Road Less Travelled Travel

Dholavira: where the remains of the Harappan civilisation exist

Snapshots from Dholavira   | Photo Credit: Sridhar Balasubramanian

On a windy and wintry January morning, I eased the handbrake of my car, shifted gears and pointed the bonnet towards Mumbai. In the rearview mirror, I could see the guards dragging shut the doors to the city of Dholavira. My wife, Srividhya and I were totally enthralled by the magical city of Dholavira and the Great Rann. The reader is well advised to wear the proverbial imagination cap, for you are about to visit an archaeological site where the stones talk to you.

Dholavira: where the remains of the Harappan civilisation exist

Dholavira is where the remains of a part of the Harappan civilisation exist. The city is located on an island called Khadir Bet and is connected by an umbilical cord of a road which streaks across to the mainland. On either side of the road, lies the Great Rann of Kutch. The topography of the land is unforgiving. People adopt various kinds of vehicles for mobility, the discomfort surmounted with a stoic smile and the super white of their clothes.

The inhabitants of Dholavira were master water conservationists. No significant rivers were flowing by, just two rivulets — Mansar and Manhar. Nine reservoirs were built around the city to store water. The city itself is divided into three parts — the Citadel, the Middletown and the Lower town. A ramp which runs for about 30-40 feet turns left into the citadel. On the right of the ramp is a large tract of open land, which has been identified as a stadium. On either side of the stadium, one can still find remains of spectator stands.

Remains of the day

As you enter through the hallowed gates of the Citadel, you notice raised platforms on either side and a rectangular chamber on the right. Ten mysterious alphabets on a wooden board intrigue you. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has taken an imprint of the alphabets on a blue board which is carefully placed on the rectangular chamber.

You reach a flat piece of land on which several houses stood. Children would have played in the courtyard. On the far left, two pillars embedded in the ground scream for attention.

How to get there
  • The nearest railhead is Bhuj if you want to visit the Rann Festival, and if you wish to enjoy the solitude on the East, then you need to alight at any of the three stations, viz Samakhiali, Bhachau or Gandhidham. From these stations, you can drive down to Dholavira.
  • Fly to Bhuj or Gandhidham, depending on the side of the Rann you want to visit.
  • When to go
  • The best time to visit is from October to March. Summers are scorching, while till September, the Rann will be slushy. You require at least two days to do justice to the Rann and its surroundings.
  • Dholavira can be wound up in one hour or it will take up a day or two. It depends on whether the stones talk to you! Do not forget to visit the fossil park.
  • Where to stay
  • There are several options in Kutch, but none of them are budget accommodations. We stayed in the Rann Resort.
  • The rooms are clean and perfect for family stays. The hosts are extremely courteous.

Jaimal Makwana, our guide, said that they still do not have any clue on its purpose.

There is a well, which is now closed by an iron grill. At its mouth, there lies a massive stone slab with cuts — some thick, and some thin. Our guide said the ASI team was stumped when they excavated the well and tried to imagine how the water would have been drawn. They used two types of ropes — the thick varthad, and the thin varthadi. Big water bags were used to draw water from the well, and bulls pulled the ropes. These practices have been passed on to succeeding generations.

Reservoirs are built partly on stone beds, and partially mason made. The tanks are fed by aqua ducts which collect water from various parts of the city. The reservoir consists of two levels. The higher level will hold the clean water, and the lower level, which is like a step down, will allow sedimentation to happen, wherein the dust will settle at the base of the reservoir.

Ancient water conservationists

On the east side of the site lies the Middle town and the Lower town. The Middle Town consists of a central street running down a slope with houses/shops on either side. Well-laid drainage systems are seen, and ‘save every drop of water’ is the central theme. Earthen pots were found embedded in the ground, and in one peculiar case, on a raised platform covered in soot.

Dholavira: where the remains of the Harappan civilisation exist

The Lower Town was populated by the working class. There are remnants of many houses. Nature bound the inhabitants to stay, and later Nature willed them to migrate. Who knows, dear reader, your ancestors would have been a part of the huddle over the bonfire.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 3:56:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/the-immortals-of-harappa/article24751437.ece

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