Anahilapataka, modern-day Patan is a treasure trove of magnificent edifices from the 9th century onwards. This prosperous city was established in the 8th century by Raja Vanaraja of the Chavda dynasty and became the capital of the Chaulukya dynasty also known as the Solanki dynasty between the 10th to 13th century.
The city really grew in stature during the reign of the valorous Siddharaja Jayasimha, who built one of the most extraordinary water tanks of its time. This region prone to severe drought for months was in desperate need of water for bare necessities. Siddharaja Jayasimha came up with an ingenious idea to build an artificial tank over an existing lake called Durlabh Sarovar built by his predecessor Raja Durlabhraja.
This talav came to be called Sahastralinga Talav that literally translates to lake of thousand lingas. The devout Siddharaja Jayasimha built this tank in the north-western part of Patan on the banks of the Saraswati River. The original tank along with temples, halls, bhoga mandapa, gurukul and dharmashalas was spread over a vast area.
Historians opine that the talav would have held more than 45,06,500 cubic metres of water at its peak and had an elaborate network of channels, canals, tirthas, step well, raised platforms, sluices and a bridge. The carved sluice controlled the water flow from the Saraswati River into the reservoir. Geologists are of the opinion that the lake had an inbuilt filtration system in place.
What is most remarkable is the creative use of brick and stone to construct several hydraulic structures to maintain the water pressure, flow and accessibility. As much of this site is yet to excavated and documented, it will be interesting to see if there is an underground network of tunnels and pipes.
Besides the talav, there were thousand Shiva Lingas consecrated here which were destroyed in the 13th century by a commander of Alauddin Khilji. The Muslim barbarian not only looted the temples, but also destroyed the lifeline of Patan by sealing vital channels and canals that used to supply water to the flourishing city.
The pillage of this temple site continued even during the reign of the Mughals. It is unclear when the whole complex was reduced to ruins. The Muslim invaders took turns in desecrating the temples and modifying them into mosques. Those structures are seen in several parts of the site.
Remnants of Rudrakoop Kund in which water from the Saraswati River used to be collected first and then allowed to flow into Sahastralinga Talav, mandapas along with the plinths of the other temples and a row of forty-eight pillars, Triveni Tirth and other dilapidated structures that are unrecognizable are seen.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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