The Heritage and Archaeology Sites of Gujarat
Gujarat is the land of cultural and architectural confluence. From being the cradle of Harappan civilization to the beautiful indo saracenic architecture, from 10th century Maru Gurjar monuments to indo islamic beacons, Gujarat has it all.
Ahmedabad, a UNESCO word heritage city, was founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah in the beginning of the 15th century. Ahmedabad is known for some of its unique Indo-Islamic buildings of the Medieval Period showing a unique synthesis of Hindu, Jain and Islamic artistic elements. The old city is a labyrinth of about 700 neighbourhoods known as pols; a dense cluster of multi-storeyed homes built with the sense of community, security and minimizing harsh sunlight. Each Pol is built with the idea of privacy inside the main gate and interaction with other pols and bazaars on the outside. Some of the best-known Monuments of Ahmedabad are Jami Mosque, Adalaj Stepwell, Sarkhej Roza, Rani Sipri Mosque, Huteesingh Jain Temple and Siddi Syed Mosque.
Champaner-Pavagadh archaeological park is a UNESCO world heritage site the was once a flourishing city. The Pavagadh hill belonged to Khichi Chauhan dynasty who lost their kingdom to Mehmud Begada in 1484. The 114 monuments dating from 8th to 16th century include mosques, temples, tombs, wells, terraces, granaries and walls. Most notable out of them are Jami mosque, the Citadel, Helical Stepped well, Kevda mosque, Nagina mosque, Custom House, Fort walls and Saat Kamaan.
Lothal and Dholavira:
Both Lothal and Dholavira are Indus valley civilization sites. Situated in Kutch, Dholavira, one of the largest Harappan sites, predates Lothal. Excavated since 1989, the site shows the efficient systems developed for conservation, harvesting and storage of water by the Harappans. Stamp seals, red ware pottery with motifs, perforated jars, copper celts and bangles, shell bangles, steatite beads, etc are few of the notable artifacts found in Dholavira. The most prominent artefact is the sign board with 10 symbols of Indus valley script that has not yet been deciphered. Lothal is another Indus valley site most notable for its docks. Before the arrival of Harappans (c.3000 BCE), Lothal had a pre-Harappan culture flourishing in pottery, semi-precious stones and bead work trade. Lothal is known for its effective town planning, flood control, underground and surface drains and water wells. A dockyard complete with sluice gate and warehouse served the purpose of naval trade. Lothal had a flourishing trade of exporting agate, carnelian and jasper beads, steatite micro-cylindrical beads and micaceous red pottery with west Asia. A variety of excavated artefacts like stamps and seals, animal figurines, terra cotta gamesmen, ritual pottery are preserved at the museum.
Close to Dasada are three sites with splendid monuments and architecture. The 11th century Sun temple of Modhera is unique in many aspects. Made in maru gurjara style of architecture, the sun temple consists of three components; the sanctum sanctorum, assembly hall and sacred reservoir. The entire temple is adorned with mythological human figurines, gods, dancers, etc. A UNESCO world heritage site, the stepwell of patan is a 11th century Solanki architecture monument with exquisite architecture and carvings unparalleled to any other wells. Adorned by deities, dancers and celestial beings, this unique monument served the city of patan as a place to fetch water and socialize as well as an inverted temple. The town of Sidhpur is known for the magnificent and beautiful 200 years old havelis or medieval homes of Bohra traders. The houses in Sidhpur have a strong European character with domed roofs, ornate balconies, columns and decorated doors and windows; a reminiscent of the flourishing trade history of the Bohra community with East Africa and Europe. Dasada lies on the periphery of Wild Ass Sanctuary. It is the only place in the world to see herds of Indian Wild ass surviving in the harsh, saline climate of desert.
Gondal State was one of the princely states of Kathiawar. The Naulakha Palace was erected around 1748 AD in the Darbargadh or the citadel, and since then has been extended by successive rulers. The façade is decorated with stone carving embellished with splendid sculpture, carved columns and ornate jarokha balconies. The former living quarters of the palace have been converted into a private museum exhibiting textiles, brassware, royal wardrobes, library, silver caskets that carried gifts and messages for Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji on special occasions like his golden jubilee as ruler of Gondal, the weighing scales on which he was measured against gold on his golden jubilee with proceeds going to charity, trophies won by the Gondal princes at motorsports events, and a collection of toys including 1800s wooden pieces hand-painted with natural colours.
The city of Jungadh is one of the oldest cities of Gujarat and has witnessed many dynasties who left their mark on the cityscape. The Mauryan empire built an impressive fort in 319 BCE known as Uperkot fort. The Chudasama Rajputs built two magnificent wells called Adi Kadi vav and Navghan Kuvo in their own architectural style. The Jami Masjid and Mahabat Makbara are splendid specimens of Indo-Islamic architecture. The marvellous Buddhist caves and Ashokan edicts on dharma, harmony, peace and tolerance indicate the spread of Buddhism in far west of India. Junagadh, a harmonious amalgamation of many different styles of monuments, is a feast for architectural enthusiasts. Close to Junagadh, lies the Gir national park. It is the last safe haven of Asiatic lions. One can take wildlife safari to visit these majestic animals. For culture enthusiasts, the Maldhari pastoralists and Sidi (African Indians) community are a must visit.
Located on the Shatrunjaya hill, the city of Palitana is a very important pilgrimage site for Jains. With over 860 temples spread across the hill in nine clusters, Palitana is the largest temple complex in the world. The Palitana temples were built of the period of 900 years with the earliest temples built under the patronage of king Kumarpal of Solanki dynasty. The Adinath temple dedicated to Rishabh dev is the oldest and the grandest temple there. The temples are built in marble or sandstone with high spires and domes decorated with ornamental animal and human figurines.
A 12 day tour begins with understanding the heritage and religious diversity of UNESCO world heritage city of Ahmedabad. We visit the stepwells, man made lakes, and underground water tanks to understand the water architecture in the semi-arid landscape of Ahmedabad. We visit the winding lanes of old Ahmedabad to talk about the Pol housing system. Then we proceed to Dasada in little Rann of Kutch. We visit the 11th century monuments like Modhera Sun temple, Zinzuwada fort walls and UNESCO world heritage site of Queen’s stepwell. Then, we proceed to Gondal to explore the architecture and city planning of dukedoms. We visit the Naulakha Palace and the museum. Next, we visit the city of Junagadh to see ancient fort from Mauryan empire as well as Buddhist architecture. We then proceed to Lothal, an Indus Valley civilization site to explore the ancient port city built by Harappans. As a final destination, we visit Champaner, a UNESCO world heritage site built in 16th century to see the magnificent monuments of trabeate architecture. Approximate cost of the tour is 2400 USD (1945 GBP) per person inclusive of room on 2 sharing with 3 meals, local transfers by a/c vehicle, expert guide, and entrance fees to the monuments. A mix of heritage properties, homestays and eco-friendly luxury lodges will guarantee an amicable and immersive cultural experience.