Lothal – A City of Dead

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Lothal – A City of Dead

Lothal meaning the “city of dead” is an archaeological site discovered in the mid 1950s. The city dating back circa 2500-1900 BC served as an outpost to various sites of Indus valley civilization the most important of which – Mohenjo daro (also meaning ‘mound of dead in Sindhi) and Harrappa – are now located in current day Pakistan. A port town, the wealth and prosperity of which was based on the trade it facilitated with far off ports in West Asia as well as its bead making industry. Though a quite a bit far off from the sea today the Sabarmati River flowed through this city (before it shifted its course) connecting it to the Gulf of Khambat. In fact it is said that boats could sail into the dockyard at Lothal until as recently as 1850 AD.

Lothal – A City of Dead
The Dockyard

The site also has a small museum which houses artifacts unearthed during the excavation which include bead ornaments, terracotta figures, wooden toys, crockery and coins. Skeletal remains were also discovered during the excavation leading to the conclusion that that after death people were buried. The museums also have write up about the metric systems used in those days and how close it is to the ones that we use today. There is also evidence that the sailors here were excellent navigators and were skilled in the use of compass almost 2 millennia before the Greeks reinvented it. Unfortunately it is not possible to capture these displays in the museum as photography is strictly prohibited within the premises.

Lothal – A City of Dead
The Acropolis

The ruins however are modest though in its heydays the town might have be bustling with business. The absence of any guides is another letdown. However the main attraction among the ruins is the unique tidal lock gate dockyard which must be a maritime wonder 5000 years ago.

The town planners divided into an Upper town or the Acropolis which was a residential area and the Lower town which houses the remains of a bead factory and a ware house. The Acropolis was built on a higher ground as compared to the lower town as Chief and his entourage would stay here and over see the happenings at the dock, and the Lower town.

Lothal – A City of Dead
The Lower part of city housing Warehouses and A Bead Factory

The city is a very well organized city with a planned drainage system, public and private baths, houses and roads. This makes us believe that the civilization was one with great amount of order and discipline which an absolute must is considering what they were able to achieve in those days.

Lothal – A City of Dead
Organized pathways
Lothal – A City of Dead
Supposedly Public Bath
Lothal – A City of Dead
A well

But all that, this port was washed away in a great flood somewhere around 1900 BC. It is possible that people returned to resettle and dreamed of rebuilding it to its former glory but that dream sadly never turned true.

Today it is just a peaceful expanse of land where you can sit and be awed by this marvel of ancient times.

Other Information :

  • Lothal can be done as a day trip from Ahmedabad which lies 80 kms to its North east. There are buses available from Ahemedabad or you can take an early morning train to Burkhi from Ahmedabad. From Burkhi you can catch a bus or a hire a tuktuk to get to Lothal.
  • There are no restaurants or cafeterias so bring your own food and water. Also advisable is to bring a notepad and a pen to jot down the displays in the museum since photography is not allowed.
  • Try to find a find a well trained guide to accompany you as there are no guides available at the site to my knowledge. Or have a historian friend who knows about such places tag along.

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Venkat Ganesh
Last Updated : Jan 15,2021
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