Lothal is located in the Bhal region of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is six kilometres south-east of the Lothal-Bhurkhi railway station on the Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar railway line. The nearest city is Bagodara. Lothal was one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilization dating from 3700 BCE. Discovered in 1954, Lothal was excavated from February 1955 to May 1960 by the Archaeological Survey of India. It was vital and thriving trade centre in ancient time with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching far corners of West Asia and Africa. The techniques and tools they pioneered for bead making and metallurgy have the test time for over 4000 years.
The meaning of Lothal (a combination of Loth and thal) in Gujarati to be “the mound of the dead” is not unusual as the name of the city of Mohenjo-daro in Sindhi means the same.
Archaeologists have unearthed trenches sunk on the northern, eastern and western flanks of the mound, bringing to light the inlet channels and nullah connecting the dock with the river. The findings consist of a mound a township, a marketplace and the dock.
The town was divided into blocks of 1 to 2 meter high platforms of sun dried bricks each serving 20-30 houses of thick mud and brick walls. The city was divided into a citadel or acropolis and a lower town. The rulers of the town lived in the acropolis which featured paved baths underground and surface drains and potable water well. The lower town was subdivided into two sectors. The residential area was located to either side of the marketplace.
The archaeological museum which stands next to the excavated area is holding some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India.
How to reach Lothal:
There are frequent buses from Ahmedabad to Saurashtra. Catch one of these buses and get down at Bagodara. There are rickshaws available from there to Lothal.
A special feature of Ahmedabad is the plan of the old city, comprising numerous ‘pols’ or self- contained neighborhoods, sheltering a large number of people. A pol normally comprises of many families of a particular group, linked by caste, profession or religion. These typical urban centers or neighborhoods are an integral part of the old city of Ahmedabad. The old city of Ahmedabad is made up of around 360 pols within a fortified compound. In the recent past, families have started moving out to live in modern houses away from the city center, but many of them still feel a strong bond to the closely-knit communities of the pols where they have grown up. These pols are traversed by narrow lanes, usually terminating in squares called ‘chowks’, consisting of a community well and bird feeders called ‘Chabutro’. Some pols have intricately carved temples as well. Each pol has its own distinctive architectural style and motifs.
Each pol is protected by a gateway, closed at night as safeguard against thieves. Inside each pol is one main street, with crooked lanes branching on either side. Most vary in size from five or ten to fifty or sixty houses. Pols are almost entirely inhabited by Hindus, in some cases by a settlement of families belonging to one caste, and in others by families of several of the higher castes.
Pols were originally made as a protection measure when communal riots necessitated greater security, probably dating from 1738, during the Mughal-Maratha rule in Ahmedabad. A typical pol would have only one or two entrances and also some secret entrances known only to people residing in the respective pol. Each pol generally has its own watchman and its own sanitary arrangements. The affairs of the pol were managed by a group of people. The house property in the pol is to some extent held in common. Formerly no one could sell or mortgage a house to an outsider without first offering it to the people of the pol. Though this rule was not kept later, inmates of a pol sold their houses to same caste people. On weddings and other great family occasions, each house holder is expected to feast the whole pol, and in some cases, all the men of the pol.
Some pols contain old beautiful houses (havelis) with internal courts having intricate wooden carved facades with columns and fresco work done around court walls and ceilings. Today the owners of these havelis, being unable to bear the heavy maintenance costs have either sold their properties off or have let them fall to ruins, while they have settled in other places. The heritage cell of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is taking the initiative in restoring, some of these havelis.
The best way to explore the pols is to join for a ‘heritage walk’, an initiative of the Municipal Corporation, to unveil the heritage of the city to tourists and citizens. The walk commences from the Swaminarayan Temple, Kalupur and concludes at the Jama Masjid. Hence this walk is popularly known as the journey of ‘Mandir to Masjid’. The walk commences at 8.00am and concludes at around 10.30am, which also includes a slide show of 15 minutes. The details can be obtained from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation website.