Other links:

Other links:

The Site

The archaeological site of Rakhigarhi is one of the oldest and largest cities of the subcontinent’s earliest known Bronze Age urban culture—the Indus Valley or Harappan Civilization—located in the Hissar district of Haryana, approximately 150 km from our campus. This site, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is currently under excavation by the Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi. Rakhigarhi constitutes one of the only two cities of the Harappan Era (6th millennium–1900 BC) situated within India’s current political boundary, the other being Dholavira in Gujarat. The exploration around this site has clearly identified seven archaeological mounds spread over an area of approximately 350 ha. However, recently, archaeologist Professor Vasant Shinde has argued that the site of Rakhigarhi is comprised of 11 mounds, which would thus make it the largest known Harappan site. Rakhigarhi primarily yields evidence of occupation during the Early and Mature Harappan periods with the site being completely abandoned during the Late Harappan period, and people who had lived at this site for thousands of years moving away to a new location, which remains unidentified. This means that the large mounds that are currently visible at Rakhigarhi were formed in the course of 700 or 800 years of Mature Harappan occupation. Rakhigarhi is also well-known as the site which has yielded the only DNA evidence from the Harappan era [https://www.science.org/content/article/genome-nearly-5000-year-old-woman-links-modern-indians-ancient-civilization].

The area map of the Harappan Civilization (Chakraborty et al. 2020)

History of Excavation

The site was first discovered in the 1960s by the Archeological Survey of India. Since then, it has been excavated at three different points under the direction of three different excavators: Dr Amarendra Nath of the ASI (1997-2000), Prof. Vasant Shinde of Deccan College and Post-Graduate Research Institute, Pune (2012-2016, except 2015), and Dr Sanjay Manjul of the Institute of Archaeology (2022-present). The current excavation is concentrated primarily on Mound no. 1, Mound no. 3, and Mound no. 7. While Mound no. 1 and Mound no. 3 have yielded craft activity areas, residential structures, streets, drainage systems and public architecture, along with a plethora of diagnostic Harappan artifacts, Mound no. 7 is a Harappan burial ground with an Early Harappan occupation underneath the burials. 

Field Trips from Ashoka

In the third week of March, the Department of History and the Center for Interdisciplinary Archaeological Research, in association with the History Society, organized day trips on two subsequent days to the Harappan city of Rakhigarhi, led by faculty members, Dr Kalyan Sekhar Chakraborty and Dr. Sanjukta Datta. A total of 62 students from the university (undergraduate students enrolled in the History department’s courses, History of India I, Archaeology of Complex Societies and Ancient States; undergraduate students from other departments; and Young India Fellows) went on this field trip to get a first-hand experience of an archaeological excavation. 

The students left Ashoka between 7 and 7.30 AM and reached the site between 10 and 10.30 AM. They were first given a brief overview of the Harappan civilization, which was followed by a visit to Mound no. 3, where they observed exposed Harappan structures, streets, drainage systems and remnants of public architecture. They not only witnessed the process of excavation but also got a chance to directly interact with the excavators, including the lead excavator Dr Manjul, who helped students identify mud bricks, baked bricks, drainage channels, hearths etc. The students were then taken to Mound no. 1 where he showed them some of the notable antiquities that had been unearthed, such as terracotta animal figurines, beads made of gold and semi-precious stones such as carnelian, stone artifacts like polishers and blades, and talked about the role of interpretation in identifying the probable uses of artefacts. Here, the students also got a glimpse of camp life at an archaeological site.    

At Mound no.1 the group saw a Harappan street, a drainage system, an 8 m deep index trench as well as a post-Harappan animal burial.

After a lunch break under a neem tree at Mound no. 1 (where some Harappans might have also had their lunch approximately 5000 years ago), Dr Chakraborty gave a detailed rundown of Harappan pottery, and some animal remains at the pottery yard. He also spent some minutes on a modern animal burial, explaining how later (including modern) intrusions can alter archaeological stratigraphic sequences and therefore, how it is crucial to be able to identify them.

Students then had a tour of the Rakhigarhi village, which is located on Mound nos. 4 and 5, and which, interestingly continues to display many characteristic Harappan traits, such as the orientation of streets and the layout of drainage channels. The Harappan trail concluded with a visit to one of Indian archaeology’s largest known exposed sections, associated with the approximately 8 m high Mound no. 4, which reveals the long settlement history of the Mature Harappan period. On its way back, the group had a look at some of the medieval havelis in the village organized by Mr Balram Yadav, associated with Astitva, a heritage resort that has sought to replicate a Harappan ambience, located a few minutes away from the excavation site. 

Astitva was the last stop on the itinerary, where Mr Yadav generously provided refreshments and showed some Harappan artifacts which had been collected from the villagers of Rakhigarhi. The students were back on campus by 9 PM, rejuvenated after their memorable field trip to a Harappan site. 

Some group photos in front of Mound no. 4 and at the lunch area


We would like to thank Dr Sanjay Manjul and the Institute of Archaeology for warmly welcoming us at the site and taking out the time to discuss with students; Balram Kumar of Astitva, Rakhigarhi, for his enthusiastic presence and help with coordinating the trip; RDO office at Ashoka University, specially Dr Anirban Chakraborty, for funding this trip to Rakhigarhi; Susan Philip and Rubab Ali Punjabi from the History Society as well as Manaswinee Singh, TA for History of India I, for meticulously arranging logistics for the trip; and last but not the least, the Department of History for financial and logistical support. 

Picture credits: Nandan Kaushik, Najam Sakib and Jatin Abhir. 

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka