Thursday, 6 May 2010

The wonder that was Dholavira

This image is one of the beautiful products of computer graphics found in the Japanese website, under the supervision of R.S. Bisht, the director of the excavations of Dholavira, Harappan site in Gujarat. An interview of him can be seen on:
And here is a beautiful Indian documentary on Dholavira and its environment:

I remember the long way to Dholavira, through the Great Rann of Kacch, the grey-white salt wastes, and finally the arrival to the island of Khadir, the walk through the fields, the generous hospitality of the peasants. The day after, I saw the site in the early morning, impressed by the magnificent reservoirs, by the stone columns, by the dimensions of the town. It is certainly the most spectacular Harappan site in India, and it deserves the long and difficult travel. But beyond the impression, there is something concealed in the mathematical measures of Dholavira: already R.S. Bisht noticed that the ratio 5:4 of the castle and the city walls corresponded to that of Vedic altars in the Śulbasūtras. And Michel Danino has deepened the question, revealing complex mathematical relations and finding correspondences also in the Vāstu Śāstras: you can see the paper at:

He also remarks that the unit of measure of Dholavira is equivalent to 108 units of Lothal, as in Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra we read: “108 angulas make a dhanus (meaning a bow), a measure [used] for roads and city-walls....” We can also observe that in the description of the ideal cities in the Vāyu Purāṇa it is said that measures like aṅguli and dhanu were introduced in the Tretā Yuga when cities were built for the first time. Moreover, those cities had to be rectangular, oriented East-West or North-South, like the Harappan towns.

Such a continuity between Harappan and historic India is confirmed also by a study by two Italians: the indologist Prof. G.G. Filippi and the geo-archaeologist Dr. B.Marcolongo, who have studied the archaeological Early Historic site of Kāmpilya, observing that its plan coincided with that of Dholavira (Filippi (G.G.), Marcolongo (B.): 1999, Kāmpilya, Quest for a Mahābhārata City, New Delhi, see article on On the continuity of the concept of city between Harappan and Early Historic periods, there is also the beautiful recent work (2008) of the Russian scholar P.A. Eltsov: From Harappa to Hastinapura. A Study of the Earliest South Asian City and Civilization. Eltsov does not take a definite position in the debate about the Vedic-Harappan relationship, but he acknowledges a common cultural tradition between the two periods, like in Kenoyer's concept of Indo-Gangetic tradition.