A trip to the past
Gujarat has a rich history and takes you back in time to explore several archaeological relics in the state
Within Gujarat, there are a number of historic forts, palaces, mosques, temples and other places of historical importance. A number of these places – particularly the palaces and forts – have been converted into heritage hotels to keep tourists close to the vibrant history of Gujarat. This has also made Gujarat a top destination to visit because of the number of heritage and archaeological sites in the state.Here are some of the biggest sites one must visit:
Rani Ki Vav
WHERE: NEAR AHMEDABAD
Rani (Queen) Udayamati commissioned this vav or stepwell, in 1063 in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. The vav was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati river and silted over until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, with the carvings found in pristine condition. Rani Ki Vav, a UNESCO world heritage site, is amongst the finest stepwells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city.
The steps begin at ground level, leading you down through the cool air through several pillared pavilions to reach the deep well below. There are more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. The central theme is the Dasavataras, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers), painting their lips and adorning themselves. At water level you come to a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha, where it is said he rests in the infinity between ages.
By road: Intercity buses from Ahmedabad to Patan take 3.5 hours, and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are slightly quicker, but less comfortable.
By rail: The train can take you as far as Mehsana (1.5 hours). From there you will need to catch a bus to Patan.
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad.
The market in the old part of the city is a maze of narrow alleyways, lanes and cul-de-sacs. Shop fronts and fort paths displaying a vast array of embroidered fabrics, beadwork, bandhanis and readymade flow in profusion to the colorful riot of Bangles in every shape, form and color giving the market the apt title of Bangdi Bazaar. Up close and personal is the bazaar of the Sonis, the traditional community of gold and silver smiths tantalizingly displaying their wares viewing, gossiping and cups of chai are the norms of the day with bargains sometimes struck along the way.
By road: Rajkot is well connected by road to most of the major cities of Gujarat and other neighboring states. State Transport buses are regularly available from Rajkot to other cities of Gujarat. The ST bus stand is 2 km, west of Bedi Gate on the other side of Ranmal Lake. Auto rickshaws are the best way into the town, though one might also choose to walk in. Private buses are also available for Ahmedabad, Baroda, Mumbai, Bhuj, Bhavnagar, Una, Mount Abu and Udaipur.
By rail: Rajkot is a junction on the Western Railway Ahmedabad-Hapa broad gauge line. Inter City Express, Saurashtra Mail and Sau Janata Express are some of the few trains that pass through the station. The railway station known commonly as the Rajkot Junction is almost 6 km away from the Teen Batti triple gateway. Rajkot is well connected with important cities in Gujarat and India by rail.
By air: Reaching Rajkot by air is quite a possible option as the city has a domestic airport linking it to Mumbai. Air India has daily flights from Mumbai, while Jet have daily flights. A rickshaw ride into the city from the airport costs approximately Rs 25.
What?: Down the lane to the north of the temple is a museum with important archaeological remains from the former Somnath Temple. The museum is open from 8:30am-12:15pm and 2:30pm-6pm. To some, the museum is even more interesting than the modern temple, for it preserves stone sculptures, inscriptions and pottery from several periods.
Though lacking in proper documentation or guidebooks, the time spent here is supremely worth the journey, with the remains of the ancient shrine reconstructed by the Chalukyan Maharaja Shri Mularaja Deva Solanki of Anhilvada Patan.
By road: Somnath is 79 km from Junagadh and 25 km from Chorwad. State transport buses and private luxury coaches connect various centres of Gujarat to Somnath.
By rail: Somnath is located 6 km from
the nearest railway station at Veraval.
Where: Near Ahmedabad
This refers to a loop that guides you through the ruins of the city and temples, the dam and the town of Vijaynagar, with its palace. The best way to explore the nooks and crannies of this area is with a guide, both for the richness of your own experience, and for the protection of the area and its inhabitants. There are various types of guided tours for a range of ages, adventure activities, and camps for students. Contact Mihir Bhardwaj, Tel: 919824677456, who can offer you guide options and conservation information, and connect you to others who dedicate themselves to the preservation and enrichment of the ecology of this area. You can also try Kadoli Farm, Tel: 919375523795, a farm resort which offers accommodation and guided tours.
By road: Vijaynagar, the nearest town is 120 km from Udaipur and 160 km from Ahmedabad, and is accessible by National Highway 8. Public transport is available, but ask around beforehand.
Where: Near Vadodara
Many great cities of antiquity around the world were the center of their civilization for centuries, only to be lost to the ages, and then rediscovered centuries or millennia later, reduced to rubble and ruins, with only the largest structures still standing, and the rest mere shadows. Other cities continued to grow and change, leading to eclectic mixes of thousand-year-old forts and temples, medieval streets and markets, government buildings put up by colonial powers, and modern high-rises, offices and strip malls cluttering everywhere in between. But there are not many places in the world that went from being a small place of moderate importance to being the capital of the kingdom to being almost entirely deserted and nearly lost to the wilderness within a century, and in such recent history (a mere 500 years ago.)
Champaner is just such a place. Here you can find an old palace, fort, several mosques, but also walk the ancient streets just as its inhabitants did five centuries ago. Champaner was an out-of-the-way pilgrimage site for hundreds of years, became the capital of Gujarat, and was then abandoned to be overtaken by the jungle. The city rose and fell almost as fast as the modern stock market, but left behind far more aesthetic remains. The city is remarkably well-preserved, with Hindu and Jain temples a thousand years old, mosques from the time of the Gujarat Sultanate, and the whole workings of a well-planned capital city still in evidence, from granaries and fortifications to stepwells and cemeteries. Champaner became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
By road: Champaner is 45 km from Vadodara, accessible by bus or private vehicles. Cars can be hired in Vadodara to drive to Champaner-Pavagadh, which is the best option if you want to combine the journey with other sites like Jambughoda.
Where: North Gujarat
As one traverses the length and breadth of Gujarat, one constantly stumbles across architectural legacies of the’ Solanki’ rule. You keep coming across, living spaces and monuments of another time, offering an eclectic glimpse of the artistic and ingenious beauty that makes this exotically state vibrant.
A soothing drive amidst green farmlands just 35 km away from Mehsana on the way to the temples of goddess Bahucharaji reposes the village of Modhera. Set along the backdrop of River Pushpavati, surrounded by a terra-formed garden of flowering trees and songs of birds, rests the famed Sun temple of Modhera.
The exclusively carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted kund are jewels in the art of masonry of the Solanki period apparently which was also known as the Golden Age of Gujarat. Savor your voyage through time to the magnificent eons of the Golden period as you get welcomed personally by the life like icons, narrating stories and legends of Modhera!
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad (111km).
Spend some time with what could be the world’s first signboards. See if you can glean any meaning from the ancient letters, and be the first to decipher the code.
By road: Dholavira is 250 km from Bhuj and is reached via Bhachau and Rapar. A bus leaves from Bhuj at 14:00 and arrives at Dholavira at 20:30. It leaves at 05:00 the next morning and returns to Bhuj by 11:30. It is also possible to rent a vehicle. Bear in mind that an on-site guest house allows the possibility of a more leisurely experience, rather than a day trip.
By air: The nearest airport is Bhuj.
Where: North Gujarat
As you wander through the streets of Vadnagar, your experience of time may no longer be linear, as eras merge and cycles connect. You may sense 4500 hundred years of history trapped in the pottery fragments, textiles, ornaments and tools left behind by the agricultural communities that had settled here.
You may touch the traces of the 12th century, wedged between the interlocking stones of the step embankments around the lake or carved in the torans left behind by the Solanki dynasty. You may hear the echoes of glory of bhavai folk theater in the Government Museum, and if fortunate, even catch an impromptu performance in the streets.
The presence Buddhist has also got surfaced with a sand stone broken head of Buddha. This should be belonging to 2nd century AD which is depicting a scene of a monkey offering honey to Buddha, black polished ware-shreds inscribed with Brahmi legeneds like Devshririshi, Shakasya and Dhamma. These have been founded from the Monastery at Vadnagar. The Buddhist Monastery which got surfaced within the fortified area of Vadnagar, had two votive stupas and open central courtyard around which initially nine cells were constructed. This arrangement of cells around the central courtyard makes a pattern like Swastika.
In its course, time has penetrated and gathered some fragments of history and lost some others. Welcome to Vadnagar; leave behind your own footsteps in the sands of time.
By road: Mehsana (47km), Ahmedabad (111km). Local Transport: Non-metered auto rickshaws.
By rail: Siddhapur is a railway station on Ahmedabad – New Delhi railway line, 42 km from Vadnagar.
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad (111km).
Where: Near Ahmedabad
You arrive in Lothal and see no intricate carvings or vibrant fresco walls. No grand fortifications or temples. Instead you see flat and desolate ruins. But you have come not for what is visible now; rather, to imagine what once was. And in the emptiness, you recreate for yourself a unique drama of the place that some believe was the cradle of the subcontinent’s oldest civilization.
Lothal rumbled awake to become a flourishing centre of trade and industry, famous for its expertly constructed system of underground sanitary drainage, and an astonishing precision of standarized weights and measures.
Roam the ruins with your heart open to the ancient, and with the help of the local museum here, allow yourself to be transported to an era 4,500 years ago, and see in your mind’s eye the palace on high, and the artisans and crafts below, and the bustling dockyard that once reached out to the rest of the world.
By road: Lothal is 78 km from Ahmedabad.
By rail: Ahmedabad is the nearest rail
By air: Ahmedabad is the nearest