Surajkund through history

Surajkund through history

The man-made lake, which lends its name to the annual handi-crafts fair, has a rich past.

Many Delhiites do not visit the Surajkund Handicrafts Mela for the fear of travelling upto Faridabad - an area beyond National Capital Region. However, even those who do, often miss out on the original attraction - the magnificent Surajkund lake. This expansive artificial lake lends not only its name but also its naturally beautiful site to the Surajkund fair.

Today, this lake stands enclosed with a giant mesh and has little water in its womb. Locals, however, say that there was a time when it contained no less than 427 feet of water, enough to meet the water shortage of whole South Delhi, and royal hunting parties used to come to rest here.

Bardic traditions (folklore of the local clans) say that this lake was built by Tomar dynasty king Suraj Pal (son of Anang Pal I) in the 10th century. The Tomars, who initially lived near the Aravalli hills, shifted to the Surajkund area and built Lal Kot. The same town was later renamed Qila Rai Pithora by Prithviraj Chauhan.

Suraj Pal, who was a sun worshipper, was so impressed by the beautiful terrain of the area that he decided to build a sun temple and a sun pool here. Therefore came up Surajkund - a 40 hectares (99 acres) reservoir dedicated to the sun. It was constructed in the shape of a rising sun with an eastward arc – a semi circular pond with a steep embankment of stepped stones.

The Tomar dynasty vanished by the 12th century and subsequent raids by Muslim invaders destroyed the sun temple. The amphitheatre shaped reservoir, however, stood the test of time. It is said that Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who took a keen interest in irrigation works, had its steps and terraces repaired by laying lime-concrete over them. The Britishers also refurbished it in the 1920s.

Initially, this lake was fed by a small stream from the North Western side that also fed the closeby Anangpur dam. Rain water also percolated from the adjoining Aravalli hills and catchment area of nearby villages to fill the reservoir. However, it is suspected that rampant mining activity in the Aravalli hills and concretisation of the villages has destroyed the natural drainage system.

Locals say that at one time the overflowing reservoir, the greenery of the area and the impromptu dance of peacocks in monsoon used to make for a visual treat. Today, there is not much left to see other than the impressive architecture and vast emptiness of the lake. The Supreme Court has also ordered the government to stop all mining activities in the hill area, but any positive environmental effects are yet to be seen.

Nevertheless, the Surajkund Mela brings lakhs of tourists to the lake site every year. The ages old construction has become host to an event of international scale. It is hoped that some day, not only the precincts, but the lake will also come to life. There will be abundant water, luscious greens and peacocks will dance once again.          

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