Dholavira is an Indus Valley Civilization site in Gujarat India

Dholavira – Indus Valley Civilization site in Gujarat

Dholavira is an archeological site at Khadirbet in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District, Gujarat, India. It is named after a modern-day village 1 Kilometer south of it. The site contains ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Dholavira is one of the five largest Harappan sites. It is also considered as having been the grandest of cities of its time. It is located on Khadir bet island in the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in the Great Rann of Kutch. It is spread over 120 acres and in a quadrangular shape. 

The site was thought to be occupied from c.2650 BCE, fading gradually after about 2100 BCE, and that it was quickly abandoned then reoccupied until c.1450 BCE. But recent research suggests the beginning of occupation around 3500 BCE and continuity until around 1800 BCE.

Discovery of Dholavira

In 1967-68, J. P. Joshi of the Archeological Survey of India discovered that site. It is the fifth-largest of the eight major Harappan sites.

Since 1990, it has been under excavation by ASI. They opined that “Dholavira has indeed added new dimensions to the personality of Indus Valley Civilisation.”

Chronology of Dholavira

Ravindra Singh Bisht, the director of the Dholavira excavations, has defined the following seven stages of occupation at the site:

Stage I2650–2550 BCEEarly Harappan – Mature Harappan Transition A
Stage II2550–2500 BCEEarly Harappan – Mature Harappan Transition B
Stage III2500–2200 BCEMature Harappan A
Stage IV2200–2000 BCEMature Harappan B
Stage V2000–1900 BCEMature Harappan C
1900–1850 BCEPeriod of desertion
Stage VI1850–1750 BCEPosturban Harappan A
1750–1650 BCEPeriod of desertion
Stage VII1650–1450 BCEPosturban Harappan B

Recent C14 datings and stylistic comparisons with Amri II-B period pottery shows the first two phases should be termed Pre-Harappan Dholaviran Culture and re-dated as follows: Stage I (c. 3500-3200 BCE), and Stage II (c. 3200-2600 BCE).

Excavations of Dholavira

In 1989, ASI initiated excavation under the direction of Rabindra Singh Bisht. The excavation brought to light urban planning and architecture. Also unearthed large numbers of antiquities such as animal bones, gold, silver, terracotta ornaments, pottery, and bronze vessels.

Archaeologists think that Dholavira was a major center of trade between settlements in south Gujarat, Sindh, and Punjab, and Western Asia.

Architecture and material culture

The city of Dholavira was estimated to be older than the port-city of Lothal. It has a rectangular shape and spread over 54 acres. The area measures 771.1 m (2,530 ft) in length and 616.85 m (2,023.8 ft) in width.

Unlike Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, the city was constructed to a pre-existing geometrical plan consisting of three parts – the citadel, the middle town, and the lower town. The acropolis and the middle town had been equipped with their own defense-work, gateways, built-up areas, street system, wells, and large open spaces. 

The acropolis is the most thoroughly protected and complex area in the city, of which it appropriates the major part of the southwestern zone. The towering “castle” stands is defended by double walls.

Next to this stands a place called the ‘bailey’ where important officials lived. The city within the general defenses accounts for 48 ha (120 acres). There are large structure-bearing areas which are outside yet essential to the fortified settlement. Beyond the walls, another settlement has been found.

The most striking feature of the city is that all of its buildings, at least in their existing state of preservation, are built of stone, whereas most other Harappan sites, including Harappa itself and Mohenjo-Daro, are almost completely built of brick. Dholavira is flanked by two stormwater channels- the Mansar in the north, and the Manhar in the south.


There were huge water reservoirs in Dholavira

The kind of efficient system of Harappans of Dholavira, developed for conservation, harvesting and storage of water speaks eloquently about their advanced hydraulic engineering, given the state of technology in the third millennium BCE.

Rabindra Singh Bisht

One of the different features of Dholavira is the complicated water conservation system of canals and reservoirs, the earliest found anywhere in the world. It was built completely of stone. The city had large reservoirs, three of which are opened.

They were used for storing fresh water brought by rains or to store water redirected from two nearby streams. This clearly came in response to the desert climate and conditions of Kutch, where several years may pass without rainfall.

A seasonal stream that runs in a north-south direction near the site was dammed at several points to collect water. In 1998, another reservoir was discovered on the site.

The residents of Dholavira created sixteen or more reservoirs of different sizes during Stage III. Some of these took advantage of the slope of the ground within the large settlement, a drop of 13 meters (43 ft) from northeast to northwest. 

Other reservoirs were excavated, some into living rock. Recent work has shown two large reservoirs, one to the east of the castle and one to its south, near the Annexe.

The reservoirs are cut through stone vertically and are about 7 m (23 ft) deep and 79 m (259 ft) long. They skirt the city, while the citadel and bath are centrally placed on raised ground.

There is also a large well with a stone-cut hole connecting it to a drain meant for conducting water to a storage tank. The bathing tank had steps descending inwards.

In October 2014, the rectangular stepwell was found which was three times bigger than the Great Bath of Mohenjodaro. It measured 73.4 m (241 ft) long, 29.3 m (96 ft) wide, and 10 m (33 ft) deep.

Other structures and objects

A large round structure on the site is considered to be a grave or memorial, although it contained no skeletons or other human remains. The structure consists of ten radial mud-brick walls made in the shape of a spoked wheel. 

A soft sandstone sculpture of a male with phallus Erectus but head and feet below ankle truncated was found in the passageway of the eastern gate. Many funerary structures have been found (although all but one were empty of skeletons), as well as pottery pieces, terra cotta seals, bangles, rings, beads, and intaglio engravings.

Hemispherical structures

Seven hemispherical structures were found at Dholavira, of which two were excavated in detail, which was constructed over large rock-cut chambers. 

Having a circular plan, these were big hemispherical elevated mud-brick structures. One of the unearthed structures was created in the form of a spoked wheel. 

The other was also created in the same fashion, but as a wheel without spokes. Although they contained burial goods of pottery, no skeletons were found except for one grave.  

A necklace of steatite beads strung to a copper wire with hooks at both ends, a gold bangle, gold, and other beads was also found in one of the hemispherical structures.

These hemispherical structures bear similarity to early Buddhist stupas. 

The kind of design that is of spoked wheel and unspoked wheel also remind one of the Sararata-chakra-citi and sapradhi-rata-chakra-citi mentioned in the Satapatha Brahmana and Sulba-sutras

Archaeological Survey of India


This was a sign board at Dholavira Gujarat

Painted Indus black-on-red-ware pottery, square stamp seals, seals without Indus script, a huge signboard measuring about 3 m (9.8 ft) in length, containing ten letters of Indus script. 

One poorly maintained seated male figure made of stone has also been found, similar to high quality two stone sculptures found at Harappa. Large black-slipped jars with the pointed base were also found at this site.

A giant bronze hammer, a big chisel, a bronze hand-held mirror, a gold wire, gold ear stud, gold globules with holes, copper celts and bangles, shell bangles, phallus-like symbols of stone, square seals with Indus inscription and signs, a circular seal, humped animals, pottery with painted motifs, goblets, dish-on-stand, perforated jars, Terracotta tumblers in good shape, architectural members made of ballast stones, grinding stones, mortars, etc., were also found at this site. Stone weights of different measures were also found.

Language and Script

The Harrapans spoke an unknown language and their script has not yet been read. It is believed to have had about 400 basic signs, with many variations. The signs may have stood both for words and for syllables. The direction of the writing was generally from right to left. Most of the inscriptions are found on seals (mostly made out of stone) and sealings (pieces of clay on which the seal was pressed down to leave its impression).

 Some inscriptions are also found on copper tablets, bronze implements, and small objects made of terracotta, stone, and faience. The seals may have been used in trade and also for official administrative work. A lot of written material was found at Mohenjo-Daro and other Indus Valley Civilisation sites.

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