Sudarshan Lake is an ancient Mauryan man-made lake located in Girnar, Gujarat, and holds significant historical significance and heritage. This lake was built by Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya dynasty and India’s first Chakravarti emperor. The responsibility of its construction was entrusted to Governor Pushyagupta Vaishya, who was working in Girnar at that time.
History of Sudarshan Lake
To further strengthen the infrastructure of the lake, Mahamatya Tushasp, a trusted advisor of Chandragupta Maurya’s grandson Emperor Ashoka, undertook the strengthening and renovation of Sudarshan Lake. This effort ensured its permanence and longevity for future generations to enjoy.
In later years, Skandagupta, a benevolent ruler of the Gupta dynasty, invested substantial resources in building a dam on the lake. His good intentions and financial support resulted in the successful completion of the dam, which further added to the utility and magnificence of the Sudarshan Lake.
History: Rich Heritage of Sudarshan Lake
During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, vast territories extending up to Saurashtra in western India were conquered and brought under his direct rule. An inscription found at Girnar reveals that Pushyagupta Vaishya, an appointed governor under Chandragupta, built a magnificent lake in the region, known as ‘Sudarshan Lake’.
However, the passage of time took its toll on the lake, leading to its gradual decline. It was during the later era, under the patronage of Tushasapa, a trusted Mahamatya of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, that the Sudarshan Lake saw a remarkable revival. Tushasap undertook significant efforts to rebuild the lake, ensuring its resilience and structural integrity for an astonishing period of 400 years.
In the Gupta period, however, the Sudarshan Lake once again fell into disrepair. To remedy this dire situation, Skandagupta, a far-sighted ruler, issued orders to renovate the lake. Acting on the orders of Skandagupta, Parnadatta undertook the difficult task of renovating the lake. Tragically, in the initial year of his reign, the dam of Sudarshan Lake broke, causing great hardship to the local population.
Skandagupta, in recognition of the suffering endured by his people, generously took care of rebuilding the dam. Additionally, Chakrapalit, son of Parnadatta, served in the state administration of the region and left his mark by building a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu on the serene banks of the Sudarshan Lake. The temple became a testimony to the devotion and cultural significance associated with the lake’s history.
Epic Evidence: Rediscovering the Story of Sudarshan Lake
Inscription and restoration of the lake by Rudradaman:
Junagadh region reveals its rich history through the first inscription of Saka Samvat 72 (150-151 AD). This important inscription, dedicated to the Saka ruler Rudradaman, sheds light on the intricate details surrounding the repair of the Sudarshan Lake. The inscription describes that Mahakshatrap Rudradaman took upon himself the responsibility of renovating this remarkable water body during his reign. The original construction of the lake is attributed to Pushyagupta Vaishya, a trusted officer serving under Chandragupta Maurya.
Rise in the time of Ashoka:
The fame of Sudarshan Lake increased even more during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. Ashoka’s trusted advisor, Mahamatya Tushasp, who was of Yavana origin, was instrumental in enhancing the infrastructure of the lake. Tushasp cleverly made a canal that received its water from Sudarshan Lake. This impressive feat of engineering made use of the abundant water sourced from the springs ‘Suvarnasikta’ and ‘Palsini’ originating from the majestic Urjayat hill at Urjayat (Girnar).
Natural calamities and dam devastation:
However, fortunes took an unfortunate turn when a series of floods inundated the springs of ‘Suvarnasikta,’ ‘Palsini,’ and other sources on the Urjayat hill, causing it to breach the embankment. This catastrophic event occurred just before 150–151 AD, leading to rapid erosion and eventual destruction of the Sudarshan Lake. The catastrophic flood resulted in the loss of integrity and functionality of the lake.
Reconstruction of Suvisakh and Dam:
In the midst of this turbulent period, the diligent efforts of Pallava minister Suvisakha came to the fore under the rule of King Rudradaman. Suvishakha was entrusted with the administration of the Suvarna and Saurashtra provinces. Realizing the importance of Sudarshan Lake, he took up the important task of rebuilding the dam. Through his expertise and dedication, Suvisakh successfully restored the dam, reviving the grandeur of Sudarshan Lake once again.
As evidenced by these inscriptions, the story of Sudarshan Lake reveals a tale of creation, growth, natural disaster, and resilient restoration. Its importance in the historical narrative of the region is recorded in these epigraphic accounts.
Repair Work: Unveiling the Restoration Efforts
Irrigation Canals by Mahamatya Tushasp:
Within the inscriptions, a remarkable revelation emerges regarding the use of the water of the Sudarshan Lake for irrigation. The skillfully designed canals by Mahamatya Tushasp facilitated the distribution of water for agricultural needs. It is interesting to note that these important irrigation works were carried out by foreigners, adding a diverse cultural dimension to the historical landscape.
Foreign Intervention in Repairs:
Centuries later, during the 4th century, the task of repairing the Sudarshan Lake was once again entrusted to a foreign figure. A Pahlava or Pallava chieftain, whose contribution is recorded in the inscriptions, undertook the restoration work. This further emphasizes the involvement of non-native persons in the maintenance and conservation of the lake. Thus, the Junagarh inscription not only serves as a document of the existence of the dam but also throws light on the importance of the Sudarshan Lake in the historical context.
Wear and tear and expedient repairs:
The inscription reveals that in 455–456 AD, the Sudarshan Lake suffered a catastrophic breach due to heavy rainfall, causing extensive damage. However, prompt action was taken to rectify the situation. Under the instructions of Chakrapalit, son of Parnadatta, the monumental crack was repaired within a remarkably short period of two months. This important repair work is a testimony to the urgency and commitment shown in maintaining the integrity of Sudarshan Lake.
Period of Emperor Skandagupta:
Additional evidence from the Junagarh inscription from the time of Emperor Skandagupta throws light on Chakrapalita’s involvement in the repair of the embankment of Sudarshan Lake. This inscription provides further validation of the efforts invested in maintaining and protecting the structural integrity of the lake.
These documented examples of repair work demonstrate the enduring knowledge and expertise in the construction, restoration, and maintenance of dams, lakes, and irrigation systems prevalent during antiquity. Sudarshan Lake, with its frequent renovations and contributions from foreign bodies, remains a symbol of historic engineering achievements.
In conclusion, it can be said that Sudarshan Lake located in Girnar, Gujarat has a rich historical heritage. From its initial construction under the orders of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya to the diligent repairs carried out by various individuals over the centuries, the lake exists as a testament to ancient engineering and conservation efforts.
Inscriptions and epigraphic evidence provide invaluable insight into the repair works carried out at Sudarshan Lake. Foreign figures such as Mahamatya Tushasp, a trusted advisor of Emperor Ashoka, and the Pahlava or Pallava rulers played an important role in restoring the functionality and grandeur of the lake.
The repair work is a reminder of the importance placed on irrigation systems and the construction of dams and lakes even in ancient times. The prompt action taken by individuals such as Chakrapalit under the orders of Emperor Skandagupta exemplifies the dedication to maintaining the integrity of Sudarshan Lake.
Overall, Sudarshan Lake stands as a remarkable testament to human ingenuity, engineering prowess, and the enduring efforts made to ensure its continued existence and usefulness for irrigation and the local community. Its history, as revealed through epigraphic evidence, enriches our understanding of ancient civilizations and their commitment to harnessing the power of nature for the benefit of society.
- Sudarshan Lake was created by Pushyagupta, the governor of the Saurashtra province of Chandragupta Maurya.
- The lake was formed by constructing an artificial dam over the water sources of the Plashini and Swarnasikta rivers from the Revatak and Urjyant mountains.
- The dam was broken twice, first during Rudradaman’s reign and then during Skandagupta’s reign.
- Rudradaman reconstructed the lake using his own funds through Suvishakh Pahlav without taxing the public or employing forced labor (Visti/begar).
- In memory of Vakataka queen Prabhavati Gupta, her sons built a reservoir that they named Sudarshan.
- Another reservoir named Sudarshan was constructed by Swamildev, an officer of Vakataka King Devsen, as documented in Hisse-Borla Abhilekh.
- The popularity of Sudarshan as a reservoir name grew, and it became a tradition to name reservoirs Sudarshan.
- Eventually, Sudarshan became widely accepted as a synonym for a reservoir.