Dholavira, one of the five largest Harappan sites and the most prominent one in India has finally been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Although less familiar to the world than its two sister sites of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, Dholavira is no less important. In fact, its discovery revealed a whole new side to the Indus Valley Civilization that was previously unknown.
The announcement by UNESCO comes just days after the 13th century Rudreswara/Ramappa Temple in Telangana was conferred a place on the list of World Heritage sites. India had been lobbying for Dholavira’s recognition since 2014 and the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has certainly gone India’s way. With the addition of these two new sites, India now has a total of 40 official World Heritage sites.
Discovered in 1967-68 by JP Joshi, Dholavira is located on an island in the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary. It is the fifth largest of eight major Indus Valley sites and is among the most prominent ones located in India. Its discovery heralded a new chapter in Indian archaeological circles and excavation work has being going on since 1990.
Untouched by civilization for the last millennia, the site has been beautifully preserved and has afforded many significant finds to the people who ceaselessly try to uncover its secrets. Archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht who, supervised excavation efforts from 1990 to 2005, credited the absence of any form of encroachment in the site to be one of the reasons why the UNSECO listing was possible.
The recognition of a historical place as a World Heritage site has several implications. Dholavira will benefit from grants and funds awarded to the listed sites of UNESCO for their conservation. It will also gain international recognition and legal protection, along with tourism revenue. The downside is that increased tourism can lead to encroachment of the site as the local economy tries to benefit from the stream on incoming tourists.
Dholavira’s inclusion in the prestigious list does wonders for India’s image in the global stage. What remains to be seen is if this hallowed site that once bustled with life and the seeds of a great civilization, is left again to the sands of time.