Lothal. Doesn't it ring some bells? It does for me... The bells that used to bring me back from some dreamland while the History teacher did her best in educating us about this city of Harappan civilization. I couldn't care less about it then.
And I guess I didn't find it intriguing enough even during my half-a-year stay in Ahmedabad, two years ago. But as I travelled back to Gujarat last month for a brief visit...I walked through a lot of roads -- re-living the moments, cherishing the good old days, feeling nostalgic about the past...when we decided it was time to create some new memories.
Lothal was the obvious choice. Perfect distance for a long bike ride to a place that is reasonably mysterious. Details about the excavated site and serendipity of finding a small royal palace were purely coincidental. Read on...the story of Lothal and the palace that would possibly become a popular tourist site soon...
The word Lothal means 'the place of the dead'. The engineering and design of the place is a marvel . When the Harappans came here around circa 2400 BC, the first challenge for them was to ensure safety of the town from high intensity annual floods. But they had already taken lessons from their similar experience in Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The dock as built away from the main current to avoid silting but at the same time gave ships access to the dock during high tide.
They divided the entire town into several blocks of 1 or 2 metre-high platforms of bricks. The city was divided into a citadel/acropolis, where the ruler lived, and the Lower town. Both divisions enjoyed all civic amenities like baths, underground drains and water.
This obviously indicates that the Harappans highly believed in planning and orderliness. And that is how they lead to development of uniform system of weights and measures as well as standardization of goods n services. Standardization lead to expertise and prosperity in business. But nature wasn't perhaps too much on their side as they had to deal with minor floods followed by a large scale destruction...
Imagine standing on the ground where a whole civilization lead a prosperous life eons ago. But it's sad to see how badly it is managed now. It's just a large site seemingly left orphaned. I am curious to see Harappa in Pakistan too see how they have treated it. Authorities here say there aren't many visitors. Pity. Worse is that there isn't any food either. Admiration of survival of this site and figuring out the baths and other divisions there...has left us starved for food.
We remember reading a board saying 'Heritage Hotel' some 4 kms away. We tell each other not to expect much and have something to give the surging hunger some rest and may be we can hog better food when we hit the city. Narrow lanes tell us our instincts were right. But when we reached the 'hotel'... we are in for some heavy dose of surprise! Surprising location....surprising interiors and even more surprising menu.
It is the Uthelia Hotel...which seems to have some European influence in its architecture. We are told the place is popular among foreign tourists. No wonder the menu is rich...not only in food but also in price. Rs 600 for a thali. But what a thali! It included meat after all. And finding non-vegetarian food in Gujarat is like...finding errr...a rose in desert!?Wouldn't say the food was worth the amount...but was quite sumptuous.