Wednesday, June 25 1997

Dholavira excavations throw light on Harappan civilisation


NEW DELHI, June 24: If the discovery of Mohenjodaro and Harappa in the 1920s changed the dateline of Indian history with fresh evidence of an older civilisation, the Dholavira excavations of the 1990s have further enlightened archaeologists with revelations of an extensive Harappan city in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

A team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), led by Dr R S Bisht, Director (Excavations and Museums of ASI), conducted five field seasons of excavations at this semi-arid site.

Bisht, who had earlier carried out excavations in the multi-cultural site of Sanghol (Ludhiana district), Banawali - a premature and post-Harappan site, Chechar and Nalanda (Bihar) and Semthan in Kashmir, gave an exposition of his latest findings in Dholavira at a lecture organised by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts on June 19.

Among Bhisht's findings, the most conspicuous was the aesthetic architecture of the city, a unique water harnessing system and the storm-water drainage system. A 7 meter deep rock-cut reservoir with a confirmed length of 79 meter was among the most significant finds of Bhisht.

Awesome, for it had been vertically cut through the rock. Another, equally deep reservoir of fine stone masonry was also found.

The reservoirs skirted the cities while the citadel and baths were centrally located on raised ground.

A large well, perhaps the largest hitherto found in the Harappan context equipped with a stone-cut trough to connect the drain meant for conducting water to a storage tank was also found. Circular structures conjoining like the figure eight believed to be used for bathing were unearthed at the site.

Most notable is a bathing tank with steps descending inwards. However, amongst the most curious finds is a huge brick masonry tumulus, or a circular grave built in with 10 radial walls of mud bricks almost assuming the shape of a `spoked wheel' perhaps personifying, as Bisht says, ``life, rebirth or the kalchakra'' at this ancient sepulchral site.

Interestingly, all these funerary structures except one were devoid of skeletons. Bhisht explains this as perhaps being a ``symbolic gesture'' of recalling the dead.

The grave sites typically have an assortment of supple pots and curvaceous jars.

A soft sandstone sculpture of a male with phallus erectus with its head and feet below the ankle truncated was found in the passage way of the eastern gate.

The Dholavira site also uncovered terracotta pieces, bangles, rings beads and exotic seals with intaglio engravings.

However, an account of the Dholavira excavations will not be complete without mentioning the unique inscription consisting of 10 large-sized signs which were discovered.

It is reminiscent of their picture like script called `pictographs' which unfortunately have not been deciphered. Bhisht quaintly calls it ``the oldest signboards of the world''.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.





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