Believed to have been built in about 2,600 BCE (some 5,000 years ago) and had a population of 35,000 to 50,000 at its peak; this historical might was one of the main centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation until 1,900 BCE, the first great civilisation of the Indian Subcontinent which flourished on both banks of the mighty River Indus from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea and spanned much of what today is Pakistan. A melting pot of traders, fishermen and farmers, Mohenjo-daro was one of the largest, most advanced and a fine thriving city of its time, with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning. Given its impressive ruins, one can only imagines how magnificent and intelligent the Mohenjo-daro and its ancient inhabitants would have been 5,000 years ago. Located west of the mighty Indus River, the reasons for this economic hub sudden abandonment around 1,900 BCE are uncertain; one theory is that it was due to the impact of climate change which caused change in course of Indus River.
The ruins were first discovered in 1911 and excavations started in 1922, while major excavations were carried out in the 1930s. After 1965, further excavations were banned due to fears of damage to the ruins; it is estimated that only one third of the site has been revealed thus far and some believe only 10 to 20 percent has been discovered. The site has recently threatened by erosion and, despite conservation efforts funded by both the Pakistani government and UNESCO, it is considered endangered. Some archaeologists say that it will be gone by 2030 unless there is a major new conservation initiative.
The IVC is easily the best-known civilisation of its time in South Asia, and was almost certainly the largest and most advanced, though there are some ruins of comparable age in other parts of the subcontinent. At its height, the IVC spanned almost all of what is now modern Pakistan and parts of what are now northern India and eastern Afghanistan. It had outposts further afield, including one far to the north in Bactria. Trading links extended at least to Central Asia, Persia and the great Mesopotamian civilisations of the period in what are now Iraq and Syria. Like its contemporary civilisations, the IVC was primarily based on agriculture; irrigation and flood control were important areas of engineering. The cities handled grain storage, trade, crafts, government and education, and acted as the main religious centres.
Other civilisations were at a similar level of development in about the same time period. Cities contemporary with Mohenjo-daro included Thebes in Ancient Egypt, Nineveh and Ur in Mesopotamia and Knossos in Minoan Crete. While Ancient Egypt may have been better with building skills and constructing giant pyramids, the IVC cities were better with urban infrastructure; for example, they had the world's first municipal sewage systems as their efficient municipal government put a high priority on hygiene. They were also quite technologically advanced for the time with expertise in arts and crafts and great skills in metallurgy and hydraulic engineering. China also had well-developed cities at around that time, but the Liangzhu Culture and Longshan Culture were still Neolithic (late Stone Age).
Ancient Mohenjo-daro also seems like a socially classless society which focussed on convenience of its citizens, in contrast to the remains found in other ancient cities of that period where a vast amount of money, resources and people were allotted to building royal palaces and giant tombs, solely to serve their rulers. Evidence suggests that Mohenjo-daro was ruled by an elected body of people who may have been religious leaders and traders with healthy commercial ties with people of other civilisations at that time.
However, the movie received some criticism both from the public as well from the Government of Pakistan for distorting historical facts but for sure, the movie does provide a fictitious version of the rise and fall of the city.
The extent and nature of the IVC's influence on the modern Indian subcontinent is not entirely clear. Some archaeologists see parallels between various IVC artefacts and members of the Hindu pantheon while others see more relation to religions further west, in particular the "Mother Goddess" religions of Mesopotamia and Crete. Some of the "Hindutva" nationalists talk of the "Saraswati Culture" and believe the influence was very strong.
Some links to modern culture are considered likely, though none are certain. The earliest cities along the Ganges — including Varanasi, "the spiritual capital of India" — appeared about 1,200 BCE; it is thought the founders may have been migrants from the IVC, moving east as that culture fell. The Great Bath and the many household baths at Mohenjo-daro may have been used for purification rites similar to those in modern Hinduism. Cremation of the dead became common in late Harappan culture and is now the usual custom for Hindus. A treasure of pottery, seals and other artifacts discovered from the excavated ruins points to craft technology and some items like the pottery and ox carts were well enough developed in this ancient civilisation to resemble items still made and used today.
Mohenjo-daro AirportPakistan's flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines flies from Karachi to Mohenjo-daro. Direct flights run three times a week and take around one hour. The outdated infrastructure of the Mohenjo-daro airport prevents the use of large, advanced aircraft so smaller prop aircraft such as the ATR 42 are used. A one-way ticket costs around Rs 6,000 to/from Karachi. A shuttle bus is available on flight days to drop you at the archaeological site entrance, or the distance can be easily covered on foot.
The nearest railway station is some 11km away from the site in the outskirts of the nearby town of Dokri, but named after Mohenjo-daro. There's one train the Khushal Khan Khattak Express, each day run between Karachi and Peshawar, and makes a brief stop at Dokri early in the morning at around 6 AM. It has both air conditioned and non air conditioned coaches. The train leaves Karachi in the evening at around 9 PM, the journey takes approximately 9 hours and a non-air conditioned seat costs Rs 400 while Rs 1,000 for air-conditioned. From Mohenjo-daro railway station, a rickshaw for Mohenjo-daro archaeological site can be hired for Rs 200. Shared rickshaws are also available for Dokri for Rs 20 and from Dokri, you can hire a rickshaw for the archaeological site for Rs 150. Sometimes if train doesn't make a call at Dokri, you can always opt to to disembark at nearby town of Larkana.
Getting to Mohenjo-daro by public bus is a two-step process as there's no direct service to Mohenjo-daro. The nearest major city is Larkana, some 30km to the north, and one can easily get to Larkana by bus (either air-conditioned or not) from any major city of Sindh. From Larkana, both taxis and rickshaws can be hired for Mohenjo-daro. Moreover, vans run from Larkana up-to a bypass near the archaeological complex as well as shared motorcycle rickshaws. Hiring a taxi or a rickshaw is definitely the preferred option as both are comfortable as well as quicker than the cramped vans or shared rickshaws; they take less than an hour. Hiring a taxi for the archaeological site should cost less than Rs 1,000 if you manage to haggle well with the taxi driver whereas a rickshaw can be hired for Rs 500. Journeys on shared rickshaws may cost around Rs 100 and vans even less.
If you are driving or being driven, Mohenjo-daro can be accessed most easily by some arterial roads branching off (at Mehar, Nasirabad and Larkana) from the 1,264km-long National Highway # N-55 (the Indus Highway) which runs between Karachi and Peshawar.
Moen-Jo-Daro Car Park
The archaeological site is divided into two sectors: a higher settlement to the west and a larger lower settlement to the east. Facilities such as the museum, shops, park, canteen and resthouse are in a separate area a bit to the north, all near the entrance gate. Both settlement sectors are further subdivided into several areas, whose names are derived from the names of the archaeologists who excavated the ruins in the area. Everything is properly marked so it is quite easy to navigate and understand where you are and which structure is what.
The entrance fee for the whole complex is Rs 300 for foreigners, and only Rs 20 for locals. Interestingly, Mohenjo-daro is also depicted on the Rs 20 currency note. The complex is open between 08:30 and 19:00 from April to September, and between 09:00 and 17:00 in winter from October to March.
The actual excavation has two main areas, east and west. The higher settlement to the west has the ruins of ancient administrative buildings and some that were likely residences inhabited by the rulers while lower settlement to the east was mainly a residential area for people of middle and lower class. Most of major structures including the Great Bath, Granary, College and Assembly Hall can be found on citadel mound, which is a massive unbaked mud-brick platform with many buildings constructed and believed to have been a sacred part of this city.
The lower settlement further divided into two areas: the wealthy residential area to the north had the mansions of the wealthy while the poor residential area to the south had much smaller structures, believed to be inhabited by the common people.
Very little of the acropolis has been excavated so far, but it shows advanced architecture and urban planning which is one of the most distinguishing feature of IVC and was not seen anywhere else in the ancient world. This was a grid-like pattern city similar to other urban cities of the IVC and had a precise road plan and was built on a grid system with some of the quite straight streets as wide as 10m to accommodate carts and perpendicular to each other in such a remarkable manner which divided the city in several rectangular blocks.
A rare thing to be found in even modern villages of Pakistan today, Mohenjo-daro had channeled sanitisation system. The impressive structures of the sewerage and drainage system can still be identified very easily which the city had for connecting public and private baths and wells and appears to be providing comfort and convenience to its people in hygienic environment.
Not magnificent but simple and multi-storeyed rectilinear houses were made by standard size bricks. House were varying of size but had a similar layout and proper sanitation system. Some tend to had courtyards surrounded by bedrooms, kitchen, and even servants' quarters.
Adjoining the wealthy residential area, there is also what is thought to be a large bazaar while one building that has been excavated has circular depressions into the ground, leading many to believe that it was a dyer's workshop and that the depressions were used to hold pottery vessels. In summary, the lower settlement has a variety of structures and building with amazing designs — residences, workshops, and public facilities such as stupas, baths, wells and a guardhouse.
Some of the major structures of Mohenjo-daro are described below;
The Buddhist StupaVisible from a great distance, is the highest and most prominent structure in Mohenjo-daro. The stupa, printed on Pakistani twenty rupee notes, was built atop the citadel mound long after the fall of the ancient city. This later addition to Mohenjo-daro is from the Kushan Empire, 1st to 4th centuries CE, while all of the other excavated ruins are from 2,600-1,900 BCE and is believed that the Buddhist Stupa was built over the temple, where Hindu deities were worshipped by inhabitants.
The Great HallThe Great Hall is a large building and is believed to may have been a granary; it has what appear to have been a loading platform for carts transporting grain and a ventilation system to prevent spoilage. An alternate theory is that it was a public hall; the actual function of the building has not been determined.
The Great BathA 2.4m deep, 12m long, and 7m wide pool known as "The Great Bath" in the centre of higher settlement is the best-known structure of Mohenjo-daro. It is made of fine baked waterproof mud bricks and a thick layer of bitumen (natural tar – presumably to keep water from seeping through the walls), which indicates that it was used for holding water. Many scholars have suggested that this huge deep bath could have been a place for ritual bathing or religious ceremonies. It is the earliest public water tank of the ancient world. Adjacent to it is a well that was used to supply water to the bath.
Assembly HallThis brick pillared structure of approximately 27.5 meter square is thought to may have been an assembly hall, a place for people to sit for meetings and social gatherings. Some believe it to be prayer hall or a palace.
College of PriestsA unique large open space and courtyard is refer to as a college building. Lying to the east of the Great Bath, this large building having several rooms and three verandas, with several windows, two staircases leading to roof and upper floor, is thought to have been the residence of a very high official priest or college for priests.
Mohenjo-daro Archaeology MuseumThe museum was inaugurated in 1967, and contains relics found at the archaeologic site. The relics include weapons, engraved seals, kitchen utensils, sculptures and terracotta toys. Jewellery and other ornaments are showcased on the first floor and illuminated in natural light while heavy stones found during excavation are kept as well. A wall on the first floor is illustrated with an conjectural yet impressing view of the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro.
You'll find locals selling these souvenirs inside the Mohenjo-daro complex. There's a good gift shop adjacent to the site near the entrance gate where you can buy many kinds of souvenirs as well. Various stones, post cards, photographs and books on Mohenjo-daro can be purchased both from the gift store and local sellers. The museum also sells books and photo postcards of Mohenjo-daro.
Eat and drink
You may better bring your own food to double your enjoyment. Many families and tour groups head to Mohenjo-daro on weekends to enjoy picnics in the lush grass parks inside the complex.
Archaeology Rest-housephone: +92 343 3847735, +92 313 3063317Recently renovated accommodation is run by Pakistan's archaeological department is overall, ideal for a stay overnight and available at affordable rates. They can also provide pick and drop to/from Larkana or Badah station via car. The rest house has nine rooms with attached baths. Three air conditioned rooms, double bed, TV, and sofas are on the first floor while six non-air conditioned rooms with two single beds in each room on ground floor. Has a cafeteria, sitting area in lounge as well a big hall to accommodate large group of people for overnight stays. Cafeteria can prepare a meal according to your taste but may charge Rs 500 per person for lunch or a dinner meal while Rs 200 for breakfast. It is advised to book in advance.
It is essential to stay hydrated; carry drinks with you or buy them along the way since tap water is unsafe in the region. Consider freezing a bottle of water overnight and drinking it as it melts; this can give cold water for much of the day.
See also Hot weather for more on coping with hot weather and Pakistan#Stay healthy for health information that applies to the entire country.