Dholavira: Architectural achievements of Indus civilization

Harappan civilization is one of the world's first great civilizations, which dates back to 3rd millennium BC. After independence, Rangpur, Dist. Surendranagar in Gujarat and Kotla Nihang Khan, Dist Ropar in Punjab are the only few important sites of the Harappan culture left in post-partition India. Through exploration works since 1954, hundreds of Harappan sites were brought to light all over Gujarat.
Dholavira Map
                                                    Dholavira Map
The Harappan site at Dholavira has been discovered by Shri Jagatpati Joshi in 1967-68. The Archaeological survey of India has started excavation for the first time in 1990 under the directions of Dr R.S. Bisht. Of all the Harappan sites, Dholavira, locally known as Kotada in dist Kutch, stands apart. Located in an Island called Khadir, this major Harappan city is in the Indo-Pak sub continent. The excavation at Dholavira brought to light a remarkable city of exquisite planning, monumental structures, aesthetic architecture and amazing water management system. Besides it has provided a long succession of rise and fall of the Harappan civilization. Dholavira now enjoys a unique distinction of yielding an inscription of ten large sized Harappan characters, which indeed is the oldest signboard in the world. A variety of funerary structures are yet another significant discovery, indicating the presence of composite ethnic groups in the indus population of Dholavira.
Eastern Water reservoir with steps
                                          Eastern Water reservoir with steps
The Spectacular city of Dholavira was in the form of a parallelogram guarded by a fortification. The area measuring 771.10 meters in length and 616.85 meters in width encloses three principal divisions i.e the Citadel, the middle town and the lower town.
Ceremonial ground and middle town
                                           Ceremonial ground and middle town
The citadel standing majestically on the south consists of two fortified divisions, the castle in the east and the bailey in the west. The middle town, also fortified lies to the north and is separated from the citadel by a long and wide ceremonial ground. The lower town was laid out within the general fortification to the east of the middle town. In the Citadel and middle town area, interesting network of drains, both small and large are discovered.
Bailey of Citadel at Dholavira site
                                          Bailey of Citadel at Dholavira site
The unique feature of Dholavira is the occurrence of series of reservoirs, of which three are now exposed. These reservoirs were used for storing fresh water, possibly filled with water diverted from a nearby seasonal nullah. These reservoirs are partly excavated into the bedrock and partly built of Masonry. There is a provision of steps to reach the water level. This system of reservoirs provided fresh water to the flourishing Harappan city in a region. Where the present day rainfall averages from 300mm to 400 mm. Very often, many seasons may go without rains. This achievement is a high watermark of Harappan enterprise.
Main entrance of the castle
                                          Main entrance of the castle
A large number of antiquities were unearthed from the site. Noteworthy among those are graduated scale made on a charred rid bone of an animal, a number of seals and sealing, beads of semi precious stones, gold, copper, shell, terracotta etc. Among the terracotta figurines, the unicorn animal figures in an important discovery of its kind. Gold, Silver, Copper, Shell and terracotta ornaments were in use at that time. A vessel of the chlorite schist and some other antiquities of west Asian origin indicate its link with Mesopotamia.
Marshy land before Dholavira
                                              Marshy land before Dholavira

How to reach Dholavira (Public Transport):  Dholavira is quite a remote village and very difficult to visit by public transport. The best option is to reach Rapar which is some 90 km before Dholavira Stay overnight at Rapar.. Next morning, Get the first Mini bus to Dholavira (90 km, 40 Rs, 2 hours 30 minutes)… Visit Dholavira and return back to Rapar from Mini Bus…. The last Mini Bus from Dholavira to Rapar departs at 12:30 PM so you won’t be having much time for meaningless meandering.

* Direct bus from Bhuj to Dholavira departs at 2:30 PM which reaches Dholavira at 10:00 PM.
* 2-3 Direct busses (5:45 AM, 6:45 AM) to Rapar from Bhuj. The best option is to board the bus to Ravechi which departs from Bhuj at 6:00 AM and reaches Rapar around 10:30 AM.
* Mini busses ply between Rapar and Dholavira. These busses are painfully slow and their timings are very irregular. In fact you won’t be getting any return bus from Dholavira after 12:30 PM. surprisingly the last bus from Rapar to Dholavira is at 5:30 PM.

White Rann of Kutch before Dholavira Island
                                      White Rann of Kutch before Dholavira Island

Accommodation/Food:
* Rapar has got 2-3 basic hotels near Bus stand. These are more like home-stay and charges are nominal (200-300 INR per night)
* Dholavira has got only one accommodation option and seems like they provide dormitory as well. Dholavira Tourism Resort (9727784044,9427719044). If you are planning to stay overnight at Dholavira then I will recommend you to call them in advance and confirm. The place was deserted when I visited there.
* From my personal experience, I believe Dholavira does not have any eatery.
* Rapar has got handful of restaurants. Punjabi Daba near Adesar turn is the best pick of the town.

*** Hitch-hiking can be a favorable option if you get stuck in Dholavira. Chances are bright to get a lift till Rapar. I was lucky..

Findings of Dholavira Excavation
                                           Findings of Dholavira Excavation
Ornaments:

 

Ornaments form one of the aspects of civilized societies. These ornaments were made of stones such as Agate, Jasper, steatite and Basalt- Faience, shell, terracotta and of Gold. Headbands or fillets, Gold beads, earrings and bangles made of Gold and Silver show a high level of metal working expertise. However gold items were rarely found from Harappan sites. This is probably due to the fact that the items were melted and recast and handed over from Generation to Generation.
Eastern Reservoir Dholavira
                                           Eastern Reservoir Dholavira

Carnelian beads were very popular in Harappan sites, which were made by heating Agate to Change the color to a deep orange or Red and then drilling with stone drill sometimes up to a length of 12cm. Carnelian beads were etched to make certain designs. Collection of beads made of various semiprecious stones and other materials stored in small pot was found from a drain at Dholavira. Some of the beads may be used as Amulets.
Eastern Entrance of the castle
                                        Eastern Entrance of the castle

Semi previous stones like Agate, Chert, Jasper and others were obtained from the Ratanpura mines in south Gujarat. Opal, Chrysopras, onyx comes from south India, noteworthy shapes are barrel, conical, drum, disc, globular etc.
 

The most outstanding achievement of the Harappans is the production of Micro beads of steatite of 1 to 3 mm length and 1 mm diameter with perforation.
Excavated structure inside castle
                                      Excavated structure inside castle

Chunks of shell were available in plenty along the coast of Kutch and Kathiawad and the same were worked into Bangles, inlays, beads, ladles, vessels, pins, awls, and engravers. The skilled shell workers used every part of the shell, including the column (core) for making the artifacts. They used a bow of copper wire and circular saw of bronze for cutting and making grooves.
Potteries found during the excavation
                                      Potteries found during the excavation
Seals and Sealing

The Indus seals are masterpieces of glyptic art and known for realistic rendering of animal figures and fine calligraphy. They were used of seal cargo to prevent tampering of Goods and to identify their source. This is obvious from the clay sealing which bear positive impressions of one or more seals on the face and of the packing material such as Bamboo and reed matting on the other.
 

Seals were cut out of small blocks of Steatite and a perforated boss on the back. After carving an animal or other design and a brief inscription above it, with a shell or stone engraver, the seal was given an Alkaline coating before heating.
Fine Stone object extracted during excavations
                                  Fine Stone object extracted during excavations
Stone Blade industry

The Harappans at Dholavira produced long parallel sided blades of Chert, a siliceous stone imported from Sukkurohi in Sind or from Bijapur in Karnataka. The technique known as the "Crested Guiding Ridge Technique" involved in preparation of a long core with a series of weak points from the removal of the first blade. Thereafter many blades of uniform size could be taken out easily. Pebbles, fluted cores, flakes and blades are found in abundance. Blades with suitable retouching served as pen-knives, saw blades, borers and engravers.
Lower town and Citadel
                                               Lower town and Citadel
Weights and Measures

Besides achieving greatest precision in measuring mass and length, The Harappans were able to enforce a uniform system of weights and measures throughout the vast territory. Three series of weights, the first one meant for weighing lighter articles, the second one for weighing heavier objects and third one weighing previous metals and gems, are recognized in the Indus weight system. The Uniformity and accuracy of weights are remarkable.
Lower Town
                                                     Lower Town

The Unit weight in the first series which runs in decimal divisions is 27.584 Grams. The Unit weight of 8.575 Grams in the second series which is binary is almost equal to the shekel (8.379 Grams) used at Susa during ancient times in Elam (IRAN) as weight and silver coin. The Unit weight of 100 milligrams in the third series approximates to the weight of the Gunja mentioned in the Arthasastra (4th century A.D). The Harappans had a 50 milligram weight, the smallest unit ever known in the Bronze Age.
Findings of Dholavira
                                              Findings of Dholavira
Terracotta Animal Figurines

Terracotta Animal Figurines may have been utilized as toys or as offerings. Humped Bulls and sheep were domesticated for work and for food in early farming villages situated in Baluchistan region.
 

Many Animal Figurines made of Copper and Bronze and faience such as sheep, rabbits, monkeys and squirrels have been found around Indus sites. The Metal Figurines were cast using lost Wax method, while the faience figurines were usually molded. They reflect artistic detail and expression in form and posture. Many of these figurines have a shallow hole on the bottom which may indicate their use as ornaments pinhead, Amulets or pendants. These were must be precious items.
Southern reservoir of Dholavira excavation
                            Southern reservoir of Dholavira excavation

Terracotta Animal Figurines from Indus sites include cattle, water buffaloes, Sheep, Dogs, Elephants, Rhinoceroses, Monkeys, and Birds etc. Some of the animals were made with movable heads, wheels, whistle hole and open hollow bodies, Some of the animals may have been mythical creatures or caricatures or no longer common in that area. Such as rhinoceroses and tigers, are no longer found in the area of Indus Civilization. Dogs were sometimes depicted with heavy collars, perhaps indicating fighting Dogs.

Hello, The information you

Hello, The information you give, How to reach Dholavira (Public Transport) and Accommodation/Food ,very helpful. Cleared all doubt. One question: Is there any specific time or season to visit "Thanks a lot"

Avoid to visit during

Avoid to visit during summers. rest is fine. Winters are indeed the best time to travel there.

Thank you very much

Thank you very much

Planning trip to Bhuj. Loving

Planning trip to Bhuj. Loving your Blog. Good information, great writing and pics....enjoy your journies...

 

Thanks neha for your comment.

Thanks neha for your comment. Keep dropping by.

+- Vishnu

Great to read about Dholavira

Great to read about Dholavira site and to see all the pictures. I was wondering if tourists are allowed to visit the various archaeological sites in India. I want to take my children on an educational trip and have been trying to find out about sites in Panjab and Gujrat. Thanks.

There is no problem to visit

There is no problem to visit archeological sites. Tourists are allowed on almost all the archeological sites in India barring very few due to religious reasons (Temples not open for non-hindus etc) or if sites are very close to International borders. There is no problem visiting tourist places of historical importances falling in Gujarat and Punjab.

As another epic story on your

As another epic story on your blog. There are less information on Internet on comprehensive info like yours, carry your good work! There may hundreds other places like Dholavira yet to be discovered.

Glad you liked it.... yes

Glad you liked it.... yes there are endless unexplored destinations like Dholavira... Quest in ON...will love to see you more often at Thinking Particle...

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