By the end of day 4, we had done all that was on out tour itinerary – Bhuj, The Rann, Dholavira and the flamingos (at the cost of repetition, thanks to the great roads and low volume of traffic). We were mulling over plans for the final day. We were only 2 hours away from Ahmadabad and since my friend had not seen the Adalaj or Gandhi Ashram, we thought we could take these in, before our 6.30 Pm flight. However, a conversation with local friends provided the input that we could go to Modhera as well, if we started early.
And so we did – making it to Modhera by 9.30 am. Modhera is the site of the 11th century Sun temple built by the Solankis who ruled in these areas. I was struck by the dates – almost identical to those of the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur, which I had visited just a few months ago and the temples at Khajuraho which I have visited many times.
Standing many thousand kilometers apart, The grandeur of these structures, the skill of the craftmen who have created them and the aesthetic of these 3 disparate and distant rulers, leaves me The site has three distinct structural elements – Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap. The Surya kund has a wonderful geometry to its design and housed an auspicious 108 shrines carved among its steps. The Sabha mandap is an open structure with 52 columns which was used for religious gatherings. The Guda mandap housed the main deity. The exposure to the elements, so close to the dry deserts of Western India, have destroyed much of the fine sculptures.
And as we left this complex a couple of hours later, we saw that Patan was only 35 Km away. Through the previous 4 days we had been discussing the many possibilities for a next Gujarat trip, and the Vav at Patan was high on this list. With time on our hands, we decided to take in Patan – thus unexpectedly taking me to my 20th and youngest of the World Heritage sites.
The Rani-ki-Vav is exquisite – in fact it is perfect. Even if you have seen other step wells, the sheer dimensions of this one and the intricacy of the work will dazzle. And just a stones throw away from Modhera, here the sculptures are beautifully preserved – most likely because it was buried under earth for so many intervening years.
And I have even talked about the people, their handicraft skills….. the only low point of the trip was the food – although Gujarati food is great, we just did not have the time to put that on our agenda as well. Also, the more tourist friendly the resort, the more neutral (paneer, roti) the food!! But all in all, it was perfect holiday – the right length, the right company, perfect weather, and a wonderful combination of nature and culture. But then that is India, where a life time of travel still leaves new destinations to reach. And on my immediate list are Ajanta and Ellora and Pattakal in Karnataka.