Dholavira – Decoding its Water Heritage

Winter School 2016
Instructors: Mona Iyer, Kartik Raman
10 April 2017

This winter school aims to analyse the water heritage of the Harappan civilization, which is one of the earliest civilizations of the world. Student participants have documented Dholavira with a story woven largely based on their own observation, guided interpretation, narratives by experts etc.


Dholavira, an archeological site in the Bacahu Taluka of the Kutch district, has derived its name from a small village which is located to the south of the site. Situated on the Khadir Bet island in the Great Rann of Kutch, the site is lay between two seasonal rivers, Mansar in the north and Manhar in the South. Numerous questions about the site still remain unanswered…

Showcased here is a glimpse of the larger study that delved into various aspects of planning that directly or indirectly contribute to water management at Dholavira. The projects delves into the four main sites – Citadel, Bailey, Middle Town, Lower Town, apart from the water systems at Dholavira, reservoirs, gates, sanitation and ceremonial grounds.





I is marked by the presence of a fortress and eastern reservoir.

II shows expansion towards the north of the site.

The beginning of III seems to have experienced an earthquake. The fortress was transformed into a castle; attached to a bailey and a seat of authority was established. Stadium was constructed alongwith the reservoirs in the south, north and west.

IV shows evidence of extension of city walls towards the lower town. The social hierarchy was said to have the elite in the middle town and the worker and farmers in the lower town. Town roads were oriented in cardinal directions and inscriptions, seals, pottery, beads etc. were excavated.


V shows the proliferation of craftsmen activities, before a third earthquake struck the region. 50 years went by with no sign of activity in Dholavira.

VI appears to have lasted for 150 years but the city was confined only to the middle and lower towns. The city was again diserted for 300 long years.

VII was short lived and it is said that there was deterioration of use of resources and degradation of systems existing on site.




Dholavira is an important site of Harappan civilization having complex system for collecting and storing rain water within several reservoirs. It has a prolonged history of droughts, thus the Harappans were aware of the possibility of and were consciously practicing water management.

This is reflected in the occurance of several rock-cut reservoirs. To fill these, there were two local , seasonal rivulets - the Mansar (to the north-west of Dholavira) and the Manhar (to the south-eastern part of the walled area). 

These helped in collecting rainwater in the catchment areas and bringing it to the reservoirs. This was achieved through an ingenious system involving stone bunds of dams that were raised across the streams at suitable points. From these the monsoon runoff was carried to a series of reservoirs, gouged out in the sloping areas between the inner and outer walls of the Harappan period city, through inlet channels. These water reservoirs were separated from each other by bund-cum-causeways, which also served to facilitate access to different divisions of the city.

I N F E R E N C E S :

The water management system at Dholavira is based on highly advanced hydraulic engineering, which is preferred and employed by even modern day technicians. Also, development of water resources and its conservation in this town was not only the responsibility of the higher authority but also the duty of the local community.