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ધોળાવીરા (Gujarati)
Dholavira is located in India
Shown within India
Location Kutch District, Gujarat, India
Type Settlement
Length 771 m (2,530 ft)
Width 617 m (2,024 ft)
Area 100 ha (250 acres)
Periods Harappan 2 to Harappan 5
Cultures Indus Valley Civilization
Site notes
Excavation dates 1990–present
Condition Ruined
Ownership Public
Public access Yes

Dholavira (Gujarati: ધોળાવીરા) is an archaeological site at Khadirbet in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District, in the state of Gujarat in western India, which has taken its name from a modern village 1 km (0.62 mi) south of it. This village is 165 km from Radhanpur. Also known locally as Kotada timba, the site contains ruins of an ancient Indus Valley Civilization/Harappan city. It is one of the five largest Harappan sites[1] and most prominent archaeological sites in India belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is also considered as having been the grandest of cities[2] of its time. It is located on Khadir bet island in the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in the Great Rann of Kutch. The area of the full site is more than 100 ha (250 acres).[3] The site was occupied from c.2650 BCE, declining slowly after about 2100 BCE. It was briefly abandoned then reoccupied until c.1450 BCE.[4]

The site was discovered in 1967-8 by J. P. Joshi and is the fifth largest of eight major Harappan sites. It has been under excavation since 1990 by the Archaeological Survey of India, which opines that "Dholavira has indeed added new dimensions to personality of Indus Valley Civilisation."[5] The other major Harappan sites discovered so far are: Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Ganeriwala, Rakhigarhi, Kalibangan, Rupnagar and Lothal.


  • Chronology of Dholavira 1
  • Excavations 2
  • Architecture and Material Culture 3
    • Reservoirs 3.1
    • Seal Making 3.2
    • Other structures and objects 3.3
    • Hemispherical Constructions 3.4
  • Findings 4
  • Coastal route 5
  • Language and script 6
    • Sign board 6.1
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Chronology of Dholavira

Layout of Dholavira

R.S. Bisht, the director of the Dholavira excavations, has defined the following seven stages of occupation at the site:[6]

Stages Dates
Stage I 2650–2550 BCE Early Harappan – Mature Harappan Transition A
Stage II 2550–2500 BCE Early Harappan – Mature Harappan Transition B
Stage III 2500–2200 BCE Mature Harappan A
Stage IV 2200–2000 BCE Mature Harappan B
Stage V 2000–1900 BCE Mature Harappan C
1900–1850 BCE Period of desertion
Stage VI 1850–1750 BCE Posturban Harappan A
1750–1650 BCE Period of desertion
Stage VII 1650–1450 BCE Posturban Harappan B


Excavation was initiated in 1989 by the Archaeological Survey of India under the direction of R. S. Bisht, and there were 13 field excavations between 1990 and 2005.[1] The excavation brought to light the urban planning and architecture, and unearthed large numbers of antiquities such as seals, beads, animal bones, gold, silver, terracotta ornaments, pottery and bronze vessels. Archaeologists believe that Dholavira was an important centre of trade between settlements in south Gujarat, Sindh and Punjab and Western Asia.[7][8]

Architecture and Material Culture

Estimated to be older than the port-city of

  • Excavations at Dholavira in Archaeological Survey of India website
  • Dholavira Pictures by Archaeological Survey of India website
  • Jurassic Park: Forest officials stumble upon priceless discovery near Dholavira; Express news service; 8 Jan 2007; Indian Express Newspaper
  • ASI’s effort to put Dholavira on World Heritage map hits roadblock; by Hitarth Pandya; 13 Feb 2009; Indian Express Newspaper
  • ASI to take up excavation in Kutch's Khirasara; by Prashant Rupera, TNN; 2 November 2009; Times of India

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e Subramanian, T S (5–18 June 2010. Vol 27 Issue 12). "The rise and fall of a Harappan City". Frontline. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Kenoyer & Heuston, Jonathan Mark & Kimberley (2005). The Ancient South Asian World. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 55.  
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f Possehl, Gregory L. (2002). The indus civilization : a contemporary perspective (2. print. ed.). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. pp. 67–70.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Excavations-Dholavira". Archaeological Survey of India. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Possehl, Gregory. (2004). The Indus Civilization: A contemporary perspective, New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, ISBN 81-7829-291-2, p.67.
  7. ^ Aqua Dholavira - Archaeology Magazine Archive. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
  8. ^ McIntosh, Jane (2008). The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. Page 177 [5]
  9. ^ McIntosh, Jane.(2008) The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives ABC-CLIO. Page 174 [6]
  10. ^ McIntosh, Jane.(2008) The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives ABC-CLIO. Page 224 [7]
  11. ^ McIntosh, Jane.(2008) The Ancient Indus Valley : New Perspective. Page 226 [8]
  12. ^ Wheeler, Sir Mortimer. The Indus Civilisation. London 1972
  13. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. New Delhi: Pearson Education India. pp. 155 bottom.  
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Dholavira excavations throw light on Harappan civilisation". United News of India. 25 June 1997. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  15. ^ McIntosh, Jane (2008). The Ancient Indus Valley : New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 84.  
  16. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. New Delhi: Pearson Education India. p. 155.  
  17. ^ Possehl, Gregory. (2004). The Indus Civilization: A contemporary perspective, New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, ISBN 81-7829-291-2, p.69.
  18. ^ "5,000-year-old Harappan stepwell found in Kutch, bigger than Mohenjodaro's". The Times of India Mobile Site. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Possehl, Gregory L. (2002). The indus civilization : a contemporary perspective (2. print. ed.). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. p. 124.  
  20. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century. New Delhi: Pearson Education. p. 163.  
  21. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century. New Delhi: Pearson Education. p. 167.  
  22. ^ a b Parpola, Asko (2005) Study of the Indus Script. 50th ICES Tokyo Session.
  23. ^ Mahadevan, Iravatham (Feb 4, 2007). "Towards a scientific study of Indus Script". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  24. ^ Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark. Indus Cities, Towns and Villages. American Institute of Pakistan Studies, Islamabad. 1998
  25. ^ Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Oxford University Press. 1998
  26. ^ Possehl, Gregory. (2004). The Indus Civilization: A contemporary perspective, New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, ISBN 81-7829-291-2, p.70.


See also

One of the most significant discoveries at Dholavira was made in one of the side rooms of the northern gateway of the city, and is generally known as Dholavira Signboard. The Harappans had arranged and set pieces of the mineral gypsum to form ten large symbols or letters on a big wooden board[25] At some point, the board fell flat on its face. The wood decayed, but the arrangement of the letters survived. The letters of the signboard are comparable to large bricks that were used in nearby walls. Each sign is about 37 cm (15 in) high and the board on which letters were inscribed was about 3 m (9.8 ft) long.[26] The inscription is one of the longest in the Indus script, with one symbol appearing four times, and this and its large size and public nature make it a key piece of evidence cited by scholars arguing that the Indus script represents full literacy. A four sign inscription with big size letters on a sand stone is also found at this site, considered first of such inscription on sand stone at any of Harappan sites.[1]

Ten Indus glyphs discovered near the northern gate of Dholavira

Sign board

The Harrapans spoke an unknown language and their script has not yet been deciphered. It is believed to have had about 400 basic signs, with many variations.[22] The signs may have stood both for words and for syllables.[22] The direction of the writing was generally from right to left.[23] 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.[24] A lot of inscribed material was found at Mohenjo-daro and other Indus Valley Civilisation sites.

Language and script

It is suggested that a coastal route existed linking Lothal and Dholavira to Sutkagan Dor on the Makran coast.[21]

Coastal route

Painted Indus black-on-red-ware pottery, square stamp seals, seals without Indus script, a huge sign board measuring about 3 m in length, containing ten letters of Indus script etc.[4] One poorly preserved seated male figure made of stone has also been found, comparable to high quality two stone sculptures found at Harappa.[19] Large black-slipped jars with poiinted base were also found at this site.[4] 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, carleian 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.[1] Stone weights of different measures were also found.[20]


These hemispherical structures bear similarity to early Buddhist stupas.[5] The Archaeological Survey of India, which conducted the excavation, opines that "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".[5]

Seven Hemispherical constructions were found at Dholavira, of which two were excavated in detail, which were constructed over large rock cut chambers.[5] Having a circular plan, these were big hemispherical elevated mud brick constructions. One of the excavated structures was designed in the form of a spoked wheel. The other was also designed in same fashion, but as a wheel without spokes. Although they contained burial goods of pottery, no skeletons were found except for one grave, where a skeleton and a copper mirror were found.[5] A necklace of steatite beads strung to a copper wire with hooks at both ends, a gold bangle, gold and other beads were also found in one of the hemispherical structures.[5]

Hemispherical Constructions

A huge circular structure on the site is believed to be a grave or memorial,[14] although it contained no skeletons or other human remains. The structure consists of ten radial mud-brick walls built in the shape of a spoked wheel.[14] 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.[14] Many funerary structures have been found (although all but one were devoid of skeletons),[14] as well as pottery pieces, terra cotta seals, bangles, rings, beads, and intaglio engravings.[14]

Other structures and objects

Some of the seals found at Dholavira, belonging to Stage III, contained animal only figures, without any type of script and it is suggested that these type of seals represent early conventions of Indus seal making.[4]

Seal Making

In October 2014 excavation began on a rectangular stepwell which measured 73.4m long, 29.3m wide, and 10m deep, making it three times bigger than the Great bath of Mohenjedaro.[18]

The reservoirs are cut through stone vertically, and are about 7 meters deep and 79 meters long. They skirt the city, while the citadel and bath are centrally located on raised ground.[14] There is also a large well with a stone-cut trough connecting it to a drain meant for conducting water to a storage tank.[14] The bathing tank had steps descending inwards.[14]

The inhabitants of Dholavira created sixteen or more reservoirs[4] of varying size during Stage III.[5] Some of these took advantage of the slope of the ground within the large settlement,[5] a drop of 13 m from northeast to northwest. Other reservoirs were excavated, some into living rock. Recent work has revealed two large reservoirs, one to the east of the castle and one to its south, near the Annexe.[17]

"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" says R.S.Bist, Joint Director General (Rtd.), Archaeological Survey of India.[1] One of the unique features[13] of Dholavira is the sophisticated water conservation system[14] of channels and reservoirs, the earliest found anywhere in the world, built completely of stone. The city had massive reservoirs, three of which are exposed.[15] They were used for storing fresh water brought by rains[14] or to store water diverted from two nearby rivulets.[16] This clearly came in response to the desert climate and conditions of Kutch, where several years may pass without rainfall. A seasonal stream which runs in a north-south direction near the site was dammed at several points to collect water.[4]

One of the water reservoirs, with steps, at Dholavira


Dholavira is flanked by two storm water channels; the Mansar in the north, and the Manhar in the south. [12] The most striking feature of the city is that all of its buildings, at least in their present state of preservation, are built of stone, whereas most other Harappan sites, including Harappa itself and Mohenjo-daro, are almost exclusively built of brick.[5] The city within the general fortifications accounts for 48 ha (120 acres). There are extensive structure-bearing areas which are outside yet integral to the fortified settlement. Beyond the walls, another settlement has been found.[11] Next to this stands a place called the 'bailey' where important officials lived.[10] and complex area in the city, of which it appropriates the major portion of the southwestern zone. The towering "castle" stands is defended by double ramparts.[5] The acropolis and the middle town had been furnished with their own defence-work, gateways, built-up areas, street system, wells, and large open spaces. The acropolis is the most thoroughly fortified[9], the middle town, and the lower, the city was constructed to a pre-existing geometrical plan consisting of three divisions – the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa Unlike [5]

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