Dholavira – salt flats, ancient city ruins, a window to a rich history of human civilization

Dholavira Salt Flats on the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Dholavira Salt Flats on the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ancient Wonder – Dholavira Rann of Kutch

Nature is unforgiving at Khadir Bet (an island on the Rann of Kutch Lake). During the monsoon, the landscape remains flooded, marshy when the waters recede, scorching hot in the summer, and bitterly cold in the winter. As we drive along, vast swathes of salt deposits greet us on both sides of the blacktop route. It is barren and devoid of vegetation, providing us with a unique perspective and a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. We are at the Dholavira Rann of Kutch, the North-Western end of Gujarat. These are famous for their salt flats, which are among the world’s largest such deposits. Dholavira is also the story of a civilization that lasted several thousand years. Dholavira in Gujarat is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tribal Life at Rann of Kutch

Our outlook changes to one of wonder while interacting with the tribal community. Respect grows for the inhabitants’ unmatched resilience to harsh living conditions while building cultural and unique traditions. The men wear milk-white kurta pajamas while women wear handcrafted mélange colors with a splash of mirror work. Chief among their primary occupations is the rearing of goats and camels, visible as we cross herds along the way.

Also read: https://20degreesnorth.com/char-dham-yatra-sublime-connect-with-nature/

Indus Valley Civilization

Dholavira, discovered in 1967-68, remains as one of the five largest Harappan sites. As Harappan civilization’s cradle, it lasted 1200 years between 2650 BC and 1450 BC. Dholavira Harappan site, recognized as one of the world’s oldest civilizations, stood out from other Indus Valley Civilization sites. They got built as a quadrangular city fortified with stone walls with a gated community. They provide a peek into the life and times of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization.

Harappan Archeological Site

Dholavira archeological site is in the Bhachau Taluka of Kutch district of Gujarat, and the latitude “Tropic of Cancer” passes through this place. The Kotada Timba ruins lay on the banks of the Indus River tributary. The Mansar river stream on the north and the Manhar river stream on the south gave them access to the sea. But an earthquake changed the river’s course and their lives forever. Climatic changes, drying of the river, and drought caused the decline of Dholavira and played a role in hastening the end.


Kotada Timba Excavation

Dholavira is famous for the Indus Valley Civilization. The remains of the Harappan settlement planning present a picture of a previously flourishing life. The imposing citadel, the upper, the middle, and lower town, well laid out lanes pointed to symmetrical construction techniques. Their precision skills come through shining examples, such as the chiseling of rocks and boulders to the size of cuboid blocks.

Related Discoveries

The construction stones look like our modern-day building bricks, coming in varying sizes (huge, big, and small). Also, it comes with a broad mixture of color hues (white to pink to golden to gray and black). It is a real treat to the eyes. Artifacts unearthed during the excavations were pottery, beads, ornaments, tools and urns, and vessels, establishing trading with far-off Mesopotamia. Besides, a signboard with the Indus Valley script gave indications of the earliest in use. They made their carvings on stone and wood instead of on seals.

Engineering Skills

Their engineering skills extended to erecting bricklayer stone walls to fortify their citadel and circular homes. They built a maze of drainage systems, construct colossal water reservoirs, and develop underground water channels running across the township. Despite the desert conditions, the water remained abundant. Water conservation and usage are at par with the best we have today. Step-wells positioned along reservoir walls in the North-South direction are among the earliest known.


Wood Fossils Park

Walking along the green pathway on the park, you come across massive boulders lying around a little distance away from Kotada Timba. But you understand it as petrified wood (original plant material becoming a stone by mineralization process) when you step forward for a closer look. Jaws drop on, realizing that these fibrous wood fossils belong to the Jurassic age (about 187 million years ago). Today the only plants around in plenty are thorny bushes and cactus.


Lake on the Rann of Kutch

Flying over the lake’s blue waters are migratory birds, the flamingos with their pink, black and white feathers. They complement the orange evening skies while happily swinging from one direction to another within seconds, in random formations. Captivating us are the lake’s freshwaters, gently brushing our feet. This lakeshore encouraged leaving many black designer footprints contrasting with the white salt deposits.


The Marshy Salt Desert at Rann of Kutch

Our maps pointed out the stretch of land that had just dried up. They revealed the salt marshes fit to take a gingerly walk on it. Driving down a couple of Kms from our resort, we halted our vehicle on the roadside, either side of which were the salt marshes. Jumping a meter down from the road siding, we got past the thorny bushes that grew on the edge of the road. Effectively, these were the only patch of green on this stretch of land.

Also read: https://20degreesnorth.com/shaniwarwada-fort-seat-of-peshwa-power/

Full Moon Night on the Rann of Kutch

The full moon night raised expectations of an uncommon experience. Yet the moon played hide-and-seek under dense back-lit clouds, causing shifting lights on the salt marshes. Under the moonlight, the shimmering salt deposits looked like white marble. The serene, pleasant atmosphere and the gentle chilly breeze brought with it a peculiar hushed silence. However, the thrilling walk on the salt stretch became the highlight of the evening. The sharp crackling sound under my feet and taking silhouette photographs became an experience of a lifetime.


Magical Experience

Come next morning, and it was all salt as far as one can see. It’s a seemingly endless landscape of near-nothingness. A place that remained underwater during monsoon began drying up and would last that way through summer. That’s Dholavira Rann of Kutch for you.


Reetu Yadav and Jamila Kapasi from The Great Escape, made this tour possible.
Contact: thegreatesc.in to have a peek at the many great escapes they provide.

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  1. Unarguably your most difficult self-assigned projects till date, Kumar. For, to chronicle three/ four thousand years old habitats with contemporary connotations is an uphill task. What comes out distinctly is the resilience of the natives to inhabit in the ancient, harnessing that basic necessity, salt!

    Made a compelling reading, in nothingness you create kaleidoscope of life in it’s primitive, unornamented form. That is the beauty of it. It is the place that speaks, through an urban, but unadulterated mind.

    Worth reading, many times over. Keep it up.

  2. Compelling reading…..a travel back in time right to the jurrasic era…..your writing so vividly about your experience along with the pictures transports one straight to the site. Excellent Kumar, keep up the passion.

  3. A compelling and informative read indeed. Thank you for directing me to your blog. Every aspect of the Rann of Kutch has been so beautifully covered. Now I am tempted to visit.


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