Saturday, December 17, 2016

QUIT Day 9

Today's plan was to drive from Gandhidham to Dholavira archaeological excavation site and drive back to Bhuj.This is a long post, with lot of photos. You will find it interesting.
We started early from Gandhidham at 6.30 AM and were greeted with fog. Visibility was hardly 50 m for the next 1 hour. It was unsettling to this Chennai vasi, used to kilometers of visibility.

Drove through NH 141 - NH 41 - NH 27 and took Gujarat State Highway 51 at Chitrod to be greeted with a sign board welcoming us to the Metropolis of Harappan civilization. The actual site is 115 km from the board.

SH 51 is good in some stretches and at some place it is bouncy. There is only one town Rapar, which is 95 km before the excavation site. From there it is a lonely drive with a few sparsely populated villages in between.

About 30 kms before Dholavira, we first encountered the Rann of Kutch - salt marshes stretching for kilometers. Despite having seen photos of it, the first sight is amazing. Salt spread as far as the eye can see. And you can't see it directly for more than a few minutes as it strains your eye.

After taking a few photos we proceeded to Dholavira. We saw women and girls carrying pots of water and walking home. At the abandoned Government guest house Toran, we met Ganpat, a 7th standard student who offered to be our Guide at site. He was fluent in Hindi and said he had learned the details of the site from his grandfather who is a guide.

He said "we will see the Fossil Park first and then come to the site". We didn't know what to expect but trusted him and proceeded. After 3 kms the road ended. I asked him "Now, what?" He said "Seedhe Jao (Go ahead). I asked him "But where?". He pointed to a mud track. So we went off roading for next 5 kms. At the end of it, there was a BSF outpost with 2 soldiers looking out at the Salt Marsh.

Then Ganpat informed us "Pakistan is only 50 kms from here". This is the closest I have been to Pakistan.

We descended down a hillock and were greeted again with the Rann (Salt marsh). There was a hill far away. Our little guide explained that the hill,Kala Dunger, has a Guru Dattatreya temple where people go to offer prayers. The hill and the Rann were a memorable sight. It was definitely worth the 5km offroading.

Squint and you can see Kala Dungar at the horizon

The fossil park has fossilized wood pieces that are said to be millions of years old. Yes, the Geological society of India says that these wood pieces belong to the Jurrasic period. These were found in 2007. The GSI is just putting up information boards.
Fossilized wood within a rock

Well preserved specimen of fossilized wood

Then we went to Dholavira site. Visit to Dholavira was one of the main objectives of our Road trip. Dholavira is the fifth largest of the identified Harappan civilization sites and the largest in India. Other sites like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro are in Pakistan.Dholavira was a city inhabited from 2650 BCE to 1450 BCE. Think about it, that is about 4600 years before today.

The photographs do minimal justice to the grandeur of Dholavira. The massive citadel, the well planned city structure, series of interconnected reservoirs to store water, remarkable jewellery made of beads - there is a lot here for a history student. But due to the long journey, not many people visit the site.

The Citadel

An enclosure - note the even stone construction

Northern Gate - the main gate of the metropolis

Polished Stone Groove at bottom of the gate for sliding

Series of interconnected reservoirs

Ganpat, a Class 7 student who moonlights as guide
Ganpat informed us that the reservoirs were important for the metropolis as years of rainless spells are common in this region. Even this year there has been no rain so far. That explained the girls carrying pots of water we saw earlier.
Water reservoir with slope at one end for bullock cart movement

The site has a small but well maintained museum that is a must visit.
Description at the museum

shell bangles excavated at site

Photo of beaded necklace excavated at site
There is a privately run Tourist resort which is the only place where one can get lunch. We asked our guide in jest, can you get us food from your home? He agreed and spoke to his aunt and said we can go home for food. So we had Bajra Roti, Rice, Brinjal subzi and some kind of pickle along with butter milk for lunch at their hut. It was a refreshing change from the regular Naan - Paneer stuff that most restaurants dish out.

Our guide's home where we had lunch

Home cooked meal

We paid them for the lunch and bid goodbye. While leaving, Ganpat wanted my phone number. I didn't have a pen with me. So he just wrote it down on the wall of Toran Guesthouse with a piece of charcoal. So if any of you go to Dholavira, you'll find my number there.

We returned to Bhuj via SH 51-NH 27 - NH 41 and NH 42. NH 42 is a two lane highway without a median, so had to drive carefully.

Total kilometers so far : 3475

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