North of Gandhinagar, the district of Mahesana was the Solankis’ seat of government between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Some remains of their old capital, Anhilawada Patan, still stand, including the extraordinary Rani-ki-Vav step-well, situated just outside the modern city of Patan, home to Gujarat’s last remaining patola weavers. The big draw here is undoubtedly the ancient sun temple at Modhera, easily reached from the crowded city of Mahesana (Mehsana); it’s also worth visiting the striking shrines at the Jain temple at Taranga.Read More
The Sun Temple at Modhera
The Sun Temple at ModheraIf you visit only one town in northern Gujarat, make it MODHERA, where the eleventh-century Sun Temple is the state’s best example of Solanki temple architecture. Almost a thousand years old, the temple has survived earthquakes and Muslim iconoclasm; apart from a missing shikhara and slightly worn carvings, it remains largely intact. The Solanki kings were probably influenced by Jain traditions; deities and their vehicles, animals, voluptuous maidens and complex friezes adorn the sandy brown walls and pillars. Within the mandapa, or pillared entrance hall, twelve adityas set into niches in the wall portray the transformations of the sun in each month of the year. Closely associated with the sun, adityas are the sons of Aditi, the goddess of infinity and eternity. Modhera’s sun temple is positioned so that at the equinoxes the rising sun strikes the images in the sanctuary, which at other times languishes in a dim half-light. In front of the temple, 108 shrines adorn the rim of Surya Kund, a 100-square-metre rectangular pond.
The bustling modern town of PATAN was built on the ruins of the old city of Anhilwara, long-time capital of Gujarat. The old city served several Rajput dynasties between the eighth and the twelfth centuries before being annexed by the Mughals, then fell into decline when Ahmed Shah moved the capital to Ahmedabad in 1411. Little remains now except traces of fortifications scattered in the surrounding fields, as well as the stunning Rani-ki-Vav, Gujarat’s greatest step-well.
While modern Patan has few monuments, in the Salvivad area of town you can watch the complex weaving of silk patola saris, once the preferred garment of queens and aristocrats, and an important export of Gujarat, now made by just one extended family, the Salvis. The saris fetch anywhere from one to seven lakhs and take around four to six months to produce. For smaller wallets, scarves are also available from Rs5000.