As one traverses the length and breadth of Gujarat, one constantly stumbles across architectural legacies of the’ Solanki’ rule. You keep coming across, living spaces and monuments of another time, offering an eclectic glimpse of the artistic and ingenious beauty that makes this exotically state vibrant.
A soothing drive amidst green farmlands just 35 km away from Mehsana on the way to the temples of goddess Bahucharaji reposes the village of Modhera. Set along the backdrop of River Pushpavati, surrounded by a terra-formed garden of flowering trees and songs of birds, rests the famed Sun temple of Modhera.
As you relax and soothe your nerves, become one with nature and open your mind to the poetry in stone, dedicated to the sun god, living glimpses of the era far elapsed emerge out of the intricacies of narrative sculptures . The remains of the Sun Temples at Modhera are relics of times gone by when reverence of the natural elements fire, air, earth, water and sky were at their peak sharing space with myriad manifestations of Vedic gods. The ancient philosophy venerating natural elements and its association with humans was considered the prime force and energy of the life cycle. A walk around the serene temple campus makes you aware of the positively strong aura of energy which the place radiates and through it brings one closer to the environs.
The exclusively carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted kund are jewels in the art of masonry of the Solanki period apparently which was also known as the Golden Age of Gujarat. Savor your voyage through time to the magnificent eons of the Golden period as you get welcomed personally by the life like icons, narrating stories and legends of Modhera!
Things to do
Modhera is an ideal destination for being away from the hustle-bustle of city life for a day. The unruffled peaceful landscape and the majestically welcoming temple complex will ensure to take you away from the mundane routines of daily life to the glorious times back in the Golden Age.
As you enter the historical complex, you first come across the magnificent kund known as the Ramakund, built in rectangular shape containing 108 shrines to various gods and demi-gods. Check out the three main shrines positioned on the three sides of the kund, dedicated to Ganesh and Vishnu and an image of Lord Shiva dancing the ‘tandav’ facing the temple of the sun which covers the fourth side. Various shrines showcasing different mudras are arrayed along the staggered configuration of steps leading down to the base of the ‘Kund’.Try following the rhythmic ups and downs of the steps.
Walk up the steps to the ‘Sabha Mandap’ or the assembly and convene with sculpted renderings of twelve ‘Adityas’ (another name for the sun god). The twelve representations carved on the pillars represent the sun according to the twelve months. It is believed that these ‘Adityas’ are the base myth to the temple of sun, the legend imparts Aditya’s to be sons of ‘Aditi’, the goddess of Infinity and the constant within the inter-connectedness of the universe.
If you love listening to stories, make sure you find the purohit or priest who has been taking care of the temple, and stays close to the vicinity. Request him to narrate or explain the tales and sequences from epics and legends which are carved on the 52 pillars adding grace and poise to the temple section. Even if you do not find him around, do go through the carved murals which serve as a virtual encyclopedia of history of communities, lessons in mortality, descriptions of fairs and festivals and rituals of the golden era. If time permits may be you can examine each panel in turn and witness the intricate details encompassing the panels speaking and sharing about their costumes, jewelry, performing arts, erotica and the intensely enigmatic art of making love, medicinal plants, and the pharmacopoeia etched in stone.
After witnessing and traveling across time with the raconteur figurines, a visit to the Garbagruha will definitely feel as a spiritual experience. The statue of the sun god no longer exists and the Suryavanshi Solanki’s have been scattered into the dust of history since a thousand years but still on the day of the Equinox, one can almost hear the chanting of the prayers, the aroma of incense, the tinkling of bells as the sharp, linear rays of the sun illuminate the inner core of life and light.
Do enjoy sitting under those shady trees and feel the tranquility and bliss of being part of the magnificent temple complex of Modhera!
Although the districts of Patan and Mehsana are best remembered for the historical lineage of the Solanki dynasty, the area around Modhera traces its origins to antiquity. Puranic references refer to the place as ‘Modherak’ or ‘Moherak’ meaning mounds of the dead, and the locale has seen layers upon layers of settlements. Jain Manuscripts refer to the land as ‘Bhagvad Gram’. The Brahmapurana and the Skandapurana, alludes the legendary land of ‘Dharmavanyakshetra’ or land of righteousness to the area around Modhera.
Legend narrates that after vanquishing Ravanain battle, Lord Rama and Sita halted here on their way back. After due consultations with sage Vashishtha, Lord Rama decided to conduct a yagna here to cleanse himself of the sin of killing a Brahmin, namely Ravana who was a Shaivite and one of Shiva’s most glorious disciples. This yagna was performed by a local Brahmin belonging to the Modh community thus originated the name Modhera. There is even a temple of Modheshwari, a manifestation of the mother goddess near by.
Foundation of the Temple Complex
Rainbows of light cutting swathes of illumination on grandiose sandstone edifices of Modhera, marks the pinnacle of Solanki architecture. The temple complex was constructed as a magnificent offering in sculpture to the lord of life and light, fiery Surya, the sun god, under the patronage of Bhimdev I in the year 1027 AD. The king was a patron of the arts and an equal supporter of all religions.The Solanki kings of Anhilwad Patan enshrined their eminence in history through stone, most notably the Rani-ki-vav at Patan, the Jain temples at Taranga, Rudra Mahal at Sidhpur, and the sun temple at Modhera which incidentally is the only temple structure to have a ‘kund’ or ceremonial tank seamlessly dovetailing into the main complex thus emphasizing the dichotomy of the elements of fire and water.
The ‘Silavats’ were image or idol makers with an oral tradition of temple engineering. The temple complex is a marvel of planning engineering, mirroring their principles of ‘vaastu shastra’ and astronomy. Supervised by a mistry or elder, workmen chipped away at stone creating marvels of flora and fauna, creatures of fantasy, panels of narrative art depicting myth and legends and graphical impressions of geometrical shapes.
The temple is a classic example of the material aspect of Solanki architecture, namely a mastery over the elegantly intricate carving of stone and the judicious use of lime mortar. Ensconced in an undulating landscape of green foliage, the design element of the temple follows the tenets of Vastu – Shilpa. The kund and the entrance passageway face east in an aura of welcome to the tantalizing rays of the sun, and the entire structure floats on a plinth resembling a flowering lotus as an ablution to the sun god. The design specs of the steps are a stylized mirror image of the temple ‘shikhar’, thus symbolically linking fire and water, dream and reality. The main complex is divided into three parts, the entrance which is the ‘Sabha Mandap’, ‘Antaral’ the connecting passage and the ‘Garbagruha’, the sanctum sanctorum.
‘ With the waning of the Solanki dynasty and a decline in Sun worship, vagaries of time’Islamic iconoclasts and devastating’ earthquakes have all chipped at this structures form. Mehmood Ghazni during his raid of Gujarat marched into the Solanki Empire creating mayhem and after a great deal of loot and plunder was finally attacked by a regrouped Solanki army under Bhimdev which through knowing the terrain well destroyed almost half of the Muslim army and Mehmood and his shattered remnants had to flee to Ghazni where his death occurred in Ad 1030.
Owing to this ignomous defeat Gujarate njoyed immunity from foreign invasion for a period of 160 years. This peace was disturbed by the arrival of Allauddin Khilji, who after occupying Delhi and the north looked towards Gujarat as an ocean link for trade. Master pieces of Solanki architecture including Modhera once again defaced and plundered. Not content with just looting the temple marauding soldiers under royal command placed gun powder in the Garbagruha and set fire to it creating an explosion that damaged and caused the main shikhara to collapse.
In spite of it all and a shikhara missing the Modhera sun temple is still a magnificent work of art in stone and if your Itinerary allows you only one town in this region, then by all means make it to Modhera.
How to get there
By road: Distance from Ahmedabad to Modhera is 101 km and it takes around 1.45 hours. From Mehsana it is 26 km.
By rail: The train can take you as far as Mehsana (1.5 hours).
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad
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