Dholavira, Gujarat, India 

"I begin with Dholavira, a Bronze Age metropolis of the Harappan Civilization in the Rann of Kutch, discovered only in 1967. Thriving between 2600–1900 BCE, it is best known for its water harvesting and fine reservoirs. I examine the ancestry of the Harappans, what they excelled at and what distinguishes them from other civilizations of the day—such as not turning up any evidence of temples, wars or armies, and seemingly possessing a flatter social class hierarchy. I consider the languages they likely spoke, their undeciphered script, theories about their demise, and how their legacy lives on today in our lives. I talk to the ecologically vulnerable locals from the nearby village of Dholavira, after which the prehistoric site is named and whose residents too had lived with ecological vulnerability.

"After the decline of Harappan cities, Aryan migrants from Central Asia arrived by 1500 BCE and mixed with the locals. A nomadic-pastoralist people, the Aryans brought a proto-Sanskrit language, an early version of the Vedas, new forms of social hierarchy and the horse. After a gap of more than a thousand years since the fall of the Harappan cities, the next cities arose mostly in the Gangetic Plain in the first millennium BCE, moving India from prehistory into the age of decipherable texts, and the time of the Buddha, Mahavira and the early Upanishads."

—From the Introduction of Namit Arora's The Land beyond the Sindhu: Journeys Through Early India, due from Penguin (Sep '20).


Pictures from 2019 coming soon ...


All pictures below are from my April 2006 visit to Dholavira

The citadel (more)

South-east corner

Eastern walls of the citadel

East entrance

Water tank (1, 2)

Water tank (1, 2, 3)

Steps down a tank

More water tanks (1, 2)

A granary?

South entrance to citadel

The Bailey (servant homes?)

A well on the citadel

Peeking inside the well

Small water tank on citadel

Bathing area (more)

Remains of citadel rooms

Shard-studded wall

Corridor inside citadel

Circular rooms (more)

Former royal chamber?

Eastern entryway

Passageway inside citadel


Brickwork from two eras

Water harvesting conduit

Water harvesting conduit

A fine pillar base

Tourist bungalow from the citadel

North-eastern corner

Northern wall

Northern wall (1, 2)

Northern wall

North entrance

Writing over the north entrance,
"the oldest signboard in the world"

This is a replica of what was probably a headboard over the north entrance.

Stadium from north entrance

Stadium from middle town

Middle town ruins

Market street (more)

Market street

Four-way intersection

Side street

Waste receptacle

Fragments of the past

Fragments of the past

Cemetery area (local flora)

The largest water tank (more)

The largest water tank (more)

Women near the ruins

Dholavira signpost

Across the Great Rann of Kutch

Saline mudflats (more)

Great Rann of Kutch (more)

Rabari tribeswoman (more)

Rabari tribeswomen

Local woman

Local woman

Local women

Local women (more)

Local women

Tribal family (more)

Path to the excavated site

Traveling hundreds of miles in summer to this isolated site near the western edge of India, I encounter this sign put up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Shaking my head in disbelief, I ask: Why? What can possibly be the rationale for prohibiting photography here? ASI ought to be marketing this site, a global cultural heritage, and providing better facilities (e.g., a site museum, a brochure, guides). I recall that the ASI also bars photography at nearly all of its site museums, of works with long expired copyright claims. Why? Nobody ever has a good answer ('orders from above' is the most common). 'Apply for permission in Delhi,' they say. If this isn't the product of a bureaucratic mind I don't know what is. Annoyance again wells up within me. Stupid rules need not be followed, I tell myself, and resolve to flout the injunction, if need be by cajoling or bribing the lone caretaker on site, or sneaking in behind his back.  [-- Namit Arora, 2006]



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