Continued from here
As we passed by the Doshiwada ni Pol we stopped at Astapadji Derasar built in the 1800s. It played to my weakness for the lovely jharokas(windows) that only the Gujaratis and Rajasthanis seem to have gotten right. Other than more than 100 pillars, it has very attractive carvings of human figures dancing, those playing instruments, and several motifs of flowers, animals and those related to Hindu-Jain styles of architecture. The name comes from the shape of what is believed to be the footprints of Lord Adishwar under a tree. An interesting quirk of the temple is that one isn’t allowed to take water inside since water from outside the temple is considered impure. Water for the temple’s use is secured by rain-water harvesting.
We only saw the Harkunvar Sethani ni Haveli from the outside with the exquisite carvings in the oriental style on its long brackets. It is named after the 3rd wife of the prosperous trader Seth Hutheesingh.From the outside It is hard to imagine something from so narrow a street leading to a residence with 60 rooms.
If one has the time and money one can also choose to stay in the Dodhia Haveli that is a heritage home available to book rooms within.
Passing by kids playing gully cricket We revisited Badshah no Hajiro– the tomb of Ahmed Shah.
Even today, everyday at a sunset, the 9th generation of musicians play the shehnai and nagara instruments at the tomb. In the earlier days, this was taken as an indication for all the pols to close their gates for the night.
Also passed again , Rani no Hajiro that was busy with the morning shopping options. It’s shocking to see the outside of the heritage building used to dry laundry amidst the shopping area. However a peep inside leads us to a view of the tombs in a wide courtyard. Apparently the queen had wished to be laid under the open sky after her passing and she got her wish.
A drop to the lovely Jama Masjid again helped us appreciate further its beauty in daylight.
Alternately Manek Chowk presented an almost unrecognizable day time version of the place with 3000 jewelry stores that doubles up as a food street at night. Our guide dropped us off at the last stop for a very hearty Gujarati breakfast in the oldest restaurant in the area – Chandravilas.
Apparently this place was visited frequently by Gandhiji himself and Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bacchan among others.
Picking up our hired car we headed to the Sun temple of Modhera.The first thing one would notice on entry in addition to the temple itself is the dramatically dreamy Surya kund(the stepped pond) right in front of it.
Even between the steps it houses 108 shrines dedicated to various gods and demi-gods , the main ones to Nataraja, Vishnu, Ganesha and Sita. The steps are designed as a mirror image of the shikhar (top half) of the Sun temple thereby lending meaning to it reflecting a link between fire(sun) and water(the pond).
The Sun temple itself was built by the Solankis in the 11th century who were considered descendants of the Sun God.
The beauty of the complex prior to the destruction by Allauddin Khilji is hard to imagine considering the grandeur of the temple that still remains.
Rani ki Vav: This well with 7 stepped terraces is said to have been built by the widowed queen Udayamati in memory of her husband Bhima I in the 11th century. It is made all the more intriguing since it was flooded by the River Saraswati and under it all , it was protected in pristine condition when it was de-silted in the 1980s. Due to geo-tectonic changes that impacted the flow of the river, it no longer functions as a source of water.The sculptures are exquisite, just a few of which are the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu and the 16 styles of makeup depicted on beauteous ladies. Some patterns on the wall also reflect in the stunning artistry of the Patan Patola sarees.
At water-level is the figure of Lord Vishnu resting on his 1000 hooded serpent. While it’s hard to pick a favorite amongst the stepped wells we were visiting, Rani ki Vav is aptly known is the queen of step-wells in India with its mesmerizing beauty. The heat in the region is quite unforgiving and the Vav itself is located extremely near to the Tropic of Cancer. The temperature is said to be 10 degrees cooler in the Vav which is very easy to imagine a huge relief to locals and travellers both then and today.
We learnt from the guide that there were roughly 4 styles of vavs
- Nanda – the simplest with one flight of steps leading to the shaft.[Dada Harir Vav]
- Bhadra – two flights of steps aligned in line with the shaft in the middle.
- Jaya – three flights of steps perpendicular to the adjacent ones and arranged in three directions around the central shaft.
- Vijaya – similar to Jaya but in four directions.
There are part of the structure getting chipped away due to recent earthquakes. Hopefully the work of the Archaeological Survey of India bears fruit and the structure continues to survive for people to enjoy and learn from in centuries to come. Meanwhile the guide had some sad tales to share about the lack of water in the region forcing entire families to be uprooted and move out from their homes and children from their schools in search of water. The quality of water and the dry air also impacts the health of the locals quite a bit. Interestingly, there are villages in the border of Patan that overlap with Pakistan where the farmers are allowed to work on their lands crossing the border every day.
We moved on to the Sahasralina Talav which functioned as the canal/water management system channeling the Saraswati river that then flowed through the area. It too was built in the 11th century by a Siddhraj Jaysinh.
Legend: It is said that he desired a wife of a tank digger who in turn cursed him then killed herself. The curse was said to have left the tank empty and it took the sacrifice of 2 gentlemen from a “lower” caste to repeal the curse. Their sacrifice also led Siddharaj, out of gratitude, to allow people of the “lower” caste to live in the same part of town as those of the so-called higher castes.
The name of the tank stems from the numerous lingas that were placed on the sides of the reservoir. However one can only see ruins of the Shiva temple with some pillars still left standing. We were thoroughly entertained by the huge number of monkeys and parrots in the premises going about their merry day.
Though we were running a bit late, we could not convince ourselves to leave without visiting the Patan Patola Heritage museum. It’s an unbelievably meticulous and painstaking process of tying innumerable threads to tiny areas of the each strand of threads to prevent them from picking up the color from the dye, then removing all those threads by hand, retying them in different areas to accommodate a different part of the design, dying the threads again and repeating this process numerous times till the very complex and stunning designs take shape on the fabric. It’s hardly surprising that this entire process done by hand takes 5-6 months. We’d rate the museum as a must-visit just to have a glimpse of the artistry and skill that is hard to even imagine. While it’s a dear wish of mine to pick sarees from our travels, this once’s a tad above our budget starting at Rs.1,00,000. The craftsmanship to get this done though does not even allow us with any conscience to dispute the price.
We made our way back to Ahmedabad after a day filled with marvel- marvel of beauty, craftsmanship and stories.