The Royal Orient

 

Day 3 Friday 

Mehsana - The Temple of the Sun God

At Mehsana, you will see the Sun Temple at Modhera, built in 1026 AD by Bhimadeva of the Solanki Rajput clan. The temple is one of the two Sun Temples in the world - the other being at Konark. It is an exemplary model of art and architecture of the 11th century - a style that was to influence the development of temple architecture in neighboring regions.

The temple site at Modhera, located on a high mound on the left bank of the river Pushpawati, consists of three distinct units: the Sun Temple, the Nrityamandapa, and the Suryakunda. The outer facades have a string of friezes and above that is the mandovara with exquisite carvings of gods and goddesses. The Sun Temple has a rectangular step tank with about 108 shrines. Larger shrines of Vishnu, Ganesha and the Natraja-incarnation of Shiva in tandav stands on three sides of the Surya Kund, with the Sabha Mandap of the principal temple soaring on the fourth side with 52 pillars carved in intricate detail depicting tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Between the Sabha mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a hall with pillars and arches the walls have 12 inches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month. The outer walls are filled with sculptures of Surya and other gods. In another part of the temple you can see a whole Kama Sutra of traditional erotic sculpture in a style that rivals that of Khajuraho and Konark. Unlike Konark, which rests on 12 wheels of a chariot, Modhera has been built on the petals of a lotus which runs the whole length of the temple.

Patan  - The Splendor of the Step-wellsStepwells at Patan

Another example of the Solanki-period architecture can be seen at the Ran-Ki-Vav step-well at Patan, some distance from the town centre. Built in the 1050s and named after Rani Udamati, the step-well is the oldest and perhaps the grandest among the more than 120 step-wells in Gujarat. The step-well was silted up for centuries and only major excavation and restoration work in the 1980s helped expose its glorious structure. In the chambers, where the royal families came to rest in summer, the water from the well served as a natural air-cooling system.

No other way in India is so profusely adorned as the Ran-Ki-vav. More than 800 sculptures from a remarkable backdrop to what was purely a functional structure.

Ahmedabad - A Fusion of Old and New

Ahmedabad means different things to different people. For architects it is a rich repository of magnificent styles - from the Indo-Saracen to the 15th-century Muslim styles and from the experimental modern styles to the legendary Le Corbusier. Craft lovers discover in its streets and Byzantine lanes a treasure trove. For political scientists and social activists, it is the abode of Mahatma Gandhi. Some still like to view it as the "Manchester of the East" - it is the premier textile town of India.

But the travelers who finds his way to Ahmedabad, guided more by wanderlust than by any international travel guide, is rewarded with surprises. For, he discovers one of the most colorful and exciting destinations in India.

Sultan Ahmed Shah founded Ahmedabad on the banks of river Sabarmati in 1411 AD. He spangled his kingdom with splendid monuments. Built on honey-hued sandstone, these mosques, pavilions and mausoleum were a fusion of the austere Islamic principles of design and the traditional Hindu art of sculpted ornamentation. They marked the beginning of the Indo-Saracen style of architecture.

In Ahmedabad, you will visit the Jumma Masjid built in 1423 AD, described by historian as the most beautiful mosque in the East. The Siddi Saiyad Mosque (1571), with its exquisite windows of pierces stone tracery is also an architectural delight. And, in a quitecorner of Ahmedabad called Sabarmati, you will walk along the most revered precinct in the history of modern India - the Gandhi9 Ashram. The austere habitat from where Mahatma Gandhi took on the might of the British empire and gave human race one of its most remarkable ways of life: ahimsa or non-violence. Your other destinations in the city are the Rani Rupmati Mosque, the Shrkhrj Rauza, and the Hutheesing Jain temple, built in pure white marble. You will also across modern landmarks - edifices created by celebrated architects like Le Corbusire and Louis Khan, and India's own Charles Correa and Balakrishna Doshi. The National Institute of Design, the Gujarat School of Architecture, the Sanskar Kendra, the Paldi Museum, the Shreyas Folk Art Museum.......

 

Continue to Day 4......

 

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