Lothal was a city and is known as the oldest port city in India. Lothal is said to be a combination of two words, Loth and thal which in Gujarati means ‘the mound of the dead.’ Located about 80 km southwest of Ahmedabad, this city stood at this archaeological site 4500 years ago which means that it was inhabited during 3700 BCE. It was a thriving port and was one of the most important cities of the Indus Valley civilization which extended into what is now Pakistan.
The Indus Valley civilization was a bronze age civilization in the northwestern regions of South Asia and it lasted from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE and in its mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. It was one of the most widespread civilizations among the three early civilizations together with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This civilization flourished around the alluvial plain of the Indus river which flows through the length of Pakistan and a system of perennial monsoon-fed rivers that once went through the vicinity of the Ghaggar-Hakra, a seasonal river in the northwest of India and eastern Pakistan. Cities of the ancient Indus Valley were known for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of non-residential buildings, and techniques of handicraft and metallurgy.
Lothal was one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus Valley civilization located in the Bhal region of the modern state of Gujarat and it is known as the world’s first dry dock. It had a dockyard made of baked bricks which is further proof that it was the centre of maritime activity of the Harappan. While planning the city, the major concern was to ensure that the town was safe from annual sheet flooding and high-intensity flash floods. Houses were built on terraced platforms and they went on to further safeguard them with a peripheral wall. The entire town was divided into a number of blocks of one or two meters high platforms of sun-dried bricks which served as common plinths for groups of twenty or thirty houses.
While planning Lothal city, the Indus valley civilization paradigm was followed whereby the city was divided into citadels and a lower town. The ruler, their entourage, and the priests lived in the acropolis where the houses were built on three-meter-high platforms and all these were equipped with civic amenities which included paved paths, underground drains, and a well for potable water. This arrangement created a form of hierarchy in the society where the leaders and their entourage lived in citadels that were placed on higher walls and this in turn encouraged natural surveillance of the towns by the leaders because they literally overlooked the rest of the town. The lower town also had civic amenities and it was subdivided into two sectors: the north-south arterial street and the residential sector. The North-south arterial street consisted of the main commercial centre which was characterized by shops and houses for the rich merchants and craftsmen. The residential sector was located on the east and west of the commercial block. This pattern of organizing the communities ensured that the streets were wide enough and this might also have led to the grid system in which Lothal town was arranged. The town was then encircled by a high wall made of burnt bricks and this was a way of wading off invaders.
Being that Lothal was a dock city, high priority was given to two features first of which was the dock for berthing ships, and the second was space for the warehouses where the cargo was stored and examined. The dockyard was rectangular and it is said to be 218m long and 37m wide bound by baked bricks on all sides. The dock was also built on the eastern flank of the town which meant that it was located away from the main current which helped it avoid silting while at the same time it ensured that access was given to the ships to dock during high tide. The warehouse was built close to the acropolis on a podium of mud bricks to serve as a clearing house for both incoming and outgoing cargo. The location of the warehouse also enabled the ruler to supervise the movement of the ships in the dock and the warehouse transactions simultaneously.
The arterial streets run in cardinal directions connecting various blocks which were intersected by lanes that provided access to the individual houses. Hygiene was vital for the people who lived in Lothal in that the underground and surface drains built of kiln-fired bricks ensured quick disposal of sullage and stormwater. Bathing platforms, toilets, and lota-like jars were discovered which shows how the people were fixated on washing up. Big drains were dug on roadsides and burnt brick was used in making the drains. The drains were covered and they passed through the town to the outskirts and then they ended up in a big well. The small drains of the residential houses were joined to the big drain from the front of the houses and then wastewater and refuse from these individual houses was drained out to the big well outside town. This helped prevent foul smells and pollution in the towns and residential areas.
Drishtiias.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/lothal-indias-oldest-port-city/print_manually [Accessed 25 Nov. 2022].
www.penn.museum. (n.d.). Shipping and Maritime Trade of the Indus People | Expedition Magazine. [online] Available at: https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/shipping-and-maritime-trade-of-the-indus-people/.
www.harappa.com. (n.d.). Harappa Site Search for lothal. [online] Available at: https://www.harappa.com/search/site/lothal [Accessed 25 Nov. 2022].
Your Article Library. (2015). Town-Planning of Harappan Culture. [online] Available at: https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/history/harappan-culture/town-planning-of-harappan-culture/47577.
indianculture.nvli.in. (n.d.). Lothal | INDIAN CULTURE. [online] Available at: https://indianculture.nvli.in/stories/lothal.
Wikipedia. (2021). Lothal. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lothal.
gujrattourism. (n.d.). Lothal. [online] Available at: https://www.gujarattourism.com/central-zone/ahmedabad/lothal.html [Accessed 25 Nov. 2022].