Whenever I visit centuries-old monuments, the one thing that never fails to amaze me is how they were built without machinery of any sort to aid them. I am also struck by how the planners and builders of those times made optimum use of available resources in the absence of technology as we know it today.
A visit to the Sahastralinga Talav at Patan underscored these beliefs of mine. Located a kilometre away from Rani ni Vav, the Talav was one of the many artificial tanks built in Gujarat by Siddharaj Jaisinh (1093-1143 CE), a king from the Solanki Dynasty.
It was past noon when I arrived at the Sahastralinga Talav, after visiting the queen of stepwells. There was no one else at the site apart from a goat-herd and his frisky goats. Even though it was December and winter, it was quite hot and the sunlight very harsh. Due to this, I was initially reluctant to explore further. But I’m glad I did as I would have missed out on exploring a real treasure.
Sahastralinga Talav was a large reservoir named for the 1,000 shiva lingas or shrines it was supposed to have had on its banks. Today, not a single shiva linga or shrine can be seen, though ruins of what could have been a temple exists at the end of one embankment with some pillars still standing upright today.
According to the information board placed at the entrance, the Sahastralinga Talav covered an area of 5 sq.km. and was fed by waters from the River Saraswati. The reservoir’s embankments were made of stone and had steps leading to the water.
The tank also had a water filtering system with a cistern that was about 40 m in diameter. The volume of water entering the cistern could be controlled through inlet pipes. It was also fun imagining the circular cistern converted into a modern-day auditorium — the dimensions and designs were just about right ! 🙂
It was a good idea walking along the water channels and imagining the hub it must have been almost a 1,000 years ago. The prayers, the pujas, the devotees and the large body of water in an area that received very little rainfall.
In India, temples have always been built close to water sources and the 1,000 shiva lingas / shrines that the Talav was supposed to have had would not have been unusual. But the significance of these shrines would have been far more greater considering how precious water was in the region.
It was not so much fun imagining the river drying up and the Sahastralinga Talav going to waste and getting buried under silt, sand and mud. The Talav was excavated by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI), when the monument came under their care.
And while we are on the subject of the ASI, let me share an “interesting” conversation with you. When I arrived at the Sahastralinga Talav, I noticed an enclosure with a board that announced it was a museum. Since it was locked, I decided to visit it after I had finished seeing the Talav.
When I went to see the museum on my way out, I found that it was still locked. The ASI Office was close by so I went looking for someone who could open the museum for me. I found the security guard who flatly refused to open it, stating that the museum was not meant for the public ! I asked to speak to someone else from the ASI Office. That someone else (who refused to give me his name) also refused to give permission to open the museum. His reason? School children are careless and spoil the exhibits !
That is when I lost my temper. “This is the most ridiculous excuse I have heard. Either you open the museum or I’m going to complain against you.”
Some calls were made and I was made to speak to some “Bade Sahab” (who also refused to give his name) in Ahmedabad. Only after “Bade Sahab” was assured that I didn’t sound like a school-going kid and neither did I have any with me did he give permission to the security guard to open the museum doors for me.
It was quite obvious that the museum was not opened regularly for the guard struggled to open the rusty lock with an equally rusty key. And guess what? The key broke in the lock and that was the end of my attempts to see the museum. I had to be content with seeing it through the grill and this tantalising photo.
While I understand that the ASI operates under considerable financial and humanpower constraints, they are taking their mandate of “…protecting the monuments and sites…” a little too seriously by keeping out people. Such is the state of our national treasures !
PS: I really need to know: do I look like a school-going kid?
- Patan is just 140 km from Ahmedabad and can easily be covered as a day trip.
- Though I visited the Sahastralinga Talav after Rani ni Vav, I would recommend that you visit the Talav and the Museum (if you’re lucky) first and then Rani ni Vav.
- If you require any further information or assistance in planning a trip to this region, please feel free to write to me as a comment or through the Contact page of the blog.