Dholavira in Gujarat, which got the tag of a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 27 July, is a Harappan-era city sprawled over 100 hectares on Khadir, one of the islands in the Rann of Kutch.

One of the five largest cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation, Dholavira is located about 250 km from Bhuj. It has two seasonal streams, Mansar and Manhar, and journey to the site takes one through the wildlife-rich desert plains of Rann of Kutch. The property comprises two parts, a walled city and a cemetery to its west, a government release said, adding that Dholavira flourished for nearly 1,500 years.

According to an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) note on Dholavira, excavations at the site have revealed seven cultural stages documenting the rise and fall of the Indus Civilisation. The city, it said, is also remarkable for its planning and architecture. Among the marvels in Dholavira are the remains of two open air stadiums and a water harvesting system.

“The salient components of the full-grown cityscape consisted of a bipartite ‘citadel’, a ‘middle town’ and a ‘lower town’, two ‘stadia’, an ‘annexe’, a series of reservoirs all set within an enormous fortification running on all four sides,” said the ASI note.

A release from UNESCO World Heritage Committee said it is “one of the most remarkable and well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE”.

“Discovered in 1968, 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,” it added.

Also noteworthy is the art associated with the city. During the excavations, artefacts made of copper, stone, jewellery of terracotta, gold and ivory have been found.

The ASI note says that initial stages of the civilisation show the inhabitants’ preference for colourful clay for plastering buildings, but this came to an “abrupt end…as if under a royal decree or by a resolute public consensus”.

The excavations point to a general decline in the city’s maintenance before a temporary desertion. The ASI note says that when the city is populated again, ceramic traditions make an appearance and “classical planning was largely given a go-by”.

“Bricks were no longer in use. While many of the pottery forms and decorative motifs were still in vogue, new ceramics in the form of white painted black-and-red and white painted grey wares along with a coarse ware bearing incised or appliqué or both kinds of designs and also some Bara related pottery made their appearance,” it said.