In 2021, Dholavira in Gujarat became the 40th Indian World Heritage site, marking the 4th site from the state to achieve this status. Dholavira is the sixth largest Harappan settlement in India and was discovered in 1968 by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi. As a prominent site belonging to the Harappa and Indus Valley civilization, Dholavira is one of the well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia, dating back to 3000 BCE to 1700 BCE. It is situated in the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, which is a small and isolated region. The nearest village is Dholavira village, and a museum has been developed by the ASI on-site.

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North Gate, Kotada Bazar_©asi

Outstanding Universal Value- 

Dholavira is a great example that showcases the rich history of the Harappan civilization, which settled in South Asia and thrived for over 1500 years. The people who lived here are believed to have been highly knowledgeable and prosperous. They constructed the entire location with a highly successful water management system, well-planned town layout, advanced construction techniques, art, manufacturing, and overall development. This system represents the amalgamation of a civilization rich with distinct characteristics. 

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Stages of human history of Harappan settlement of Dholavira_©author


According to UNESCO‘s criteria, Dholavira falls under both criteria III and criteria IV. Criteria III recognizes Dholavira as an outstanding site of the Harappa civilization, a highly urbanised city with a wealth of architectural elements. The evidence found on the site was interestingly examined and tells us about the development of the habitation in various aspects as the city grew to include different architectural elements and other attributes. Criteria IV acknowledges its impressive city planning and multi-layered fortifications, as well as its innovative water storage structures, well-designed drainage system, and unique use of local materials for site development.

Site Details-

The property of the Dholavira is around 103 hectares. This site is also very known for its architecture techniques, planning and styles. The town consists of an outer wall fortification wall which is 15-18 m thick at the bottom and 12-metre-thick at the top. Citadel is the core element of the town that has most architectural elements found. It measured 150-metre E-W and 120-metre N-S. Further towards the North, there is a middle town that is said to be an organic settlement. Lower town is considered to be as similar in features as the middle town but it was not excavated to a large extent like middle town. It is said that this town was developed after a catastrophic earthquake which was built by people who helped carry out repairs. 

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Site plan of Dholavira_©asi
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View of Citadel_©asi
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General view of Middle Town_ ©asi

Water System-

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Water harnessing systems of Dholavira_©Swastik

This archaeological site developed on an island, surrounded by Mansar in the north and Manhar in the south. Unlike other civilizations, Dholavira settled due to these two seasonal river streams. The fresh water from the stream played a major part in human settlement. The people efficiently used every drop of water, showcasing their skill in conserving and constructing their town planning system and hydraulic engineering which supported life for many years in harsh, hot, and arid climatic conditions. The knowledge of water conservation in large capacities and their capability of storing rainwater in huge systems were channelled in a sophisticated way. The water reservoirs were built in the form of large rock-cut structures mainly present on the east and south sides. Moreover, stone drainage patterns were constructed with huge stones to direct water to other sides of the site. These drainages are covered from the top with small and large drains intersecting in a way that connects to an arterial drain. The site also includes a very historic well, which is also an example of a rock-cut structure. The west side area was an entire water reservoir which recharged from surface runoff and from the roof of the buildings too. In order to control the temporary stream of Mansar, a check dam system was built and the outer limits of the centre town were defended. Drains were constructed since the heart of the settlement was naturally elevated. The lower town was well-served by bodies of water to the north and south (around the Manhar). Additionally, it is anticipated that the northeastern portion of the city will contain another reservoir.

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View of south reservoir_ ©asi
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Ten Indus characters from the northern gate of Dholavira, dubbed the Dholavira Signboard_©wikimedia

Ten large Harappan Hieroglyphics were inlaid on the lintel of the northern gateway, known as the Dholavira Signboard. These symbols are made of mineral gypsum and are mounted on a large wooden board. The letters are similar in size to large bricks, approximately 15 inches high, and the wooden board is about 9.8 feet long. Additionally, a four-sign inscription in large letters made of sandstone, the first of its kind found on the Harappan site, was also discovered at the same location.

Other archaeological facts-

The Khadir Bet island is triangular in shape and spans an area of 200 square kilometres. The island is predominantly composed of sandstone, with other formations including claystone, laminated siltstone, and fossiliferous limestone. Quarrying on the island has yielded a variety of materials used in construction, pottery making, and the creation of artefacts for both local use and export. It is interesting to note that archaeological evidence proves that a previous tradition of plastering buildings in the city with bright white and pink clays, often in multiple layers, was suddenly discontinued after a catastrophe. Subsequently, all buildings were maintained as exposed masonry or with mud plaster.

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Location of the sites in Khadir Bet_ ©Indian Journal of Geo Marine Sciences

After understanding the overall pattern and system of the incredible humans who built such efficient use of resources in many ways, water management is one of the reasons why they ensure that everybody gets water supply in the town. Maintaining this effort, they have never lacked in their resources even in their worst times. Not just that, those people have a sense of properly maintaining and using those resources in a way that never gets wasted by creating sustainable water resource management.

Reference list:

Dholavira Civilization – Each water drop counts, Change started

Available at: [Accessed: 10 June 2024]

Dholavira: a Harappan City, UNESCO

Available at: [Accessed: 10 June 2024]

Harish, S. (2009). Dholavira: Ancient Water Harnessing System, Academia

Available at: [Accessed: 10 June 2024]

Gaur, S., Sundaresh, Murali, R. (2018). Looking for the Harappan ports and Dholavira, Khadir Bet, Kachchh, Gujarat, Indian Journal of Geo Marine Sciences

Available at: [Accessed: 10 June 2024]


She is an architect from Mathura with a strong interest in heritage conservation, adaptive reuse, urban regeneration, and research. She graduated from Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Agra. She has previously worked as a volunteer in different regions of India. She has a keen interest in social engagement activities, as well as research and writing skills. As an architect, she has realized that her objective extends beyond creating new designs to include conserving heritage and contributing to the well-being of future generations.