Dholavira and to see the vast collection of numerous antiquities unearthed during the excavations, visit Dholavira without fail.

Discover the Ancient Wonders of Dholavira

Welcome to the archaeological marvel of Dholavira! Here’s the essential information for your visit to this historic site in Gujarat:

Category Information
Location Dholavira, Kutch, Gujarat, India
Google Location Dholavira on Google Maps
Famous For Harappan archaeological site and one of the five largest Indus Valley Civilization sites
Best Time to Visit Explore between October and March for a pleasant experience
Entry Fee Check with the archaeological department for the latest entry fee
Visiting Hours Generally open from morning to evening; verify the timings in advance
Accommodation Options available in nearby towns like Bhuj
Local Cuisine Explore Kutchi cuisine in the local eateries
Transportation Nearest airport: Bhuj Airport (approx. 220 km away)
Nearest railway station: Bhachau Railway Station
Language Gujarati, Hindi, and English are commonly understood
Currency Indian Rupee (INR)
Safety Tips Wear comfortable clothing, carry water, and follow safety guidelines at the archaeological site
Local Etiquette Respect the historical significance of the site and follow instructions by authorities
Emergency Numbers Police: 100, Medical Emergency: 108

 

While Visiting:

Respect Signs: Follow all signs and guidelines provided by the authorities. They are there to ensure your safety and the preservation of the site.

Stay on Paths: Stick to designated paths and areas to avoid damaging the archaeological remains. Do not climb or touch the ruins.

No Littering: Carry a small bag for your trash and dispose of it properly. Leave no trace behind to help preserve the site’s integrity.

Photography: Feel free to take photographs, but avoid using flash if it’s prohibited. Be considerate of other visitors when taking pictures.

Silence and Respect: Dholavira is an archaeological site of historical importance. Maintain a respectful and quiet demeanor to appreciate its significance fully.

Guided Tours: Consider joining guided tours if available. Knowledgeable guides can provide insights and information that enhance your experience.

Hydration and Snacks: Carry an adequate supply of water and some snacks, especially if there aren’t many options available nearby.

Comfortable Clothing: Wear comfortable and appropriate clothing, considering the weather. Comfortable footwear is essential as you might need to walk on uneven terrain.

Protective Measures: Use insect repellent to prevent bug bites and consider wearing a hat and long sleeves to protect against the sun.

Interaction with Locals: If you interact with locals, be respectful and courteous. Seek permission before taking photos of individuals.

Children and Pets: If you’re visiting with children or pets, ensure they also adhere to site rules and guidelines.

Remember that visiting archaeological sites like Dholavira comes with a responsibility to protect and preserve these historical treasures for future generations. By being mindful of your actions, you can contribute to the preservation of the site’s integrity.

Here are a couple of accommodation places in and around Dholavira:

1.5 km before the ancient town of Dholavira is Dholavira village. Here many villagers provide good accommodation for visitors in different rooms in their houses. Website giving more information: www.gujarattourist.com/kutch-zone/kutch/dholavira.html

 

Tented Camps and Resorts:
Many visitors to Dholavira choose to stay in tented camps or resorts that offer a unique experience blending comfort with a rustic ambiance. These accommodations typically provide well-appointed tents equipped with modern amenities like comfortable beds, attached bathrooms, and even air conditioning. Staying in a tented camp or resort allows you to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings while enjoying a touch of luxury.

Guesthouses and Home-stays:
In the nearby villages and towns, you might find guesthouses and homestays that offer a more personalized experience. These accommodations often provide a glimpse into the local way of life and allow you to interact with the residents. While they might be simpler in terms of amenities, they offer an authentic and warm stay.

Hotels in Nearby Cities:
If you prefer a wider range of amenities and services, you can consider staying in hotels located in cities that are relatively close to Dholavira. Bhuj, the nearest major city, offers a variety of hotels catering to different budgets and preferences. While staying in a nearby city, you can plan day trips to explore Dholavira and return to the comfort of a hotel in the evening.

Remember that Dholavira is located in a remote area, and the accommodation options might not be as abundant or luxurious as those in more urbanized regions. However, the unique experience of staying close to this archaeological marvel and soaking in its historical aura makes the accommodation choices an integral part of your journey.

Before making your travel plans, it’s recommended to research and book your accommodation well in advance, especially if you’re visiting during peak tourist seasons. This will help you secure a comfortable stay and make the most of your visit to Dholavira and its surroundings.


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