Considered one of the largest cities of the Indus Valley civilization, Mohenjo-Daro dates back to 2500 BC. This mysterious gem and Harappa were considered twin cities that flourished on the banks of the river Indus and benefited from the fertile lands of the river flood plains as well as trade with Mesopotamia. In Sindhi, Mohenjo-Daro translates to the ‘Mound of the Dead’ or the ‘Hill of the Dead’. This marvelous city’s planning, remarkable architecture, and complex sewage and water systems made it one of the most advanced urban settings of all time. 

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The Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro_ ©www.linqstor.com

State of the area

Mohenjo-Daro is located in the present-day Larkana district of Sindh province in Pakistan. Its covered area is estimated at 300 ha. and its population was approximately between 30,000 and 40,000. The ancient city was divided into two sectors: A Citadel in the west, where the Buddhist stupa was built in the 2nd century AD. This area comprised massive buildings, the cistern of a public bath, and a basement of the presumed Great Granary. In the east was the Lower City that spread out along the banks of the river Indus. 

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Mohenjo-Daro’s Acropolis_ ©www.researchgate.net

The buildings of Mohenjo-Daro were mostly built with baked bricks of the ratio 4:2:1 and laid out along intersecting streets. The Lower City’s main streets were about 8 meters wide, dividing the metropolis into many blocks whereas a grid of smaller scale streets fractionated them into individual house lots. The city had a highly regulated form of planning that included public baths, elaborate drainage, and sewage disposal systems, wells, a large granary, and a college of priests. All of these bear witness that Mohenjo-Daro had the advantage of well-arranged civic, social, economic, and cultural systems. Nevertheless, as the city lacks extravagant palaces, monuments, or temples; there is no evident central seat of government. Ergo, it can be argued that order, neatness, and modesty were favored. 

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Plan of Mohenjo-Daro_ ©www.world-archaeology.com

The Great Bath is a watertight pool perched on top of a mound and enclosed by walls made of baked bricks. It is the closest structure to a temple in Mohenjo-Daro and it implies an ideology contingent on cleanliness. Surrounding the Great Bath, there are small changing rooms with an annexed bath area in each room. Each sizeable house had a well and nearly every house had a bathing area and drainage system. The sewage of each house led to a drain ditch alongside the alley. Verily, it is astonishing that a city constructed in such order existed more than 4,000 years ago, which engulfs the complex city of Mohenjo-Daro in a bewildering veil and adds an enigmatic dimension to its history.

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Excavated ruins of Mohenjo Daro, with the Great Bath in the foreground and the Granary Mound in the background_ ©www.commons.wikimedia.org

Excavations of the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro revealed the existence of many artifacts, namely an earthenware utilized in daily life, animal and human-shaped clay figures, complicated accessories made of beads, and trading seals which indicate that civilizations of the east and those of the west exchanged with one another actively. Since there were no buildings that represent the potent power of rulers such as palaces or temples, it is believed that the inhabitants of Mohenjo-Daro were treated equally. Accordingly, people in the city are assumed to have lived well.

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Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro_ ©www.toistudent.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Reason for abandonment 

The great city went into decline around 1700 BC. Unfortunately, Mohenjo-Daro was left to be buried under the sands of time. Anyhow, the end of the Indus civilization – and by extension Mohenjo-Daro— remains an indecipherable puzzle. Some researchers propound that the Indus River changed its course, which would have impeded the local agricultural economy and the city’s status as a major trade center. Still, even if the river’s course changed, it would not explicate the collapse of the Indus civilization entirely. 

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Mohenjo-Daro: An Archeological Gem of the Indus Valley_©www.msrblog.com

On a separate note, David Davenport – a British researcher- postulated that the city of Mohenjo-Daro was decimated due to a catastrophic event probably involving an atomic explosion. Another speculation on the fall of the civilization is desertification following the over-cutting of forest trees to make burnt bricks. Other theories suggest that the reason was the flooding of the Indus River, but no evidence reinforces this hypothesis. Notwithstanding the fall of the Indus Valley civilization, cultures and cities such as Mohenjo-Daro have survived unremittingly to the present time to bear witness to their existence.

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An Artist’s render of what Mohenjo-Daro might have looked like during its peak_©AnnoyzView

Current condition 

Some walls have crumbled to the hilt, others are close to doing so, and even without natural disasters, the city is assuredly fading fast. However, the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, prepared a comprehensive Master Plan to pin down the real extent of the archaeological site of Mohenjo-Daro. During the Master Plan’s approval process, the archaeological area has been transferred to the Culture Department, Government of Sindh. In this regard, many preservation actions were set in motion. The problems of thermal stress, salt-action, and rain are managed through a comprehensive approach involving the application of mud capping, mud slurry, re-pointing and other consolidation works. Besides, the danger of flood was fractionally mitigated by constructing spurs and embankments. The Department of Culture is undertaking consistent monitoring of the dam and is seeking secure funding to strengthen it.

Mohenjo-Daro Excavation Site_ ©www.blogs.brown.edu

Mohenjo-Daro is a prodigious artifact of the ancient Indus Valley civilization that sat underneath the soil for thousands of years and is, heretofore, lost in time.

References:

  1. BBC News. 2022. Mohenjo Daro: Could this ancient city be lost forever?. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18491900
  2. Pal, S., 2022. 16 Fascinating Facts about Mohenjodaro & Indus Valley, a Civilisation Far Ahead of its Time. [online] The Better India. Available at: https://www.thebetterindia.com/60143/mohenjodaro-harappa-indus-valley-civilization/
  3. History. 2022. Lost City of Mohenjo Daro Puzzles Archaeologists. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/mohenjo-daro
  4. Eorc.jaxa.jp. 2022. Mohenjo-daro: An Amazingly Developed City | 2010 | JAXA Earth Observation Research Center (EORC). [online] Available at : https://www.eorc.jaxa.jp/en/earthview/2010/tp100324.html
  5. Centre, U., 2022. Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro. [online] Whc.unesco.org. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/138/
Author

Najlaa believes that writing, art, and architecture enunciate one’s inner voice. Through a process of research carried out with scrupulous attention to detail, she seeks to ease curiosity with a pen, and tame the incessant questions of Why and How.

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