Architecture, culture and therefore the arts have invariably been prime objectives for travel, and Gujarat with its high concentration of historical sites is definitely one among the foremost destinations for the heritage loving tourists.
Rani ki vav, the 11th century stepwell of Patan in North Gujarat, has recently been declared a UNISCO World Heritage Site. The Solanki dynasty ushered a golden period for architecture in Gujarat in the 11th and 12th centuries. They commissioned imposing forts at Dabhoi and Jhinjwada with exquisitely carved gateways, some of India’s finest Hindu temples like the Sun Temple at Modhera and the Rudramalaya at Sidhapur, and beautiful jain temples at Palitana, Girnar, Taranga, kumbhariyaji and Mt. Abu.
A distinctive feature of this period was the creation of water-retaining structures like the kunds (stepped tanks), vavs (stepwells) and talaos (lakes) to tap the limited water resources of Gujrat. The underground palaces walls are created with beautiful sculpture and craved balconies.
As we walked down the steps, we saw superbly crafted stone sculptures along the walls including some really fine ones of the Vishnu Avatars and Godess Durga, while solar discs are craved on the columns of the platform. A guard told us there are about 800 pieces of sculpture in the step well. Some of the finest carving depicts reclining Vishnu over the well shaft. At the base Ganesh is carved in niches. Near the step well is Sahasralinga Talao, an artificial lake surrounded by carved Shiva Shrines.
The patola is one of the richest silk fabrics and most technically executed of all pre-industrial textiles in the world. The patola is one of the few fabrics in the world woven using the double ikat process.
Vadnagar is a town ignored by most travel guide though it has a great wealth of monuments. Excavations have revealed a Budhist site that was probably the town of Anantpur described by Hieun-Tsang as a wealthy place with viharas. Buddhist sculpture in the Mathura-style, toys and utensils have been found at the site.
Set among huge boulders, the Ajitnatha temple of Taranga is enclosed by a wall erected by Raja Kumarapara who reigned in the 12th century. The temple is large and well-preserved, with beautifully executed carvings of maidens and musicians running along its base and main mandapa which is crowned by a clustered shikhara tower.
We continued to Danta where we spent the night in Bhavani Villa, a heritage property run by the erstwhile Danta ruling family, and preceded in the morning to the 11th century Sun temple at Modhera, one of the finest pieces of architecture. The temple is fronted by the Suraj Kund, a stepped tank with 108 small shrines along with steps with some exquisite carvings. Walking around the exterior walls of the temple, we admired the splendid carvings of deities and mythical beings, the idol of Sun God.