Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gujarat day 3: Rani ki Wav, Patan

26 December 2011

Continued from Modhera Sun Temple.

From Modhera we started towards Patan in North Gujarat. This distance of about 35 km was quickly covered. On the outskirts of Patan we found a nice looking restaurant and we went for having lunch. The good served was good. One good thing (for me!!) in Gujarat is that it is highly vegetarian state. Majority of Hotels serve only pure vegetarian food. Jain food, which is a strict form of vegetarian food, is also found at many places.

Another striking difference of Gujarat against other states is the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol. The ban is in force from last 50 years. This was a way to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi who hailed from Gujarat. I also heard that there is death penalty for making and selling spurious liquor!! I am no expert to say whether alcohol ban is bad or we have limited the great leader to just one state!! But it is nice to see the roads free of drunkards shouting and falling into pits. People may still drink illegally but then they have to confine themselves behind the walls. And crime rate is said to be lower than other states.

Sorry for digression. Coming back to the main topic, Patan was the capital of Medieval Gujarat. An interesting point is that Mahmud Ghori was defeated by King of Gujarat. The King Raja Bhimdev Solanki II was very young and the army was commanded by his Mother Naikidevi. The defeat in 1178 AD was so heavy on Mahmud Ghori that he never returned to Gujarat. The King defeated Qutb al-din Aibek in 1197 AD.

Today, the main tourist attraction is the stepwell “Rani Ki Wav”. It is said to have been constructed by Udayamati, the queen of Bhimdeva-I in 11th century AD. The Wav (Well) is about 64 meters long, 20 meters wide and 27 meters deep. It has a pillared multi-storeyed pavilion, a drawn well and a large tank for collection surplus water.

The ornamental work in the wav shows its architectural brilliance and elegance.  There are beautifully carved sculptures of Mahishasura Madhini, Parvathi, Shiva, Vishnu etc.

But this beautiful piece of architecture was buried for centuries and has suffered damages. Till 1960’s nobody knew about its existence as the well was completely filled up except top.

ASI has done a great job in excavating and preserving this monument.

There is also a 30 km tunnel built that leads to Sidhpur town nearby. People are not allowed there and there is a high chance that it might be blocked after unused for several hundred years.

Patan is also famous for Patola sarees!!

From Patan, we started back to Ahmedabad 110 km away. We went to IIM-A where my college roommate Shiva stays. After a brief tour and dinner at the campus, we headed to the railway station. Rest of the trip would be in Saurastra!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gujarat day 3: Modhera Sun Temple

26th December 2011

After breakfast, we left LRK and headed towards Modhera 50km away. The taxi this time moved faster and within an hour we were at the entrance of Modhera Sun Temple.

Modhera Sun Temple was built in 1026 AD by Bhimdev I of Solanki dynasty. It was time when Gujarat was under severe attacks from foreign forces led by Mahmud Ghazni. The Temple survived his attacks but finally destroyed by Allaunddin Khilji. But luckily enough of Temple is left to show its lost grandeur.

ASI has done a great job of maintaining the Temple. The great Temple looms large as you walk along the gardens in front of it. A huge step well is constructed in the front of the Temple. Known as Surya Kund, it is a large rectangular shaped well with amazing steps constructed. There are about 108 small Temples carved between these steps. Unfortunately the water in the tank is stale and green.

Two pillars stand isolated next to the tank.

Between the tank and the Temple are two huge ornamental arches called Toran.

The Temple itself is divided into two parts, Sabha Mantap and the Sactum. Sabha Mantap is the first part of the Temple. It is a hall with magnificently carved pillars. With entrance from all four side, it looks like the place was meant for discussions and resting. The carvings are intricate which depicts the epics of Mahabharatha and Ramayana.

The Main Temple is based on inverted lotus base plinth. It was designed in such a way so that rays of the sun on the day of equinox fell on the idol of the sun. It is said that the idol was made of pure gold of sun riding of chariot. Such things cannot escape from the hands of Mahmud Ghazni in those days. So, we do not see any gold idols now.

The Temple also has lot of erotic carvings.

When I visited Hanley (In my Ladakh trip) the only other tourists in the village were Ravi and his friend from Bhopal. And now while walking on the main path of Modehra Sun Temple, we meet again!! In Ladakh I was with my friends and he was with his friend. Now, we both visit Gujarat with our families and happen to see each other!! Statistically, chances of such rare “encounters” are almost zero. But what a co-incidence!!!! Needless to say both of us were pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gujarat day 1 and 2: Little Rann of Kutch

24th - 26th December 2011

Barring the seven sisters, Gujarat was the state that I had not seen in India. The enormous tourist potential of the state was realized as I started to plan the trip. It was impossible to plan for everything given that nine days time I had during Christmas. Hence only the places those were “close to my heart” were included in the itinerary!!

Travel to LRK (Little Rann of Kutch)

Our flight to Ahmedabad was delayed by nearly 1.5 hours. I was wondering whether our driver would vanish after waiting for so long. But luckily he was patiently waiting outside the airport. Our destination Zainabad at LRK was about 110km and I expected to cover in about 2 hours considering the good roads in Gujarat. Unnecessary delays creped in during our journey. We asked the driver to stop in a good hotel to have lunch. He stopped at a posh hotel who took a long time to serve food and also put a hole in the pocket!! Driver then stops to fill in the gas at the busiest fuel station. And finally both driver and the vehicle refused to go beyond 60km/hr!! But importantly it was a safe journey. We passed though the towns of Kalol, Kadi, Detroj and Dasada to reach the Desert Coursers camp at Zainabad. The sun was already at the horizon when we settled down in our rooms.

About LRK:

LRK is a salt marsh in the Kutch district of Gujarat. Spanning over a 4950 Sq km, it is also declared as a wildlife sanctuary. It is the only abode of Asiatic Wild Ass in India. Thanks to its lakes and marches, migratory birds come in huge numbers during winter.

Our trip:

The best way to enjoy LRK is to go on Safaris. In the morning, we went to a lake full of Flamingos. Though numbered in several thousand photographing them was difficult as they were all concentrated in the middle of the lake. The zoom of my camera was insufficient for them.

Common cranes were seen everywhere.

It is the landscape of LRK that mesmerizes everyone where plain marsh lands seen till the horizon.

One cannot miss the Wild Ass. There are in huge number and easily seen.

And so are the Nilgai.

A black shouldered kite seen on the way to LRK.

This part of Gujarat has “Kankrej” breed of cows. They are known for their big horns.

While I was photographing the landscape, my daughter silently slips into the grasses!!

LRK is the place for salt panning activities. The salt water is fed into the artificially created ponds. The water evaporates leaving out the salt in the pond for harvesting. When we visited one of the fields, the last rays of light of setting sun was falling on these ponds.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

One day, two beaches

10 November 2011

One early morning, we headed towards a secluded beach. Finding the route was difficult as there were no sign boards. As I stopped my car at the edge of a hill, the splashing of waves could be heard. We had walk down a few hundred meters to reach the beach.

It is a beach formed between two mountains. The beach itself may be few hundred meters wide. A village of about 4-5 houses is just next to the beach. It left me wondering why “investors” have not yet ventured into such a beautiful area. It is good that this area has not seen such people!!

Unlike other places, villagers have made sure that the beach remains clean. Thanks to its seclusion, this beach is visited by very few people. The only sound heard was of the waters and the chirping of birds.

The same evening we were at one of the “happening” beaches of the area, the “OM beach”. The beach has derived this name as its shape is like Sanskrit letter”OM”. 

The rocks at the beach provide a nice place to sit and relax. The sunset there was a treat to watch.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Savadatti fort

8th October 2011

Savadatti (or Saundatti) is more famous as a religious destination. The Yellamma Temple here attracts a lot of religious people from North Karnataka and Maharashtra. A lesser visited place is the Fort situated inside the town.

According to the information available, this fort was built by Jayappa Desai of Navalgund Sirasangi Samsthan in between 1743-51. The fort was later taken over by Hyder Ali of Mysore. In spite of its age the fort is well maintained. The strong outer walls give a special attraction to the fort.

Inside the fort is a children play area and a garden. The Kadasiddheshwara Temple is at the center of the fort. One needs to climb several steps to get into the Temple. The Savadatti town can be viewed from the top.

We can also walk on top of the outer wall of the fort and see the views at various angles. There were hardly any people when we visited the place thus offering the solitude from the crowded town of Savadatti.

Savadatti is about 85km from Belagavi and 37km from Dharwad.