History of Patan.
Patan was the capital of Ancient Gujarat in early medieval times and was founded by King Vanraj Chavda in 745 AD. The city was named as Anilpur Patan, based on his close friend’s name. Interestingly the king of Patan –Mularaja II had been successfully in defeating Muhammad Ghori and also from conquering Gujarat along with his mother at a very young age. There are some other old places like old fort, Gates of new fort, Step-well of Rani Ki Vaav, Trikam Barot Vaav, Anand Sarovar, Khan sarovar , Jasma Odan deri and many temples.
Present city of Patan.
Presently, the city has developed extensively in terms of culture and facilities. The city has a university named as North Gujarat University. The patola designed saris are well known clothing saris being sold here. They are hand-woven, and known all over India for their accurate precision of design patterns. Some more of these saree stories later.
Since we had to do some work at our friend’s wedding in the afternoon, we decided to visit the Rani’s Stepwell in morning. The Rani Ki vaav or Queen’s Step-well was constructed as we learnt from times of Solanki period. We reached the place in early morning. We learnt about its history, that it was built in memory of Bhimdev I, the son of King Mulraja of Solanki Clan in year 1022 AD to 1063 AD by Queen Udayamati. It is called the queen of Step-wells among others. The step-well was built for travelers, and villages for drawing natural water from the step-well without any effort. The step-well was discovered again in 1960’s, and then later excavated to learn more about the place.
Inside the Rani’s Stepwell.
When we arrived, it was just nearing 9 am. There was a caretaker who became our guide. He led us through the step-well, and took us around. He told us that the step-well faces east and the well in the west, and measures around 64 mt. long, is 28 mt. wide and deep about 27 mt. A perfect size! We noticed that there was a stepped corridor everywhere at regular periods, with many multi-storeyed pillars. There are about 7 storeys in the Stepwell. Due to time and wear and tear, the step well had once silted up, and some of the portions have become invisible to see. Our guide told us that walls of the step-well have been made by bricks and stones.
We were fascinated by the beautiful carvings on wall Idols and sculptures. The female idols made from stones, were beautifully made with facial features on their faces and grace in their body language. The carvings are indeed beautiful. The walls have been bracketed and are beautifully carved. The Idols or statues on walls were of different Gods and Goddesses like Vishnu, Kalki, Lord Ganesh, Lord Surya, Kubera-the lord of Wealth, Laxmi and other gods in various moods.
All the idols and statues are proof of the skilled people who built them with much patience and vigor. The lower level of the step-well had about 35 images of Lord Ganesh, with upper levels belonging to Lord Vishnu depicting all his incarnations. Can people of today’s time build these statues which can stand the test of time? I doubt so.
The interiors of the walls of this well as well as the walls bordering the staircase are decorated with marvelously proportioned statues. These consist of statues of Vishnu (dasha avataras) as Varaha and Kalki, Ganesha, Surya, Bhairava, Kubera, Lakshmi-Narayan, Vishvarupa-Vishnu and Astadikpalas. Some other forms of embellishments could also be seen. All these stand testimony to the skillfulness of the Solanki sculptors, in illustrating vigor, rhythm, beauty and diverse moods in stone. There were more than 750 sculptures carved in the Rani Ki vaav or Stepwell.
The guide then led us through all the steps of the step well to reach to the bottom. There was some water at the bottom, which had shrunk and was muddy. It was obvious, that the step-well was not in use anymore. It was just an old part of history and one of heritage sites. We were told that there was a small gate below the last step, which had a tunnel built. We became interested and wanted to know more.
The tunnel, we were told had about 28 to 30 km distance from the location leading to Sidhhpur town. That is a smart way of reducing distance! The tunnel is blocked by mud now and cannot be accessed. We were requested by the guide to not to damage any walls of the monument, to preserve it further. We were informed that during summer, the royal families would rest in the chambers specially built for them, which are not seen now.
We had seen enough and had photographed some pics of the place. It was time for Lunch and some wedding help activities. So we rushed back home, had lunch and got busy in our activities.
How to reach:
For those who want to visit Patan and explore the Step-well, they can take the road route from Ahmedabad by state bus or private taxis. The distance is just 110 km away. Railway station is also connected to Ahmedabad and other important stations. The nearest airport is also in Ahmedabad.