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  This is a poetic but factual description of the city founded by Vanaraj, which flourished during the period of more than six centuries from A.D. 745 to 1304. It is variously referred to in Sanskrit literature as ‘Anahilpatak’, ‘Anahipattan’, ‘Anahilpur’, ‘Anahilvad Pattan’, ‘Pattan’ etc.
     The then Delhi of Tomar rajputs looked like a village compared to the glory of Patan which was the capital city of Gujarat ruled successively by the Chavadas, Solankies, and Vaghelas. These Chalukya rajputs, with Parmars of Malwa, the Chauhans of Sakambhari and Chandellas of Kalanjar and Mahoba, were serious contestants for supremacy in northern India. At the zenith of their imperial greatness the bounds of Gujarat were extended to cover Saurashtra and Kutch in the West, Lata in the South , Malwa in the East and Southern Rajasthan in the North.
     The story of Pithviraj Chauhan’s conquest of Muhammad Ghori and the defeat of his careless confidence against the same enemy later, are much panegyrized in Indian plays and poetry. But an event of much greater import that every patriot should be proud to remember, that a feminist would love to relate in order to support her thesis, happened a little earlier in Gujarat. When the same Muizzuddin Muhammad Ghori had attempted to conquer Gujarat, the forces of Mularaja-II, the then King of Patan, a mere boy-ruler, led by his heroic mother Naikidevi, inflicted such a crushing and conclusive defeat on him that the foreigner did not dare again during his life time to cast his greedy eye upon Patan.


“The battle was fought at Kayadra, a village near Mount Abu.
Muizzuddin’s army was completely routed in the conflict, but
Somehow he escaped with his defeated army from Gujarat.”

(Prof. K.A. Nizami, ‘Foundation of the Delhi Sultanat’ in 
A Comprehensive History of India-Vol-V part one)


     Far more remarkable than the heroic martyrdom of Laxmibai, the Queen of Jhansi, was this dazzling victory in the Indian annals scored by a valiant woman against a treacherous, ruthless and barbaric invader compared to whom the British foe would look like a fine flower of civilization. Yet somehow the history of Naikidevi is little known to the people of India. 
     Qutb-ud-din, Muizzuddin Muhammad Ghori’s successor, later invaded Gujarat again and did score some small successes initially. But he was ultimately driven back decisively by Bhimdeva-II, the then King of Patan.
     But Patan fell at last when Madhav, the Prime Minister of King Karnadeva Vaghela, aggrieved against the King, invited Ala-ud-din Khalji, the Delhi Sultan, to conquer Gujarat, and co-operated with the Sultan. Gujarat then was annexed to the Delhi Sultanat. However, Patan continued to be the metropolis of Gujarat until 1411 A.D. when Ahmed Shah-I shifted the capital to the newly founded city of Ahmedabad. But Patan’s glory withered under the Muslim power.

     Jayasinha, the son and successor of Karnadeva-I of the Solanki dynasty, popularly known as Siddharaja, was the most illustrious King of Patan. It was he, who annexed Saurashtra and Malwa to the empire of Gujarat.

“Siddharaja was not merely a great conqueror, he was also a great patron of the arts of peace. On the conquest of Malwa he also aspired to see that Gujarat would vie with Malwa in literature and learning as well. On seeing the Bhojavyakarana in the bhandara of Malwa, he inspired Acharya Hemchandra to prepare a work on grammar, and supplied him with the other works on the subject by sending his agents to Kashmir. Hemchandra entitled his grammar Siddha-Hemchandra Sabdanusasana. The Acharya was a versatile scholar who composed works on several other subjects. Siddharaja also patronized the literary activities of Sripala, Vagbhata, Jayamangala, Vardhamansuri, Sagaracandra, Ramacandra and other men of letters in his time. The king also encouraged education in his kingdom.”

(Shastri, H.G., ‘The Calukyas of Gujarat’ in 
A Comprehensive History of India Vol. IV)


     Patan became a great seat of Sanskrit and Prakrit learning. Many Brahmin scholars and Jain Suries settled down here. Gunacandra, Someshvara, Vastupal, Haribhadrasuri, Yashcandra, Bhavasarvajna, Balchandra, Arisinha, Somaprabhusuri are well known names in Sanskrit literature.
     Sidharaja illustrated authentic Hindu catholicity in his conduct. He respected Jainism as much as his own shaivism, and

“When the Parsis and Hindus of Cambay harassed the local Muslim of the place, Siddharaja made a personal inquiry into the matter and took requisite steps for punishment and compensation.” (H.G.Shastri)

In folk literature Siddharaja has become a popular hero like Vikrama and Bhoja.

     Today very little remains of the ancient magnificence of Patan. One of the most prosperous and shining cities of India has now become an obscure town of Gujarat often flashed upon television for its age-old art of ‘PATOLA’ saris, which perhaps lives on the verge of extinction. Some architectural monuments however are there to remind us of its splendour and pride. They are the Sun Temple at Modhera, the famous Delwada temples on Mount Abu, which have luckily survived intact, the equally famous Rani’s step-well (Rani-Ki-Vav) in Patan, the remains of Rudra Mahalaya, and the buried Sahastralinga Lake which is currently being excavated. What is now known as the Dargah of Peer Mukhtashah outside the Kanasada gate of Patan, is said to be originally the Upashraya of Acharaya Hemchandra. The art of woodcarving is amply illustrated in the Bahucharaji temple. But no sign is left anywhere of the white luxurious abodes of Patan’s billionaires or splendid palaces of its king so highly praised in Sanskrit literature. ‘Kirti Toran’ referred to by Colonel Tod also appears nowhere. 
     There are still extant around twenty five thousand ancient books in old manuscripts enshrined in ‘Hemchandracharya Jain Jnanabhandar’. It is the best and richest collection of its kind in India. It bears testimony to the fact that Patan was once upon a time a place where genuine scholarship flourished. 
     Irreversible indeed is the stream of time and it would be folly to think of returning to the past. But, at the same time, awareness of the glorious past may stimulate our present endevour. It is not only not wrong, but very necessary for us to realize our roots in the ancient indigenous tradition of learning while keeping pace with the global expansion of knowledge. Probably with some such ideas Patan was chosen as the centre for North Gujarat University (presently renamed as Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University) when it was started in 1986. 

     Of all the monuments at Patan, the Queen's Step well or Rani Ki Vav is the most stunning and speaks volumes about the sculpting skills of the artisans of the Solanki era. Constructed by queen Udayamati (AD 1022-63) and built in the Khajuraho style, the vav is 90 feet wide but there are no erotic images here. Instead, the walls are lined with images of Sheshshai Vishnu, Shiva and other gods and goddesses. As the vav remained buried for a long time, its numerous sandstone 
images adorning the walls have survived the ravages of time. Also situated here is the Sahastralinga Talav or tank of a thousand Shiva shrines. Its construction was carried out by the great Jayasimha Siddharaja (AD 1093-1143). Spread over an area of five km, it is believed that the tank does not hold water anymore due to the curse Jasma Odan, a gypsy woman.
     The temples of the Jains in Patan are said to number over a hundred, among which the one dedicated to Panchasara Parasvanath is the largest. It has a famous white marble image of Vanaraja and in the vicinity of the temple is the Hemchandracharya Jain Gyan Mandir that contains valuable Jain manuscripts, some of which were written in ink made of gold. Prior permission of the custodian is required for accessing these manuscripts stored in safes. 


Rani ni Vav

It is one of the largest step wells in Gujarat. It was built during the last decade of the 11th century by Rani Udaymati in memory of her husband, Bhimdeva I of the Chalukya Dynasty. The Vav is decorated with around 800 stone sculptures and relief’s. There are impressive images of Gods of the Hindu pantheon in their various incarnations with their consorts. No other step-well in India is as profusely adorned as this.

It is about 134 km north-west of Ahmedabad, and about 57 km from Mehsana. The Rani-ni-Vav forms the link between a kunda and the now classical step-well. Five lateral, staggered staircases attached to the side walls connect various storeys. Sculptures of deities in recessed and projecting niches cover all sides of the well. The Vav is very rich in sculptures.

Each level is profusely adorned with carved friezes and niched deities. The lower most level has 37 niches with rudimentary images of Ganesha in the center. The images of Sheshashayi Vishnu in the central niches, 

on the upper levels, are more elaborate. Also, on the upper levels, are impressive images of Laxmi-Narayana, Uma-Mahesh, Brahma-Brahmi, and kubera and Ganesha, with their respective consorts. On the lower levels, are images of Vishnu's incarnations and 24 forms. 

     Unjha is a little town known for the marriage customs of the Kadwakanbis who live in this region. Marriages are solemnised only once every 11 years and on that day, every unmarried girl of the village over 40 days old must be married off. If no husband can be found, a proxy wedding takes place and then bride is considered a widow till a suitable 
match shows up.
     Around 19 km from Patan is Sidhpur where one can find the ruins of an ancient temple. Mahesena is around 34 km away from Patan and a popular base for the tourists visiting Patan. Modhera nearby has a beautiful and partially ruined Sun Temple built by King Bhimdev I in the 11th century AD. The sun temple is also the venue for an annual dance and music festival organized by the Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation. 

Modhera, Temple

     The beautiful sun temple is built by King Bhimadeva I, who ruled the Saurashtra region in the 11th century AD, north of Kathiawar, between 1026 AD and 1027 AD. Built in front of a rectangular tank (which has small shrines at three of its sides), Modhera is a precursor of the Sun temple at Konark . The whole structure is outclassed by the incredible rectangular step tank or 'Surya Kund', a majestic 100 sq metre rectangular pond, with interesting shrines, said to total 108 in all, the auspicious number of flowers on a garland. Larger shrines to Vishnu, Ganesh and the Natraj incarnation of Shiv in Tandav stand on 3 sides of the Surya Kund, with the 'Sabha Mandap' of the principal temple soaring on the fourth side, to remind you that this is the domain of the Sun God.
     They produce exactly the opposite effect, so finely carved and full of detail are they. As in other Surya temples, the carvings are predominantly of female attendants. Rows of frames carved out on each pillar hold graceful dancing figures as well as the plump gana-s or yaksha-s that seem to hover around the gods. A separate structure from this pavilion is the closed mandapa beyond it leading to the Pradakshina path and Garbha Griha. The temple may once have had more than one level but in its state of ruin it is difficult to tell. Recurring images of the sun god appear at important positions throughout the structure, especially on the 'dedicatory block above the mandapa doorway'.

    In Modhera too, as in Kashmir, the representation of the Sun God seems to indicate a foreign model for the figure is clothed for cold weather in boots and cloak, unfamiliar to Gujarat. However, the main idol, and his sunken garba griha, are lost to us forever. It is fortunate that his chariot pulled by seven horses was drawn from the rubble around the temple before it could be further ruined. Although the temple's shikhar is missing, the spires of the small 'kund' temples are an indication of what it might have looked like. Even though probably more curvilinear than those of Konark or Khajuraho, Modhera's spire followed the basic Nagara pattern of vertical lines meeting at a point directly above the garba griha. In front of the temple is a colossal tank, which was once known as Surya Kund or Rama Kund .The tank has a series of carved steps leading to the bottom. Several miniature shrines adorn the steps of the tank - which is an art gallery in itself. Modhera is now the site of several dance and cultural festivals. The sun temple and the ambience here provide a majestic backdrop for the exhibition of performing arts.

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