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Rudra Mahalaya - a once grand temple where History speaks

Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.

Rudra Mahalaya temple 1

An intact portion of Rudra Mahalaya temple

An intact portion of Rudra Mahalaya temple

Rudra Mahalaya : Introduction

Rudra Mahalaya ...
To majority of us the name does not ring anything important. But in the 10th century CE Rudra Mahalaya was an important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated in Siddhpur, a town in Patan district of Gujarat, this grand temple was once a pride not only of Siddhpur, but of Gujarat as a whole. Today not many people outside the locality know about this temple, and the reasons are many.
First and foremost, the temple is in ruins, so no worshipping is done here. Hence common devotees do not visit the temple.
Another important reason of the obscurity of this temple is that Siddhpur, though boasts of great religious importance and is a Hindu pilgrimage place of great stature, is not a tourist attraction in the strictest sense.

But the historical importance of Rudra Mahalaya deserves a closer look.
So, let's take a virtual tour of this once grand temple.

Siddhpur : Bindu Sarovar

Bindu Sarovar, Siddhpur

Bindu Sarovar, Siddhpur

Rudra Mahalaya : A little about Siddhpur

A discussion about the history of Rudra Mahalaya inevitably brings in the history of Siddhpur. So let's probe a little about that.

Siddhpur is an ancient holy place. It's original name was "Shreesthal", meaning Pious or Sacred Place. Bindu Sarovar, one of the five holiest lakes or "PANCHSAROVAR" to the Hindus is situated at Siddhpur.

As per Hindu Mythology, Parashurama, the 6th Avatar of Lord Vishnu performed the religious rights of "Pind Daan" for his deceased mother Renuka here at Bindu Sarovar. Following this tradition, Siddhpur is known as "Matrugaya", where hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to perform religious rites for their deceased female ancestors.
Another mythological connection of Bindu Sarovar is that it was here the great sage Kapila Muni was born to sage Kardama and his wife Devahuti. Kapila Muni was the founder of Sankhya Yoga or Sankhya Philosophy, one of the six Hindu Philosophies on which the Hinduism stands. It is said that Kapila Muni taught his mother Devahuti the principles of Sankhya Philosophy here.
It is believed by many that the Vedic river Saraswati once flowed along the east side of Siddhpur, and the original water of Bindu Sarovar was derived from the holy river Saraswati.

In the Historical era, Shreesthal was an important city of the kingdom of Chaulukya dynasty who ruled in Gujarat. During the era of Gujarat Sultanate in the early 15th century CE, Siddhpur was ruled by the rulers of Palanpur. Later in the 15th century (1573 CE), Siddhpur was brought under Mughal rules by the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Rudra Mahalaya : remains

Rudra Mahalaya : Now

Rudra Mahalaya : Now

Rudra Mahalaya : History

The construction of this temple was started by Chaulukya king Mularaja in 943 CE, though he could not complete the construction work. The temple was completed by King Jayasimha Siddharaja in 1140 CE. It was the name of Jayasimha Siddharaja which is incorporated as the name Siddhapur/Siddhpur of Shreesthal.

However, as in many places of medieval India, this grand temple was destroyed by Muslim invaders.
In the last part of 13th century CE (1298-99), Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan, two army generals of the Sultan of Delhi Alauddin Khalji attacked and destroyed a large portion of this temple.
Another attack by the Sultan of Gujarat Ahmed Shah in the first part of the 15th century CE almost completely destroyed this grand temple. Ahmed Shah converted a portion of the temple into a mosque called Jami Masjid.

Rudra Mahalaya 2

A portion of Rudra Mahalaya temple

A portion of Rudra Mahalaya temple

Rudra Mahalaya : the temple architecture

Rudra Mahalaya was a huge temple. Spread over an area of 91x70 meters and constructed in the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, this grand stone-built temple had 1600 pillars, 12 entrances, a grand Mandapa and a sanctum with tall Shikhara or spire. Every square inch of this marvellous temple was decorated with exquisite carvings of human figures (depicting gods and goddesses, nymphs, dancers etc.), animals, floral and geometric designs.

Rudra Mahalaya 3

Western portion of Rudra Mahalaya

Western portion of Rudra Mahalaya

The long veranda on western side

The long veranda on western side

The veranda on western side : another view

The veranda on western side : another view

The 'Mandapa' on western side

The 'Mandapa' on western side

The small temple on western side

The small temple on western side

Rudra Mahalaya : the present state

At present, the ruins of Rudra Mahalaya is situated at the Rangfali area of Ambawadi locality of Siddhpur town.

At the end of a narrow lane, an enclosed area with the ruins standing alone is what the once grand temple remains today.
The ruins are under the care of ASI (Archeological Survey of India), and a number is attached to it (N-GJ-164).

The entry is through a small gate on the north-west side. On the north-western side, there is a nearly intact small temple with a small Nagara type of Shikhar (spire). Beyond that there is a long veranda type structure with multiple stone pillars and flat stone roof. The pillars are decorated with beautiful stone carvings. At the eastern end of this long veranda, there is a square Mandapa (Hall) with a domed roof. This Mandapa houses a small stone idol of Nandi the Bull in sitting posture, looking towards a Shiva lingam in the sanctum.

Beyond this structures, there are ruins with broken stone portions of the ancient temple. There is a dry tank on the western side.

On the east, there are two huge partly destroyed stone-built "Torana"-s (porches) and four tall pillars with horizontal beams. All these structures are decorated with beautiful stone carvings. The size of the pillars are staggeringly huge -- and the first thought that invariably comes to the mind of any observer is 'Wow! There were 1600 pillars of such magnitude!'

But now it is just a ruin. What a sad story!

Rudra Mahalaya : The 'Torana'

Rudra Mahalaya : ruins of Torana

Rudra Mahalaya : ruins of Torana

Scaled down replica of the Torana of Rudra Mahalaya temple

Scaled down replica of the Torana of Rudra Mahalaya temple

Rudra Mahalaya : The "Torana" and its replica

A scaled down replica of the grand "Torana" of Rudra Mahalaya temple is constructed in front of the Siddhpur Museum inside the Bindu Sarovar complex.

Rudra Mahalaya : How to go?

As already said, the ruins of Rudra Mahalaya is situated in Rangfali area of Ambawati locality of Siddhpur town. Siddhpur is about 130 km from Ahmedabad, a major city.

Ahmedabad is connected to other major cities of India by rail, road and air.

Rudra Mahalaya : Conclusion

Rudra Mahalaya is in ruins, but it is the history which is important.

Moreover, a visit to Siddhpur will bring one to Bindu Sarovar, one of the five holiest of all holy lakes of the Hinduism.

Last but not the least, the road from Ahmedabad to Siddhpur is a very good State Highway, and it takes less than 2 hours to reach Siddhpur from Ahmedabad. A 20 km detour will take the visitor to the world famous Sun Temple of Modhera. So, the two destinations can easily be combined together.

Sun temple, Modhera

A glimpse of the Sun Temple, Modhera

A glimpse of the Sun Temple, Modhera

Comments

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on May 11, 2021:

Thanks for arranging a virtual tour of Rudra Mahalaya, Dr. Chatterjee. It is quite amazing to see this architectural marvel which seems to be in ruins now. I wish the authorities concerned take a notice of it even now to save whatever is left. Thanks for sharing.

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