Explained: What UNESCO Heritage Site Dholavira Tells Us About Indus Valley Civilization

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Written by Gopal B Kateshiya, edited by Explained Desk | Rajkot |

Updated: July 29, 2021 at 9:26:29

Dholavira, the archaeological site of a city from the Harappan era, was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site label on Tuesday. While Dholavira became the fourth site in Gujarat and the 40th in India to make the list, it is the first site of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) in India to obtain the tag. .

Dholavira site

The IVC Acropolis is located on a hill near the present day village of Dholavira in the Kutch district, from which it takes its name. It was discovered in 1968 by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi. Excavations of the site between 1990 and 2005 under the supervision of archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht uncovered the ancient city, which was a trading and manufacturing center for about 1,500 years before its decline and eventual ruin in 1500 BC.

Distinct features

After Mohen-jo-Daro, Ganweriwala and Harappa in Pakistan and Rakhigarhi in Haryana in India, Dholavira is IVC’s fifth largest metropolis. The site has a fortified citadel, a middle town, and a lower town with sandstone or limestone walls instead of mud bricks in many other Harappan sites.

Archaeologist Bisht cites a series of cascading water reservoirs, an outer fortification, two multipurpose grounds – one of which was used for festivities and as a market – nine gates with unique designs and funerary architecture featuring burial mounds – hemispherical structures like Buddhist stupas – like some of the unique features of the Dholavira site.

Dholavira became the fourth site in Gujarat and the 40th in India to make the list. (Twitter / narendramodi)

He says that the origin of Buddhist stupas is found in Dholavira memorials.

Unlike graves at other IVC sites, no human remains were found at Dholavira. Bisht says that memorials which do not contain bones or ashes but offerings of precious stones, etc. add a new dimension to the Harappan personality.

Rise and fall of Dholavira

The remains of a copper smelter indicate that Harappans, who lived in Dholavira, knew about metallurgy. It is believed that traders in Dholavira sourced copper ore from present-day Rajasthan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates and exported finished products. It was also a center for making jewelry made of shells and semi-precious stones, such as agate and used for the export of wood.


Bisht says that such particular Harappan-made beads were found in the royal tombs of Mesopotamia, indicating that Dholavira traded with the Mesopotamians. Its decline also coincided with the collapse of Mesopotamia, a sign of the integration of economies. The Harappans, who were seafarers, lost a huge market, affecting local mining, manufacturing, marketing and exporting businesses after Mesopotamia fell.

He further says that from 2000 BC Dholavira entered a phase of severe aridity due to climate change and the drying up of rivers like Saraswati. Due to a drought-like situation, people started to migrate to the Ganges Valley or south to Gujarat and further into Maharashtra.

At that time, Bisht says, the Great Rann of Kutch, which surrounds the island of Khadir on which Dholavira is located, was navigable, but the sea gradually receded and the Rann became a mudflat.

Other Harappan sites in Gujarat

Prior to the excavation of Dholavira, Lothal, in the village of Saragwala on the Sabarmati shore in Dholka taluka of the district of Ahmedabad, was the most important site of IVC in Gujarat.

It was excavated between 1955 and 1960 and was discovered as an important port city of the ancient civilization, with mud brick structures. In a cemetery in Lothal, 21 human skeletons were found. Foundries for the manufacture of brass have also been discovered. Ornaments in semi-precious stones, gold, etc. were also found on the site.

Besides Lothal, Rangpur on the bank of the Bhadar River in Surendranagar district was the first Harappan site in the state to be excavated. Rojdi in Rajkot district, Prabhas near Veraval in Gir Somnath district, Lakhabaval in Jamnagar and Deshalpar in Bhuj taluka in Kutch are among other Harappan sites in the state.

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Preservation

Although recently excavated, the Dholavira site has remained free of encroachment in historical periods as well as in the modern era. Bisht says UNESCO listing became possible because the site was found to be free from any kind of encroachment, a rarity in India.

In its statement, UNESCO called Dholavira one of the most remarkable and best-preserved urban settlements in South Asia, dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE (BCE). Since the excavation of the site, ASI has set up a museum there. Dholavira, a village of about 2,000 inhabitants, is currently the nearest human settlement. Near the ancient city there is a fossil park where wood fossils are kept.


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