Siddhapur is an ancient sacred town on the banks of the Saraswati river. It finds mention in the Skanda Purana as Sristhala. Siddhapur derives its name from the great ruler of Gujarat, Siddhraj Jaisinh, who constructed a magnificent Shiva Temple in 12th century AD, Rudra Mahalay, at this town. The entire townscape of Siddhapur is dotted with temples, kunds, ashrams and sacred buildings along the banks of the Saraswati river.
The unique geographical feature of the Saraswati stream turning eastwards lends special sanctity to this place. For all the Hindus, this is the place to perform the Matru Shraddh (the ritual ceremony for maternal spirits). This significance is the reason for the large population of Brahmins, who act as priests in such ceremonies. These ceremonies are performed at Kapilamuni Ashram, where 3 sacred water kunds exist Gyan Vapika, Alpa Sarovar and Bindu Sarovar. For anyone interested in the Hindu religious ceremonies it is well worth a visit.
On the opposite bank of the Saraswati river, there is an architecturally interesting building, known as Thali building, built by Ahalyabai Holkar, queen of Indore a famous Maratha queen who patronized many such building projects in all the important Hindu pilgrimage centers of India. In ancient times, the urban structures of Siddhapur were influenced by two significant aspects the natural features of the Saraswati river and the man made feature of the Rudra Mahalaya.
The ancient texts describe Rudra Mahalaya as a magnificent Shiva Temple with a three-storied shikhara, 1600 pillars, 12 entrance doors, central mandapa and porches on east, north and south and sanctum in west. Around the temple, there were 11 shrines of Rudra. The eastern gate was adorned with beautifully carved Torana, with a flight of steps leading to the Saraswati river. Ulugh Khan and Ahmed Shah of Ahmedabad ruthlessly destroyed this magnificent Shiva Temple, in the late 13th century or early 14th century. The cells on the surrounding walls were converted into a mosque.
Siddhapur is a major center of the Bohra Muslims from few centuries. The Bohras are a rich and cultured community spread all over the major cities of the world. They are deeply attached to their native town of Siddhapur and regularly visit the town for important social ceremonies. About a century ago, they built very beautiful mansions in a typical architectural style, from the wealth earned abroad. The well laid out paved streets, service lanes, mosques, perfect arrangement of row houses with profusely decorated facades using a common architectural vocabulary is a direct outcome of the collective vision of the Guilds of Bohra merchants. For any visitor, a visit to the Bohravad is a must and it will be a wonderful experience to suddenly discover such a perfect example of urban design in the middle of chaotic Indian urbanization.
Vadnagar : (42 km from Siddhapur) Vadnagar finds mention in many Hindu Puranas and in the travelogue of great Chinese traveller, Hieun-Tsing (7th century), as a rich and flourishing town The inscription on Arjun Ban Gate confirms King Kumarapla built the fortification of the city in 1152 AD.
The town sits on the high bank of Sharmistha Talav, with an overlooking promenade, in a crescent and a series of steps leading to the tank. The fortification and undulating skyline mirrored in the water of Sharmistha Talav, lend a picturesque quality to the whole composition. Several temples, step wells, old havelis, fort gates and inscriptions bear testimony to the glorious past. Hatkeshwar Mahadev, located outside the town, is a Shiva Temple, about 500 years old, having a high shikhara and beautiful carvings, representing various Hindu themes, like- Dasha Avatara, Pandavas.