Sambhar Lake is India’s largest inland water lake. It is bowl shaped lake encircles Sambhar Lake Town located 96 km from Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan.
How it was named :
By aphorism of local people, the story of derivation of name of the lake can be described. The tutelary goddess of Chauhan Rajputs and consent of Lord Shiva, Shakambhari Devi, in return of service provided to her converted a dense forest into a plain of silver. By the request of inhabitants who dreaded the greed and strife which such a possession would excite, she transformed it into a lake. So the name of the lake came by corruption of her name. This incident was happened round 6th century. The lake shore has temple of Shakambhari Devi.
The very famous Indian epic Mahabharata has description of Sambhar Lake as part of kingdom of king Brishparva, the place where his priest Shukracharya lived, and place where marriage of his daughter, Devayani, with king Yayati took place. The temple of Devayani is also present near the lake as a ingenuous evidence. At that time the lake was owned by various rulers of Jaipur and Jodhpur.
In 1884, a small excavation work was done in the lake and ancient sculpture arts were discovered with some terracotta structures, coins and seals with a clay stupa. This art was appeared to be influenced by Buddhism. Later in 1934, large- scale scientific and systematic excavation was done in which large number of terracotta figurines, stonewares and decorated discs were found. Many of these structures are still present in Albert Hall Museum.
Sambhar Lake receives water from endorheic basin. It has a catchment area of 5700 km2. It is an extensive saline wetland with a fluctuating water depth according to season. It occupies area of 190-230km2 based on seasons. It is located in Nagaur and Jaipur districts and also borders the Ajmer district. This lake has a length of 35.5 km and breadth varying between 3km to 11km. So, this is an elliptical shaped lake. It is designated as a Ramsar site i.e. recognized wetland of international importance, because this wetland is a key wintering area for tens of thousands of flamingoes and other migratory bird species from Northern Asia. Specialized algae and bacteria growing in the lake support the lake ecology and provides color. It sustains migrating waterfowl. Other wildlife in nearby forest is Nilgai, deer and fox.
Salt Production :
For collection of salt from the lake, a dam was built in the lake (before India’s independence). This dam is 5.1 km long and made of sand stone dividing the lake. Procedure used for collection of salt is: after salt water reaches a certain concentration, it will be released from west side to east side by the help of gates of dam. In the east of the dam are salt evaporation ponds where has been farmed for thousands years. This eastern side area is 80 km2 and it has salt reservoirs, canals and salt pans separated by narrow wades. British also built a railroad on the east side to connect Sambhar Lake City to salt work.
Rivers draining this lake are Mendha, Runpangarh, Khandel, Karian. The main streams draining i.e. Mendha, flows from south to north and Runpangarh, flows from north to south. It is India’s largest saline lake and also a source of most of salt produced in Rajasthan. It produces about 9% of total India’s salt production i.e. about 196,000 tonnes every year. Salt production is managed by Sambhar Salts Ltd. (SSL), a joint venture of Hindustan Salts Ltd. and The Rajasthan State Government.
Other places nearby to visit are Sambhar Lake National Park, Sambhar Lake tiger Reserve, Sambhar Wildlife Sanctuary.Moreover other places to visit are:
- Sambhar town hall library,
- Maa Shakambhari temple,
- Devyani Ji temple,
- Sarmishta Ji temple,
- Hazrat Hasamudeen Chisti Dargah,
- Sukh Sagar Ashram,
- Dadu Dayal Ji.
Sambhar wildlife sanctuary has an area of 24000 hectares. This is a bird paradise. Popular species can be seen here are coots, black wing stilts and redshanks.
As the state of Rajasthan is famous for fairs and festivals, the fairs nearby Sambhar Lake are:
- Nandiya Ji ka mela,
- Teej- Gangaur ka mela,
- Dusshera mela,
- Devyani ji ka mela (Sambhar mela),
- Shakambhari ji ka mela,
- Teja ji ka mela.
Best time to visit Sambhar as well as Jaipur is October to March. As in monsoon season, neither animals can be easily seen nor would you be able to witness much of salt production