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Friday, September 24, 2021

Harappan city of Dholavira in Kutch among UNESCO’s world heritage sites

The decision taken at the 44th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on at Fuzhou, China, comes days after the Kakatiya Rudreshwara temple in Telangana, popularly called the Ramappa Temple, was inscribed on the list.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot |
July 28, 2021 5:57:35 am
Dholavira, Harappan city in Kutch. (Photo: Twitter/Vijay Rupani)

Dholavira, the Harappan-era archaeological site located in Kutch district of Gujarat, was on Tuesday inscribed on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, making it the first site of Indus Valley Civilisation in India to be included on the coveted list.

The decision taken at the 44th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on at Fuzhou, China, comes days after the Kakatiya Rudreshwara temple in Telangana, popularly called the Ramappa Temple, was inscribed on the list.

“Dholavira: A Harappan City, in India, just inscribed on the @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List. Cong-ratulations!” UNESCO tweeted.

After Champaner, Rani ki Vav and the walled city area of Ahm-edabad, Dholavira is the fourth site from Gujarat to gain the tag.

An official release from UNESCO described Dholavira as an ancient city, which is one of themost remarkable and well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia dating from the third to mid-second millennium BCE (Before Common Era).

Discovered in 1968, UNESCO said in a release, the site is set apart by its unique characteristics, such as its water management system, multi-layered defensive mechanisms, extensive use of stone in construction and special burial structures.

“Of note is also the art associated with the city – artefacts of various kinds such as copper, shell, stone, jewellery of semi-precious stones, terracotta, gold, ivory have been found at the site. In addition, the interregional trade links associated with Dholavira, have also been acknowledged as contributing to the shared heritage of humanity,” UNESCO said.

Located on Khadir island in the Great Rann of Kutch (GRK) in Bhachau taluka of Kutch district, Dholavira is around 210 kilometres east of district headquarters Bhuj. Spread over 22 hectares, the Harappan-era acropolis is the fifth largest archaeological site of the Indus Valley Civilisation, dating back to around 3000 BC and is believed to have been occupied till 1500 BC. It draws its name from present-day village Dholavira on the semi-arid island on the Indo-Pakistan border.

“Absolutely delighted by this news. Dholavira was an important urban centre and is one of our most important linkages with our past. It is a must visit, especially for those interested in history, culture and archaeology,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, adding he had first visited the site during his student days and was mesmerised by the place.

“As CM of Gujarat, I had the opportunity to work on aspects relating to heritage conservation and restoration in Dholavira. Our team also worked to create tourism-friendly infrastructure there,” Modi added.

Crediting the PM for bringing the honour, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said in a tweet, “It is a matter of immense pride that the @UNESCO has conferred the World Heritage tag to Dholavira, a Harappan city in Kutch. This shows the firm commitment of our Honourable Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi ji towards promoting Indian culture and heritage.”

Union Minister for Culture, Tourism and Development of North Eastern Region, G Kishan Reddy said that Dholavira was the 40th site from India to be included on the UNESCO world heritage list and 10th to make to the list since 2014.

Locally known as Kotda Timba (the fort mound), the expansive site was discovered in the 1960s by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi who served as the director general of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) between 1987 and 1990. The site was excavated under the supervision of archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht of the ASI in the 1990s.

The acropolis is divided into three main parts — the citadel, the middle town and the lower town, with the citadel having elaborate fortification structures. Excavation has revealed that the city houses, constructed using sandy limestones, were connected to an extensive network of sewage.

The city also had tanks to store rainwater or fresh water harvested from other sources. Remains of copper smelters have also been found along with memorials having hemispherical structures though no mortal remains of humans have been recovered. Red earthenware, ornamental beads made of semi-precious stones and microlithic tools were also found during the excavation.

Officers of the Kutch district administration said that a proposal was forwarded to the UNESCO seeking to inscribe Dholavira on the world heritage sites list and the World Heritage Committee of the UN body approved the proposal at its ongoing virtual session chaired from Fuzhou in China on Tuesday.

An elated Bisht told The Indian Express, “This is recognition of my work. I am very happy. It is also a great thing as Dholavira is the first Harappan site from India to be inscribed on the world heritage sites list of UNESCO. I am doubly happy because I worked on Rani Ki Vav in Patan, which is also a world heritage site.”

Mohenjo-Daro, the largest Harappan-era archaeological site located in present-day Pakistan is the other Indus Valley Civilisation site inscribed on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

“Deposits running 13 metres deep in Dholavira have provided a very convincing story of rise and fall of Indus Valley Civilisation from about 3000 BCE to about 1500 BCE, during which it saw various stages — stage of infancy, stage of adolescence, stage of maturity and then stage of old age/decline and to finally how a very advanced urban civilisation finally became totally ruinous settlement,” said the 77-year-old archaeologist retired as jointed director general of ASI in 2004.

He added that Dholavira was an explained example of town planning done with mathematical precision, nice architecture and a cascading series water reservoirs right around the built-up area although well within the outer fortification.

“This is unique as it has not been found in any other Harappan sites so far. Two multi-purpose grounds — I used to call one of them the great multi-purpose ground which was used for social gatherings, festivals, sports, races and other cultural programmes. We found evidence that after all festivities, the area was used for trading. Dholavira people used to manufacture copperware and products of shell and sell them as far away as Mesopotamia. That establishes it as a manufacturing and commercial hub,” said the archaeologist who was conferred Padma Shri in 2013.

Dholavira also featured in the Khusbhu Gujarat Ki campaign of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL).

“This is big news. It will help in conservation of the site and give boost to tourism in Kutch,” Praveena DK, district collector of Kutch, told The Indian Express. “Ghaduli-Santaplur highway is under construction and it will soon integrate Dholavira in the tourism circuit of Kutch. It will connect the White Desert to Dholavira and will also reduce the distance between Kutch and Dholavira,” she added.

The collector added that the government notified 48 square kilometres as buffer zone around the Dholavira site in January this year. That includes 37.18 square kilometres of forest land and 9.91 square kilometres of revenue land in Dholavira village, said Praveena. Construction and other development activities are restricted in buffer zones of UNESCO listed sites.

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