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Dholavira - UNESCO World Heritage Site

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July 28, 2021

Why in news?

Dholavira, the archaeological site of a Harappan-era city, has recently received the UNESCO world heritage site tag.

What is the Dholavira site?

  • The IVC (Indus Valley Civilisation) city is located on a hillock near present-day Dholavira village in Kutch district.
  • [Dholavira, a village with a population of around 2,000, is the nearest human settlement at present.]
  • It was discovered in 1968 by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi.
  • The site’s excavation between 1990 and 2005 under the supervision of archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht uncovered the ancient city.
  • It was a commercial and manufacturing hub for about 1,500 years before its decline and eventual ruin in 1500 BC.
  • [Since the excavation at the site, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) has developed a museum here.
  • Near the ancient city is a fossil park where wood fossils are preserved.]

What are the distinct features of the site?

  • Dholavira is the fifth largest metropolis of IVC.
  • It comes after Mohen-jo-Daro, Ganweriwala and Harappa in Pakistan and Rakhigarhi in Haryana of India. 
  • The site has a fortified citadel, a middle town and a lower town.
  • There are walls made of sandstone or limestone instead of mud bricks in many other Harappan sites.
  • There area cascading series of water reservoirs, outer fortification, two multi-purpose grounds, and nine gates with unique designs.
  • The site also has a funerary architecture featuring tumulus - hemispherical structures like the Buddhist Stupas.
  • Unlike graves at other IVC sites, no mortal remains of humans have been discovered at Dholavira.
  • Memorials that contain no bones or ashes but offerings of precious stones, etc. add a new dimension to the personality of the Harappans.

What were the key economic activities?

  • Remains of a copper smelter indicate that Harappans, who lived in Dholavira, knew metallurgy.
  • The traders of Dholavira might have sourced copper ore from present-day Rajasthan, and Oman and UAE, and exported finished products.
  • Dholavira also used to export timber.
  • It was also a hub of manufacturing jewellery made of shells and semi-precious stones, like agate.
  • Such beads peculiar to the Harappan workmanship have been found in the royal graves of Mesopotamia, indicating trade with the Mesopotamians.

What led to its fall?

  • Its decline also coincided with the collapse of Mesopotamia, indicating the integration of economies.
  • Harappans, who were maritime people, lost a huge market.
  • The local mining, manufacturing, marketing and export businesses got affected once Mesopotamia fell.
  • From 2000 BC, Dholavira entered a phase of severe aridity due to climate change and rivers like Saraswati drying up.
  • Because of a drought-like situation, people started migrating towards the Ganges valley.
  • Or, they moved towards south Gujarat and further beyond in Maharashtra.
  • [In those times,the Great Rann of Kutch, which surrounds the Khadir island on which Dholavira is located, used to be navigable.
  • But the sea receded gradually and the Rann became a mudflat.]

What is the significance of UNESCO recognition?

  • Dholavira became the fourth site from Gujarat and 40th from India to make it to the UNESCO list.
  • It is the first site of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) in India to get the tag.
  • The UNESCO listing became possible because the site was found free from any kind of encroachment, a rarity in India.
  • [Though it was excavated recently, the Dholavira site has remained free from encroachment in historical periods as well as in the modern era.]
  • The UNESCO has termed Dholavira as one of the most remarkable and well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE.

What are the other Harappan sites in Gujarat?

  • Before Dholavira’s excavation, Lothalwas the most prominent site of IVC in Gujarat.
  • Lothal is in Saragwala village on the bank of Sabarmati in Dholka taluka of Ahmedabad district.
  • Excavated between 1955 and 1960, it was discovered to be an important port city of the ancient civilisation, with structures made of mud bricks.
  • From a graveyard in Lothal, 21 human skeletons were found.
  • Foundries for making copperware were also discovered.
  • Ornaments made of semi-precious stones, gold etc. were also found from the site.
  • Besides Lothal, Rangpur on the bank of Bhadar river in Surendranagar district was the first Harappan site in the state to be excavated.
  • Rojdi in Rajkot district, Prabhas in Gir Somnath district, Lakhabaval in Jamnagar, and Deshalpar in Kutch are among other Harappan sites in the state.


Source: The Indian Express

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