Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Queen Of Step-wells - Rani Ki Vav At Patan

Introduction

I'm yet to fathom the association of step-wells with queens - Bundi and Adalaj have one each - but one thing is for sure: these places are stunning! In one way, there do exist common lore dedicated to the beauty of the royal ladies and so the structures that they sought built would logically be beautiful and intricate too. Anyway, let's not digress on account of my fanboy-ism.

The 'Rani Ki Vav' is an immense structure attributed to the queen Udayamati in memory of King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. Patan was the capital of the erstwhile kingdom. A casual inspection of the Solanki era structures shows their flair for artistic detailing and intricacy. In these aspects this step-well is second to none.

This is what I'm talking about

And yes, this is a World Heritage Site since 2014.

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A Good Place To Be

A quick shout-out to Gujarat Tourism for maintaining this site in the way they have. The basic facilities are well taken care off, and active monitoring of cleanliness if possible through the 'Swacch Paryatan App'.

 The side-on top view of the step-well ...
... humans (top-centre) for scale

The ASI also have done a super task at this site. Around 1960 when ASI took control of this place, only the very upper sections of the well were seen. These are plain walls and would betray the treasure that lay buried at the lower levels. Negligence and floods in the Saraswati had taken some toll. A systematic and painstaking excavation by the ASI has revealed the true extent of the magnificence of Solanki stone-working skills.A heartfelt thanks!

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Descending The Step-Well

The step-well stretches east-west dropping quite a few levels in the process. The sculptures adorning the walls feature a variety of motifs from the Hindu mythos. The intricacy of the artwork progressively betters as one approaches the main water-body. The last three levels are cordoned off to keep people from venturing too near the water.

With this, let's start the photolog!

Descending the first levels

The symmetry of the pillars making an impression

Lets take a step back and admire the scale of things

A chamber in the pillars

Looking up the walls

 Go on ... admire it ...

 The opposite side ... and some admirers too

 Shaiva figures ...

Jaina figures too ... and a bit of royalty

Some more

A beautiful recipe for some neck irritation

Oh my my ... one is lost for words here

 The top view into the core

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Sahastraling Talav - Bonus!

A little ahead of the step-well is its contemporary water-body called the Sahastraling Talav. The name suggests a pond with a thousand shiv-lings, but in reality this is more like a canal with integrates temples. The main structure is in a state of disrepair, and the farther sections are littered too. A triple throne structure is said to be broken now.

The pillars lined up in the canal

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Getting In

The Rani Ki Vav is located at the northern outskirts of Patan town near the river Saraswati. Patan is connected by road to the major city of Mehsana and other places of interest like Modhera, Siddhpur and Vadnagar. Ahmedabad can be reached from Mehsana by rail or road.

Patan on the map

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Other Places in Gujarat

Ahmedabad || Adalaj || Modhera

© One Of The Road

Rani Huda's Step-Well At Adalaj

Introduction

Step-wells are an architecture phenomenon unique to the hot, semi-arid regions of west-central India. Originally conceived as a convenient way to fetch water - you could just walk in, as compared to a draw-well - they slowly evolved over time as centres for gatherings owing to the coolness of the moist earth. This led to an artistic evolution with the ornate step-wells being the pride of the land and their builders. Many of the step-wells have been associated with royalty or rich tradesmen.

Raniji ki baori of Bundi

This post covers the beautiful step-well of Adalaj, not far from Ahmedabad.

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Story Time

The step-well was commissioned by queen Ruda of Vikramsinh Vaghela. The local lore of this step-well goes something like this:

 
The well was to be constructed to provide good water locally

 
 With nine intricately crafted levels

 
  About 80% of the main structure was completed ...
... And Sultan Mahmud Begada attacked the Vaghela kingdom.

 
King Vikramsinh Vaghela fell in the war

 
The Sultan proposed that queen Ruda join his harem.

 
The queen was shrewd (aren't all Indian queens shrewd in a way?)
She agreed on the condition that the well be completed.

 
 However, the artisans refused and were promptly executed. 

 
The remaining lower levels were then completed quickly using bricks 

The now happy queen, promptly jumped into the water and drowned herself

 
... leaving the Suntan dumbfounded

 
 And the banyan tree lost its only companion ...
(I made that up)

Of course, the ASI has a very technical plaque too ...

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How To Reach

Adalaj is located very close to Ahmedabad off the NH147 to Gandhinagar and can be easily covered with a rented cab or rickshaw.

Adalaj on the map

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Other Places in Gujarat

Ahmedabad || Patan || Modhera

© One Of The Road

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Pattadakal - The Crown Of Chalukyan Architecture

Introduction

Pattadakal has a place of immense importance in the Chalukyan heritage. An erstwhile capital from the 6th through the 8th centuries, the place retained its importance for the Chalukyas as a centre for coronation of the new kings. The temples of Pattadakal do deserve this distinction, owing to a no-holds-barred approach of the Chalukyas to provide for the best of architects and sculptures, resulting in some stunning artefacts. The design of the temple-spires borrows elements from the northern 'Nagara' style and the southern 'Dravidian' style, even fusing the two on one occasion.

The temples of Pattadakal in one view

Pattadakal has been recognized as a World Heritage Site since 1987.

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Some Technicalities Seen At Pattadakal

There are a total of nine main temples in the Pattadakal complex. In the order one comes across these temples, these are: Kadasiddheshwara, Jambuling, Galaganatha, Chandrashekhara, Sangameshwara, Kashivishveshwara, Mallikarjuna, Virupaksha and Papanatha. Quite a lot of minor shrines are dispersed through the campus for good measure. All shrines are east-facing. The Virupaksha Temple is the best of the lot, though Mallikarjuna Temple is striking too.

 Some minor shrines seen from the Galaganatha Temple ...
... the Kashivishweshwara Temple can also be seen

All temples have a rectangular floor-plan with the main sanctum being square, topped by a beautiful spire. The spires can be used to broadly classify the temples as 'Nagara' style or 'Dravidian style'. The Nagara style can be differentiated by a spire featuring a convexity, with a steep slope that ever so gently merges with the base structure, with vertical lines extending all the way down.The Dravidian spires are more pyramidal with a stepped slope featuring beautiful sculptures at all levels. The porch is usually broad and well covered, apart from the main sanctum.

The Jambuling Temple features Nagara spire

The Sangameshwara Temple has a Dravidian spire

The Papanatha Temple combines both styles. A convex spire merges to a more Dravidian broad base.

The rear side of the Papanatha Temple

Lets start the photo-blog now!

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Kadasiddheshwara Temple

A small Nagara style temple

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Galaganatha Temple

Larger Nagara temple with ambulation path surrounding the sanctum

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Sangameshwara Temple

A beautiful Dravidian temple this ...

Pillars of the outer hall

The Sangameshwara shiv-ling ... not in active worship

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Kashivishveshwara Temple

Another Nagara temple ... the best of the lot from this style

Shiava stories are sculpted on the pillars

Shiv-Parvati wedding

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Mallikarjuna Temple

 The old entrance to this temple with the Nandi

 A side-view of this Dravidian Temple

 The inner hall of the temple features elaborate pillars

Scenes from Ramayana

Some more stills

Samudra manthan scenes

The ceiling panels are well carved

Looking up the intricate spire and outer walls
The rear of the Mallikarjuna Temple is striking!

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Virupaksha Temple

The entrance to the Virupaksha complex from the river side.

The entry to the Virupaksha Temple
 
The gatekeeper

Sculptures related to Vishnu

 The Dravidian glory from the side

 Ceiling artwork

 Shiva-Parvati stories

Ramayana stories - this one relates to Suparnakha episode

Mahabharatha too - Bhishma's death-bed of arrows

Some more intricacy on the pillars

 The nandi gets a dedicated shrine here

A parting shot of the fabulous temple as seen from the Mallikarjuna Temple

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Papanatha Temple

The temple has Nagara spire on a Dravidian floor plan

Ceiling artwork is amazing here

And ... we met cats here

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Getting In and Around

Pattadakal has to be approached through its sister Chalukyan site of Badami. Bus service from Badami is intermittent; the best frequency being one every 30mins. The distance is about 22kms, so other modes of transport are not easily available. Also, being a tourist place of importance, many tourist-only taxis or rickshaws can be rented from Badami. Negotiate on the fare. Always.

A significant pointer w.r.t. the location is the river Malaprabha. The three major Chalukyan sites - Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole - lie on this river; as does Saundatti further downstream. Pattadakal lies on the northern bank.

Pattadakal on the map

There's not much getting around to do at Pattadakal, since all temples - nine in all - are located in a single complex. The entry charges are Rs.30 per person. Electric carts are available for senior citizens. Washrooms are available near the first of the temples. The staff, as observed, does not like complaints and GoPros. Enjoy!

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Signing Off

Pattadakal is a World Heritage Site. More than that, it is an integral part of our Indian heritage; it symbolizes the highest achievement of an empire that at its peak, controlled most of Indian peninsula from the rivers Narmada in the north to Cauvery in the south. This is a place to come and marvel at ... get lost for a while admiring the art of old masters ... Hat's off!

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Other Places on the Karnataka Chalukyan Trail

Lakkundi || Gadag || Hooli || Badami (Monuments and Caves) || Aihole

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© One Of The Road