NEAR AHMEDABAD

NEAR AHMEDABAD

Sarkhej Roza (eight kilometers from Ahmedabad,) is one of the most elegant and attractive architectural complexes in Gujarat. The tombs of Saint Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh (1445), Mehmud Shah Begada, a prominent ruler of Gujarat Sultanate (1511), and his queen, their palace and pavilions and a mosque all lie clustered together in this complex, surrounding a huge, stepped tank. The buildings are remarkable from an architectural point of view and draw visitors from across the country. An absence of arches and the use of pierced stone to build trellises are fine examples of early Islamic architecture. In fact, the architectural style of the monument is a precursor to the Mughal era and reflects perfect Hindu, Jain and Islamic styles.

Nal Sarovar (60 kilometers from Ahmedabad) was declared as a bird sanctuary, including the wetlands around it, in 1969. Located and sprawling over an area of 120 square kilometers, the lake attracts a vast variety of birds like plovers, sandpipers and stints. The grounds are a delight for bird lovers. Additionally, migratory birds like pelicans, flamingoes, ducks, demoiselle and common cranes flock here in vast numbers, during winter.

Modhera (101 kilometers from Ahmedabad) is a temple dedicated to the Sun God, Surya. It is situated in Modhera village on the banks of River Pushpavati. Currently, no prayers are offered at the temple, which is being preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and is counted in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple is designed keeping in mind the theories of Shilpa and Vastu shastras, the ancient science of architecture and design. The entire temple structure seems to be floating on a base resembling a blooming lotus. The main complex is divided into three parts: the entrance or the sabha mandap, antaral, which is the connecting passage and garba graha, the sanctum sanctorum. The temple complex and the sculpted kund are magnificent pieces of masonry from the Solanki period (950-1300).

Ambaji (100 kilometers north of Ahmedabad) is the home of the grand temple of Ambaji, the principal shrine of Goddess Amba, who is said to be an avatar of Goddess Durga. It is among the 51 shaktipeethas (devotional shrines where the severed body parts of Goddess Shakti fell) of Hindus. Made in white marble, the temple is a beautiful structure built by the Nagar Brahmins. An open square, called chachar chowk, surrounds the temple and it is the site of havans (ceremonial prayers). The sanctum sanctorum is a niche in the wall, called gokh, and has an inscription of Viso Yantra – a Vedic text about sacred geometry. Grand silver-plated doors welcome devotees into the inner sanctum. The temple has no idols and the priests decorate the inscription to resemble the idol of a goddess from afar. A visit to the temple makes for a nice short ride from Rajasthan's famous hill station, Mount Abu.

Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary (100 kilometers north of Ahmedabad) was set up in 1978 and covers an area of about 180 square kilometers (69 square miles). A census in 2011, recorded 293 sloth bears in Gujarat state forests. The vegetation in the sanctuary consists of arid to semiarid and dry deciduous thorny scrub. In addition to sloth bear, other fauna reported in the sanctuary are leopard, sambar, blue bull, wild boar, porcupine, jungle cat, civet, caracal, wolf and hyena and a variety of birds. Reptiles also include cobra, krait, several types of viper and monitor lizard. A study between June 2007 and July 2008 in Jessore Sanctuary and in the Mount Abu Sanctuary revealed 30 attacks by bears on humans (more on males) in the forest, villages and crop fields, with the summer season recording the maximum number followed by monsoon and winter. Crop damage of varying degree by bears was also reported. This has caused fear among the villagers. However, under these conditions of threat to life and crops, the bears may be killed under the law to protect life or property.

Wild Ass Sanctuary

Wild Ass Sanctuary (100 kilometers west of Ahmedabad) is home of the endangered India wild ass. Also known as the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary and Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary and formerly known as the Little Rann Sanctuary, it covers 4,920 square kilometers (1,900 square miles) in the area called the Little Rann of Kutch. The Indian wild ass is only found in Little Rann and the deserts of Kutch in western India. In 1976 only about 720 of these animals remained. During the monsoon season when the Little Rann plains are transformed into a giant lake, the wild asses live on patches of higher ground known as bets that become islands during the seasonal flooding. During the dry season they migrate to the edges of the desert to forage. Demoiselle cranes and huge swarms of dragonflies are found here in the dry season.

The Wild Ass Sanctuary and Little Rann of Kutch were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The Wild Ass Sanctuary is located in the Little Rann of Kutch of the Gujarat State in India. It covers an area of 4954 square kilometers. The Sanctuary is named after a sub species of wild ass (Equus hemionus khur), the last population of which it harbours. [Source: Nature Conservation Foundation and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecologyand Environment]

Tourists can find around 3,000 wild asses in the sanctuary today. Locally called the ghudkhar, Indian wild ass can be easily identified by dark stripe along their backs. During the mating season in the dry season the wild asses roll on their backs a lot to relieve their pent-up desires. Occasionally the dominant male will charge a herd of females, select one, set her in the right place with his head, and mount her. Bachelor males will sometimes charge the herd only to be driven off by the dominant male before they have had a chance to mate. Often, even the dominate male ends up with a kick or two to the face by a female instead of a successful encounter. The Rann area is prized for its salt deposits. During the dry season the herds of wild asses are disturbed, upsetting their mating behavior, when workers come to dig wells and pans for salt extraction. The asses are very skittish and they get nervous even when the salt workers are over a quarter of a mile away.

Due to its location in the Gulf of Kutch, which is on the migration route of many birds, the sanctuary is an important site for birds to feed and breed in. About 75,000 birds nest here annually, including those from Egypt, Siberia, Europe, Iran and Iraq. Other fauna found in the sanctuary include 32 mammals like chinkara (Indian gazelle), two types of Desert fox (Indian and white-footed), jackals, caracals, nilgais (the largest antelope of Asia), Indian wolves, blackbucks and striped hyenas. The place is also home to migratory birds including coursers, stoneplovers, shrikes, ducks, geese, ibis, spoonbills, godwits, stints, sandpipers, shanks, moorhens, saras cranes, Indian flamingos and pelicans. There are also 93 species of invertebrates including crustaceans, insects, molluscs, spiders, annelids and zooplanktons.

The sanctuary covers portions of urban areas including Sundernagar, Rajkot, Patan, Banaskantha and parts of the Kutch district. The best time to visit the place is between October and November. There are many tribes in the sanctuary and among them Rabari and Bharwad tribes have a a sizeable population. Opt for a jeep safari tour if you wish to explore the sanctuary. It is believed that the place is home to one of the largest salt pans in India.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (100 kilometers southeast of Ahmedabad) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. According to UNESCO: “A concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape which includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of Gujarat. The site also includes, among other vestiges, fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to 14th centuries. The Kalikamata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park with its ancient Hindu architecture, temples and special water-retaining installations, together with its religious, military and agricultural structures, dating back to the regional capital city built by Mehmud Begda in the 16th century, represents a perfect blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture, mainly in the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid), which was a model for later mosque architecture in India. This special style comes from the significant period of regional sultanates. It is furthermore an outstanding example of a very short-lived capital, making the best use of its setting, topography and natural

“The sites are at the foot of and around the Pavagadh hill, surrounded by lower hillocks, escarpments and plateaux, all result of volcanic eruptions and lava flows.” It is important because: 1) The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park with its ancient Hindu architecture, temples and special water retaining installations together with its religious, military and agricultural structures, dating back to the regional Capital City built by Mehmud Begda in the 16th century, represents cultures which have disappeared. 2) The structures represent a perfect blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture, mainly in the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid), which was a model for later mosque architecture in India. This special style comes from the significant period of regional sultanates. 3) The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is an outstanding example of a very short living Capital, making the best use of its setting, topography and natural features. It is quite vulnerable due to abandonment, forest takeover and modern life. 4) The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a place of worship and continuous pilgrimage for Hindu believers.

Structures at Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

According to UNESCO: At the top of the hill is the temple of Kalikameta. The site itself comprises fortifications, water installations and standing structures from the 8th to 14th centuries as well as a deserted city of Mahmud Begharha. It includes also the living village, Champaner, within the area of the historic town. There are two precincts. The first is the Royal Enclosure, fortified by high defensive stone walls, with towers and gates, which formerly housed palaces, gardens, royal mosque and administrative buildings, and is now the site of the modern village and government offices. Most of the precinct is buried and unexcavated. [Source: UNESCO]

“A processional way links the royal palace, through the city gate, with the mosque, outside the precinct. The second precinct, called Jahanpanah, is also unexcavated. It was the capital of Begharha, and abandoned in the mid-16th century when conquered by the Mughal Empire. The urban plan has been studied by exposing the main road system, comprising well-built and paved streets, all leading from the surrounding fortifications to the center of the city.

“The whole area is now an excavation site which includes residential areas for the wealthy and more common people, with gardens and water channels being part of the design; shops and commercial areas along some streets; pavilions and public gardens; mosques located in and near residential areas. Next to the mosques there are graveyards and mausolea, temples, located mainly on the Pavagadh hill, belong to different Hindu deities. The temples are richly decorated, mainly with stone carvings.

“The Patha (pilgrim's route) is considered to be the 'soul' of Champaner. The city's life and development were always closely linked with the pilgrim's road. It climbs from the plateau to the top of Pavangadh hill, consisting of thousands of steps and all kinds of decorative and functional structures along it. Mosques are some of the most monumental and important architectural elements on site. Some are forerunners of Mughal architecture, mixing Hindu traditions and craftsmanship with Muslim ideology. The structural systems also indicate the earlier Hindu elements and later Muslim 'import' such as large domes.

“Tomb structures are almost all square in plan, with a dome resting on columns. They are highly decorated and often linked to a mosque. Military architecture includes the fortifications by walls and bastions, barracks and camps well built, as well as prisons. Numerous gates lead the pilgrims to the top of Pavagadh hill. Others are openings in defensive structures such as the city wall or palaces. The palaces, mostly in a ruinous state, in most cases included gardens and fortifications. Pavilions form an essential characteristic feature of the gardens within palaces and outside them. These are considered to be pleasure pavilions, for which Champaner was renowned. Water installations are integral and important to the culture and design of Champaner. Different kinds of wells are known in the whole area - many of which still in use. During the 15th century the water system was used for pleasure and aesthetic purposes as well as for daily use. Some houses had running water and many of the gardens and pavilions were decorated with water channels.”

Lothal

Lothal (50 kilometers southwest of Ahmedabad) abounds with ancient ruins. One of the most excavated sites of the Harappan era, it gives a profound insight into the structures and settlement of the Indus Valley civilisation. Though Lothal is said to belong to the Dravidian era, recent findings point out its association with Vedas and Sanskrit scriptures. A local museum standing in the place traces 4,500 years of history of Lothal and one can delve into all the interesting tidbits to their heart's contents.

Archaeological Museum in Lothal displays artifacts such as games, weights, jewelry and seals, from the Indus Valley Civilisation. You can also find many interesting animal figurines on display. The figurine of a rhino, as archaeologists say, shows that the animal was once present in the area and the landscape comprised a swampy and green scenery. Another intriguing figurine is that of a gorilla that has left historians scratching their heads on how people living here knew what a gorilla was supposed to look like. The museum traces 4,500 years of history of Lothal and one can delve into all the interesting tidbits to their heart's contents.

According to a report submittted to UNESCO: The archaeological remains of the Harappan port-town of Lothal is located along the Bhogava river, a tributary of Sabarmati, in the Gulf of Khambat. Measuring about 7 HA, Lothals thick (12-21 meter) peripheral walls were designed to withstand the repeated tidal flood, which probably resulted in the bringing the city to an end. The site provides evidence of Harappa culture between 2400 B.C. to 1600 B.C..” [Source: Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO]

“The excavated site of Lothal is the only port-town of the Indus Valley Civilisation. A metropolis with an upper and a lower town had in on its northern side a basin with vertical wall, inlet and outlet channels which has been identified as a tidal dockyard. Satellite image show that river channel, now dried, would have brought in considerable volume of water during high tide which would have filled the basin and facilitated sailing of boats upstream. The remains of stone anchors, marine shells, sealings which trace its source in the Persian Gulf together with the structure identified as a warehouse further aid the comprehension of the functioning of the Lothal port.

“Set in the dried river bed, along a silted bed of the channel (where occasional) tidal water can still be seen, in the archaeological site of Lothal the typical heirarchial town planning systems and the dockyard is discernable. The remains have been consolidated post excavation and is in stable state of conservation.

“The defined zones within a fortified enclosure, i.e. the combination of an upper and lower town where the former is characterised by heirarchial layout of street and infrastructure of a dockyard aunthenticate Lothals as a Harappan port town. The identification of the tidal creek rough which boats would have sailed upstream, the controlled (water) inlet and outlet system provided in the humongous basin and the marks of flooding which ultimately resulted in rendering it non-functional provide physical evidence of the working systems of the tidal port.

“The availability of antiquities whose origin is traceable to the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia and the presence of what is identified as a bead making industry further attributes Lothal as an industrial port town of the Harappan culture. The site is located in a rural agricultural landscape with scanty vegetation and with traces of the dried tidal channel through which boats sailed upstream. The excavated remains are protected and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, whose mandates are defined as by Ancient Monuments and Sites Remains Act'1958 (amended in 2010).

History of Lothal

Literally meaning mound of the dead, Lothal was once a popular pottery village. It was inhabited by people who used micaceous (similar to terracotta) pottery and lived on the banks of River Sabarmati. Around circa 2450 B.C., a colony was established by merchants who arrived by the sea and later masons, smiths, seal-cutters, potters joined in. Along with them, they brought technology, crafts and sea-borne trade tools. In a few years’ time, Lothal became famous as an industrial center as well as the most important port of the empire.

However, everything got destroyed by the floods in 2350 B.C. that resulted in the town getting reconstructed from scratch. Not only was Lothal rebuilt, it was improved upon by the survivors who ensured they strengthened the main walls of the fort, raised the town’s level, constructed an artificial dock and an extensive warehouse. After the next floods hit Lothal around 150 years later, the town was constructed once again and was turned into a city. The third flood, which hit the city in circa 2000 B.C., saw the inhabitants migrating to higher and safer environs. Around 1900 B.C., Lothal once again got submerged in floods and the period is known as Mature Harappan Period, giving way to the Late Harappan Period. until around the 16th century, civilisation prospered here. Over time, the city was abandoned.

Archaeological Remains of Lothal

The Archaeological remains of a Harappa Port-Town, Lothal was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in. 2014 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The archaeological remains of the Harappa port-town of Lothal is located along the Bhogava river, a tributary of Sabarmati, in the Gulf of Khambat. Measuring about 7 HA, Lothals thick (12-21 meter) peripheral walls were designed to withstand the repeated tidal flood, which probably resulted in the bringing the city to an end. [Source: Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO]

“Within the quadrangular fortified layout, Lothal has two primary zones – the upper and the lower town. The citadel or the upper town is located in the south eastern corner and is demarcated by platforms of mud-brick of 4 meters in height instead of a fortification wall. Within the citadel are wide streets, drains and rows of bathing platforms, suggested a planned layout. In this enclosure is a large structure, identified as a warehouse with a square platform and whose partly charred walls retains the impression of sealings, which were probably tied together, awaiting export.

“The remains of the lower town suggest that the area had a bead-making factory. Close by the enclosure identified as a warehouse, along the eastern side where a wharf-like platform, is a basin measuring 217 meters long and 26 meters in width, identified as a tidal dock-yard. At the north and southern end of the basis are identified an inlet and an outlet which would have aided in maintaining the adequate water level to facilitate sailing. Stone anchors, marine shells and seals possibly belonging to the Persian Gulf corroborate the use of this basin as a dockyard where boats would have been sailed upstream from the Gulf of Cambay during high tide.

Vadodara

Vadodara (100 kilometers south of Ahmedabad) is a large city with almost 2 million people in the city and 3 million in the metropolitan area. Formerly known as Baroda, it is located on the banks of the Vishwamitri river. The railway line and NH 8 that connect Delhi and Mumbai pass through Vadodara, a well-planned city with wide avenues and parks.

Situated in a fertile area, Vadodara has traditionally been a major trading for millet, cotton, and tobacco. Hand-loomed cloth interwoven with silver is made here. Formerly the capital of the princely state of Baroda, the city became part of the new state of Gujarat in 1960. Historic landmarks include a palace dating back to 1721.

Vadodara city is known for the Lakshmi Vilas Palace, the residence of Baroda State's Maratha royal family, the Gaekwads, of the Gaekwad Dynasty. It is also the home of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Medieval Indian sculptures and paintings may be seen at the Museum and Picture Gallery. There is a medical college and an university, founded in 1949 here.

Patan

Patan (110 kilometers north of Ahmedabad) has a rich history, some fine architecture and a tradition of folk art. Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rani-ki-vav, an exquisite stepwell, Patan has many impressive monuments and religious building, including Hindu and Jain temples and mosques. The mosques are older than the ones in Ahmedabad. Among the items sought after by shoppers are the renowned Patola saris and Mashru fabrics woven by local families here.

Founded by the first ruler of the Chavda dynasty, Vanraj Chavda, Patan used to be known as Anahilvada Patan, inspired by the king’s friend’s name – Anhil Bharvad. It flourished as the capital of Gujarat between 746 and 1411, for around 650 years. After the Chavda, the Solanki and Vaghela dynasties also ruled over Patan. Trade, learning and architecture were at their peak during the Solanki rule from 942 to 1244.

Jain Temples in Patan are one of Patan’s main draws. Patan used to be a very important site for Jains during the Solanki rule (950-1300), who built several beautiful temples in the area. The largest group of temples, comprising over 100 structures, is the Panchasara Parshvanath Jain Derasar, which is distinguished by its typical architecture of white marble floors and fine stone carvings. Among them, the Kapur Mahetano Pado is the most popular, known for its beautiful wooden interiors.

According to legend an interesting observation by the temples' master builder, Uda Mehta, changed the way Jain temples of Patan were built. One night, Mehta saw a mouse carrying a burning candle, which made him realise that even a minor mishap could lead to a major fire and burn down the entire temple. From then on, Jain temples were never the same again. Stone was chosen as the preferred material for construction and splendid structures were erected that leave one spellbound with their intricately-carved patterns.

Getting There: By Air: Ahmedabad Airport, about 125 kilometers away from Patan, is the nearest airport. There are several flights from this airport to other cities of Gujarat as well as the rest of India. By Road: National and state highways connect Patan to the rest of the country. By Train: Patan is well-connected to all cities of the country. It is part of the Western Railways. From Ahmedabad, one can get several local and express trains to this city.

Queen's Stepwell

Rani-ki-vav (in Patan), or the Queen's Stepwell, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on the banks of Saraswati river, this stunning architectural marvel was constructed by Rani Udayamati in the memory of her husband, king Bhima I, of the Chaulukya or Solanki dynasty (950-1300). A fine specimen of the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture, it is designed like an inverted temple and is divided into seven levels interconnected with stairs that boast sculpted panels of unmatched artistic excellence. Out of the seven, the fourth panel is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank, measuring 9.5 meters by 9.4 meters, with a depth of 23 meters.

The structure houses a total of 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones, depicting religious, mythological and secular imagery. Most of the sculptures are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, in various forms like Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Narsimha, Lord Vaman etc. The stepwell is believed to have been buried underground owing to a severe flood in the Saraswati river that flowed nearby. It was resurrected after decades of painstaking restoration by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), starting from late 1980s.

According to UNESCO: Rani-ki-Vav, on the banks of the Saraswati River, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century. Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 m by 9.4 m, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“Rani-ki-Vav is an exceptional example of a distinctive form of subterranean water architecture of the Indian subcontinent, the stepwell, which is located on the banks of the Saraswati River in Patan. Initially built as a memorial in the 11th century, the stepwell was constructed as a religious as well as functional structure and designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water. Rani-ki-Vav is a single-component, water management system divided into seven levels of stairs and sculptural panels of high artistic and aesthetic quality. It is oriented in an east-west direction and combines all of the principle components of a stepwell, including a stepped corridor beginning at ground level, a series of four pavilions with an increasing amount of storeys towards the west, the tank, and the well in tunnel shaft form. More than five hundred principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works.

“Rani-ki-Vav impresses not only with its architectural structure and technological achievements in water sourcing and structural stability, but also in particular with its sculptural decoration, of true artistic mastery. The figurative motifs and sculptures, and the proportion of filled and empty spaces, provide the stepwell’s interior with its unique aesthetic character. The setting enhances these attributes in the way in which the well descends suddenly from a plain plateau, which strengthens the perception of this space.”

Stepwells in the Ahmedabad Area

Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture.

Adalaj Stepwell (19 kilometers north of Ahmedabad is among the finest stepwells in Gujarat. Adalaj Vav or Adalaj Stepwell. was built by queen Rudadevi, wife of Veer Singh, the chief of Vaghela dynasty, in 1499, in her husband’s memory. According to legend in the 15th century, Rana Veer Singh ruled over the region that was known as Dandai Desh back then. As the kingdom always faced water shortage and was dependent on rains, the ruler ordered the construction of a large and deep well. But before it could be completed, neighbouring Muslim ruler, Mohammed Begda, attacked Dandai Desh and Veer Singh was killed. Though his widow wanted to perform sati (a ritual of widows immolating themselves when their husband dies) , Begda stopped her and told her that he wanted to marry her. She agreed on the condition that he complete the construction of the stepwell first. Begda agreed and the stepwell was made in record time. But the queen had other plans. She first circumambulated the stepwell with prayers and thereafter jumped into it to be one with her husband.

What is unique about this stepwell is that it has three entrances, giving way to a platform resting on 16 pillars. All three of the stairway entrances meet underground where the platform has an octagonal top. The corners of all 16 platforms have shrines carved into them. The well is five floors deep and apart from deities, the carvings portray a wide range of subjects, from women churning butter to them adorning themselves in front of a mirror. The stepwell, in its time, gave shelter to pilgrims and traders. It is believed that the villagers used to come here to fill water and offer prayers to the deities. Experts in the field of architecture and archaeology believe that due to its octagonal ceiling, little air or sunlight entered the landing, the reason why the temperature inside is always cooler than outside. The vav is a spectacular specimen of Indo-Islamic architecture with fine Jain symbols as a reflection of the period it was built in. Worth a visit are kalpvriksha (tree of life) and ami khumbor (pot containing water of life) that have been carved out of single slab of stone. Locals believe that the small frieze of navgrahas or nine planets near the well’s edge protects the monument from evil spirits

Dada Harir Vav (in Asarwa village 15 kilometers from Ahmedabad) is an octagonal-shaped or stepwell is located , between a residential area on one side and coal yards of Ahmedabad on the other.. A Sanskrit inscription claims that the stepwell was built in December 1499 AD during the reign of Mahmud Shah and cost 3,29,000 Mahmudis (INR 3 lakh) back then. It was apparently built by a household lady of Mahmud Begada, Dhai Harir, as claimed by a Persian inscription in the stepwell. Then, it was locally known as Dhai Harir Vav. The name later changed to Dada Harir.

Built in Solanki architectural style, the stepwell is a sandstone structure. Though its grandeur is not apparent at the ground level, the moment one reaches the top of the stairs, a deep cascade of stairs and columns that plunge down several storeys with light falling on the exquisite carvings, become visible. Like most other stepwells in the state, Dada Harir Vav is a fine example of beautiful craftsmanship. It was set up with the aim of providing water during the period when there was no rain. The best time to visit the vav is late morning as it is the time when light penetrates down the shaft.

Gandhinagar

Gandhinagar (23 kilometers north of Ahmedabad) is the capital of Gujarat state and home to about 300,000 people. The second planned city of the country, after Chandigarh, it boasts wide streets that are numbered and cross streets that have been named after letters of the Gujarati alphabets. Gandhinagar is named after Mahatma Gandhi. Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport o Gandhinagar is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad, which is about 27 kilometers away. By Road: Gandhinagar has a strong road connectivity to most of the major cities of Gujarat and India. By Train: The Ahmedabad railway station is the nearest rail head, located about 27 kilometers from Gandhinagar.

Akshardham Temple (in the heart of Gandhinagar) is a grand temple established on 1992 to spread the philosophies and teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and was set up by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, the organization that built the Akshardham temple in Delhi. Built over 13 years with 6,000 tons of pink sandstone from Rajasthan, without any use of steel, the Akshardham Temple stands proudly over a 23-acre area in Gandhinagar. It is one of the biggest temple complexes in the city that invites thousands of devotees every year. Set amid sprawling gardens, this intricately carved structure is about 108 feet high, and presents a grand sight. The temple contains a 7-ft-high, gold-leafed idol of Lord Swaminarayan, who is the presiding deity. The monument stands on seven sculpted pillars, 210 single-piece stone beams, window grills, meters domes, eight ornate zarokhas etc. In addition to its marvellous architecture, another special feature of the temple is the awesome sound and light show here that takes visitors through the facets of Hinduism. The gardens of the temple are used as a popular picnic spot and devotees often take a scenic and serene respite there.

Indroda Dinosaur and Fossil Park is spread over an area of 400 hectares on both banks of Sabarmati river. It is said to be the second-largest source of dinosaur eggs in the world. Run by Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation (GEER), it is the only dinosaur museum in India. The park houses a zoo, massive skeletons of sea mammals like the blue whale, a vast botanical garden, an amphitheater, interpretation centers and camping facilities. It also has a Wilderness Park, which is home to innumerable species of birds, reptiles, hundreds of nilgais, langurs and peafowls. It is one of the unmissable sights in Gandhin

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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