Lothal, ‘oldest dock in the world’, to get Heritage Complex

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    Context

    • Recently, the Prime Minister reviewed the construction of the National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) site at Gujarat’s Lothal via video conferencing. 

    National Maritime Heritage Complex

    • It has four theme parks – Memorial theme park, Maritime and Navy theme park, Climate theme park, and Adventure and Amusement theme park.
    • The National Maritime Heritage Complex will act as a centre for learning and understanding India’s diverse maritime history. 

    About Lothal

    • Lothal was one of the southernmost sites of the Indus Valley civilization (IVC).
    • The port city is believed to have been built in 2,200 BC
    • It was located in the Bh?l region of what is now the state of Gujarat.
    • Lothal was a major trading center of the Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC).
    • It was a symbol of India’s maritime power and prosperity, as its trade of beads, gems and ornaments reached West Asia and Africa. 
    • The meaning of Lothal (a combination of Loth and (s) thal) in Gujarati is “the mound of the dead”.
    • Incidentally, the name of the city of Mohenjo-daro (also part of the Indus Valley Civilisation, now in Pakistan) means the same in Sindhi.

    Discovery of Lothal

    File:Lothal Plan.png - Wikimedia Commons

    • The search for cities of the Harappan Civilisation was started by the Indian archaeologists post-1947 in Gujarat’s Saurashtra. 
    • A team led by Archaeologist SR Rao discovered a number of Harappan sites including the port city of Lothal. 
    • Excavation work was carried out in Lothal between February 1955 and May 1960.
    • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) reports that Lothal had the world’s earliest known dock connecting the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river.
    • The National Institute of Oceanography in Goa discovered marine microfossils along with the salt, gypsum crystals at the Lothal site. 
    • It indicates that sea water once filled the structure and it was definitely a dockyard.
    • In later excavations, ASI unearthed a mound, a township, a marketplace, and the dock. 
    • The archaeological site museum stands adjacent to the excavated areas. It displays some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India.

    Significance of Lothal

    • Lothal was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in April 2014 but its application is pending on the tentative list of UNESCO. 
    • The excavated site of Lothal is the only port-town of the Indus Valley Civilisation. 
    • Town Planning: Lothal was a metropolis with an upper and a lower town and on its northern side a basin with vertical wall, inlet and outlet channels which has been identified as a tidal dockyard.
    • Satellite images show the river channel (now dried), would have brought in considerable volume of water during high tide, which would have filled the basin and facilitated sailing of boats upstream. 
    • Port Functioning: The remains of stone anchors, marine shells, sealings which trace its source in the Persian Gulf; together with the structure identified as a warehouse further aids the comprehension of the functioning of the port.
    • Heritage value of the Lothal is comparable to other ancient port-towns around the world like- Xel Ha (Peru), Ostia (Port of Rome) and Carthage (Port of Tunis) in Italy, Hepu in China, Canopus in Egypt, Gabel (Byblos of the Phoenicians), Jaffa in Israel, Ur in Mesopotamia, Hoi An in Vietnam etc. 
    • Regional Comparison: In the region, it can be compared with other Indus port towns of Balakot (Pakistan), Khirasa (in Gujarat’s Kutch) and Kuntasi (in Rajkot).

    Additional excavation findings about Lothal:

    • Division of the Lothal city into citadel (upper town) and lower town shows existence of social/class differentiation in Harappan society.
    • Planned urbanization: Paved baths, civic amenities, drainage and water facilities, well planned streets etc. 
    • Seals: Lothal holds the third largest collection of seals and sealings, engraved on steatite, with animal and human figurines and undeciphered letters from the Indus script. 
    • These seals give ideas of material and cultural values, worship of fire and sea goddess etc.

    • Variety of burial methods.

    • Beads: Lothal was famous for micro-beads that were made by rolling ground steatite paste on string, baking it solid and cutting with a tiny saw into the desired lengths.
    • Weights and Tools: Harappan culture represented a standardized and precise system of weights and measures, which is reflected in the local materials at Lothal. 
    • For example, beautiful designs of human and animal figurines.
    • Pottery and earthenware:

    The National Maritime Heritage Complex

    • Genesis and Cost: The project began in March 2022 and is being developed at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore. 
    • Innovative features
    • Lothal mini-recreation-which will recreate Harappan architecture and lifestyle through immersive technology
    • Four theme parks – Memorial theme park, Maritime and Navy theme park, Climate theme park, and Adventure and Amusement theme park.
    • The world’s tallest lighthouse museum will be housed by the complex. 
    • India’s maritime heritage from the Harappan time till today, will be highlighted by the 14 galleries.
    • A coastal states pavilion will display the diverse maritime heritage of Indian states and UTs.

    Way Forward:

    • The National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) at Lothal will act as a center for learning and understanding India’s maritime history. 
    • The NMHC is being developed with the aim of displaying India’s diverse maritime heritage.
    • It will also help Lothal emerge as a world-class international tourist destination.

    Source: TH