Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Trip to Eastern Gujarat

After never having seen this large and prosperous state, I have made two trips in the span of a year- last year, I visited the western most region (Kutch or Kachchh as it is sometimes spelled - the picture on my blog is taken from the western most tip of the country!) and this time I visited the eastern region, around Ahmedabad. This is one of the centres for textiles in the country and I visited the Calico Museum, which has a fascinating collection of woven material from the British period onwards. This is also Gandhi's state, his ashram lay by the Sabarmati river that is so much a part of the city. Memories of Gandhi and the contribution of numerous Gandhians are strewn all over the city. One hopes that this leads to greater peace and tolerance in this state that was scarred by terrible riots some years ago.

I spent a day visiting the outskirts of Ahmedabad, accompanied by family and a state archaeologist. The archeologist showed us his recent dig - a Buddhist site that existed between the 7th and 12th centuries A.D. It was uncovered by digging one of the few unoccupied stretches of land that lay in the walled city of Vadnagar.
It appeared to be a very sacred site, with several stupas and a geometric arrangement of rooms and corridors around them. A small line of workers were still on the site, refilling and levelling certain areas. It is always interesting to see a recent excavation as an intriguing picture rises before one's eyes just based on an arrangement of bricks, stones and stray relics.
Then we drove on to view a couple of old, intricately carved victory memorial gates at the outskirts of Vadnagar (they are called "toran" which means an entrance) to mark successful battles. So much work for a war record!

Further on to the 11th century sun temple in Modhera, bulit by the famous Solanki dynasty - but more on that in the next blog. It's hard to describe the beauty of its structure and the exquisite carvings that cover every inch of the temples. It was the first temple of its kind built by the Solanki kings and soon after, their empire went into a decline. The temple was partly broken by Mahmud of Ghazni but a reasonable part of it still stands. Its new invaders are now bats - and hoardes of tourists on weekend trips!

We returned to Ahmedabad via the large and extraordinarily constructed and carved stepwell at Adalaj. Built at the end of the 15th century, it was a caravan stop in this water starved land and a retreat for all during the hot summer months when they could sit on the cool stone steps that lead deep into the earth. Many tales are associated with this well and Shakti is worshipped here. No ordinary well this!

And with that, we ended our trip and headed back to Ahmedabad through clouds of dust that the cattle raised as they too slowly made their way back to their shelters.

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