In childhood you built yourself a fort of sheets and pillows, and discovered that the enclosure gave you the freedom to explore. Now enter the town of Patan, hugged by its fort walls and gates still largely intact, and re-discover the spirit of play.
You meander through the bustling bazaar of this charismatic town. Tucked away among the havelis in the narrow pols you stumble upon rope or bidi (traditional cigarette) makers, working on their doorsteps. You go on a treasure hunt in search of the unique patola and mashru weavers, the snow-white Jain temples, the Hemachandracharya Jain Gnan library of ancient Hindu and Jain texts.
You find yourself leaving the city walls heading north-west, as if something calls you. On your way to Anahilvada Patan, the ancient city that served as Gujarat’s capital for 650 years, you find the 1000 year old Kali temple from where Kali Mata, the kuldevi (family goddess) of the Solanki dynasty, guards the town. Furthest north, you find the Sahasralinga Talav, literally “lake of a thousand lingas”, which is finely constructed to channel water in from the nearby Saraswati, and you begin to realize that it is the sanctity of water that has been and still is, beckoning you. You turn around and come towards the edge of Rani Ki Vav, the “Queen’s stepwell”, and as you descend into the cool air towards the water, the carved stone gods and consorts invite you into their world, the world of spirit and the sacred. Here, in the infinite, your journey is always just beginning.
The ancient city of Anahilvada Patan was founded by Vanraj Chavda, the first of the Chavda dynasty. Legend has it that he laid the foundation at the place pointed out by Anahil, a shepherd friend from his younger days, and named the city after him.
The city was the capital of Gujarat for 650 years, from 746-1411, after the center of power moved from Saurashtra around the same time that the separate kingdoms of the area were integrated into roughly what we today call Gujarat. It was ruled by a series of dynasties: the Chavda, Solanki, and finally Vaghela. Under the Solanki rule, 942-1244, Anahilvada shone as a center of trade, learning, and architectural achievements. It was also a thriving center for Jainism, and the Solanki rulers commissioned a large number of Hindu and Jain temples, as well as other civic and religious constructions.
During the Vaghela rule towards the end of the 13th century, Ulugh Khan, commander under Alauddin Khilji, plundered the town and destroyed it completely. In 1411 the capital shifted to the newly founded Ahmedabad, leaving Patan as a shadow of its former glory. One of the positive effects of Muslim rule in Patan is the presence of some of the earliest the Muslim buildings in Gujarat, built before even the earliest famous constructions in Ahmedabad.
The ruins of the ancient city, with the famous Rani Ki Vav and Sahasralinga Talav, stand about 2 km northwest of the quaint town of present-day Patan, which is known for its patola saris and mashru weavers.
How to get there
By road: Intercity buses from Ahmedabad to Patan take 3.5 hours, and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are slightly quicker, but less comfortable.
By rail: The train can take you as far as Mehsana (1.5 hours). From there you will need to catch a bus to Patan.
By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad.