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India: Gujarat: Adalaj, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Little Rann of Kutch, Mandvi, Modhera, Nal Sarovar, Patan, Rann of Kutch

Patan, Gujarat, India: A queen draped in Patola
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief

Pillars, Rani Ni Vav, Patan, Gujarat, India

The quiet little town of Patan is famous for two things. Its stepwell called Rani Ni Vav (The Queen's Stepwell) and the Patola saree. 120 kms from Ahmedabad, this town attracted me more for the reason number 1. Thankfully, my wife wasn't with me, else I would have been poorer by thousands!

Tiers, Rani Ni Vav, Patan, Gujarat, India With 3 days on hand, my plan was to visit Nal Sarovar, a bird sanctuary near Ahmedabad. I landed at Ahmedabad at around 11 AM. It was a good idea, I thought, to spend the afternoon at Patan and return to Ahmedabad late in the evening and then proceed to Nal Sarovar early next morning. Thanks to my friend Akash Kasat, who lives in Ahmedabad, I had a car at my disposal. In just about 2 hours I was at the gates of Rani Ni Vav.

Patan, an ancient fortified town, was founded in 745 AD by Vanraj Chavda, the most prominent king of the Chavda Kingdom. He named the city Anhilpur Patan or "Anhilwad Patan" after his close friend and Prime Minister Anhil.

When Muhammad Ghori had attempted to conquer Gujarat, the forces of Mularaja II, then the king of Patan, a mere boy-ruler, led by his heroic mother Naikidevi, inflicted such a crushing and conclusive defeat on him that the foreigner did not dare again cast his sight upon Patan. He never again entered India through Gujarat. The battle was fought at Kayadra, a village near Mount Abu. Ghori’s army was completely routed in the conflict, but somehow he escaped with his defeated army from Gujarat. Muhammad's general and later Sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din Aybak sacked the city between 1200 and 1210, and it was destroyed by Alladin Khilji in 1298. Thereafter, new Patan was rebuilt. What remains now is just a wall of the Fort, though.

A Finished Patola Saree, Patan, Gujarat, India On the outskirts of Patan is Rani Ni Vav. During the period of the Solanki or Chalukya, the stepwell called the Rani Ni Vav was constructed. It is a richly sculptured monument, generally assumed to be built in the memory of Bhimdev I by his widowed queen Udayamati. It was one of the largest and the most sumptuous structures of its type. Most of the sculptures depicts the various forms of Lord Vishnu, namely Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and a few others.

After spending an hour at the stepwell, we visited a Patola saree making unit. The Patola saree is one of the finest hand-woven sarees that are produced today. The craftsmanship is famous for its extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. A Patola saree takes about 4 to 6 months to be made, depending on how complicated the designs is. The usual length of the saree is about 6 metres. These sarees are made using vegetable colours and can last for decades together. The saree may cost from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2 million! All depends on craftsmanship and the threads used whilst weaving. Just so you know, pure gold threads are also used. This art of Patola Saree making is fading as the new generation is shying away from continuing what their ancestors had started.

By the time we left Patan it was 4PM. We had to rush to reach our next destination – Modhera.

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