This 11th-century Stepwell is the latest addition to the UNESCO world heritage sites list. This Stepwell is Queen of all step wells in India. Perfect example of Ancient India’s finest design and architecture.
Built on banks of river Saraswati and situated in Patan. Since the Saraswati river has completely dried up now, there is no water in the Vaav during most months except monsoons.
Who built Rani Ki Vav?
Queen Udayamati built it in the memory of her late husband Bhima 1.
A bold decision by a Queen during medieval times, when she decided not to commit Sati, as a norm back then. Instead, she devoted her life to the welfare of her people.
This is the first of its kind where a Queen builds a monument in remembrance of her husband. She wanted her husband’s legacy to stay till eternity.
Built-in Maru-Gujaru architecture, around the same time as Dilwara temples and Modhera Sun temple.
It has 7 levels of stairs with each level adorned with beautifully carved sculptures which surprisingly are still in very good condition.
There are claimed to be more than 1000 big and small sculptures adorning all the sections of Vav.
These sculptures mainly consist of gods, goddesses, Aphasara (Dancers), Naag Kanyas ( Snake Woman), Vishnu Avatars.
Rediscovering Rani ki Vav in the 1980s.
Due to floods in Saraswati Rani ki Vav was flooded and got completely buried, with no traces of its existence. for many centuries
When it was rediscovered in the 1980s it took ASI 10 years to excavate and then restore the complete Structure. This may be the reason for most of the sculptures being in very good condition too and protected it from many Islam Invaders.
In the last 1000 years, this region has suffered many earthquakes, but due to the amazing design and architecture, none of the sculptures is damaged.
The stepwell is designed in the form of an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water during that period. All the walls are adornedwith numerous Hindu deities.
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu who is enshrined in the main sanctum in his favorite sleeping pose.
This image looks beautiful and serene and is visible from all the floors, making it easier for the devotees to have darshan of their favorite lord.
Modhera Sun temple is one of the 3 Ancient Sun temples of India. The other 2 are Konark in Orissa & Martand in Kashmir.
Built on the banks of the Pushpavali river, this temple dates back to 1026 CE. It was built by Bhima 1 of the Chalukya-Solanki Dynasty during the Golden period of Gujarat. Built-in Maru-Gurjara style also known as Chalukya style of architecture which was prominent in most of the temples built during that period including Dilwara Temples and Rani Ki Vav.
Why Modhera Sun Temple is in complete ruins & not worshiped
This Grand Temple was Plundered & Looted multiple times. Mahmud Of Ghazni raided Gujarat in 1024 CE. He plundered Somnath Temple and looted it. He even killed 50,000 devotees and took away booty worth 20 million dollars. During these attacks, he targeted Modhera Sun temple too.
Later in 1299, CE Allauddin Khilji attacked Gujarat and destroyed many temples including this one. When he was not content with just looting the temple, his soldiers under his command placed gunpowder in the Garbhagriha and exploded it which damaged the main temple and even caused the main shikhara to collapse.
First Ghazni and then Khilji plundered the main idol. They defaced most of the structures and broke the main gates. The hands, breasts, and face of most of the statues were broken. The main Idol enshrined in the temple made of Gold was broken and looted along with all the gold & diamonds.
Original idol of Sun God no longer exists at the Modhera Sun Temple. Prayer is not offered in temples where idols are broken, defaced or missing.
Representation of Lord Sun in Hindu Mythology
In Hindu mythology, Sun God travels on a seven-horse, twelve-wheeled chariot, driven by Arun (God of reddish glow), Usha ( Goddess of Dawn), and Prattyusha on his sides.
He is holding a lotus in both of his hands, which is his favorite flower.
The seven horses represent Seven days of the week and seven colors of the light.
12 wheels represent 12 months in a year.
The basis of yoga practice begins with the Sun Salutations, Suryanamaskar.
The Sun causes day and night on the earth, because of revolution, when there is night here, it is day on the other side, the sun does not really rise or sink. —Aitareya Brahmana III.44 (Rigveda)
Interesting facts about Modhera Sun Temple
This temple is not just a place of worship but a complete knowledge hub. This is how the knowledge was passed from one generation to another.
The entire life cycle of human life is carved, starting right from the time it is conceived with an act of intercourse to the death depicted by sculptures performing the last rites.
Various events of Mahabharat, Ramayan, Krishna Leela & Vishnu Avatar.
52Pillars representing 52 weeks of the year.
364elephants and 1 lion carved out depicting 365 days in a year.
Walls depicting Solah Singharhow women would dress up in those days, from extremely delicate jewelry to elaborate hairstyles even wearing lip color and high heels was a norm back then.
Temple walls don’t shy away from erotic art too, teaching people various poses of Kama. It is a mini Khajuraho. All the erotic art on walls is higher than 4 feet making it inaccessible for kids.
Many activities from the daily lives of people like hunting, agriculture, celebrations are carved on walls.
Brilliant example of Ancient Indian Architecture.
Temple passes through Tropic of Cancer, giving us a glimpse of how evolved technologies were back then.
Temple is built in a way that during equinox(when day and night are equal in length), sun rays will fall on the diamond ornamented on the head of Main deity Sun God, which illuminates the entire temple with beautiful Golden Glow.
12 different styles of Sun God representing 12 months.
Built using two different ways of locking system – male-female interlock system & rock locked with wood making it earthquake-resistant.
In the case of an earthquake, the structure would shake but not fall.
Some idols of Sun are in Irani Style with Gumboots hinting Iranian influence during that era.
7 horses of the sun represent 7 days of the week.
The horizontal stairs in the Kund are of different heights, making it easier for adults to walk down with their kids to avoid falling.
Sun-Earth distance is roughly 108 Sun diameters and the diameter of the Sun itself is 108 times that of Earth, represented by 108 small temples in Surya Kunda.
The entire temple complex consists of 3 main sections
Surya Kunda – Stepwell water tank
Sabha Mandap – Meeting hall or Dance hall
Garbh Grah – Main Temple
Surya or Ram Kunda
The first part of the temple is rectangular Stepwell based Kunda (tank) which has 108 small and medium-sized temples on all 4 sides. In earlier times it was used to take a dip before entering the temple. One side of the Kunda gives direct entry to the temple. Kunda is home to many turtles now. One of the main temples here is of Sitladevi Mata temple (Goddess to cure smallpox )
Shiv in Natraj Pose Lord Vishnu in sleeping pose
Sabha Mandap (Meeting Hall)
When you enter Sabha Mandap from the Kund two tall pillars (Torans) welcome you. Sabha Mandap is adorned with 52 pillars that have an elaborate carving of Ramayana, Mahabharat, Krishna Leela, Women adorning themselves in the mirror and few erotic carvings too. The ceiling has an intricate design similar to Dilwara & Ranakpur Temples.
Garbha Graha – Main Temple
The main temple stands on a lotus-shaped structure. On top of Lotus-petal is a panel that consists of 364 elephants and 1 lion representing no. of days in a year. No two elephants are similar in design. The next panel has carvings of human life at various stages, the daily life of people back then, many dance forms, Kamasutra, musical instruments, student life, hunting, celebrations, women delivering babies and death.
12 Sculptures of Sun God & Goddess Parvati
12 sculptures of Sun god on the exterior walls of the main temple. 12 sculptures of Goddess Parvati on the exterior walls of the main temple. Together they represent 24 hours in a day Few Sculptures of Sun God have Gumboots representing Irani influence Sun God with 12 small sculptures represent 12 months 7 horses represent7 days 4 sculptures around the Sun God represent 4 sections of a day
Deities representing different directions & Vastu
East – Lord Indra – Deity of Rain.
North East – Shiva – Always keep your Puja room in NE.
North – Lord Kuber – Deity of Treasure – North facing house brings prosperity, keep valuables, treasure in North.
North West – Lord Vayu – Deity of Air, Have a window in NW.
West – Lord Varun – Deity of Groundwater – Keep drinking water in West.
South West – Demon, Suited for master bedroom.
South – Lord Yamaha – Deity of Death, Keep bathroom, heavy storage in South.
South East – Lord Agni – Lord of Fire – Keep Kitchen & electronics appliances in SE.
Main Sun Idol enshrined in Garbha Grah was made of pure gold and ornamented with diamonds. It was Sun sitting on his chariot of 7 horses which was driven by Lord Arun (Deity of SunRays ). Since the Idol is missing now, all you can see is a deep plinth that was once filled with gold coins. It is said that the diamonds on the idol would light the temple in a beautiful golden glow.
Exterior part of the main temple
The exterior of the wall is still in good condition, every section is beautifully adorned with detailed carvings of Gods & Goddess. There are 12 idols of Sun and 12 of Goddess Parvati.
Elaborate hairstyles & Singhar
Hair tied in various styles and adorned with Jewelry Woman applying Kajal & Lipstick
Krishna Killing Naag Kalia Krishna stealing Butter Krishana lifting Mt Govardhan to save the village from rain
Vanar Sena building Ram Setu Bridge across the ocean Laxman lying unconscious in Lord Ram’s lap. Hanuman flying with mountain which has Sanjeevani booti Hanuman praying to Lord Ram Ravan Kidnapping Sita & Jatayu trying to save her
Kaurav and Pandav playing game of Dice Draupadi Sawayvar Bheem killing elephant Ashwathama Bheem & Duryodhan Gadha Yudh, Draupadi in background with open hair Bheem throwing all kids from the tree
Various phases of human life
5 elements of life Pregnant woman being examined by nurses Woman delivering a baby via water birth Mother with a baby Post-delivery woman takes a bath for the first time with the help of nurses Gurukul, Final Journey Celebrations and Shiv Ling Puja Woman away from her family, missing them Playing different musical instruments and Group Dance
Vishnu, Ganpati & Vishvakarma sculptures
Vishnu in Narsimha Avatar Vishnu in Varaha Avatar Standing Ganesha Vishwakarma – Lord of Architect
Modhera Sun temple erotic Art
There are erotic figures on the interior and exterior parts of the temple which implies that the temple was not just used for worshiping purposes but even as a learning center to educate people with 4 pillars of Hinduism: Dharma (Moral Values), Artha(prosperity), Kama(pleasure) & Moksha(Salvation). The Kama being an important pillar in Hinduism; these sculptures represent how sex education was passed from one generation to another which has become a taboo now.
Festivals dedicated to Sun God
Pongal in Tamil Naidu and Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra are the main Hindu festivals dedicated to the Sun God. These celebrate a good harvest and offer the first grain to Lord Sun.
Chhath Puja in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Nepal is another Hindu Festival dedicated to Surya Dev.
How to reach
Modhera is a 2 hours drive from Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar.
30 minutes drive from Patan.
We stayed in The Grand Raveta in Patan, it is equipped with all the basic facilities.
Nearby Places to Visit
Rani ki Vav in Patan which is at a 40 minutes drive from here
Little Rann of Kutch ~ 90 min drive.
You can even visit Ahmedabad which is famous for many old architectures
Not a functional temple but, try to maintain the sanctity of the place.
The ideal season to visit is winter months, but during the equinox, you can see it in its full glory, when the rays of the sun will enter the main Shrine.
In the 3rd week of Jan, a 2-day Modhera Dance festival is organized. If possible, plan your trip around the same time.