Aurangabad: Archaeologists have come across an ancient rain water harvesting site having 13 rock-cut reservoirs, in central Maharashtra, which they say is the largest one in the country.

The site is unique as the harvesting area, a hill in this case, has been carved in circular and pyramidal shape, with steep natural ridges retouched to maintain security and isolation.

Located at Lohgarh-Nandra village, in Phulambri tehsil of this district, the site is 38 km north-west of the city, on the old trade route between Aurangabad and Ajanta caves, which are famous all over the world for paintings and architecture.

It was discovered in one of the four hillocks on the Lohgarh hills, which have rich archaeological evidence, in the form of rock-cut structures.

The dome-shaped top portion of the hill has been leveled to acquire the desired slope, followed by a flat even surface, so that rain water spills in this direction to enter the rock-cut reservoirs, Rahul Bhosle, Assistant Director, Department of Archaeology, Aurangabad division, said.

These reservoirs, of unequal size and shape, and sub-divided into many more, have been excavated over the hill in a circular fashion, Bhosle said.

The reservoirs were the first to be built along with the caves on the other hills and are tentatively bracketed to the period around 7th century AD, Bhosle said.

Most of these are small rectangular openings as seen on top surface which then, after a depth carved almost two meters, expand greatly to between 4 to 25 meters in length and breadth, supported over pillars at regular intervals.

The actual depth of these reservoirs could not be ascertained as they are now filled-up, Bhosle said. There is a group of nine small water reservoirs, called `Nava-kunda' and 'Sita-chi-nahani'.

The largest one has temple remains at the centre with cisterns all around. The importance of these reservoirs lie in its frequency and the volume of water it preserved, thereby making archaelogists to believe that it should have served a
population of almost 1000 people round the year.

But where this population resided, is a matter of explorations and research, he said. Certainly it could not have been on the ground level below, as the effort in getting
the stored water from that high point is far greater than the easily approachable lakes situated nearby.

A possibility is they resided in the same hill range, within caves nearby, which are lost today, he said.

There are three rock-cut caves on the other part of the hill. Local folklore has that this site was once the hermitage of sage Valmiki, who penned Ramayana, he said.

The cave-temple is locally known as Shiv-Guru temple, and has been carved from the same hill. It comprises a garbhagriha, an ardha-mandapa, a sabha-mandapa, and an open courtyard and is carved with floral and geometrical motifs.