My acquaintance with Gujarat takes me back to those innocent days of childhood – when I would sit in absolute awe, listening to my grandfather talking about his childhood and youth spent in Khambhat and Ahmedabad. When I had first been to Ahmedabad, I was a child of few months so naturally I don’t remember the teeniest bit of where I was taken to or what I had seen. But through my dadu‘s stories, I have always had a clear vision of Ahmedabad – the Drive-in theatre, the polls of the city, the various vavs or the step-wells (particularly the Adalaj ni vav), the Uttarayan festival and what not!
So, when Kali shifted his base to Ahmedabad, nobody was perhaps happier than I was. While he was packing his bag for a mammoth shift from Singapore to Kolkata (via Mumbai) to finally Ahmedabad, I began working on a serious list about the places I wanted to explore in Gujarat. I know it’s a bit heartless but then that’s just me!
Coming to Gujarat, although it is a state replete with architectural and natural wonders, as a travel enthusiast I feel Gujarat has been much, much lesser explored than it deserves to be. The intricately carved wooden houses (you may remember this from a previously written article on the heritage walk around Ahmedabad), the decadent subterranean architecture as visualized in the step-wells, the pre-historic ruins in Lothal, Asia’s largest salt desert in Rann of Kutch, nature’s bounty as experienced in Gir National Park – all of these deserve much more travelers. So, with the aim to explore Gujarat a bit further than just Ahmedabad, we took a trip to Patan and Modhera – places that we cannot wait to go back once again.
Rani ni Vav, PATAN
Our journey for Patan started off on one fine monsoon morning. And trust us, the countryside in Gujarat is beautiful to say the least. The lush greenery, the glistening roads and glimmering brooks escorted us all the way till Patan on a beautiful Sunday morning.
The erstwhile capital of Gujarat during the Solanki rule prior to Islamic invasion, Anahilavada or modern Patan is now the seat of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rani ni Vav or the Queen’s Step-well. Located on the banks of the prehistoric Saraswati River, Rani ni Vav is a vivid example of the expert craftsmanship of Gujarat, who specialized in subterranean architecture. As a form of ground water storage and resource system, step-wells have been common to the arid areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan (known as vav in Gujarat and baori in Rajasthan) since the third millennium BC, though their pattern and architectural styles differed massively from each other, depending on the various architectural styles patronized by the dynasties that ruled the place.
The Rani ni Vav is said to be built according to the intricate Maru-Gurjara style of architecture by Queen Udayamati in the memory of her late husband, the Chalukya ruler, King Bhima I. The structure is styled with an inverted temple and completed with a gigantic seven levels of stairs holding 500 principle structures.
Apart from the exquisite structure of Rani ni Vav, Patan is also famous for the royal Patola weaves. If you have more time in your hand, you may even visit the loom workshops there – sadly we couldn’t make it there since it was a Sunday. You may also take a trip to the Shahastraling Talab, a pre-historic irrigation canal that used to bring in water to the nearby fields from the Saraswati River.
Sun Temple, MODHERA
The next stop in our trip was the Suryamandir or Sun Temple at Modhera in Mehsana district. Built during the reign of the Chalukya ruler Bhima I, the Sun Temple in Modhera is now protected and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Like the step-well in Patan, the Sun Temple in Modhera also confirms to the extremely complex yet magnificent Chalukya or Maru-Gurjara style of architecture. Just like the Sun Temple at Konark, Odisha, the Modhera Sun Temple is also bereft of any deity and no worship is offered here any more. Hence, one may say, it is one such temple that has opened its gates for all, irrespective of any class, race, gender or religion. However, what simply wowed us off our minds was the exquisite architecture – the entire complex has been built in the famous locking pattern, which has perhaps safeguarded the temple against all the ravages of nature and time.
There is also a kund or religious pond situated right next to the Sabhamandapa. Better known as Ramakunda or Suryakunda, the steps to the reservoir is adorned with numerous miniature shrines and niches, some with and some without deities. Although there were few people about, the serenity of the place, especially at the sunset, just had us grasped.
Our next and final stop was the Maatangi Modheshwari Temple, a temple devoted to Goddess Modheshwari – the Kuldevi of our family. Although I must say I am not quite religious, but I really enjoyed being there. 🙂 If you like visiting temples, make sure you make a stop here. There are no hassles in this temple – you may just go, visit and return. You need not even offer a puja when you’re there.
How to reach?
Patan is located roughly at a distance of 125 km from Ahmedabad City, while Modhera is situated at a distance of around 98 km. You may simply take a day trip to these two places as the highways in Gujarat are really great sans much bumps or disturbances. A trip in a comfortable four-seater AC car would set you back by Rs 2,300 to Rs 2,500 approximately.
When to go?
If you wish to travel to these places, the best time would be in the winters – from November to February. However, we went on a monsoon day and it was fantastic – perhaps because the sun was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds and the temperature was quite low.
Where to eat?
Since Patan is quite a big city, you will find good eateries here. However, it is always advisable to carry some nibbles with you since there aren’t much roadside eateries on the highway. Alternatively, you can also take your driver’s help (if you’re not driving). We did that and he took us to an amazing little dhaba on the way, where we stopped by for piping hot pakodas, chutney and chai! I mean what more can you ask for while taking long drives during monsoons?
So, when you’re next in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar and have a couple of days’ time in hand, make sure you take at least one day trip from the city to the nearby areas. We promise you’ll be mesmerized by the natural as well as the architectural beauty of Gujarat. 🙂