Dholavira: Tryst with History

Enroute to Dholavira from Dasada in the Kutch region of Gujarat, we encountered a dry and arid landscape, showing signs of desert vegetation. Dholavira is situated on a ‘Bhet’ which is a high ground that remains dry when the neighbouring landscape is submerged by seawater. It is an island and to reach Dholavira we crossed a causeway. Since it was winter, the water had receded leaving behind a huge pristine salt flat which glistened in the sun as a sparkle of a thousand diamonds. Exhausted from a long drive from Dasada, this sudden revelation of the salt flat extending into the horizon filled us with renewed enthusiasm and like children we clambered down onto the salty ground to gather our handful of salt. The beauty of the unending salt was broken in parts with shallow standing water which was filled with a huge squadron of pelicans. These birds trouped together in the water just like a floating island and as we were admiring them, they decided to fly grazing the water and move to a different part to form another floating island again. For us it was a lesson of harmony and brotherhood.

Leaving the causeway, we entered into the ‘Khadir bhet’ and couple of kms of dusty road later, we finally descended upon the area where a 5000yr old history had been recently discovered. Dating back to the 3rd millennium BC and covering an area of 100acres, this ancient fortified Indus Valley city is shaped as a parallelogram and is surrounded by two monsoon channels of Manhar and Mansar. The excavations in Dholavira revealed the most important city of the Harappa Civilization in India. With afternoon temperatures soaring and the sun beating on us, we explored this ancient town in awe. The brick and stone structures told us a story of urban planning which is mind-boggling. This town consisted of a Citadel, a Middle Town and a Lower Town. There are clear indications of two ‘stadia’ and a series of reservoirs connected with an intricate system of drainage. A signboard has been discovered with 10 letters and is regarded as the oldest signboard in the world but is yet to be deciphered. As we scaled up the Citadel to inspect its plans, we came upon a view to behold. Standing at that height, the Great Rann of Kutch was visible as a white blanket as far as the eyes could see and we could only imagine our ancestors standing atop this hillock to admire their surroundings. For a good 2hrs we were lost in the discovery of this ancient town. Each turn we took fascinated us and told us a story in urban planning that was far ahead of its time. The most important lesson we learnt was that of water management. If only we applied such storm water and rain water harvesting and preservation techniques, we would not face water scarcity in today’s urban settlements.

Meandering through the ruins, we ended up at the exhibition centre where a lot of the excavated materials have been preserved and displayed. A graduated scale, a number of seals, beads of semi-precious stones, gold and terracotta, terracotta figurines and some vessels and pottery constituted the display. Dholavira gives us a record of a city from its birth to maturity to its decay in about 7 stages. After its decay, it has never been inhabited again. It also tells us a story of different ethnic and tribal communities living in harmony and following their own practices.

These excavations here have answered more questions on the mysterious people of the Indus Valley Civilization than ever before and yet many more questions remain shrouded in the depths of this grand civilization. We finally left Dholavira with much admiration for our forefathers who were masters in urban planning.

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