Thursday, 21 July 2016

Gujarat diaries:Rani Ki Vav

Rani Ki Vav is an intricately constructed stepwell buuilt in the complex Maru-gurjara architectural style with an inverted temple and seven levels of stairs, situated in the town of Patan, Gujarat. It is situated on the bank of River Saraswati. The magnificent step-well is said to be have been constructed by Udaymati,the queen of Bhimdev-I in the last quarter of 11th century AD. Bhimdev-I was son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki Dynasty of Anahilwada Patan.

The vav measuring about 64 meters long, 20 meters wide and 27 meters deep is laid out in the east-west direction with well proper in the west. This well has a pillared multi-stored pavilion, a drawn well and a large tank for collecting surplus water. It must have been one of the largest and the most sumptuous structure of its kind. A part only of the west well is extant from which it appears that the wall had been built of brick and faced with stone. From this wall project vertical bracket in pairs, this supported the different galleries of the well shaft proper. This bracketing is arranged in tiers and is richly carved. There is a gateway beneath the last step which opens into a 30km tunnel that leads straight to the town of Siddpur. It was a escape tunnel for the kings to escape a defeat and surrender.

The architectural brilliance and the elegance of the vav is represented in its pristine glory in the ornamental work. The beautifully proportioned sculptures of gracefully carved Mahisasuramardini, Parvati and other Saiva sculptures, Vishnu in various forms, Bhairava, Ganesha, Surya.Kubera,Ashtadikpalas, Lakshminarayana andother forms adorn the walls. The female figures have been depicted in various poses of apsaras, Nagakanyas, Yoginis etc. The step-well represents an architectural monument of human creative genius in its variety of motifs and its elegance of proportions, which frame an intriguing space, both functional and aesthetic.

After independence, the vav came into the custody of Archaeological Survey of India and was declared as protected monument pf national importance. This step-well was buried for centuries and suffered damage in past due to negligence and flood in the Saraswati river.Till 1960's nobody knew there existed the most ornate and highly sculpted vav. At this time the vav was completely filled up expect the top. ASI started excavation in 1958 which exposed the hidden treasures of sculptural and architectural wealth. 

The best time to visit this monument is between October and March.The area surrounding the step-well have beneath well developed into a beautiful garden where you can spend time sitting beneath the lush green and shady trees.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Gujarat Diaries: Modhera Sun Temple

The famed Sun temple of Modhera is set along the backdrop of River Pushpavati, surrounded by a beautifully maintained lush green garden of flowering trees and songs of the birds. A soothing drive amidst the green farmlands just 35km from Mehsana and 102km from Ahmadabad lays this majestic architectural legacy of the Solanki dynasty in all its glory. Sun Temple at Modhera was  constructed as an offering in sculpture to the Sun God, under the patronage of Bhimdev I in the year 1027 AD. The Solanki kings of Anhilwad Patan enshrined their eminence in history through stones. The Sun temple at Modhera is the only temple structure to have a 'kund' or ceremonial tank dovetailing into the main complex thus emphasizing the dichotomy of the elements of fire and water.

The temple is constructed in three different yet axially aligned and integrated constituents. It is designed in such a way that the first rays of sun are cast on the image of Lord Surya. The temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni but the architectural magnificent still regains.The temple has been erected on a high platform and divided into three parts namely the Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap. Every inch of this majestic structure is engraved with sculptural patterns of Gods, Goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers indicating the mastery of art in those days.

Surya Kund is in the front area of the temple which is a deep stepped tank named after Lord Surya(Sun God). This tank is 100 sq. meter, rectangular in shape was used to store pure water which the devotees used to cleanse themselves before entering the sanctrum. There are more than 108 shrines along the steps of the kund dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Sheetal Mata and many more. The entry to the Sabha Mandap is through a huge archway from the tank. Sabha Mandap is a gathering hall where religious meets and conferences were held. The hall is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars and the delicate carvings depict the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and the life of Lord Krishna. Guda Mandap is called the main temple or the Sanctum sanctorum.The entire temple is constructed based on an inverted lotus base plinth as generally lotus is said to be sun's flower.It was designed and constructed in such a way that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the days of  equinox fell on the bejeweled gold idol of Sun riding on his  chariot driven by Saarthi Arun. It is said that sun's chariot has seven horses and Saarthi Arun rode the fourth one. The entire was said to be placed on a 15 feet dip pit and was filled with gold coins. When the temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni he took away the entire gold idol along with destroying the temple with gunpowder thus defacing the ancient structure of its glory and grandeur.

The exterior of temples have beautifully carved sculptures depicting the twelve postures of Aditya, the Sun God along with eight dipkals. Legend narrates that after the defeat of Ravana, Lord Rama and Sita halted here on their way back. Lord Rama conducted a yagna here to cleanse himself of the sin of killing a Brahmin named Ravana who was a Shaivite with consultation of Vashishtha. The yagna was carried out by a Brahmin from the Modh community thus the name Modhera originated.

A dance festival is organized every year in the third week of January to ensure that the Indian traditions and culture do not dwindle with the passage of time. The Gujarat tourism organizes this event to promote the tourism of this place. Do visit the place if you get a chance to do so. Its a perfect example of the genius architectural structures of our past.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Udaipur Diaries: Jag Mandir

Jag Mandir also known as the "Lake Garden Palace"  is an enormous palace built on the southern island of lake Pichola in Udaipur city of Rajasthan. The palatial structure is three storeyed and built in yellow sandstone and marble. The construction of this palace is credited to three Maharanas of the Sisodia Rajputs of Mewar kingdom. The construction was started by Maharana Amar Singh in 1551 which was continued by Maharana Karan Singh and the final completion work was carried out by Maharana Jagat Singh I. Hence the palace was named Jagat Mandir in the honor of Maharana Jagat Singh.

The history of Jag Mandir can be drawn back to the year when Maharan Karan Singh Gave this palace as hiding place to Prince Khuram, popularly known as Shahjahan before he was crowned as the Mughal Emperor. Prince Khuram rebelled against his Father Emperor Jahangir in 1623 as he wanted the Mughal throne. Faced with the danger of getting thwarted in his campaign, he sought refuge in Mewar kingdom at Udaipur. As prince Khuram was born to a Rajput mother Maharana Karan Singh gave a safe haven. he was initially in the city palace along with his wife Mumtaz Mahal and his two sons Prince Dara and  Prince Aurangzeb. Later they were shifted to the Gul Mahal in the midst of the lake. Gul Mahal is the domed pavilion that was specifically built For Khuram. It was later enlarged by Jagat Singh into a huge palace and named as Jag Mandir.

Today Gul Mahal is the most interesting part of this palace as it is made in the Islamic style of architecture, which indicates that Maharana kept in mind the Taste of Prince Khuram. The hall is intricately decorated with Muslim crescents and amazing interiors. A mosque was also constructed inside this palace.The courtyard is another attractive construction with its black and white tiles. The Mahal is surrounded by a roomy circular apartment with murals and beautiful paintings considered an uncommon feature in Rajput architecture. Jag Mandir is the main palace which incorporates the Gul Mahal. The towers are octagonal in shape and are topped with cupolas. A labyrinth of reception halls, residential suites and internal courts are built in the palace which has an amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal architecture. The western end contains the Kunwaar Pada ka Mahal i.e. the Palace of Crown Prince. Bara Parathon Ka Mahal was made out of twelve solid marble slabs as the name suggests and the Zenana Mahal was for the royal ladies. The palace has beautiful gardens adorned with roses, palm trees, jasmine flowers and bougainvillea.

Every visitor of Udaipur must visit this magnificent palace and check out the museum which depicts the history of this palace. above all you would be mesmerized and in awe after seeing the eight life sized elephants carved out in white marble giving us an impression of being the guardians of this beautiful Island Palace