14. Seven Temples Kept Buried

Had the two constables of the Reserve Police not been asleep on June 29, 2000, the author would have been denied the privilege of seeing an archaeological treasure of his homeland. For about 20 minutes, he was able to walk around the Rudramahalaya complex at Siddhpur in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. He was also able to take a minute off to have darshan of a Shivling in the premises. He could not go much further because one of the constables woke up and politely told him to leave the precincts as he had strict instructions from the government not to allow anyone to enter the Rudramahalaya.
Siddhpur is to departed mothers what Gaya is for dead fathers. In fact, it is called Matrigaya where a Hindu could offer shraddh to the soul of his mother. Hindu sarovar is where the ceremony is performed. Equally dear is Siddhpur, especially to Gujaratis, as the city is named after Gujarat’s famous monarch who ruled in premedieval times. After he attained siddhi or success as the most powerful king of north-west India, if not the whole subcontinent, he attained the title of Siddhraj. His name was Jaisinh Solanki (1094 to 1143 AD).
On the intervention of the National Minorities Commission in 1983, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been prevented from carrying on any excavations in or around the Rudramahalaya complex where once existed the tallest temple in Gujarat. From its top could be seen glimpses of Patan, the capital of the ancient kings of Gujarat, some 25 kms away. From the top it is believed were also visible some temple mashaals in Ahmedabad when the capital was shifted there by Ahmed Shah in the 15th century. That is 112 kms away.

Even today, the ruins demonstrate the finery of the sculpture. Human faces have been mutilated. The tablet displayed at the spot by the ASI says the following:  

This is the grandest and the most impressive conception of a temple dedicated to Siva   associated with Siddharaj who ruled in the 12th century AD though tradition   accords its construction to Mularaj during the I0th century AD.

The Jami Masjid (mentioned in the blurb) is a modest affair. Its gate is so small that not more than two persons can enter at the same time. On its top are two minarets less than three feet tall. As one crossed the gate, there are four small temple sancti, one on the left and three on the right. It is clear that the sancti had been walled up and converted into a mebraab for the prayer space; Beyond this is the square tank from ancient times which was also used by those who came for ibadat. Beyond, stand a few handsome pillars and carvings that have survived from ancient times.
According to a neighbour, no prayers take place except for the odd Hindu dropping in for darshan of the only surviving Shivling in one of the four sancti. The brick walls of the other three sancti have also been removed although there are only platforms now without the idols.
The National Minorities Commission has influenced governments, both at Delhi and at Gandhinagar into freezing the excavation work that was begun by the ASl in 1979. The details are available across 38 pages in the commission’s Fourth Annual Report dated 1983. Improvement of the environments of the masjid was first conceived in 1959 in response to a complaint repeatedly made by the local Muslims that the ASI had been neglecting the repair and upkeep of the masjid. Yet, after 1983, the commission has not only ensured that the work was frozen but also that all the excavations made should be covered up. And this has been done despite what came out. The author was able to see a stone Nandi bull in a mutilated contion. The rest of the relics were covered up.

According to the report, Begum Ayesha, MLA, played a leading part in the cover up operation. K.T. Satarawala, the then Adviser to the Governor of Gujarat, also played a yeoman’s role by providing a detailed report on the subject. That Muslim appellants were able to push the ASI, is best quoted from the FoulAnnual Report itself.
A.S. Quereshi, advocate, for the (Muslim) Trustees, issued a notice dated February 6, 1980 to the Superintendent, Archaeological Department, asking the department to build compound walls as per the compromise and to cover up the temple remains.  The superintendent explained in person the importance of the discoveries made and the need for revision of the compromise in the interests of preserving the precious cultural heritage of the country

As Mr Quereshi wanted to visit the site along with the Superintendent, Archaeolocical Department, he went to Siddhpur on March 8, 1980. At first, he agreed to the preservation but later he insisted on getting the trenches closed in his presence that day. The superintendent ordered closure of the trenches andconstruction of the compound wall and both the works were started in his presence.
Should the work of the ASI be allowed to be halted by the intervention of the Minorities Commission? Should a commission work at the behest of narrow local vested interests? Or, should not the government rein in the commission from undertaking such obstructionist activity? If there is legitimacy in such activity, would it not be logical that the ASI be wound up? Which, of course, would imply that we have lost interest in the search for our civilisational heritage.