Last Saturday at 9 am, we headed out in the 43 C heat to a place located 125 kms north of Ahmedabad.
Our destination – Patan; world renowned for 2 things – a stepwell and the Patola style of dyeing and weaving textiles.
The smooth broad roads taking us to the 1,200 year old former capital of the king Vanraj Chavda clearly indicated this state’s infrastructure being among the better ones in India. (A completely unrelated matter is that nobody bothers to follow the traffic rules.)
The same can’t be said for the environment – arid, dry and dusty. Half way, as a respite, we took a sugarcane juice break on the outskirts of Mehsana.
Arriving at the stepwell compound at 12 pm, we found it very well maintained. Green manicured lawns, neem trees planted at regular intervals and metal benches below them. The funny thing was that there were a lot of families roaming in this unbearable heat as if it was a cool winter evening!
The 1,000 year old stepwell Rani ki Vav (literally meaning Queen’s stepwell) has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 7-storeyed with very beautiful sculptures, this well was built by the queen Udayamati of the Solanki dynasty in memory of her husband.
It was completely forgotten and lay hidden for a long time till an earthquake in 1960s revealed it again. Probably due to this, the sculptures are in such good condition.
Access is allowed only till the 4th level. At the bottom-most level, there is supposed to be a 30 km tunnel to the nearby town of Siddhpur, which acted as an escape route for the kings. Unfortunately it is blocked these days, not that I would have attempted it. 🙂
Post that, we wanted to check out the Patola. We found a small museum called the Patola House, which had a few exhibits and photographs.
The Patola is an extremely beautiful and difficult style of dyeing and weaving textiles. To this day, people from across the world come to learn the art. (We found samples of work by artisans from Indonesia, Japan, Spain and Netherlands.) At one time, there were 700+ families involved in creating these garments. As with many traditional arts, this one too is dying. Now only the Salvi family continues the work.
Sarees start from Rs. 1.5 lakhs, with gold threads also being used. In case someone in your family is planning on saree-shopping, you should think twice before recommending this place. 🙂
As we came out of the museum, the intensity of the hot winds increased and the roads emptied. I could feel the heat taking its toll on me.
We had a quick meal in Mehsana and returned late afternoon to Ahmedabad. As soon as I reached, I switched ON the AC, thanked God, and slept off dreaming of wells, textiles and arid lands.