Surajkund – the name evokes the visuals of a colorful rustic fair that brings together all the exotic elements of India at one place every February. Craftsmen from around the country come with their handmade products. Folk artists come and enliven the place with their performances. You get to eat food from all parts of the country. That too street food. It would not be an exaggeration to say Surajkund Mela presents India at its vibrant best. The giant sculptures that have been put up for the Mela can be seen all year around.
If you take a morning walk in the place it is bound to keep you wrapped in ethnic India. Let me take you behind the Surajkund Mela grounds. And introduce you to the Kund or pond that lends this world-class fairs its name.
Surajkund – Reservoir
Just behind the Mela grounds, lies this beautiful amphitheater-like Kund or Reservoir sprawling across 6 acres of land. Just to give you a sense of its size, the diameter of the bed of the reservoir is 130 meters. So think of the expanse it covers with its whole structure. Built to pay homage to Sun – it is curved on the eastern side and creates an impression of the rising sun. A position of Sun that is most worshiped. The first impression you get when your eyes see Surajkund is that of a Roman Amphitheatre with giant stone steps all around. And open ground in the middle. On one side there is even a raised platform where potentially a king can sit.
A ramp connects the top of the structure with the ground. My first instinct was that even in those days they built disabled-friendly places. My second instinct was that it was probably a place for taking big animals like elephants that may be involved in some kind of show here. But these were just the wild horses of my imagination.
Surya Pushkarni Water Reservoir
Surajkund or Surya Pushkarni is a well-planned water reservoir to meet the water needs of the surrounding area. It was connected to a stream that was linked to the Anang Dam, a couple of kilometers away. In a way that all the water overflowing would land here and fill this Kund. It could also store the seasonal rainwater from the surrounding Aravalli Hills. The ramp is actually a ramp for cattle to reach the water level and is called Gau Ghat. The only part of the structure that was beyond my understanding was the stones jutting out at one in the middle of the stairs all around the reservoir. No literature that I could lay my hands on explained these stones protruding out as if they were meant to hold something or give support to something.
Tomar’s – Sun Worshippers
There are reasons for this Kund to be named after Sun. The Tomars who built this Kund in 10th CE were supposed to be Sun worshippers. Secondly, one of the kings of the Tomar dynasty was called Suraj Pal. And it was potentially named after him. Surajkund is located in an area that used to be the seat of Tomar kings before they decided to move to Lal Kot behind what is now Qutub Minar. Apparently, there was a Sun Temple at the western end of the reservoir of which no trace can be found now. People say that the stones from the temple have been re-used in the conservation of the reservoir. But I could not locate any carved stone on my walk around this place.
I did see some carved stones that had some board games like carving on them. But they were too simplistic to be a part of the temple carving of 10th CE. Oral sources also put the construction of Surajkund in the late 7th CE.
Surajkund was in use as a water source until the British Era. The Tughlaq dynasty that ruled Delhi in the early medieval period maintained this reservoir. Repaired it as required and built the small enclosure called Garhi, where the temple used to be. It is said that a reservoir of this dimension can take care of the water requirements of the whole of South Delhi. While I cannot validate that for the current population of Delhi, but it sure can take care of a large segment of the population. The lake was absolutely dry when I visited it at the end of July and you could walk on its grassy bed. There is too much construction around this place. I am sure that has impacted the water table here.
A stepwell like this one can play a huge role in maintaining the water levels of an area. All we have to do is allow all the excess water to flow to it and leave the rest to it.
This is one of those heritage places that can be practically used even today we if have the intention to do so.
Next time when you visit the Mela, do spend a few minutes admiring this beautiful heritage.
Recommend you read the following travel blog on places to visit in Delhi & Haryana.