The ancient site of Lothal was discovered in 1954 by S.R.Rao, during the course of exploration launched by Archaeological Survey of India.The ancient remains of Lothal are located near Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Lothal is supposed to be the last town on the Saraswati river’s tributary Lavanavati or Bhogavo.
Lothal in Gujarati means the mound of the dead. The city dates back to 2400 BCE and was one of the prominent cities of the Indus Valley civilisation. The initial discoveries of Mohan jo daro and Harappa near Indus river has resulted in this civilisation being called Indus Valley Civilisation.
Recently, More than 50 sites have been excavated in the Kutch and Saurashtra peninsulas, extending the limits of Harappan civilization by 500 kilometres to the East. Satellite mapping have shown numerous ancient cities of that era existed on the banks of the now extinct river which is locally called Ghaggar – Hakra. This is now widely acclaimed to be the mythical River Saraswati to which a lot of Vedic hymns are devoted. Dholavira and Lothal are the big cities of that ancient time that are not on the Indus River or its current Tributaries.
The above satellite mapping shows the Sites associated with the so called Indus Valley Civilisation. The red dots are the location of the sites connected with this ancient civilisation. It is apparent that the sites extended far beyond the Indus Valley into present day Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat and more. A lot of sites have been discovered recently in Haryana, many of them even to the East of present day Delhi.
The town of Lothal was built in the typical Indus/ Harappan style town planning. The township was divided into the elite Citadel and the Lower Town.
The Citadel or Acropolis was the place where the chiefs lived. The Citadel also featured paved baths ( maybe for ceremonial purposes), underground and surface drains (built of kiln-fired bricks) and a potable water well.
The acropolis: from a distance the mound looks intimidating. Imagine the ruler having a commanding view of his domain.
The lower town was subdivided into two sectors the main commercial area—flanked by shops of rich and ordinary merchants and craftsmen and the residential area on either side of market area. Lothal was the hub of trading activities.
The Lower Township: Very well organised grid layout.
The Dock was a tidal dock that is comparable with modern docks. It is a trapezoidal tank like structure with an inlet in the northern arm and a spillway in the southern side. It was connected to the sea through a river that is now dried up. It is constructed of burnt bricks and scientifically designed to withstand the forces of current and water thrust. Lothal was on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the Saurashtra peninsula. A vital and thriving trade center in ancient times, its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reached the far corners of West Asia and Africa. The Warehouse was built near the dock. It is a massive structure with series of platforms. Originally there were 64 citadel blocks of mud bricks, built on the platform for providing a wooden canopy to protect the cargo. A series of massive deluges between 2200 BC and 1900 BC triggered large scale dispersal of the inhabitants of Lothal to interior Gujarat leading to springing of many smaller settlements during The Late Harappans. These sites were mainly dependent upon agriculture and less on trade.
A covered drainage system: it is amazing how much effort was put in to provide a clean sanitary system for the entire township. Present day planners have a lot to learn from this.
Lothal provides the largest collection of antiquities of the Harappan era in Modern India. It shows a single culture site, identical with the Harappan culture in all its variances. The material remains at Lothal reflect the high standards in many areas such as Bead making, Seals ( next only to Mohenjodaro and Harappa), shell objects, copper objects ( an ingot of 99.18% purity has been found), various copper and bronze tools like drill bits, saw, fish hooks, chisel, spears, ornaments etc; stone tools, weaving tools etc. They also invented new tools such as curved saws and twisted drills unknown to other civilizations at the time.
The famous Unicorn seal of circa 2500 BCE. (Image courtesy wiki link)
Standardised weights and measures, various seals with animal motifs along with the Indus language inscriptions. The artifacts have been preserved in the museums. The Swastik seal was also in use. (Image courtesy wiki link)
Ceramic wares had been made of fine clay and smooth, micaceous red surface. A new technique of firing pottery,designated black-and-red ware also existed. Pottery along with painted wares, terracotta figurines, games has been found in good numbers.
Some pottery shards that I found in the area. Washed them before taking the picture below. The pottery painting was rather advanced. A lot of remarkable imagery can be seen on the artefacts displayed in the on sight museum.
Lothal had been one of the most important centers of production of shell- working owing to the abundance of high quality chank shells found in the area. Ivory objects like seals, combs, boxes, have been found. The methods of Lothal bead-makers were so advanced that no improvements have been noted over 4,000 years—modern makers in the Khambhat area follow the same technique.
Lothal produced a large quantity of gold ornaments—the most attractive item being microbeads of gold in numerous strands in necklaces.
Image of gold necklace ( courtesy wiki link).
The archaeologists have discovered ritualistic objects like beads, gold, charred ashes of food, animal bone remains, all indicating practice of animal sacrifice quite like the ancient Vedic religion. There is evidence of animal worship, sea goddess worship and worship of a fire god. It appears that the dead were cremated as only a very small number of burial sites have been found. The existence of seal with the Swastik symbol highlights the continuing religious usage of the symbol by Hindus till date. So we can say to a conclusive extent that religion followed by this Civilisation was similar to ancient Hinduism. ( pre-Vedic and Vedic societies).
The dispersal of the population from this settlement to interior regions has been attributed to tropical storms and floods followed by loss of the main river that caused immense destruction, destabilizing the culture and ultimately causing its end. Topographical analysis also shows that the cause for the abandonment of the city may have been changes in the climate as well as natural disasters.
There is no evidence to show that the end of this city was because of any invasion from outside or any internal violence.
The general picture portrayed in books about ancient Indian history that the major cause for the end of the Indus Valley Civilisation was the onslaught of sword wielding, horse riding Aryan Invaders, who came from the West, appears to be without any physical or scientific evidence.
Lothal is 80 kms from Ahmedabad located at the following co ordinates-
Latitude 22.53 * North
Longitude 72.25* East
PS: Do not miss this site when visiting Gujarat. It takes just half a day and transports you back to those magnificent times when this civilisation surpassed any other contemporary civilisation.
RUCHI PRITAM. (In association with Kumar Jayant).