Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ahmedabad, Modhera, Stepwells, apro Gujarat - I

This was a trip that was long pending. But I didn't want to make a very elaborate plan and take off from work and so decided to pack in as much as I could in a weekend. So off I headed to the airport to catch a 5:30 am Jet Airways flight to Ahmedabad. Before any of you smartees attack me about not flying Vistara; NO, there is no Bom-AHM Vistara flight. I think this is only the third time in my life that I have caught such an early flight.

Whatever in the name of sleep I could catch on the flight and an hour later, I was in Ahmedabad. At 6:30 am, I thought I might need a sweater but I knew- and as it eventually turned out- temperatures would go up to as much as 35 degrees C. After a short pitstop at my hotel (Ginger Hotel; my review on TripAdvisor here, I dashed off to Modhera Sun Temple. All historic places in Gujarat that I visited on this trip allowed cameras but not tripods.

The guide was good. Make sure the guides you pick at these places are licensed. Mine was and so were the others who were present there. They will show you their identity cards. The Modhera sun temple is a beautiful structure. There is the main temple in one building, the hall in an adjacent building and a step well next to it that looks like a pond. Infact it is called 'kund'. The interiors of the temple has intricate carvings depicting scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The exteriors have carvings of Shiva, Vishnu, Sun God and many Hindu godly figures, apart from animals like elephants. One statue of the Sun God has him wearing boots because the worship of Sun had started in Iran (Zoroastrians or Parsis) and so this avatar showed him in western influence. The exteriors also had elaborate carvings of erotica like the ones you see at Khajuraho Temple; reason being the temple's carvings depicts a person's journey from birth till death and all his / her phases of life.

Note that the tropic of cancer runs right through this temple. The entire temple is built on a structure that resembles an inverted lotus flower.

Next stop was Rani-Ki-Vav stepwell. If you haven't yet seen a stepwell, I suggest you make that your next trip. These are such architectural wonders and so uniquely Indian that you won't find them anywhere else. Many step wells have been filled up presumably all over India, but there a few that have survived. Did you know that there was once a stepwell in Parel, Mumbai (outside the Tata Mills compound at the foot of the Elphinston bridge) that catered to the horses that pulled the initial tramways in Mumbai? This stepwell has been dedicated to Lord Vishnu and you'll find many beautiful carvings of statues on the walls. Designs of Patan sarees can also be seen inscribed on the walls. This well, like most others in step wells across India, is not in use anymore. This stepwell has been maintained well.

The best time to enjoy a stepwell is late morning and around noon when the sun is at its peak and sunlight can penetrate all the way to the bottom of the stepwell.

After a quick lunch in the town of Patan, we heard towards the town of Sidhpur, a 45-minute drive. On the face of it, the village offers nothing. But look closely, and you'll notice homes. Look closer. The havelis will take your breadth away. These are heritage villas, rows and rows of them, abandoned because the owners have long moved to greener pastures like Kolkata, south India, and beyond. You'll find art deco and victorian buildings. Built as early as 1920s, many of these villas look breathtaking.

Our final stop was Adalaj stepwell. I thought we'd miss it since the sun was already on its way down. We reached here at about 5:45 pm and in fading light got to see the interiors of this stepwell. It's a much smaller version of Rani-ki-Vav, but still beautiful.

End of a very fascinating day. 

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