Feb 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Dholavira was built almost five thousand years ago, one of the Indus Valley ancient cities of north west India. It was part of the Harappan civilisation, which appears to have comprised eight major Harappan cities, most of which are now in Pakistan: Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Ganeriwala, Rakhigarhi, Kalibangan, Rupnagar and Lothal. Indian civilisation was born here and thrived for a thousand years until about 1450 BCE when the city was abandoned and the Harappans moved south. The city gradually disappeared as thorn bushes and scrubland grew through the collapsing stonework and it was left to grazing goats and wandering tribes. Then in 1967 JP Joshi, an archeologist, discovered it and persuaded the Archeological Survey of India to excavate a small part of it.

The archeological remains are impressive: enormous stone walls surround the citadel, dividing it from the fortified middle town, which in turn is separated from the lower town by a wide ceremonial ground. The whole city was planned as a parallelogram with high city walls and covers a hundred hectares, with underground water channels bringing water to a series of reservoirs. Archeologists found figurines and chlorite vessels which indicate links with Mesopotamia. These ancient people were highly sophisticated, cultured and organised. The North City Gate was elaborate and elegant, set in an imposing position overlooking the cityscape. The design of the city gate was exactly the same as the gates surrounding some early Buddhist stupas, so the early Buddhists in India knew of the Harrappan cities.

I organised the trip from Bhuj, where a whole host of foreigners are staying in the City Guest House, gathering four of us to share a taxi early in the morning, returning late in the evening. Our taxi driver spoke very little English but we managed to make ourselves understood through signs. He was unfailingly cheerful, despite the terrible road for the last part of the journey. Dholavira is on an island, surrounded by a salt lake, which this time of the year turns into a salt desert in the Kutchch region of Gujerat. There is a causeway leading to the island, a few feet above the lake, and as we crossed, miles and miles of salt desert shimmered on the right of the causeway. It was a four hour drive, so we arrived in the hottest part of the day, with a vast area to explore directly under the sun. There is hardly any shade in Dholavira but we set off enthusiastically.


The beautiful city of Bhuj was shattered by an earthquake in 2001, killing 20,000 people and destroying about one and a half million homes. In place of the old stone houses, modern concrete homes were built, following the winding narrow lanes of the old city. The tiny shops that line the streets overflow with colourful textiles of every variety: block printed vegetable dyed cotton, woven silk, intricate embroideries and brash synthetics. Tribal women from the Kutchch desert roam the streets, wearing fabulously embroidered clothes: different designs for each different tribe, and sit on the floors of the shops, buying brilliantly coloured cloth.




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One Comment to “Dholavira”

  1. Scott Irvine says:

    very informative, thanks

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