North of Gandhinagar, the district of Mehsana was the Solankis’ seat of government between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Some remains of their old capital – including the extraordinary Rani-ki-Vav step-well – still stand at Anhilawada Patan, just outside the modern city of Patan, home to Gujarat’s last remaining patola weavers. From the city of Mehsana, at the province’s centre, it’s easy to get to the ancient sun temple at Modhera. A Jain temple in the hills at Taranga can be reached from Mehsana or Ahmedabad.Read More
If 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.
Modhera is linked by road to Mehsana (40min) and Ahmedabad (2–3hr). If you are coming from Ahmedabad by bus and want to save time, ask to get out at Mehsana highway and you can intercept the hourly Modhera buses at the junction without going all the way into town. The return fare for a taxi from Mehsana is around Rs350. There are also buses from Modhera to Patan. Although there’s nowhere to stay in Modhera, the Toran Cafeteria in the temple grounds sells snacks. There’s a dance festival in January.
Patan and Anhilawada Patan
Patan and Anhilawada Patan
PATAN, roughly 40km northwest of Mehsana, has few monuments, but 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. Each sari, sold for Rs50–75,000, takes from four to six months to produce.
The big-city bustle of Patan is a far cry from the old Gujarati capital at ANHILAWADA PATAN, 2km northwest, which served several Rajput dynasties between the eighth and the twelfth centuries, before being annexed by the Mughals. It 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, and the stunning Rani-ki-Vav (daily 8am–6pm; Rs100 [Rs5]), Gujarat’s greatest step-well. It was built for the Solanki queen Udaimati in 1050 and extensively restored during the 1980s, recreating as perfectly as possible the original extravagant carving. Near the well are the remains of the Sahastraling Talav, the “thousand-lingam tank” built at the turn of the twelfth century, but razed during Mughal raids. This is part of the same complex (daily 8am–6pm) that includes a modest open-air museum.