The shivery wind of winter brings along a flood of tourists to the only white desert of India which makes it a crowded carnival. Gujarat being my home state, I really find Rann of Kutch a touristy extravaganza during the season.
Trying to move off the touristy roads, I marked the lesser explored stops for my road trip from Gujarat to Rajasthan. Coastal Gujarat trip is what came to my mind on a first note, forests and hills were the second. In the end, I settled for the North Gujarat route considering the reasons that neither did I want to spoil the untouched coast of Gujarat nor did I want to disturb the animals in the National Parks. (I mean why… why the hell do we need to disturb the already troubled ones?) The roads will take you through the yellow blooming mustard fields and verdant farms. Though the route is quite common among the Gujjus, they hardly stop over these unsung heritage towns.
Modhera, Gujarat’s Answer to Konark, was the first of the Stops
Nothing can beat the architecture of the Sun Temple of Konark on the East Coast of India. But even before the foundation stone of Konark temple was put, Modhera’s astonishing architecture had already completed its double centuries.
A Pushkarni or the Surya Kund right in front of the temple glorifies the stunning architecture. The temple is an example of the adaptation of the Dravidian style of architecture with an added Gujarati style. The steps are flanked by carved stones and the small temples unlike the other temples in India. Most of these temples are now in a ruined state but once upon a time, 108 temples gloriously stood facing the kund. One of these temples has a unique idol if Shitla Mata carrying the neem leaves and a broom in each of her hands while she is sitting on a donkey. She is supposed to be the Goddess of Chicken Pox and is worshiped throughout Gujarat. In fact, a day before the Janmashtmi, Shitla Satam is observed by the Gujaratis wherein they don’t eat any freshly cooked food.
So, if you had been in awe of the step well at Hampi then Modhera will leave you dumbstruck with its ornamented and dramatic version.
Unlike the usual temples in India, the Sabha mandap (Assembly Hall) of the temple is separated from the sanctum sanctorum or the Garbh Griha. Each pillar, ceilings, gates and the exterior of the chief dome is carved in a way that it looks like the original ornaments and flowers carved out of the stones. This mandap depicts the stories from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. The 52 pillars in this hall represent the 52 weeks of the solar system.
The main temple, which now doesn’t have any idol owing to the vandalism during the Muslim rule, proudly stands on a plinth that appears to be an inverted lotus. The most amazing feature of the aesthetically admirable architecture is its unique formation that lets the sunrays fall directly on the idol during the equinox period.
India had such brilliant minds during that time when we were the ‘Sone ki Chidiya’ and mastered almost in all the fields, be it architecture, agriculture, crafting, painting and weaving. No doubt, India topped the wish-list (Yes!) of all the invaders.
The series of elephants known as ‘Gaj Pattika’ created just above the lotus petals at the base looks as if the elephants are holding the throne of the Sun God. The carvings of Vishnu, Vishvakarma, Surya Dev, Varun dev and the celestial dancers in all its different directions are completely unprecedented. In fact, the Lord of architecture (Basically an expert architect), Vishwakarma, can be seen hold a measuring scale and a carving tool.
The carvings do have a slight resemblance to the temples of Khajuraho too. Apparently, both the temples were built in the same timespan. Another astounding feature is the carving of 12 Durgas known as ‘Dwadarsh Durga’ and the 12 Suns called ‘Dwardarsh Aditya’.
On my visit to Chand Baori in Rajasthan and Khajuraho Temples in Madhya Pradesh, I had encountered the idols of Lord Surya (Sun) wearing a pair of sharp pointed shoes. The same feature could be observed in Modhera temple. Among all the Gods in Hindu Religion, only Lord Surya can be seen wearing the shoes.
A few kilometres drive away is the ancient fortified town of Patan.
Patan, its Patolas and the Step Well
After Rajasthan’s Chand Baori, it is Rani ki Vav of Patan that took my breath away with its first glimpse. Carved walls, mysterious pillared bridges and the brilliantly implied engineering skills make Rani ki Vav the best of the Step wells in India.
The well isn’t only a medium to preserve the rainwater, but also a canvas of the sculptors during the reign of the Chalukya Dynasty. It can be termed as the best and most artistic gift of Queen Udaymati to the people of her realm.
The architectural beauty of the town isn’t just limited to this well. The fortified old city gives you a glimpse of the Gujarati houses and their lifestyle.
The Patola art is the most valued and arduous art of Patan. Only two families in Patan are devoted to this art of making Patolas. From Sabyasachi to Sonia Gandhi, everyone’s order of making this exclusive Saari is taken here. The Patolas range from 10,000 to 3 Lakh INR. The use of imported Chinese silk doesn’t make it so expensive as the time, skill as the efforts do. In fact, it is the most complicated textile in the world due to variations in its design. Patolas rank first among the only 3 double ikkat textile in the world.
Impressed by this Ancient Capital of Gujarat? Then continue reading in detail about this town.
The next destination, ‘the town of Sidhpur’, wasn’t too far from Patan. But the city presents a completely opposite picture. While Patan takes you back to the kingdom of the Gujarati Rulers,
Sidhpur gives you the feel of a Victorian Era
With its history dating back to the Maharabharat and its image of the Kashi of the West, you would barely expect it to have any modern architecture.
Your opinion about the city would completely change after you would enter Vohrwad or Bohriwad, a colony of the Bohri Muslims. The colony of the Bohri community lives in the mansions clad in the Victorian designs and colours. Painted glasses, finely carved wooden verandahs and grand architecture come as a surprise for every visitor.
80 kilometre further from Sidhpur, you would reach to Gujarat’s favourite hill station Mt. Abu. Though it is a part of Rajasthan, it is mostly frequented by the Gujaratis.
And the road here cuts through the Aravali ranges and takes you to the cooler lands from the warm land of Gujarat.
The destinations are easily reachable by bus from Ahmedabad.
You can take any GSRTC (Gujarat Road Transport Corporation) bus going to Mehsana and from Mehsana bypass and divert to Modhera.
Where to take the bus from? Ahmedabad has the bus stop at Geeta Mandir, you can reach halfway by BRTS (Local Bus) and after that, you can get a sharing Rickshaw for 10 INR. And if you do not wish to get in the city traffic then the buses also have a stop outside Isckon Temple.
The buses to Patan ply regularly from Modhera until early afternoon.
There are no proper places to stay in Modhera, but Navjeevan Hotel on Patan-Sidhhpur Road is the budget hotel where you can halt for a night. Or just enter the main city of Patan and ask for the dharamshalas to stay.
The city of Sidhpur doesn’t have a good accommodation option, but the highway has a plenty of hotels.
The trip can be best enjoyed if you rent a car. The route to be followed: Modhera – Patan – (Adalaj Step Well) – Sidhpur.
Remember that the destinations mentioned here are mostly visited only by Gujaratis on their weekends and holidays. The people are not much used to receiving backpackers from out of state/country. The tourists who visit have the booked hotels, guides and the cars. But be assured that the people of Gujarat would help you with anything and everything.