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Decision 44 COM 8B.35
Dholavira: a Harappan City (India)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/21/44.COM/8B.Add and WHC/21/44.COM/INF.8B1.Add,
  2. Inscribes Dholavira: a Harappan City, India, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (iv);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Dholavira: a Harappan city, is one of the very few well preserved urban settlements in South Asia dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE. Being the 6th largest of more than 1,000 Harappan sites discovered so far, and occupied for over 1,500 years, Dholavira not only witnesses the entire trajectory of the rise and fall of this early civilization of humankind, but also demonstrates its multifaceted achievements in terms of urban planning, construction techniques, water management, social governance and development, art, manufacturing, trading, and belief system. With extremely rich artefacts, the well-preserved urban settlement of Dholavira depicts a vivid picture of a regional centre with its distinct characteristics, that also contributes significantly to the existing knowledge of Harappan Civilization as a whole.  

    The property comprises two parts: a walled city and a cemetery to the west of the city. The walled city consists of a fortified Castle with attached fortified Bailey and Ceremonial Ground, and a fortified Middle Town and a Lower Town. A series of reservoirs are found to the east and south of the Citadel. The great majority of the burials in the Cemetery are memorial in nature.

    The configuration of the city of Dholavira, during its heyday, is an outstanding example of planned city with planned and segregated urban residential areas based on possibly differential occupational activities, and a stratified society. Technological advancements in water harnessing systems, water drainage systems as well architecturally and technologically developed features are reflected in the design, execution, and effective harnessing of local materials. Unlike other Harappan antecedent towns normally located near to rivers and perennial sources of water, the location of Dholavira in the island of Khadir was strategic to harness different mineral and raw material sources (copper, shell, agate-carnelian, steatite, lead, banded limestone, among others) and to facilitate internal as well as external trade to the Magan (modern Oman peninsula) and Mesopotamian regions.

    Criterion (iii): Dholavira is an exceptional example of a proto-historic Bronze Age urban settlement pertaining to the Harappan Civilization (early, mature and late Harappan phases) and bears evidence of a multi-cultural and stratified society during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. The earliest evidence can be traced back to 3000 BCE during the early Harappan phase of the Harappan Civilization. This city flourished for nearly 1,500 years, representing a long continuous habitation. The excavated remains clearly indicate the origin of the settlement, its growth, zenith and the subsequent decline in the form of continuous changes in the configuration of the city, architectural elements and various other attributes.

    Criterion (iv): Dholavira is an outstanding example of Harappan urban planning, with its preconceived city planning, multi-layered fortifications, sophisticated water reservoirs and drainage system, and the extensive use of stone as a building material. These characteristics reflect the unique position Dholavira held in the entire gamut of Harappan Civilization.


    The ancient Harappan city of Dholavira was discovered in 1968 and excavated for 13 field seasons between 1989 and 2005. The unearthed excavations were simultaneously preserved and conserved, and display all physical attributes contributing to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, that is to say the proto-historic systems of urban planning, water management systems, architectural elements and design, traditional knowledge of art and technology preserved in situ. All the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are located in the property area. Physical evidence of the entire 1,500 years of inhabitation are spanning from pre-Harappan to post-Harappan stages. The excavated remains at Dholavira, to a large extent, illustrate attributes associated with industrial activities (e.g. bead manufacturing) and are indicative of the sophisticated life and exploitation of natural resources for nearly 1,500 years, trade, interregional relations and exchanges, the physical manifestations of these are largely found in situ. Conservation measures and consolidation of few areas have been carried out to prevent deterioration and have also been stabilized for ensuring preservation of its physical attributes. Guidelines for development and conservation need should be developed in the extended buffer zone.


    The archaeological remains of the city of Dholavira include fortifications, gateways, water reservoirs, ceremonial ground, residential units, workshop areas, and cemetery complex, all clearly representing the Harappan culture and its various manifestations. The urban planning is evident from the in situ remains of the city that demonstrate systematic planning. The authenticity of the archaeological site is preserved through minimum interventions and scientific conservation principles and methods and in maintaining the exposed structures in their original configurations and in situ conditions and no additions or alterations have been made to the structural remains.

    The excavated remains bear testimony to the style of construction, contextual evidence for architectural elements, and layout of a bead manufacturing workshop, that have been retained in situ to preserve their authenticity. The evidence of the configuration of the city, which has been well documented and preserved during excavation works, also bears testimony of the extensive planning, understanding of ratios and proportions and principles, alignment of the entire city in relation to cardinal directions, water harvesting, storm water drains, craftsmanship. These features are preserved extensively due to their construction in stone masonry with mud brick cores, and architectural features are in a good state of conservation.

    Protection and management requirements

    The archaeological site of Dholavira is protected and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India, an attached office and organization under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The property is protected by national level laws that is to say the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 (AMASR), amended therein in 2010; Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules of 1959; Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules of 2011 and The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act 1972 and Rules 1973. Decisions pertaining to its conservation, maintenance and management are governed by the National Conservation Policy for Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains 2014. Being designated as an “ancient monument” of national importance, the ancient site of Dholavira is protected by a Prohibited Area measuring 100 meters in all directions from the limits of the protected monument, and further beyond it, a Regulated Area of 200 meters in all directions, from the limits of the Prohibited Area. All activities in the areas adjacent to the ancient site of Dholavira remain subject to prohibition and regulation in the respect prohibited and regulated areas as per provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules 2011. The buffer zone covers the entire west strip of the Khadir Island, which ensures the protection of the wider setting of the property. The buffer zone, of which parts cover thee Prohibited and Regulated Areas, overlaps with Kachchh (Kutch) Desert Wildlife Sanctuary which is protected by Forest Act (Wildlife Protection Act 1972). The Government of India is in the process of listing the ancient quarry sites in the buffer zone as of national importance.

    The property area and buffer zone are managed by the Regional Apex Committee and Local Level Committee, with major stakeholders as the member. This participatory mechanism ensures the dialogue among different interest groups. The Site Management Plan has been approved and implemented by the Archaeological Survey of India.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Submitting a set of maps that follow the standard specified in Paragraph 132 and Annex 5 of the Operational Guidelines showing the expanded buffer zone. These maps should clarify that the 10-acre plot of land allocated by the State Government of Gujarat to the Archaeological Survey of India for constructing the museum and tourism amenities is not a part of the World Heritage property,
    2. Declaring the ancient quarry sites in the buffer zone as of national importance,
    3. Extending the Regulated Area, or granting a new legal provision, to the extended buffer zone for the protection of the archaeological remains and settings in this area,
    4. Developing guidelines for development and conservation needs in the extended buffer zone,
    5. Developing a long-term research strategy for the property and its buffer zone in order to better understand the values of the known archaeological sites in the extended buffer zone and to identify further areas of archaeological potential,
    6. Incorporating Heritage Impact Assessment mechanism into the decision-making process of the management system,
    7. Installing an instrumental monitoring system for a more robust monitoring,
    8. Undertaking capacity building for site staff on conservation techniques and monitoring skills,
    9. Establishing carrying capacity for the entire site, as well as for sensitive areas of the site,
    10. Developing visitor number control policies and measures based on the established carrying capacity for anticipated increased visitation,
    11. Undertaking capacity building for local residents so that they can have the necessary skills to contribute to the conservation of the site, and to benefit more from the site development.
Decision Code
44 COM 8B.35
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted at the 44th extended session of the World Heritage Committee
Context of Decision