Dholavira: Bricks of Oblivion

I don’t exactly remember the moment when I first heard the name Dholavira. It has been ages but surely it was some years after I was introduced to Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. General social as well as systematic apathy towards India’s ancient history meant that most of the people did not even realize the existence of these sites beyond the two big ones that are now in Pakistan. I remember a failed trip to Lothal once simply because none of the innocent bystanders could point us the way to that site. Nevertheless, finally I was now in Dholavira, ready to explore my first ever Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) site. Well, technically it is nowhere near the Indus, which only demonstrates the expanse of that civilization. Nowadays various groups are popularizing the name Indus-Saraswati but for the time being I will stick to IVC for the sake of simplicity.

So, finally this was a trip where reaching the destination was never in doubt. But what is a trip without escapades, especially when there is no company to “talk sense”? So, early in the morning, I decided not to enquire too much about the route and just started walking towards the small hillock I could see from my hotel. I found out later that actually I had to walk a bit more up the road to finally reach the official entry that also houses the museum. But I left the road and entered the bushes in search of a shortcut. The bush was full of birds, which made me write the previous post on Birds of Dholavira. But after a couple of hours I was practically lost as the view is completely blocked by the thick shrubs and elevations. I did not have much time remaining as I had to catch the last bus that left from Dholavira at 12:30 PM or risk missing my train.

Anyways, after some anxious moments I finally reached the location, although from the opposite side. After crossing a small plot of cultivated land, I finally stumbled on something that looked like ancient water supply ducts with my non-existent archaeological know-how.

I climbed up the hillock and suddenly I was in the midst of the 5000 year old necropolis. First I reached what is now called the “bailey” and was believed to be a residential area for the inhabitants. As I explored more, I saw many of the familiar structures I had seen earlier in books. Those ubiquitous brick walls are everywhere and they are so robust that they still show no signs of crumbling.

The geometric excellence of IVC is easily visible throughout the ruins. Everything is built in perfect geometric shapes although we cannot be sure of the purpose of some of the structures. Smaller structures are mostly in square or rectangular formation and I am given to understand that the entire city is shaped like a parallelogram. I saw a few stairs going underground, suggesting that a vast portion is still buried and awaiting excavation.

I also spotted the semi-circular formations with a (hopefully) phallic structure in the middle, the proto-shiva lingam as they say!

The main “citadel” is the highest point of the entire complex and it offers a good view of the entire area. Even in the present state, one can imagine that it was strongly fortified during its heydays. As I came down through the eastern gate, I also noticed the remnants of a room with bases of pillars. Especially, the round base has survived almost unscathed and it looked like a newly sculpted structure.

I’d started early in the morning and it was still a bit gloomy. By the time I reached the final segment, the sun was out and I got a few better images. Eventually I reached the reservoir, or great bath or whatever it was. It is basically a large rectangular compartment with multiple flights of stairs to climb down to the bottom. A common feature in most IVC sites, this also looks like a predecessor of all the baolis or vavs (step wells) that dot the northern and western plains of India.

Once I was done with the reservoir, I finally located what should have been my entry point. But anyways, it was not an issue because there was no entry fee as I found out to my relief. I checked the museum that has been built at the entrance. Most of the movable artifacts have been stored and displayed here. Technically photography is now allowed inside but the caretaker was good enough to allow a few. What you should look for here are the seals containing iconic IVC imagery such as the “unicorn” like animal and what arguably was their script.

This concludes my somewhat tentative but eventually successful Kutch trip. I will try to be back to Gujarat soon for Little Rann of Kutch and Kathiwad. Do check the Dholavira Travel Guide in case you are planning one.

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Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

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