According to history, India has seen numerous prehistoric settlements & societies on the banks of the many rivers. These cities & towns have been lost their identity over the centuries as they were completely abandoned, submerged, or destroyed. While not all have been discovered, historians and archaeologists have been able to find some ancient lost cities as old as 3700 BC. Today the awe-inspiring ruins of these legendary lost cities are among the top places of heritage in India that attract thousands of travellers, history buffs, and treasure seekers from all across the world as part of India Tour Packages. If you are in the mood for a little exploration along the trails of former civilizations, here is the list of some most spectacular lost cities in India.
Located on the banks of the Ghaggar in the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan, Kalibangan was a major provincial capital of the Indus Valley Civilization. This Harappan city was established in 3700 BC and abandoned in 1750 BC. The pre-historic site of Kalibangan was discovered by Luigi Pio Tessitori, an Italian Indologist. The excavation of the city started in 1969. Regarded as one of the major heritage sites in Rajasthan, the pre-Harappan settlement was a fortified parallelogram, the fortification wall being made of mud bricks. The distinctive trait of this period was the pottery which was significantly different from that of the succeeding Harappans. Kalibangan is renowned for having “world’s earliest” (ca. 2800 BC) ploughed fields and fire altars, which suggest that the Harappans believed in the ritualistic worship of fire. Excavated items from the site include Harappan seals, bangles, terracotta objects, terracotta figurines, bricks, grinders, and stone balls.
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Lothal in Gujarat ranks high on the list of the legendary lost cities of India. Dating back to 2400 BCE, Lothal is one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilization. This pre-historic site was discovered in the year 1954 and was excavated between 1955 and 1960 by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI). Today, it is one of the oldest ruins in India, and among the prominent Ahmedabad tourist places. Lothal is also famous for its town planning, architecture, science and engineering, metallurgy, and art. The most architecturally sophisticated part of Lothal was its dockyard, one of the world’s earliest docks. Besides, Lothal was a thriving trade center with its trade of gems, beads, and valuable ornaments in the bygone times. Though floods wiped off the town during that time, structures like wells, dwarfed walls, baths, drains, and paved floors can still be seen.
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Situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in northern Karnataka, the ancient city of Hampi, earlier known as Vijayanagar, was the capital of the famed Vijaynagar Empire from 1336 to 1565. The city was built around the religious center of the Virupaksha temple. Although in ruins today, this crumbling metropolis was once one of the most beautiful cities in its time. One of the most popular heritage sites in Karnataka, the ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire are spread over an area of more than 26 sq. km in & around Hampi. The ruins at Hampi are a collection of heritage sites depicting the fine Dravidian style of art and architecture. Vittala Temple, Hampi Bazaar, Krishna Temple complex, Narasimha, Ganesha, Hemakuta Hill temples, Achyutaraya Temple, Pattabhirama Temple, Royal Enclosure, and Zenana Enclosure are some popular places to visit in Hampi.
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An archaeological site of immense importance in India, Dholavira represents the ruins of an ancient city of the Harappan civilization that was inhabited over 1,200 years from 3000 BCE (pre‐Harappan) through 1800 BCE (early part of the Late Harappan period). Found in 1967 and excavated in 1989-90 for the first time, the ancient city of Dholavira is the larger of the two most remarkable excavations of the Indus Valley Civilisation after Rakhigarhi, and among the top places to visit in Rann of Kutch. Located at Khadir Bet in the Kutch district of Gujarat, this ancient city is known for its unique characteristics, such as its water management system, multi-layered defensive mechanisms, extensive use of stone in construction, and special burial structures.
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Situated on the coast of Kutch in Gujarat, Dwarka is one of the lost cities in India as well as among the most popular places of pilgrimage in India. Also known as Golden City, Dwarka was established by Lord Krishna with his elder brother Balaram which subsequently got submerged under the sea. It is believed that the city of Dwarka has submerged six times and modern-day Dwarka is, therefore, the seventh such city to be built in the area. Marine archaeological explorations have found the ruins of the older version of the city in the sea near the Bet Dwarka I 1983. These ruins which include gigantic stone walls, huge pillars, large anchors, etc. suggest that Dwarka was one of the busiest port centers during the past on the west coast of India. Dwarkadhish Temple, Nageshwar Mahadev, Rukmini Temple, Bhalka Tirth, Gomati Ghat Temples, etc. are some other popular places to visit in Dwarka.
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Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Famous worldwide for its Buddhist monuments, the religious town of Sanchi needs no introduction as it is one of the popular places of heritage in India, and among the must include places in Madhya Pradesh tour packages. Earlier, Sanchi was known as Vidisha Giri which was a center of wealthy merchants, and with their support, the small town was flourished as a foremost center of Buddhist custom. After the decline of Buddhism, Sanchi seemed to be out of the map until it was rediscovered in the year 1818. A renowned UNESCO World Heritage site, Sanchi stands in testimony to the golden Buddhist age of Emperor Ashoka. This place is extremely important to the followers of Buddhism as it boasts many stupas, including the famous Sanchi Stupa. Besides, Ashoka Pillar, the Great Bowl, Sanchi Museum, Gupta Temple, and Udayagiri Caves are some of the famous places to visit in Sanchi.
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Tucked away in the tiny bylanes of Kerala’s Kodungallur town, Muziris is another lost city of ancient India, and one of the biggest archaeological findings in India. Archaeologists have discovered various artifacts belonging to countries like Egypt, Yemen, Roman, and West Asia which reveals the connection of the outer world. In the first century BC, Muziris used to be one of the most important trading ports in India whose exports especially black pepper kept even mighty Rome in debt. The city was believed to be destroyed by an earthquake in the 13th century. It was discovered in 1945 followed by subsequent major discoveries in 1969, 1983, and 2007. One can also visit several monuments and religious sites that date back to the ancient era at Muziris as part of Kerala tour packages.
Also Read : Top Heritage Sites in Kerala
Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu
Earlier known as Kaveripattinam, Poompuhar was once a flourishing ancient port city located at the mouth of the Kaveri River, in Tamil Nadu. This ancient city was also served as the capital of the early Chola kings in Tamilakkam. Much of the town is believed to be washed away by a powerful sea storm and successive erosion in 500 AD. A Purananuru poem says that ships brought precious articles from overseas to this port and there were tall mansions in the city, accessible by high ladders. The National Institute of Ocean Technology conducted some underwater surveys in 2006 and discovered the submerged remains of the ancient port city. Marine archaeologists also found pottery that dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries off the east shore of the town. Represents Chinese and Tamil architectural style, the 13th-century Masilamani Nathar Koil temple is a must-see on a visit to Poompuhar as part of Tamilnadu tour packages.
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Situated on the dry bed of the river Sarasvati in Haryana, Rakhigarh is one of the five known biggest townships of the Indus Valley Civilization on the Indian sub-continent. The other four are Harappa, Mohenjodaro, and Ganveriwala in Pakistan and Dholavira (Gujrat) in India. It is the site of a pre-Indus Valley Civilisation settlement going back to about 6500 BCE and was also part of the mature Indus Valley Civilisation, dating to 2600-1900 BCE. Discovered in the 1960s, this site has five interconnected mounds spread in a huge area. The archaeological excavations revealed the mature Harappan phase represented by planned township having mud-brick as well as burnt-brick houses with a proper drainage system, paved roads, large rainwater collection systems, storage system, statue production, and skilled application of bronze and precious metals like the other cities of Harappan civilization. A cylindrical seal with five Harappan characters on one side and a symbol of an alligator on the other is an important finding from this site.
Situated on the banks of Gandak River, Vaishali in Bihar was an ancient prosperous metropolis with 7,707 pleasure grounds and an equal number of lotus ponds. In the 6th Century BC, Vaishali was the capital of the powerful Republic of Lichhavis and is considered to be the first republican state of Asia. Ajatshatru, the great Magadh King, annexed Vaishali in the 5th-century BC and after that Vaishali gradually lost its glory and power. Later in 1861, the British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham first identify Vaishali with the present village of Basarh in the Vaishali district of Bihar. Vaishali is also the birthplace of Lord Mahavira. Lord Buddha visited this place several times and announced his impending death here. Surrounded by groves of mango and banana, Vaishali is known for its stupas along with its religious and historical importance. Ashoka Pillar, Vishwa Shanti Stupa, Chaumukhi Mahadev, Ramchaura Temple, Bawan Pokhar Temple, Vaishali Museum, etc., are some of the prominent places to visit in Vaishali.