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SUYYA THE ENGINEER
This remarkable man who was orphaned as a child was found by a loving, strong
and proud woman called Suyyasetu whom fate had placed as a Candala or Sudra in
caste. While sweeping a dust heap on the road in a covered earthen vessel
she found the abandoned baby boy whom she brought up as her own and known as
Suyya studied well and as he grew up he became a teacher of small boys in a
household. He showed good acumen and intelligence and kept the company of
men of letters. It was obvious from his looks that he came from good
parentage and that by some misfortune his birth parents were unable to accept
him. He would often attend academic and other discussions. These
were the glorious times in the reign of a strong and well liked King
Avantivarman who reigned over Kashmir from 855 AD to 883 AD. The King was
the follower of Vishnu.
Suyya had heard many discussions on the food calamities in the land and had been
thinking about some solutions. The famines the people of Kashmir faced
were due to floods in the Vitasta or Jhelum and its tributaries, flooding
villages on its banks, lack of irrigation in the higher areas and of clean
drinking water from a source other than rain. He declared to the members
of his discussion group that he could solve the problems. The King at
hearing of this conferred with Suyya and pledged his support with capital to
assist in Suyya's project.
An Engineer's Plan and Implementation
Suyya had a plan. He also had to find some novel ways of implementing it
as not everyone was informed enough to understand the plan.
With the King's support he took many pots of money from the treasury, and
embarked on a boat to Madavarajya, modern Maraz. He dropped a pot of money
at the location of a village called Nandaka which was under flood waters and
returned. The site of Nandaka village cannot be fixed with certainty.
This name may possibly be connected to that of the old Nandi canal which takes
the water of the Vesau river above the village of Kaimuh, and serves for the
irrigation of the narrow strip of land separating the Vesau and Vitasta near
Anantnag and Vij bror. All the villages situated between the two rivers
lie very low, and are protected against frequent inundation only by high
Then he went to Kramarajya’s locality called Yaksadara and threw money into the
waters. The position of Yaksadara can be fixed. Present day Dayargul
is a rocky spur which runs down to the bed of Vitasta, close to the village of
Khadnyar and about 3 miles below Varahamula. It is the last projection of
a mountain range which descends to the South East from the Kaj Nag Peaks.
Through a narrow cut or saddle in this spur, leads the road which forms the old
line of communication on the right bank of the Vitasta between Varahamula and
Muzaffarabad. A ledge of rocks stretches across the bed of the river just at the
foot of the Dyargul ridge, and forms the first serious rapid of the Vitasta.
Beyond it boats cannot descend. It is evident that works carried on with
the object of deepening the bed of the river in this locality, and further up in
the gorge, between Khadnyar and Varahamula would have a marked effect in
lowering the water-level of the Vitasta throughout the valley. It is
therefore probable that the tradition reproduced by Kalhana in Rajtarangini is
right in indicating Yaksadara or Dayargul as the extreme point of Suyya's
operations in the lower course of the river.
At Yaksadara the rocks that had rolled to its banks and settled in its bed had
compressed the Vitasta and made its waters whirl backwards. The famine stricken
villagers looked for the money and in doing so dragged out the rocks from the
river and thus cleared the bed of Vitasta.
Once the water had drained off in 2 or 3 days, he had the Vitasta dammed up in
one place by workmen.
The whole river that is believed to have been created by Nila or Shiva, was
blocked by Suyya for seven days by the construction of a stone dam, a wonderful
After having the river bed cleared at the bottom, and stone walls constructed to
protect against rocks which roll down the hills, he removed the dam. Then
the banked up stream flew forward. When the water receded quickly it left
behind mud and wriggling fish that resembled the night sky, which when free from
clouds, displays black darkness and stars, writes Kalahan.
Where ever he found inundation breaches to occur he constructed new beds for the
The river, with its numerous great channels branching off from the original
channel, appeared like a black female serpent, which had numerous hoods resting
on one body describes Kalahana.
Change of River Course
The rivers Sindhu and Vitasta formerly met near the temple of Vishnu called
Vainyasvamin, flowing to the left and right of Trigrami, they have to
this day their confluence near Srinagar, which Suyya planned.
On the original confluence stood the temples of Visnusvamin and Vainyasvamin,
situated near Phalapura and Parihasapura. Whereas on the confluence
of the present, which has moved to the vicinity of Sundaribhavana, stands
the temple of Hrsikesa Yogasayin (Vishnu
merged in mental abstraction), the object of Suyya’s worship.
Embankments and Dams
After constructing stone embankments for 7 Yojanas along the Vitasta, he dammed
in the waters of the Mahapadma Lake. The Vitasta streams out rapidly from
the lake. Suyya founded many other villages. He kept out water by
several dykes and has given to these villages an appearance of round bowls "kunda".
Hence people called these villages Kundala.
In Kalhan’s time the river at low ebb in autumn would displays the multitude of
pales, which stuck out, appearing like posts used for tying up of water
elephants in rut.
Embankments constructed for the length of the 7 Yojana is from the Vular Lake in
Vitasta’s course above it, (approximately Vular to Kanbal). Many villages south
of the Vular are artificially enclosed by embankments and correspond in shape to
the above description. Utskund and Markund have the name Kundala in them and are
close to the left bank of the Vitasta.
On the banks of the Vitasta where it leaves the Lake he established a town in
his name called Suyyakundala, resembling
heaven. In the area of the lake upto the horizon, by his authority he
prohibited the killing of fish and birds. Known today as modern Sopore.
In present times the winter vast flocks of geese and water fowl frequent which
the locals kill. People on the lake live on fishing. Fishing in the
Vitasta was also prohibited by Maharaja Gulab Singh for several years on penalty
of death. It was also prohibited in Sultan Zain-ul-abdin’s time.
Once the floods had ebbed he examined different classes of land and procured
river water supply to each village, which were then no longer dependent only on
He through canals brought water to each village. He then determined which
soil of which village dried up faster, the periods within which irrigation would
be required for each soil respectively. He then on a permanent basis
organized for the size and distribution of the water course for each village,
and by using the Anula i.e. irrigation, and other streams, embellished all
regions with an abundance of irrigated fields which were known for excellent
Rice is the staple food of Kashmir. For rice, irrigation is indispensable.
In Kashmir such canals have existed even at 11,000 ft.
He bestowed Jainakundala or Suyyakundala town to the Brahmans and then built a
dyke called after his mother’s name Suyyasetu.
On the lands that emerged from the deluge the King built many villages.
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Former confluence at Vainyasvamin
Confluence near Srinagar