Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Representing the 99%!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ride to the Ancient Lothal Dockyard of the Indus Valley Civilisation of the Indian Sub Continent

Lothal and Alang, a study of two dockyards that span across time. Remains of Lothal city
The name Lothal has surprisingly the same meaning as the word Mohenjodaro (the mound of the dead in Sindhi). Loth-Sthal in Guajarati means the mound of the dead (Lothal) and was excavated in the year 1954 by the Archeological Survey of India.

the dockyard of Lothal
The great Indus valley civilisation site of Lothal is approximately dated to 3700 BCE making it the world’s oldest dockyard. It is 670 kms away from the great Indus Valley Civilisation site of Mahenjodaro in Pakistan and yet in its heydays this remote city on the banks of the ancient Sabarmati was a part of the greater Harappan Culture.

Riding through the salt desert of the Rann of Kutch,
the ancient mouth of the now disappeared Saraswati River
Lothal was connected to Dholavira (another IVC city on the island of Kadir Bet in the Rann of Kutch in western Gujarat) via water channels that joined these two cities and the Arabian Sea to the gulf of Khambat in eastern Gujarat.

The Indus valley Civilisation City of Dholavira on the island of Kadir Bet
right at the centre of the salt desert of the Rann of Kutch,
the ancient mouth of the now disappeared Saraswati River
the salt desert of the Rann of Kutch,
the ancient mouth of the now disappeared Saraswati River
If one traces the dried riverbed beside which Lothal is situated via Google earth, one is surprised to find how these twin cities of Dholavira and Lothal are linked. Ships from the southern part of India (perhaps the ancient Tamil culture of the pre Sangam literature era) in order to trade with various Indus sites had to enter the gulf of Khambat, being the shortest route. These ships would then reach Lothal through the ancient channels of the Sabarmati and proceed to Dholavira.
the ancient channels of the Sabarmati, the Bhogawo river 
From the island of Kadir Bet, where Dholavira is situated, these traders would either enter the Saraswati for cities like Kalibangan (in present day Rajasthan) or Rakhighari (in present day Haryana) or enter the Indus for Harappa or Mahenjadaro and other cities (in present day Pakistan).

Remains of Lothal city
Satallite imagery shows slight traces of a dead riverbed that drained into the Kutch region on whose mouth Dholavira is.  Numerous IVC sites have been found on the banks of the dried Ghaggar Hakra River. Surprisingly this corresponds to the geographical descriptions of Saraswati’s positioning in the epic Mahabharata. The description of the ashram in the forest of Kamyaka of the exiled Pandavas, is given to be on the banks of the Saraswati, which lay to west of Indraprastha (old fort area of Delhi) at the edge of a desert. Whether one doubts the existence of the Pandavas or not is irrelevant, because the geographical description of the Saraswati matches the Ghaggar Hakra river channel’s now dried existence. Lothal according to the ASI was a port town where a ‘large irrigation tank’ like structure has been unearthed along with the remains of an urban settlement and its cemetery.

remains of Lothal city
Due to the various artifacts and ship related finds and due to its positioning beside the now dried channel of the Sabarmati, archeologists have deduced the purpose of the large brick embanked tank to be a wharf of a dock. It is in public record that till 1850 large vessels carrying wood from Baroach to Saragwala (the village beside which Lothal is situated) would sail up the creek (the Bhogawo river) till the mound of Lothal. Just about 6 kms away from Saragwala on my way towards the scrap yard docks of Alang (about 170 kms away) I had to cross the creek (Bhogawo River) that connected Lothal to the gulf of Khambat.

remains of Lothal city
After my visit to Lothal, I rode towards the Alang dockyard. Alang is where redundant ships are dissected for scraps or recycled. It is in the gulf of Khambat about 50 kms south of the city of Bhavnagar. I had not realized that it would be so difficult to enter even the smallest scrap workshop that lines the coast. These workshops are called plots with numbers, eg. Plot 9, Plot 10 etc. apart from the company names that operates them. 

Alang, ship breaking yard
Alang, ship breaking yard
Due to environmental concerns by activists, the management of these workshops is very strict with visitors and any visual recording device inside the compound is a strict no no. After a lot of requests to a particular plot manager, he allowed me in after keeping my camera and my phone in his custody. Being a lone rider to this placed helped in my getting into a shed. I think the manager prided himself in his show of generosity to a person who has had the guts to cross two states on his motorcycle alone, just so that he can witness the ship breaking of Alang.  

the ancient temple city of Palitana....unable to each here due to the severe climb of 4200 steps.
(image courtesy the internet)
From Alang I headed 45 kms west for the ancient Jain site of Palitana. On my reaching Palitana I was met with sever disappointment. In order to visit the many stunning artworks on the walls of 500 plus temples one has to climb a flight of 4200 stairs. Palitana temple complex sits right atop a very large hill, which I had not taken into account when I made plans for this visit. Well I did not climb the stairs…but will do so in the future when I am physically fitter for this purpose.

the lathe cut object is the base of a pillar and is at least 4000 years old.
the perfection of this stone remain of a pillar base is so precise
 that it seems as if it was carved by some modern machine during the modern times.
 the Indus valley Civilisation City of  Dholavira on the island of
Kadir Bet right at the centre of the salt desert of the Rann of Kutch,
the ancient mouth of the now disappeared Saraswati River
remains of Lothal city
remains of Lothal city
remains of Lothal city
remains of Lothal city

1 comment:

  1. How do you find the time to visit such beautiful places?! I am so envious... can't wait to see where your next adventure takes you! :-)

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