Crisscrossing Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan- Dholavira - Where Stones tell stories

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The Signboard at Dholavira
Replica of the signboard found at Dholavira


Crisscrossing Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan- Dholavira - Where Stones tell stories

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       When we stood in front of the Ten lettered signboard which was found under the North Gate of The Harappan remains found at Dholavira, and wondered, whether we were really standing so close to the earliest signboard of human history or rather the first signboard in world. But this was not the only thing, there were other things ready to baffle us. The mastery of the high levels of architectural  skills achieved by the people, who lived here 4000 years ago. This three-meter long sign is believed to be the signboard. This partially excavated site gives us an insight into the marvellous minds of the Harappan people and narrates a story of, the rise, the Nadir, and decay of a civilization. Another outstanding aspect of Dholavira is its excellent water management system. It is amazing to see how the city administration harnessed fresh water by creating a complex, but effective water management system, which not only allowed Dholavira to survive but prosper instead.

The Eastern reservoir


             When we reach the site, the first thing that welcomes us is a huge reservoir. Dholavira is nestled amidst two rainwater fed streams Manhar and Mansar. These two streams were tamed using check-dams and water was stored in 16 Huge reservoirs built around the city. 

The reservoir with 31 stairs
The reservoir with 31 stairs


 This reservoir has not been completely excavated to save it from damage. The reservoir has even a stepwell inside it. When the water in the reservoir dries up, the water in the well can be used.

Stepwell inside the reservoir
Stepwell inside the reservoir


                  The stepwell inside has different layers of stones, finished differently, which indicates, the eight prominent stages of the civilisation. The uppermost layer of stones has been chiseled to be used as pot stands. 


The Layout




Layout of Dholavira excavated site
The Layout of Harappan Civilisation remains at Dholavira - pic source ASI

                 The city of Dholavira was a planned fortified city that had three parts. The upper town, middle town, and lower town.  The innermost, most secure and the highest was the Citadel and Bailey is upper town. The Citadel probably housed the King and the Nobels and Bailey had the quarters of elite people. Then there was a middle town and the third area was the Lower town. 


Eastern Gate and outer wall of the Fortified city
A view of the Eastern Gate and outer wall of the Fortified city

                     After crossing the first reservoir, we moved towards the castle through the Eastern Gate, we were told that the wall of the city was 18 meters high and 12mts wide.  The wall is made like a sandwich in which 10 meters of mudbricks are sandwiched between 1 meter stone walls on each side. This scheme helped to keep the insides cool and was earthquake resistant.

Outer wall of the Castle at Harappan site Dholavira
The outer wall of the Castle at Harappan site Dholavira
 

                     Just below the Gate, the guide pointed towards the covered water channel. The whole city had a very intricate and complex system of channels and drains, which were used for rainwater harvesting and carrying wastewater.

Covered channel at Dholavira
A covered channel at Dholavira for Rainwater harvesting
  

Piller member at Dholavira
Piller member
               In the first chamber, we saw a pillar member, with such a smooth surface, which can put today's machine polished stones to shame. These pillar members were assembled by stacking over each other and were locked with each other using the interlock mechanism.


Another rectangular Pillar Member
Another rectangular interlocking Pillar Member

           Another rectangular pillar member with receptacles for the locking mechanism on both sides.

The Upper Town

                 After crossing the Eastern gate, we were in the citadel. The remains of the circular houses were clearly visible. In Gujrat and some parts of Rajasthan, today also similar circular houses are made, known as Bunga.

A circular house
A circular house

Two pillars at Dholavira
Two pillars at Dholavira
          Close to this house, but at a lower level than there were two monolithic pillars with a very smooth surface, screaming for attention, however, the purpose of which is not very certain. They could have been parts of a sundial or an entry to something quite important. There is a  road  13 mts wide from East to West. On the western end,  it is a slope instead of stairs, which was probably to facilitate the entry of carts or animals inside.


The intricate water channel system at Dholavira
The intricate water channel system at Dholavira
                    The rainwater was carried in small drains from every house to larger drains, which then carried it to the main reservoirs. While building the complex water channel system, they had thought of every aspect, from conserving every drop of water to making them so huge that a person can easily go inside to clean them. 

Passage leading to the North Gate of Dholavira Harappan site
The passage leading to the North Gate of Dholavira Harappan site

The Signage

               Next we were led to the North Gate, which was the main gate of the city, offering a vantage point over the sprawling cityscape. Here we see two large and elevated chambers, which are flanked by sunken passageways on both sides. The gate is connected through a L shaped staircaseHere only the signboard has been excavated. Though it has not been deciphered yet, it is believed that it was some signage for the outsiders visiting this city. It is believed that these letters made out of gypsum were etched into a wooden plank in a mosaic style. Over a period the board fell and decayed however these signs somehow survived. The original signage ( pic below) has been covered with a replica ( pic at starting of post)

The Signage
The Original Signage pic source ASI

The Stadium

The Stadium
The Stadium

                        Outside the North Gate was a huge stadium, which was 200mts long and 50 meters wide. This could have been used for games, public gatherings or trade. This has an amphitheter style seating arrangement, which could accommodate thousands of people.

The stands at the stadium
The stands at the stadium

The remains of the stands at the stadium, which could accommodate thousands of people.

The Bailey


A typical house in Dholavira
A typical house in Dholavira
  A typical house in Dholavira consisted of 04 rooms, a courtyard, a Bathroom and a Kitchen. A round structure is found in front of the houses, but no concrete information is available about its use.

The Well
The Well


The cooling reservoir
The Cooling reservoir

          Another interesting aspect was the combination of a well, a water cooler, and a Bath. There was well in the Bailey and around near it and close by was a circular pole and a well defined circular path, indicating a bull driven water lift. As the bull moved in a circular motion, it pulled water bags made of leather filled with water up from the well. On reaching the top, the water bag emptied itself in a channel, which led it to a smaller reservoir. This reservoir is double-walled and the space between the two walls is filled with Multani Mitti, which kept the water cool for drinking in summers. there is a smaller pit kind of structure in the centre of this reservoir, which allowed the containers to be filled, even when the water level was low. The water also flowed through an aqueduct to the baths, on which it fell on the person sitting inside and gave him a shower like comfort.

Crossroads the The middle town Bazar
Crossroads at the middle town Bazar

The Middle town


        After coming out of the North gate and crossing the stadium, we were in the middle town. It had lanes bisecting each other at right angles. It also had shops or Bazar, where the trade was done and generally there were shops at the front and house at the back. In the middle town also, well-laid drainage systems can be witnessed. Saving every drop of water seemed to be the central theme of planning the city. ASI found earthen pots embedded in the ground here and in one peculiar case, it was on a raised platform and was covered with soot.
The Middle town
The Middle town
A shop cum house in Middle town
A typical structure of shop cum house in middle town

The Lower Town
A view of The Lower Town


                    Another view of the middle town and the path further leads to the lower town. At some distance from the west gate is a gravery, which we did not visit. 

Water reservoirs for water purification
Water purification reservoirs

            Another notable feature was three interconnected water reservoirs, which were used to get water from streams and then purified using sedimentation and filtration processes. As visible in the reservoir has two levels once the reservoir is filled, the dust settles at the lower level and the cleaner water flows over to the next chamber through the aqueduct on the other end, for further use.


Rise and Fall of Dholavira

As per ASI, Dholavira passed through seven different stages


Stage I is the time, when first settlers came here. They knew advanced ceramic techniques, bead making and copper working. They constructed a fortification and houses made up of mud bricks of standard size.

Stage II During this period, widening of fortifications were done and the technologies improved
Stage III  During this period, Dholavira grew into a large fortified town. During this period only the existing fortified settlement was made into Citadel and extended to have Bailey. The small settlement grew into a large town having two fortified major divisions in addition to annexes and water reservoirs, all within a peripheral wall. During the last decades of this stage, entire settlement witnessed a natural catastrophe like a high magnitude earthquake as its marks are clearly indicated. This saw repairs and significant changes in planning were done. During this stage the settlement had achieved its fullest growth having three fortified divisions, and water reservoirs.
Stage IV This stage was a classical Harappan stage when the city of stage three was maintained and made grander. The Signage found is also supposedly from this age. 

Stage V During this stage, there was a general decline in the maintenance of the city, however other items like pottery, seals, etc continued to develop. after this stage, there was also a temporary desertion of the site.

Stage VI  During this stage, There was a drastic change in the culture. They incorporated pottery traditions from Sindh, South Rajasthan. 

Stage VII During this stage, the houses made were circular ones and the city was deurbanized and the site was never occupied thereafter.

              During excavation, the graduated scale made of charred rib bone of an animal, a number of seals, beads made of semi-precious stone, gold terracotta, etc. are the noteworthy ones. Some Ornaments used by the Harappans and terracotta figures have also been recovered. The items recovered show their trade links with Mesopotamia

             There is no fixed theory about why a town of such grandeur was abandoned. Some say that since this was an arid zone, a long spell of drought might have forced the population to move eastwards towards the areas with abundant water. 

            Another school of thought says that though presently the nearest port is Lakhpat, which is 150 kms away. But at one stage, Dholavira also was a port city. This fact is supported by the argument that there was active trade between Harappans with Mesopotamia and other civilisations. Later, the sea receded and the trade was not possible, this forced the inhabitants to look for other areas to settle.

              A recent study has claimed that Saraswati river flowed through this area and the civilisation saw its end when Saraswati vanished. 

                    During excavation sea shells, bangles made out of sea shell conches and stones with fossilized seashells indicate the presence of port or river nearby. Whatever might have been the reason for downfall of this city, the fact remains that the inhabitants were master planners and water conservationists.


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4 Comments

  1. You are really great blogger and your each word is inspiring one
    I had read your earlier blogs also and each one is better than last one, keep it up and keep writing

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    1. Thank you Satpal ji for such encouraging words. However have not been so blessed by Godess Saraswati to be a great blogger, I am a very ordinary story teller. I simply narrate whatever I have see. Thank for following the blog. Do stay tuned will take you to some amazing places.

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  2. This is amazing!! Never knew of such a place existed. Reminds me of Hampi in Karnataka. Your post gives out ample insight into the description of the place.

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    1. Thanks Saptdeepa for your encouraging words. India is full of so many wonders. We say seven wonders of the world, our ancestors created thousands of wonders in India only. Do follow the blog and stay tuned for a journey to some amazing places

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