On our recent trip to Gujarat with Gujarat Tourism, we got a chance to explore the newest addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list which is the ancient city of Dholavira, and on our way to Dholavira, we also visited some of the most remarkable and architecturally rich places such as Rani ki Vav and Modhera Sun Temple.
Where is Dholavira located?
Dholavira is an ancient city in Gujarat that is situated on the arid island of Khadir Bet. The city is located in the Kutch District and is almost 360 kilometers far from Ahmedabad.
In 2021 UNESCO included Dholavira of Kutch in the list of World Heritage Sites due to the most exciting and remarkable excavations of the Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan culture, also known as “Kotada Timba” which dates back to almost 4500 years ago. In fact, the Harappan sites discovered in Dholavira are one of the 5 largest Harappan sites in the Indian Sub-continent.
How to reach Dholavira by Air?
The closest airport to reach Dholavira is Bhuj which is connected to some major cities across India. It is about 220 kilometers from Dholavira after which you can opt for either taxis or buses.
The other way to reach Dholavira is by taking a flight to Ahmedabad and from there driving down to Dholavira which is almost an 8 hours journey without taking many breaks in between.
How to reach Dholavira by Train?
Should you wish to catch a train to Dholavira then the closest station for you would be Rapar, which is 92 kilometres from Dholavira. The major station close to Dholavira is Bhuj which is around 220 kilometres away
How to reach Dholavira by Road?
Gujarat has an excellent road network and the best way to reach Dholavira is by road. All you have to do is just hire a taxi and enjoy the drive on your way to this ancient city.
What is the best time to visit Dholavira?
The best time to visit this desert island would be during the months of October to February as the temperatures get better. Since Dholavira is situated in The Rann of Kutch the temperatures here go very high.
Ahmedabad to Dholavira Itinerary
Our itinerary from Ahmedabad to Dholavira looked like this
Reach Ahmedabad in the morning
Breakfast and head to Rani Ki Vav
Visit Patola house and Modhera Sun Temple
Stay at Dassada
Drive to Dessert Wildlife Sanctuary
Drive to Dholavira Khadir Belt
Visit the Fossil Park in Dholavira
Drive to Ahmedabad
Heritage walk in Ahmedabad Old city
Rani Ki Vav facts
Located in the old town of Patan by the banks of the Saraswati River, Rani ki Vav or the Queen’s Stepwell was constructed around 1022 – 1063 AD. It is located around 125 kilometers away from Ahmedabad and has got huge importance due to its elaborate seven-storied structure and intricately carved sculptures of gods, goddesses, and deities.
Rani ki Vav was constructed during the 11th century during the reign of the Chalukya dynasty. It is said that Rani Udayamati constructed this well for her beloved husband Raja Bhimdev I after his death. The Vav was later flooded with the Saraswati river and covered by sand until in the late 1980s it was excavated again by the Archaeological Survey of India.
This entire piece of art is made of sandstone and was built using the Maru-Gurjara architectural style. It is spread over 12 acres of land and the entire well is 27 meters deep. This seven-storied structure is nothing less but a masterpiece of architecture and sculpture and it is hard to imagine the architectural skills and the quality of workmanship that artisans had during those years.
Throughout the structure, you will find around 500 main sculptures of religious and mythological characters and many small sculptures of Gods and Deities adding to the beauty of the Vav.
Apart from all the 226 pillars which are beautifully carved and are standing tall and strong even after all the floods which impacted the city and the Vav, the main subject of the sculptures in Rani is Vav is that of Vishnu’s and his different forms of avatars You will be amazed to see sculptures of Shiv and Parvati, Brahma, Vishnu, and his Wife Lakshmi, Kuber, Hanuman, Indra and many more on the walls of this breath-taking structure.
In the year 2014, this magnificent piece of art was listed as one of the heritage sites by UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Today the entire site is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and it has been open to the public as a major tourist attraction at an entry fee of Rs 40 per person.
Patola House Patan
A visit to Patan’s Patola House was a surprise for me as I had little or no knowledge about Patola sarees before this trip. Here at the Patola house, I got a chance to meet the Salvi family who has been weaving the traditional Patola art for over 35 generations now. The word Patola comes from the Sanskrit word ‘pattakulla’, which also means a silk fabric. Patola or Double ikat is a kind of fabric that dates back centuries.
It is said that King Jalna of the 12th century AD would use bedsheets made of Patola and later he would sell them. On learning this King Kuarpal of the Solanki dynasty invited around 700 families of Patola weavers from Maharashtra to settle down in Patan and made them weave Patola for him and his royal family.
One of those families who moved from Maharashtra to Gujarat is the Salvi families who have been keeping the traditions alive ever since and are the proud owners of Patola House.
The Patola weavers follow the Tie-dyeing/ knot dyeing technique or the resist-dyeing process using the warp and weft which is known as the Bandhani process. Once upon a time, only the women from the Royal families would wear the Patola sarees as they are very expensive and would cost lakhs to buy.
It is said that the color of a pure Patola will never fade away and will stay for as long as 300 years. I would not have believed this fact if I hadn’t seen the 250-year-old saree beautifully framed in the Patola House.
They are woven in a harness loom made of rosewood and bamboo and the left side of the loom is lower than the right one. The weaver at the Patola house told us that it takes 4-5 months to prepare the making of a saree and 40-50 days to weave the 6 yards of elegance.
Patola is considered to be a holy cloth and it’s an honor to be wearing an original Patola. The piece of beauty is usually gifted to the daughters and daughters-in-law of the families on the occasion of marriages as a sign of a good omen. In fact, Patola is so old that when you visit the Ajanta Caves you will find a resemblance of the technique in the caves as well.
Sun Temple Modhera
After driving on the beautiful tar roads of Gujarat for more than 40 minutes we reached the village of Modhera on which rests the beautiful Modhera Sun Temple – a dedication to the Sun God built-in 1026 CE. The beautifully carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted Ramakund belonged to the Solanki period also known as the Golden Age of Gujarat.
It is believed that Modhera was the actual home to the Modha Brahmans and as per legends this tribe received Modhera as a gift during Lord Ram and Sita’s marriage. You will also find the mention of this Modhera on the history pages of Skanda and Brahma Puran and the surrounding areas that you see here are referred to as the Dharmaranya or the forest of righteousness.
The jaw-dropping 11th century complex in Modhera was built and crafted even before the Konark temple of Odisha however no pujas or worships are performed here anymore. The beautiful carvings that you see here represent our culture from the Ramayana to Mahabharata and from our human life to Kamasutra.
The sun temple was constructed in a very unique way so that during each Equinox the first rays of the sun would directly fall on the diamond that was placed on the head of the Sun God. You can spend hours and hours at this beautiful and historical temple complex and praise the creation of Man as you watch the temples, the sculptures, and the intricate details carved on every inch of the complex.
The complex has been divided into three parts out of which the most prominent part is the Rama kund -a deep stepped tank which was earlier used for storing water. On the walls of this beautiful structure, you will also notice many carvings of the sun and the unity of four other elements such as earth, space, air, and water.
In 2014 Modhera Sun Temple was also declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site and now every year in the month of January a three-day dance festival is hosted here every year which is known as the Uttarardha Mahotsav to showcase the artistic talent of India.
Desert Wildlife Sanctuary Dasada
The next day early in the morning we went to see some wildlife in the Desert Wildlife sanctuary Dasada. We were told we could spot flamingos, wild ass, and many species of birds here during the 2 hours of safari in our open jeeps, and this as you know is one of my favorite things to do.
30 minutes of drive from our resort and we reached Dasada which is located on the edge of Little Rann of Kutch and is famous for the Asiatic wild ass that is found here. It is also famous for the wildlife sanctuary which stretches for over 24 km and offers a wide variety of birds that you can spot including Flamingos, Pelicans, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, and Painted Storks, etc.
During monsoons when the Rann turns into a wetland a lot of migratory birds fly here to breed and nest. For those who enjoy bird watching Dasada Wildlife sanctuary is a piece of heaven for you. The best time to visit the Desert Wildlife Sanctuary is between November to February during the early morning hours or during the evening.
We spent almost 4 hours at the Wildlife Sanctuary before we headed back to the resort by noon as after lunch we were scheduled to drive to Dholavira and stay there for the night.
Fossil Park Dholavira
The next morning on Day 3 we started early as we visited the Fossil Park in Dholavira which was built by the Forest Department. During 2007 big pieces of plant fossils were discovered here which were more than 16 million years old also known as the Jurassic Age. Each of these logs is almost 10 meters long and about one and a half meters in diameter.
It has been confirmed by the Archeological Survey of India that the big logs of fossils are from a particular tree trunk which had been a forgotten history and it belongs to the Asia region.
The fossils which are of a tree but looks like solid rocks are now being protected by the forest department officials in the park itself. Few of the logs are kept protected inside glass walls covered from all four directions and no one is allowed to enter the space.
The fossil part is also a beautiful spot especially if you visit here during sunrise or sunset as from this point all you see on the horizon is the white Rann of Kutch spread over kilometers. You can also walk on the widespread of land for miles but during monsoons, the land gets a little mushy and you may not want to dirty your feet.
Harappan Site Dholavira
It was time to finally visit the Harappan Site about which I had first read when I was in class 6. It was around 11.00 in the morning and we were standing at the ruins of the Harappan civilization also known as the Indus Valley Civilization.
The Harappan Civilization was the first civilization to come up with a system that would tell you the accurate weights and measures. The people from this civilization would create sculptures, pottery, and jewelry from terracotta metal and stone.
It seems that the Harappan civilization’s origin lies in a settlement which was known as Mehrgarh which is located in western Pakistan. It is believed to have been home to more than 23,500 residents who were living in the sculpted houses with flat roofs which were made of sand and clay.
Dholavira which was listed under UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites is confirmed to be the 5 largest Harappan sites in the Indian Sub-continent. Here you will see the remains of one part of the Harappa Civilization which is located around 500 meters north of the Dholavira village. This site here is in fact the largest excavated site of the Harappan Civilization that can be seen and visited by tourists.
As per research this settlement in Dholavira stayed for more than 1700 years which is the highest years of settlement at one place which started right from pre-Harrapan to late Harappan period.
At this site, you can see the excellent city planning with wide roads, amazing craftsmanship, and architecture. You can see how the people in the Harappan era built their houses using sandstones and took care of important things such as proper water drainage.
I was surprised to see the advanced water conservation and the rainwater harvesting systems which they had built. It was quite unbelievable for me to relate to what I was actually seeing.
In 1990 when the archeologist team came to Dholavira to conduct some extensive excavations the entire village came forward to help. Each day was a challenge for them moreover the weather hitting them so hard yet they did not give up. Finally, the excavations were over and a sight to behold is discovered.
It was my last day in Dholavira as I was heading back home tomorrow early morning. The next day we started early around 6.00 AM and reached Ahmedabad around 12.30. We had a quick lunch and headed straight for the Heritage Walk in Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad Heritage Walk
Ahmedabad Heritage Walk is going to be A Walk to Remember. This beautifully rich city looks so modern when you first see it but then behind the walled city is an old architectural heritage from the period of the Sultans which is almost 600 years old. This architectural heritage could not stop itself from getting the attention it deserved and in 2017 Ahmedabad became the first city in India to win the UNESCO World Heritage site tag.
The heritage walk is conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) every day at 7.45 am and it starts from the 19th century Swaminarayan temple. The entire walk is for about 2 hours wherein you will be walking and exploring almost 2 kilometers of history, architecture, and cultural heritage. By the end of 2 hours, your walk will come to an end at the 15th century Jama Masjid which is why the walk is also known as Mandir Se Masjid Walk.
Throughout the walk, you will be entering into a lot of narrow lanes, old passages, and houses, and will cover many ‘Pol’ which are gated neighborhoods. I entered into many meandering streets, crossed paths with a dozen of cows, and also saw many mosques and temples belonging to the Hindus and Jains.
During the 2 hours of walk, you will also get a chance to see the Havelis, visit Manek Chowk which is a vegetable market in the morning, a jewelry paradise in the afternoon and by evening the entire chowk turns into a food street. By the end of the walk, you will reach Jama Masjid which was built during the time of Ahmed Shah. Here you can just sit and relax for some time soaking in the beauty and feel of the place. I sat there for nearly half an hour watching the birds and the people pass by.
This was not my first visit to Gujarat but this was definitely the first time I was experiencing something so beautiful. I explored some of those places about which I had read many times but never got a chance to visit.
This trip with Gujarat Tourism was one of the best trips of this year and I cannot thank them enough for giving me this opportunity and helping me bring these places in front of you in the form of pictures and my blog.
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